Helen Whait, ActivOT founder and franchisor, has been a powerful contributor and change-maker within and for her profession for many years. Graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of South Australia at the end of 1992, Helen was employed within a variety of settings before moving into private practice in 2002.
ActivOT as a franchise business was born when Helen Whait identified the necessity for a better way of practicing occupational therapy as a sole practitioner.
Helen had been a sole practitioner for nearly a decade when it became apparent, in 2011, that many occupational therapists held both a strong desire for working independently and a need to belong to a community of like-minded practitioners.
Underpinning the formation of ActivOT is the principle that it is a “co-operative” of therapists who pool resources so that everyone involved benefits. Each therapist is invested, financially and emotionally, in the business in order to uphold the high standards of practice and the strong professional reputation of the ActivOT brand.
Helen has been, from the outset, a steadfast leader who is committed to continual improvement. Part of that commitment involves investing in leadership coaching – a valuable exercise which has been extended to include other team members who have voiced a desire to lead.
What Helen loves most about being in business is that she can make a positive difference in people’s lives by empowering them to overcome challenges they’re facing. Her vision is for ActivOT to become the best provider of occupational therapy services across Australia. She believes in enabling occupational therapists to achieve private practices by creating an environment in which they can achieve greatness.
Helen is inspired by a quote from Steve Jobs and aims to live it in the franchise each and every day:
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”.
Helen respects the contribution of every member of the ActivOT team – they each have their own expertise to share with the rest of the group (based on the values of the franchise).
Helen believes it is her role, as a leader, to be of service to her team:
“They know where they want to go, they define their own goals. It is an honour and a privilege to be able to mentor and guide them.
I don’t think for a minute that I know it all or that I’m better than them in any way. In fact, quite the opposite – I am in awe of my team members and how amazing they are!
My role in leadership is to support them. I have strong networks to call upon to assist me in doing so – that way they get the best help available. I happily recognise when it is not me who is best placed to assist them and I actively source the right person, service or advice. The same that I do for all of my clients. “
Helen Whait operates her business from the firm belief that both collaboration and communication are key to achieving the best possible health outcomes for her clients. She has invested years in developing strong networks and links with many other allied health professionals and businesses in South Australia. This has enabled her to include them in client care and to work with them in a meaningful way.
Through ActivOT, Helen is actively involved in promoting occupational therapy and all that it has to offer to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Over the past year, Helen Whait and her ActivOT team have diligently worked together on innovative ways of improving the way occupational therapy is practiced.
In doing so, her approach has included:
- actively seeking and building new relationships within her community and industry
- shaping the future of occupational therapy through participation in university projects and tutoring at Flinders University and the development of a new degree program at Adelaide University
- supporting emerging therapists through participating in student projects at the University of South Australia, Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Brisbane and University of The Sunshine Coast (USC)
Helen has also provided research support to the rural and remote research team at Sydney University with respect to the use of allied health assistants.
- establishing research consultancies with University of New South Wales and Sydney University, with an initial review of the sustainability and success of therapy assistant services in the franchise model
- providing consultancy services to the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) to assist long term hospital patients to transition from hospital to home
- working toward changes in occupational therapy policy at a government level via active roles in the OT Australia, DVA National Reference Group and the National Primary Health Reference Group.
Other successes demonstrating impact and innovation include:
- In South Australia alone, in the 2019-20 financial year, ActivOT practitioners prescribed over $2 million in equipment and home modifications to meet client needs, representing an **estimated 1.6 times this in health care cost savings, fewer hospitalisations and a significantly better quality of life for our community members.
- Clients in three states, including regional and remote areas, now receive life-changing occupational therapy services with the expansion of the business from South Australia into Queensland and Victoria.
- In the 2019-20 financial year, three therapy assistant franchisees were welcomed to the team, enabling ActivOT to carry out occupational therapy programs with substantial cost savings for clients.
- ActivOT maintained business continuity through the pandemic with additional training and the introduction of protective Covid-19 measures. During this time the business continued to grow, with the addition of four new team members.
Helen is very active within her online community and has over 1200 connections from within the allied health industry on LinkedIn. She maintains a constant dialogue with her network, providing expertise, guidance and inspiration. ActivOT launched a LinkedIn business page in 2019 and is rapidly gaining a following, receiving only positive feedback for its supportive and inspirational content.
Having strong networks and working relationships with other health professionals is key to the success of Helen’s personal success.
She says, “My success is defined as the success of my clients in reaching their goals as well as the success of other OTs in the ActivOT team. As they say “it takes a village to raise a child” It takes a network to support a team to achieve their full potential. No-one can do it alone!”
Helen is a steadfast leader who is committed to continual improvement. Part of that commitment involves investing in leadership coaching – a valuable exercise which has been extended to include other team members who have voiced a desire to lead.
Helen’s favourite quotes come from Simon Sinek – there are so many that she loves, but her top three are:
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
“A leader must be inspired by the people before a leader can inspire the people.”
“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”
Get in touch with Helen:
Facebook: Activ OT
LinkedIn: Helen Whait