[00:01] – Adam Torres
Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you like to apply to be a guest on the show, just head on over to missionmatters.com and click on be our guest to apply. All right. So today I have Dara Wheeler on the line, and she is Chief Marketing Officer at Axiom Medical. Dara, welcome to Show.
[00:23] – Dara Wheeler
Thank you, Adam. I appreciate it.
[00:25] – Dara Wheeler
All right, Dara, so excited to get into today’s topic. So we’ll talk about really employee health in the workplace. And I know Axiom Medical has a long history of working in this niche and in this segment, and we’ll get into that. But before we do, we’ll start this episode the way we start them all with our Mission Matters minute. So Dara, we at Mission Matters, amplify stories for entrepreneurs, executives, and experts. That’s our mission. Dara, what mission matters to you?
[00:57] – Dara Wheeler
My mission is all about helping employees, and that means the employees that work for me as well as other employers and making sure that those employees have any of the resources they need to stay healthy in the workplace. And that could even mean as far as also being a strong voice for women in the workplace, too.
[01:17] – Adam Torres
Yeah, it’s awesome. I love bringing mission-based executives on the line, really to share why they do what they do, like what gets them excited and motivated to go out there in the marketplace and to make a difference. So great having you on the show. And I guess just to get us kicked off, we’ll get into the overall topic, but tell us a little bit more about your background. How did you get started on this path, really, to health care?
[01:44] – Dara Wheeler
So I have been at Axiom for most of my career. I’ve been here for going on 16 years, and I’m a little bit passionate about my role here, and I think that we’ll get into some of the reasons why. But I was somebody that had a background in education and training, and I thought I would be a teacher one day. And I figured out that having an executive role, I was able to use so many different skills, including coaching, teaching, training, and all of these things that I thought I would end up in. So I actually thought I’d be a high school teacher one day. And I started part-time at Axiom and fell in love with the business, the industry, our clients, and the rest is history. A lot of roles along the way. I have been in HR, operations, accounting, finance, business development, just a little bit of everything. We were a very small organization that is not so small anymore. So I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn various roles, and that has given me a skillset and experience that I just couldn’t have paid for. It also led me to realize how much business is really an interesting subject.
[03:01] – Dara Wheeler
I had this image of business from, I think, probably an episode of Friends where everybody kept asking Chandler what he did and nobody ever knew. And I had this image of businesspeople sitting behind a desk, always working on spreadsheets. And that’s just really not what working in this role or this company has been about. It’s been about relationships and people, and it’s never been a dull moment. So for a bit of an adrenaline junkie like me, it’s been a lot of fun. And so I went back to school and got my MBA because I decided business was where I was going to be and whether it was with Axiom or another company. And I felt like I never regretted that move. And I’ve really enjoyed my time, my 16 years here at Axiom. It’s been a wild and fun ride.
[03:49] – Adam Torres
Wow. What an amazing story. And I feel like you’re pretty rare for the stories that we hear nowadays. And not saying this doesn’t happen, but I feel like the people that go this path don’t always get their stories not always heard. And what I mean by that is somebody that starts and works their way up. They further their education, as you mentioned you did, they work their way up into leadership, into an executive role, and they stick with the company from when it was, as you mentioned, very small to now like you mentioned, a larger company. I wanted you to talk for a moment, if you would, to some of the people that are out there right now that maybe don’t know that that’s an option for them. And what I mean by that, I’ll tell you why. This whole idea of job hopper economy, this that the other like that if you’re with a great company or if you have the ability to grow with the company that’s treating you right and that is allowing you to progress, can you just talk a little bit about what that’s meant to you? Because I feel like it’s a unique story nowadays that doesn’t get told often enough.
