Author of nine books and CEO of the International Institute for Complementary Therapists (IICT) Lawrence Ellyard already had a successful track record at building business, firstly his own training and practices and then the IICT – a professional industry body that provides membership, insurance, resources, and a global community for complementary therapists working in over 1,100 modalities.
With over 25 years of experience in the natural health industry, he was instrumental in developing the IICT’s operations within Australia and then internationally. Formerly the Director of The International Institute for Reiki Training, he has several years of practice as a Transpersonal Therapist and Masters in Transpersonal Studies. Lawrence’s works have been endorsed by H.H.14th Dalai Lama, Dr. Masaru Emoto, and Jack Canfield. He lives in Byron Bay, Australia, with his two sons and daughter.
But it was two and a half years ago that business really started to take off when he got really clear about his own personal values and vision.
“Originally some staff members and I worked together to create the values for the company. Some liked one thing, others liked another, so it was a bit of a mish-mash. We all kind of decided on these shared values for the company, but they were very generic, they weren’t really aligned to my life,” he explains. With help from a culture coach, instead of looking at the company values, Lawrence got real clarity about what was really important to him as the company’s Founder.
Start with why
“As Simon Sinek said, you need to start with why,” Lawrence says, “so I put together three personal values of presence, contribution, and family – then 3 distinctions within each of those. Out of that, I created a really powerful vision statement for my life – at a time when I was making really big life changes as well. And when I looked at my personal values and looked at the company values, I realized that there was a complete mismatch, like it didn’t fit anymore.”
Once clear about his own personal values, Lawrence recreated the company values and vision statement.
“And then a really interesting thing happened – 80% of my team quit.”
Over the space of 8 weeks, they left because they were no longer aligned with the company’s vision and values. The good news for the IICT is that their departure paved the way clear for Lawrence to attract the team that was actually right for the company. “We have now the most wonderful people who are just so committed and so deeply invested in the business.”
That proved a real turning point for the IICT, the business has gone from strength to strength since then. The message, he says, is that if you’re really clear about what’s important to you, as Founder and CEO, and you’re able to bring what you find important and meaningful to your company and to your people. Then you’ll attract the right kinds of people who are fully enrolled in that.
Find the right team
Having found the right team two and a half years ago proved crucial towards the IICT’s survival during the pandemic. In April of 2020 “everyone pressed the panic button” says Lawrence. With the organization seeing 33% attrition in its membership, some immediate cutbacks had to be made for the long-term good.
“When the pandemic hit, we had to make all our staff part-time. We slashed hours, we cut costs, we had to do everything to stay afloat. We all banded together and took it on the chin because there’s a real deep sense of belief in what we stand for, and why we do what we do.”
Within 6 months, they had not only recovered the 33% lost members but then also achieved 40% growth on top of that. He attributes much of that to his team, as well as an increased interest in complementary therapy and the 1,100 modalities that the IICT recognizes and secures insurance coverage for. “There was more introspection during the lockdown, some people needing a new start due to redundancy, some realizing their true ‘Why’ lies elsewhere, and others looking to turn a hobby or side-hustle into a solopreneurship.”
For Lawrence Ellyard, his realization that his ‘Why’ layed elsewhere came one evening when, after a lousy day working as an art director in an advertising agency, he received hefty traffic fine. At a spirituality class that evening, the trainer asked him why he seemed so agitated. Lawrence explained that he’d just had a huge fine for parking on the wrong side of the road facing in the wrong direction. “Much like your life then,” the trainer replied.
Fail fast and often
Lawrence is a big believer that you should fail fast and often, “because you’re either winning or learning.” Asked about any ‘failure’ that proved a blessing in disguise, he describes the sudden loss of his previous team as definitely a powerful moment, “A freak-out moment because it was literally – We’ve got the ship, but we’ve got no crew. Who’s steering?”
“Failing fast is the learning, then you learn what doesn’t work. So then you can pivot really quickly, and see what does work. And whether that’s just split testing your social media or your Google ads, or whatever – let’s try a new idea. And let’s just put it out to a portion of our membership to test it.”
He strongly advises against being solely outcome dependent, because it makes you too fixed in your mindset. “You’re too caught up on things going a certain way, instead of beta-testing multiple options.”
Referring to the classic metaphor that an entrepreneur is a person who jumps out of the plane and then assembles the parachute on the freefall. “We’re gonna have to work this out. We don’t know how it’s gonna work, but we’re in the state of mind that it’s possible. I think that it’s incredibly powerful in business to be in the possibility mindset.”