By rediscovering my sense of freedom, I had the space to balance the now with planning for the future, with growing confidence and self-belief.

Merel's story

I’ve always lived my life with a feeling – and outlook – that everybody matters. And as such, I often place myself at the forefront of things that will see this come to life. So when it comes to healthcare and bringing it into a community that needs it most, I knew I had something to offer. Beyond just my passion, I had experience in creating business models to address healthcare challenges and the energy and network to make this a reality.

Introducing carewithinreach, a company committed to bringing access to orthopedic care to people in remote areas of low income countries, starting with our first orthopedic clinic in Colombia.  

Opening orthopedic clinic, Profort, had been a dream of mine since doing research on the Colombian orthopedic sector 5 years ago. It had already been a journey full of potholes and barriers that I could never have foreseen. However, my passion and belief in the solution kept me driven and determined to change the situation I had seen in some areas of the country.

Where is the pain of my customer? We exist to solve it and I always try my best to come back to that. However, this is often a lot easier said than done.
What was my situation?

Now, here I was, with a big purpose, launching 3 orthopedic clinics in two years in an upcoming economy with a start-up mentality, plus an investor looking for me to prove my ideas to be a viable business model. We had built the unit of the first clinic complying with extensive and complex medical laws, staffed it, 

had a local support team and team leader, and despite Covid-19, we were prepared and ready to open our doors. However, at that point, the greatest challenge was not Covid itself, it was the restrictions on travel within Colombia for the building of the facility, and for me, actually being able to be there.

Unlike before where I was used to being with the team on the ground. We were at a critical point where we needed our license to come through and it was essential to start seeing customers, start getting money in and to begin to build relations with the health insurance companies.

What was stopping our growth plan?

I live in the Netherlands and am therefore 100% based there with the current travel restrictions, which fuelled a feeling of frustration with being too far away to build the brand locally, forge strong relationships and ensure trust. Above everything, I wanted to be there with a hard working team to celebrate and stand in front of them for the “yes we did it” moments. It was the picture I always had in mind.

It had been an intensive year and our prize was dangling in front of our eyes, yet I felt remote, slightly questioning myself. On top of this, the plan with the investor was for three orthopedic centres, so there was a worry that if the first one had been such a rollercoaster journey (as fun as it was), how could we effectively repeat it for the next two? 

The workload was creating big questions about whether I could cope with doing more; the pressure of balancing spend, ensuring revenue, as well as the guilt I had that I had to support and inspire the team in Colombia while not being there. It was hard to imagine a faster roll out when I was still so involved in the operations of opening the first.

This process reminded me of the impact we wanted to have, the difference I wanted to make and the scope of the project. Rather than dwelling on the smaller obstacles, I had to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel - the bigger picture of purpose, our vision.

What did I do to create a stronger growth path?

I took the time to find the reason for the overload

I mapped out the whole process of what I had set out to do for my target audience, from me to my customer, step by step. It had been the first time I had ever seen it laid out on paper and it made me realise how much we had actually achieved. It was a 12 month picture of reality – rather than one based on emotion and there was an element of pride. 

I then highlighted the pressure points; if I was not clear on the process and where things weren’t flowing easily, how could others be? If roles and expectations were more specific, then there would be a stronger feeling of trust and freedom.

How this came to life: the process we followed

Connecting a remote team

Our common goal and the purpose of Profort is crystal clear for every team member: to create access to orthopedic care in the backyard of those who need it most. In this case, to 60,000 people in the region that currently have no access, and offer care to 8,000 people with a disability in 5 years. This purpose is in the DNA of every team member, everybody is very much aligned to it, enthusiastic and has a huge drive to realise it. However, we hadn’t reflected further on how we could turn our values that support our purpose, into action, into our ambition. By working on this together with my team, we could implement our values in our strategy and actions, making this the core of the Profort Brand.

I also plan to set challenging and motivating goals for individuals based on what they love to do, their dreams, and provide each of them with the support they need to achieve them, whilst giving autonomy. By making this a group activity with everybody knowing each other’s story, we aim to build the trust between us – making a close team even closer.


Leadership support for growth

I had been answering to lots of people, taking into consideration everybody’s needs. In serving so many I ended up losing myself and tried to solve this by doing more. The important step was clarifying who our customer was so we knew who we were answering to. This definition meant the process was designed to make their situation better with alliances, partnerships (investors, community leaders, health insurances) and protocols united in the picture we wished to change. We all wanted the customer to receive the full benefits of our Profort brand, feeling the difference that we wanted to make.

I realised our processes and protocols were organised from a compliance point of view, not as a service standard, a quality measure and something that benefits us. This helps us to ensure our service is the same for every customer and that we treat every customer equally – something we stand for. This is why we reshaped the Profort blueprint – our operations manual – with the customer at the centre, capturing the purpose and values of the organisation. This blueprint could now be replicated for more effective growth in the future, and understood with ease amongst future teams who would be able to see how they could add value to our customer.

How did I enter my new growth era feeling stronger?

Our values and purpose, and the shift from an operational approach to a customer centric view allowed us to be something different in the market. I was answerable to my customer, which allowed me to prioritise my time to focus on this.

The feeling of being overwhelmed was the outcome of a lack of clarity.

We had to take a step back, as a team, and assess together how we could add more value, work smarter by further standardising our processes. I knew that both this team as well as future teams would benefit from this clarity, creating space and freedom, allowing me to maintain my mindset that I really can make anything happen. 

One piece of advice I would pass onto another female entrepreneur:

Believe in yourself, have the confidence that you can do this. You have the potential, maybe you could work with a coach to unlock that even more, but remember that it is already there. I think as women, we’re always thinking about how to be better, how can we deliver more and sometimes it’s a matter of accepting and saying to yourself “what I did was actually great.” I think Bill Gates would never agree with me as he always says ‘it’s never good enough’ and of course, this is a great mindset as it pushes you to always take the next step. However, I think we already have that in ourselves - to always want to over do things and sometimes it also creates some sort of frustration or it blocks us and can make us feel stuck. It’s just not needed, it’s all there, and you’re doing a great job so just trust yourself as you’re good enough the way you are.

Introducing Merel and how her next step could work for you:

In this video we hear from both Merel and Julie as they together explain the challenges that Merel was facing and how they rediscovered the right next step for growth to start unlocking that feeling of freedom that had been lost.

In the second video is Merel’s message to you.

What's next?

All too often there is just one thing in a business that is causing misalignment and it’s this one thing that can make growth feel harder than it should. To receive an extensive growth guide that highlights where misalignment might sit in your company along with recommendations on discovering the right next step for growth, take our Wyseway growth evaluation. We hope you’ll see how your journey can be simple, clear and joyful.