[04:50] – Dara Wheeler
Yeah. When I coach employees and have these kinds of conversations, I think it all goes to what motivates you. If you are motivated by a title and a paycheck, then yes, absolutely. Going from company to company, or if it’s just an opportunity for experience. I do think there’s some value in that. I have been very fortunate to have my tenure at Axiom be able to have a lot of great mentors and people that encouraged learning. And people ask me if I’m interviewing employees or being interviewed, they often ask me, well, what kept you around for the last 16 years? And for me, it’s the ability to grow and learn. And if I ever felt like I was in this role and kind of knew it all and didn’t feel like I was continuing to evolve and learn, then I’d probably look again for something else. But for me, I’ve always had an opportunity to learn something more, to learn something about myself or the employees I work with or the teams I’m supporting. And as long as I feel like I’m growing in a role, that’s been a big part of why I’ve stayed. And so when I look at bringing especially, we have a lot of new employees in the workplace. Maybe this is their first role out of school. And I’ve been really proud of building teams of other employees that have stuck around for a long time. So I have a couple of employees that have worked for me on my marketing team that has been here for ten years, five years, six years. One of my employees. This was his first role straight out of College. And it was so much fun because he’s our graphic designer, and he came up the first day with an interview. And we love telling the story with this beautiful portfolio of work he had done for Axiom on his first day of an interview. And he’s been here now for a long time. And one of the areas of growth that he’s working on right now is working on learning how to do UX and UI design. So while that’s not his current role, his supervisor and I are really supportive of him growing in that way. And hopefully, we’re going to continue to evolve his role so that he can use the new skill set he’s got at Axiom because we’ve got a lot of great team members that have brought these skill sets to the company, and we want them to stick around if it makes sense for them and for the company.
[07:11] – Dara Wheeler
And so it’s been something that’s really exciting for me. And the other thing that I love about what Axiom does and is across the board. Every executive at the company and leader of the company does this. When we professionally develop employees and work with them on their development, we find out what their passions are and where they want to grow. So even if I hire somebody in a marketing role, maybe that’s not their passion or their skill set that they want to continue down the line. They may end up in another role at the company, but what we do is try to discover that, work with them and find where they would best fit and where their passions will lead them to success.
[07:50] – Adam Torres
I love it. It’s a great story and a testament to the company overall and leadership and just all around like that doesn’t happen by accident. It’s very thoughtful. And I think on the other side of things, I may have framed the question from the employee standpoint, but you also gave a lot of words of wisdom and insight for the leaders that are out there watching this right now that are heading companies and then the executive position on how to create that type of environment for people to grow. So I think you gave a lot of value there and great insight. And when I think about that, you combine like the internal culture that you let us know about an Axiom, and when you combine that with employee health and thinking about what it’s like in the workplace. Who would you want but a company like this that has that passion and passionate employees and executives working on it? So I think it’s a great fit and also a great segue. So that being said, employee health in the workplace. I mean, first off, maybe give us a little bit of the history of Axiom, specifically in working in that niche, if you will.
[08:55] – Dara Wheeler
Yeah. And it is a niche, and it’s something that I laugh at. It’s a niche industry and a niche role that isn’t so niche anymore. So occupational health and population health is our background. And what that means is we’ve worked with employers for 22 years to keep their employees healthy and safe in the workplace, and that’s through programs like injury management and occupational health programs. And what we found is that we partnered really well with companies that were in safety-sensitive industries like oil and gas and construction and manufacturing. And those populations have either federally regulated programs or company regulated programs where they need to pay attention to keeping employees healthy because they’re in maybe riskier roles where injuries are more likely, where physical demands on employees are high. And I think I even told you, Adam, when we’ve talked before that for years I’ve been here, I’ve been 16 years. And my family, if they were asked, would probably have no idea what I did or what Axiom did. And in this environment that we’re all facing today, with labor shortages and companies trying to figure out ways to keep employees safe in the middle of a pandemic, what we found is the little niche that we’ve had for years and years isn’t so niche anymore.
[10:20] – Dara Wheeler
We’ve had more industries and employers having to pay attention to these types of roles and make sure that they’re partnering with organizations to keep their employees healthy. And so what Axiom does is we partner with large and medium-sized organizations to create programs that are systemic across their entire organization. And so that’s really important. As you think about these large companies that have locations across the US, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, all over the place. How do you create a system and a way to maintain employee health across all of these locations and populations and areas? And that’s been our expertise. We were called upon in the early days of the pandemic to partner with our clients to think about infectious diseases. And we have a chief medical officer, and he’s amazing, his name is Dr. Scott Cherry, and the specialty of a chief medical officer in this space is occupational health. And so they have a specialty and a board certification in occupational health. And I’ll talk about that in a second, but they also have a little designation behind their names. That’s an MPH. So they’re also Masters in public health. And when you think about what we’re facing in the middle of a pandemic and a crisis, that expertise becomes incredibly critical for organizations dealing with these large populations because it’s not personal health.
