Leaping into business in Tasmania
Sometimes it is broken basketball dreams that lead to professional health careers.
For Stew Williamson three knee operations by the age of 16 turned bitter disappointment into a physiotherapy vocation.
Stew Williamson was born and raised in Launceston, attending Scotch Oakburn College. With height and skill on his side the budding basketballer had his sights firmly on a sporting career. His joints had other ideas. After three operations and being treated by a physio that would later become a strong mentor Stew’s plans took a shift.
The decision to make it Tasmania came far away for Stew and wife Rach.
“We were sitting in a campervan by a lake in France,” says Stew. “We decided to list the top 10 things we wanted in life. At the top of my list was to return to Launceston where I grew up and number two was to live on 20 acres. Rach was from Hobart so her number one was to live back in the capital. As it happened, she got one and I got two!
“To be able to bring up our children here is what we wanted most,” Stew said.
“We can go skiing in winter and bush walking through warmer months. Having spent time in London and Melbourne, I like how people still say hello to you walking down the street in Hobart. We often stay down at Adventure Bay on Bruny Island where we are building a getaway, and that takes the sense of community to a whole new level. It’s a great little community.”
Stew and Rach, also a physio, returned to Tasmania after both completing their degrees at Latrobe University in Victoria and travelling overseas. Stew played basketball in the Scottish National League for two years, and the couple travelled extensively across Europe working as locums for the National Health Service across the United Kingdom.
Today Stew heads up four Leap Health physiotherapy practices across southern Tasmania with a staff of more than 30. Leap Health is also the sole provider of physio care for Cricket Tasmania including the Hobart Hurricanes. But Leap Health had humble beginnings. With hammer, nail and a professional hand for support, Stew transformed a New Town mechanic’s warehouse behind his house into his first practice.
The couple found acreage just out of the CBD, ticking off Stew’s number two, where they raise two young children and Rach works as a physio in a Hobart hospital.
A focus on ‘people first’ is integral to the way Stew operates Leap Health as well. It is the reason that the business has grown rapidly and has a loyal customer base. Stew insists that patients have a minimum half hour appointment and are encouraged to recover as promptly as possible.
“We want our patients to not require us, as quickly as possible,” explains Stew. “We get them in, get them better and give them self-management techniques to go away with. It’s why people come to us and it’s our point of difference.
“There’s a tendency in the health profession in western society to over-service, yet the best thing for the patient and for us as a provider is to be diligent in this sense. Our greatest reward is to have someone come in for an ankle injury and later return, not because of this, but perhaps for a fall on their wrist. It means we’re getting them well promptly, and they’re returning for our good service and care. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”
Have you got an idea for a new business? Make it Tasmania. Find out more about Leap Health. For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories and visit Business Tasmania.