From Chris Froome to wellness in your office.
That’s the journey that Phill Bell and Paul Smith undertook to co-founding ART Health, a company that helps employees and employers to improve workplace wellbeing using evidence-based techniques.
It was fascinating to have Phill join me on this edition of the Karmic Capitalist podcast to share the story.
Phill is a sports scientist. He earned his PhD in Exercise Physiology, and landed what would be a bit of a dream job working with international athletes the likes of Chris Froome, Jenson Button, and members of the national rugby team in the GSK Human Performance lab.
(They also worked with extreme sportspeople – like the nutters who would do the marathon de sables. But that’s another class of human entirely!)
They did exploratory research on how to improve their performance (ethically – exercise and physiology, not drugs!), with probably all the kit that a sports-scientist could dream of.
GSK eventually dropped that business, and Phill and Paul went on to co-found ART Health. Passionate about improving performance alongside health and happiness, they felt that workplace wellbeing had become a bit of a tick-box exercise, and one that was more informed by fashionable trends rather than by fact and evidence.
By capturing and injecting data from 4 areas – physical health such as activity and sleep; cognitive performance and brain health; mood information through surveys; and environmental data such as lighting, acoustics and air quality – the co-founders knew that they could make evidence and research-based recommendations and interventions scientifically proven to improve wellbeing.
The company is evolving on a fairly well-worn path of going from primarily being consulting-based to one that is more heavily product-based. Phill talks candidly through what that’s looked like, with investment along the way to allow them to develop product, rather than the bootstrapping involved in a consulting-based model.
He also discusses his own route to CEO, which wasn’t their original plan.
Sadly, Phill’s co-founder and close friend Paul was recently diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and Phill has transitioned into the CEO role. The way Paul has continued his dedication and stoicism has been an inspiration to Phill and the team – but it remains a tough succession when you’re also coping with the emotions of having your friend and co-founder dealing with the challenges of the disease.
ART Health is very values and mission based. Their vision is of a happier, healthier, higher performing workforce. And they set about it in a scientific manner.
This is a real warts-and-all story, and Phill’s story is fascinating.
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