[11:49] – Dara Wheeler
It’s not me going to my personal physician and saying, hey, Doc, I’m not feeling well. It’s managing very large populations and making sure that we’re protecting those populations as best as we can. So having a doctor like Dr. Cherry on board, occupational health physicians are very few and far between. There’s a handful in the US, and they have a very special background in their experience, typically in the military or supporting large industries and companies. So Dr. Cherry has got both. He was a military physician as well as a physician that supported companies like Chevron and others in his career. So when you take that type of specialty and the work we’ve had in employee health and wellness, and then you think about translating that to new industries and new people or new companies trying to deal with infectious disease in the workplace, it’s brought employee health and wellness front and center for some industries that have maybe not had to pay as much attention to that in prior years.
[12:55] – Adam Torres
Let’s peel that back a little bit more. And specifically, the new industries that are because I feel like maybe some of the leadership team and things like this are kind of thrown on their plate. Obviously, nobody asked for this. Nobody would want something like this to happen. But I feel like sometimes it’s thrown on your plate, so to speak, as a leader. And you’re thinking, okay, now we have to solve this problem and we have to figure this out. Talk a little bit maybe about how specifically Axiom kind of steps in and is that trusted partner and helps them on that figure it out, partly because those new industries, I feel like they’re caught off guard with many other things. And if this is one thing that can be additionally helped with, which is the most important, in my opinion, which is the health of your employees. Without them, it all stops. So tell a little bit more about how you serve as a trusted partner.
[13:46] – Dara Wheeler
Yeah. So historically, this concept of employee health and the workplace, of course, is not a new concept. And there are a lot of different programs that have been put into place through the Department of labor or through OSHA and various other organizations. And there’s a concept of total worker health. And thinking about employees in the workplace beyond just their physical health, mental health, their financial health, their family health, all of these different pieces come into place. What a lot of organizations who have faced these challenges and these industries have faced these challenges in the past that are through regulation and through experience paying a lot of attention to a role in health and safety. So in the oil and gas example, there is a huge safety infrastructure in oil and gas that pays attention to health and safety. They partner with HR and operations and leadership to create a program of health and safety that’s very specific to some of these industries. And when you look at dealing with the impact and the scale of a pandemic that we’re facing, industries like the food and beverage industry, there’s a lot of news early days of the food industry, the meatpacking plants.
[15:02] – Dara Wheeler
And although they’ve had a history of paying a lot of attention to safety and health, the scale of what they were facing with a pandemic was very different. And then even when you look at the media and entertainment industry, you would never think that Hollywood would be paying much attention to health and safety. But they were one of the first industries to try to create regulations around keeping employees healthy and safe. And what that does is that then creates a framework to bring everybody back to work, to create all the good content we like from Netflix and Amazon Prime. I said we have to do our duty and help these production companies come back because I want to watch my shows. But it’s being able to break down those silos because what you find is you’ve got the safety industry, and you’ve got this department may be paying attention to health and safety, but you’ve got HR, you’ve got operations. Often in organizations, you have a whole risk team that’s paying attention to risk. And so you’ve got these silos of different departments working on different things. And what we’ve heard from a lot of organizations in the middle of the last couple of years is that they created crisis response teams.
[16:20] – Dara Wheeler
They created COVID response teams to bring all those groups together. Well, that’s something we’ve been encouraging for a long time because just in general, health and safety is a big dollar ticket item, not to mention the right way to pay attention to your employee population. So the way we get involved often is by it’s a very consultative relationship in a lot of ways. So while we may come in for very specific programs, okay, let’s start with injury management. How do we manage injuries in the workplace? And Axiom, that’s been our kind of core business for 22 years. But often through these conversations, you’re bringing HR and leadership and safety and risk to the table and thinking about breaking down those silos and having these greater conversations about the impact. Because like I said, although doing the right thing for employees is so critical right now, there is a lot of dollars associated with this. Probably one of the biggest spends for any employer is the health insurance spend or insurance spend. And if you start thinking about holistic approaches to employee health, that’s what really impacts that bottom line for employers.
[17:31] – Adam Torres
That’s awesome. What I see, too. And you’re working with large companies, right. Just I guess to set the table here. So you work with like, larger employees. Midsize companies also give us a flavor for that. Before I maybe get into my next question.
[17:45] – Dara Wheeler
It’s a little all of the above. We work from all the way to the top Fortune 500 companies. We work with a lot of them all the way down to small single-owner operators. And it really depends on the industry. In oil and gas, there’s a contractor relationship, often with small businesses working on the larger oil and gas sites. So we work with both. We’ll work with the big large majors in oil and gas, but then we’ll also help support their contractors that may be single-owner operators. So most of our clients are in the mid to large employer space. But the great thing about what we do is it can support every type of employer out there.
