It has been an amazing week for learning. I had the supreme pleasure of listening to Patch Adams talk about what makes him tick and he basically boiled it down to two words — Love and Care.
I had been fortunate enough to hear him speak once before at the Arts for Health conference in Manchester, UK. That was about 10 years ago when his fame was gathering momentum fresh from the movie debut and he had just started on the speaking circuit. He was full of energy and he spoke about doing what he does and why he did it. The stories were filled with sadness yet tinged with hope. That was the thing with Patch.
Patch Adams – doctor, clown,
healer, carer
A decade ago he left me in awe of the indomitable spirit of one man and the feeling that that if he were around, then there would always be hope no matter how bleak the situation. Last week, the same man, albeit less energetic than before and perhaps due to the long flight, again left a mark of hope sprinkled with a liberal dose of love and care. 

If you can’t stop the genocide, alleviate the poverty or cure the sickness, the least you can do is spread laughter, fun, joy and hope through the single act of caring.
Newer and developing brands should take a leaf from the Patch Adams’ brand. I must apologise to Mr Adams for calling him a brand as he spoke vehemently against advertising but a brand he is. And the best kind of brand – the kind that inspires, empowers and makes you want to be a better person. What makes Patch Adams stand out is that he cares
Laughter, healing and your employees
He pays his doctors USD300 a month and he has a waiting list of thousands eager to hop on board the Patch wagon. To put things in perspective, in the US, doctors who work with him can command up to several hundred dollars a day but they choose to work with him. In organizations where people are experiencing high staff turnover, he has had staff who have stayed with him for more than a decade. 

In the first nine years of his practice, he did not lose a single member of staff. In a short video on his trip to Cuba, he went clowning with a fellow doctor who had been with him for 35 years. That feat is what we branders call a great employer brand.
For Patch, caring is a world apart from what many organizations love doing: putting up a values statement on the wall but doing nothing when a frustrated customer calls for help.
Caring means working seven days a week without a break for the last 20 years to ensure that people experience laughter and healing. Care means that he is a friend first to his employees and boss second. How many of us really know enough about our employees to really care about them, to be their friend?
  
Patch Adams at the Mayo Clinic – 2010
Lonely at the top? But why?
There is an old saying that it is lonely at the top and that you can either be a boss or a friend but you can’t be both. Perhaps it is time to challenge that; to redefine the word ‘friend’.
Colleen Barrett former CEO of Southwest Airlines, seemed to have gotten the right balance between friend and boss. She says if you look after your people, your people will look after your customers and Southwest’s track record as a great employer speaks for itself. Of course it takes more effort to be a friend and a boss. You’ve got to know when it is time to work to ensure the right results and when it is time to be a friend.
I must admit I don’t know how to be just a boss, the concept itself is alien to me. The places where I have learnt the most and grown the most are where my bosses became my friends. They mentored me while showing me that work could be fun too. As a result, I challenge myself to know my employees; what makes them tick?  What gives them joy and what are their stumbling blocks? And so on.
Of course it won’t be easy especially when you run a 200-300 person company but think about how hard it is to replace one valuable staff member and then ask yourself: is it really so hard to be a friend?
Branding for start-ups
For start-ups, I feel that striking this balance is crucial. Building a great employer brand is vital to get good people to walk through your door and stay there. Start-ups often don’t have much to offer in terms of monetary rewards but there is a whole host of perks you can offer that they won’t be able to get from bigger firms. And now is the best time for you to ask yourself what those perks are.
Yes, now! Not in two years’ time when you’ve doubled your size and no longer recognize the company that you have set up. Where the culture that you had so painstakingly fostered evolves into something else as key people leave to be replaced by new staff who bring their own values from other companies.
Good employer brands are committed to a sustained and consistent culture. So before you waste another minute, ask yourself, ‘what is my culture?’ What can I do to make people join me? What do I do to make people stay and grow with me?
If you can answer these questions, you are one step nearer to becoming a good employer brand.
Visit bfm89.9 and listen to Kareena Raslan, our HR consultant speak about Employer Branding


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