The role of Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur makes a significant impact to the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Queensland. We recently caught up with a member of our Society of Extraordinary Venturers and CEO and Co-Founder of RedEye, Wayne Gerard, who has been appointed as Queensland’s fourth Chief Entrepreneur.
Here at Best Life Adventures, we believe having an adventurous mindset is essential for any business, and especially entrepreneurs, so there is no better brain to pick than Wayne’s.
We first met Wayne in 2017 when he shared his experiences on the Venturer Program expedition to the Whitsundays. Since then, he has ridden across the World’s Highest Road in India (2019) and tackled the challenging “Guzzler” trail run with our Founder, Ben Southall. We recently reflected with Wayne about his personal journey over the last five years….
Since you joined us for your first Best Life Adventures expedition in 2017, you’ve been on a transformative health journey. What inspired you?
Starting my career as an army officer, health and fitness were a big part of my journey and I was fortunate to complete an outdoor adventure training instructors course. I witnessed firsthand the benefits of self-discovery and personal development as a result of being put in challenging environments and situations.
Fast forward a few decades and although my adventurous mindset was still strong, my time and energy were invested in everything but myself. Throw into the mix a consulting company, a family home requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of flood repairs, a startup tech company (Redeye), and the result was a chronically stressed, overweight version of myself.
The most important thing in my life was removing the risk of bankruptcy.
I was close to the edge, with hospital admissions for stress and panic attacks, but thankfully I was able to scramble back from that edge. If I had not shifted energy and attention to my mental and physical health, I doubt I would be here today. It was a long journey (5-6 years) of financial recovery, but after some of the financial pressure was taken off my family and redeye was building up, I was fortunate to begin re-investing some time into my mental and physical health.
How has time out in nature and embarking on personal adventures helped you?
Adventures in nature where there is an element of risk are critical for me. When I am adventure biking, trail running, or snowboarding I feel like I am in a state of flow. I am purely concentrating on the activity, so I cannot think about work. This gives me moments of clarity and gratitude, which are often when my best ideas or insights often drop in. I feel there is a direct relationship between your mental health and your ability to cope with risk and uncertainty, which is critical as an entrepreneur.
How do you support the mental health of your team during times of uncertainty?
I am a huge proponent of mental health and I have been really transparent about my journey so that others can hopefully learn from it. By virtue of being an entrepreneur, you put yourself into situations with an enormous amount of uncertainty. So you want to have as many resources available as possible to help you cope with these uncertain times.
At Redeye we have introduced “recharge” days to acknowledge the contribution and effort as well as the intense nature of the startup environment we work in. Each team member gets one day off every six months (this is in addition to normal paid leave) and the longer you have been with the company the more you accrue. We get lots of positive feedback from this and I am proud that we put our money where our mouth is to support the overall health and wellbeing of our team.
As Queensland’s fourth Chief Entrepreneur, you’re quoted as saying that your ‘goal is to help Queensland continue to build a great innovation ecosystem that helps our economy remain strong and prosperous. How will you do this?
The Venturer Program I was part of with Ben and Best Life Adventures in 2017 has built deep bonds in the Queensland entrepreneur community as people experienced each other in their vulnerable states. This enabled the ecosystem to thrive and when I look back at that group now, there are many relationships that have thrived.
Therefore I am planning to roll out strategies for supporting mental health with the next generation of entrepreneurs, as well as implementing programs to strengthen the existing bonds within the ecosystem.
Would you say having an adventurous mindset prepares you for leading businesses through tough times?
Absolutely. Risk and adventure go hand in hand, as does being an entrepreneur. I have always had an adventurous mindset and now I encourage others to nurture theirs. But it is different strokes for different folks. Riding adventure motorcycles as I do doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some people are drawn to adventure for growth and learning but others may not be.
Adventure is a strategy for enhancement and as leaders of companies, often people don’t ask questions but they observe. They get permission by watching what you do. I often do a team huddle while I am walking the dog. I encourage anyone to go outside, get sunshine on their skin and fresh air in their lungs as you have a walking meeting. You could set up a ‘culture squad’ of team members who are passionate about having a great work culture and organise regular events for the team such as a scavenger hunt, a ride on e-bikes, or a camping trip.
Just start somewhere, get outside, and be active. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Imagine the world was back to normal and we could travel freely again. Where would you head to for a week to get away from the world?
Bike packing without a plan and choosing the route along the way is always my preference and riding motorbikes from Peru to Patagonia with Ben is on my bucket list.
We believe adventure and the Great Outdoors are the ultimate business mentors. For more information and to start your adventure, visit our Best Life Adventures Corporate Page, check out our adventure menu or contact us and we’ll curate some magic for you.