[18:25] – Adam Torres
And this is where I was going with it. And I don’t want this to sound like a loaded question. And I know there’s no one size fits for any employer. Right? Every employer is going to be different. They’re going to have different leadership, they are going to have different needs, and they’re going to be in different, let’s just say points along the way of this particular journey. But if somebody’s watching this and they’re kind of reevaluating and kind of taking a look back at their own organization as they’re watching this and thinking about how it applies to them, what are some things or some takeaways that they should be thinking about on kind of going on that journey and furthering the needle on this employee health topic, what are some things they should be thinking about?
[19:09] – Dara Wheeler
So I think that there’s a lot to kind of start with. And I think it’s a good question because it can be a little overwhelming. Where do we start?
[19:18] – Adam Torres
I was overwhelmed to see when asking the question, for the record, where do we start? That’s why I had to preface and tell you, like, well, I don’t want this to be loaded. And I know there’s not one size fits all. Like everybody’s different. But continue. I just need to let you know I felt their pain even when I was asking the question.
[19:35] – Dara Wheeler
Yeah, I think starting with partnerships is the way to go, at least. Of course, we’re an outsourced solution. So I think partnerships are always the way to go. What I do say, though, is it’s just starting the conversation is number one, recognizing where we have opportunities, where we can grow, and think about supporting employee health differently. I think that’s number one, like you said, of course, every organization and industry is different and further along the path maybe than others. But what I do see happen is let’s start with the low-hanging fruit, of course. What are the big-ticket items and I do think for what we see today in the current environment when we’re looking at ESG initiatives and we’re looking at stakeholders and enlightened employers, and what are the things that we can do to think differently about these employee populations? What I do say is starting somewhere and being transparent about where you’re starting is probably number one, because one of the big things that we advocate for is transparency from the top. Ok, where do we stand today? What challenges as a workforce are we facing and what are we thinking about addressing?
[20:57] – Dara Wheeler
And employers, depending upon their industry, are going to have different low-hanging fruits that they need to address. But one thing that we’ll talk a little bit more about this that we’re seeing as a big trend for employers is mental and behavioral health. And thinking about that component, because a lot of these industries we partnered with have paid a lot of attention to physical health because that was the low-hanging fruit. Let’s make sure people are physically able to do the job that they’re able to do that they were hired for. But how do we support employees that are struggling mentally and through some other challenges? And I don’t know that we have as good of an answer from an employer standpoint. And I think if we just start there, hey, look, as an employer, we are starting to look at what we can do better, how we can support employees better. I think that’s number one, and being transparent along that journey is so critical. And I take that to heart for our own employees as well.
[21:56] – Adam Torres
Yes, I think that’s a great start for people, and it’s a journey. Right? So it’s not like this is going to be solved quickly, especially for context. We’re recording this in January of 2022, and I believe we just had a spike in cases. And we just have all these other things going in the future of the workforce, which is a whole other interview I might bring you on because you do have a unique vantage point working with so many different companies, both large, mid-size and just that and different industries, to just feel like as the future of the workforce evolves, because we’re definitely evolving, that’s for sure. I don’t think anybody would argue against that as it evolves and we think about employee health and the focus on it that evolves as well. And it’s interesting because the whole world and obviously the marketplace is affected by this. So I guess on another note, how has it been kind of helping navigate as leadership through these different changes for yourself, either in Axiom or also just for your clients? Because I feel like it’s a unique time period to help to kind of navigate that transition for people.
[23:07] – Dara Wheeler
Yeah. I was teasing my team today that I just changed one of my LinkedIn profile things to always be flexible and flexibility in any business process discipline is so critical. We need to have a good process. We need to adhere to that process. But with the environment, we’re dealing with and how quickly evolving and changing it is, if we’re not a little bit flexible or we’re not adapting to the market conditions today, then we’re not going to be responding to what our employees need or what our clients need. So for us, it’s been there’s a lot of studies around innovating through crisis, and I think a lot of employers and our own company is a great example of that. When you’re faced with crisis and you’re faced with a really challenging global situation, you either innovate or die. Right? So it’s one of those things that we have to keep the analogy of the shark always swimming if we always swim forward and keep kind of moving forward. And that innovation and our innovation. And I always like to make sure I clearly say this. It’s not necessarily from the top. The innovation is coming from everybody in the business.
[24:26] – Dara Wheeler
And if you give and you create a culture that allows for that and allows for that flexibility within a very nice framework, then you’ve got an opportunity to create some amazing products and ideas in the middle of a crisis. And that’s something that we were able to do, as you said, Omicron spiking right now, we’ve had an interesting couple of years as a country. But what Axiom has done has been really interesting in that we’ve been in this business of occupational health for 22 years, but we were able to take that experience and pivot and support with new products, new industries, and that type of innovation and ability to kind of think about how we can help employers in the middle of their worst day and their employees worst day. That’s been the makeup of who Axiom has been from the beginning.
[25:18] – Adam Torres
Yeah. And I get that, by the way, from talking to you and from also hearing the story and then just your history and where your heart set, you can just feel it through the interview. So I think this is great. And I know you’re busy at Axiom. I know a lot of things going on as we kind of started the interview saying, you’ve been doing this business a long time, and now your services are needed even more so now maybe than ever, which is great to have for you to have that team there in place. So I just have to ask what’s next? What’s next for you? What’s next for Axiom medical?
[25:53] – Dara Wheeler
I think the biggest thing that’s next is mental health. Like I said, I do think that this is an issue that was there well before we were dealing with a pandemic. I do think that the struggles we’ve all faced over the last couple of years have really highlighted where we need to pay attention a little bit more. Resilience is so critical. And if you’ve got the ability as an individual and as a team to be resilient and to know how to be resilient in the face of these really challenging times. It’s a total game-changer, and it’s something that you have to practice and really pay attention to. So what we see for employers and for our own company is that’s the next step is there’s been a focus on mental and health and behavioral health, but it’s maybe through personal health insurance or through apps or through different options. But when you think about it again, with this population health framework, which whereas the framework we come from, that’s a different thing. It’s a game-changer for us and for a lot of the companies we partner with because it gives you an ability to see this from a global perspective, not just an individual.
[27:05] – Dara Wheeler
Do we look at the individual who’s struggling or in crisis? Absolutely. But do we think about how that fits in with a team, with a business, with an organization, with the country, and think about how do we shift this? Axiom has always been in the business of physical health. But we see mental health as being the same. So when we think about first aid treatment in an injury management process, well, we need first treatment for mental health processes, too. And so that’s what’s next for us. And I think what’s next for a lot of our clients, once we can get past some minor things like the global pandemic we’re dealing with.
[27:43] – Adam Torres
Yeah. I mean, well said. I love this thought of also stepping in and the mental health side of things, because I think we’ve all I totally agree with you when you say that that problem was already there. We just weren’t necessarily talking about it, so to speak. It was there and see that more and more. And it’s kind of like now we’re looking under the rock and we’re like, oh, there’s more there. That needs to be done, right?
[28:08] – Dara Wheeler
A lot more. Yeah, a lot more. And I think right now employers are really overwhelmed. Like we’ve kind of said along the way with where to start and where to start right now is just trying to keep the doors open because we’re dealing with the challenges we’re dealing with from a health perspective. But right behind it, we’re going to be dealing with how to keep our doors open from a mental behavioral health perspective as well.
[28:33] – Adam Torres
Perfect. Well, dear, it’s been great having you on the show today. I mean, I learned a lot. I’m hoping our viewers learned a lot as well. If somebody’s watching this and they want to learn more about Axiom Medical or to connect with you and your team, what’s the best way for them to do that?
[28:51] – Dara Wheeler
Axiom is on all social platforms. We are very active on LinkedIn and Instagram and all the other platforms. Our website is Axiomllc.com, and we are always available. And here to help. We’re a 24/7 business and we are available 24/7 to help out with what’s going on in your business.
[29:13] – Adam Torres
That’s what I’m talking about. And we’ll put all that stuff, by the way, all the links and stuff to the audience, and we’ll put them all in the show notes so that you can just head on right on over and click and get the information you want. And if this is your first time with Mission Matters or viewing our program, just to let you know, we’re a platform that’s all about bringing on entrepreneurs and experts and executives and really having them share why they do what they do, like what gets them excited and fired up to go out there in the world and make a difference. And we have many more mission-based entrepreneurs and executives coming on the line. So if that’s the kind of content that interests you, we definitely welcome you to hit that subscribe button because we have more guests on the way and Dara, really it has been a pleasure having you on the show. I look forward to watching the continued success of yourself and Axiom Medical and really just how Axiom is really a beacon of light and hope out there for people that are looking to get help in the workplace for their employees. So thank you again for coming to the show.
[30:15] – Dara Wheeler
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it, bye.