May 15, 2017
It takes this kind of motor to be able to launch a non-profit during college, win the Miss Florida competition, and then go on to drive the growth of a national business that started with a single location in 2013. She is relentless, energetic, and always looking to learn.
Allison Walsh has only one speed: GO. Like a power switch, but I’ve never actually seen it off. Ever.
It takes this kind of motor to be able to launch a non-profit during college, win the Miss Florida competition, and then go on to drive the growth of a national business that started with a single location in 2013. She is relentless, energetic, and always looking to learn. I’m also not exactly sure what she carries in the large, heavy tote bags she has with her at all times, but there’s a good chance there is a Superwoman outfit in there somewhere.
Recently, I caught up with Allison so that I could uncover her tips on getting things done, find out who her mentors have been, and perhaps pick up some inspirational lessons that all of my readers could soak in. Although I’ve known her for five years, as an amazing business client, I knew that new insights would emerge.
[Setting: Einstein Brothers Bagels in Winter Park, Florida, on a cold morning during rush hour. Laughing and chatter in the background. You can tell we are in Allison’s neck of the woods, a few people stop to say hello during our interview.]
Dean: Allison, we made it. We did not expect that bakery to be closed, but we made it here [to Einstein Brothers Bagels] and I appreciate you meeting with me… to get started: You’ve been able to stand out in everything you’ve done. What’s your secret to standing out in your career?
Allison: I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is not so much how to stand out, but how to prevent holding yourself back because I think that’s one of the biggest things people do the moment they take the plunge…Well first of all, taking the plunge and starting a business or climbing the corporate ladder takes a lot of guts to begin with…But what happens, and what I see happen all the time, is that people start to second guess themselves or they start to worry about what others are thinking and they start to even subconsciously limit themselves. You have to stop looking at what everyone else is doing and you have to stop comparing yourself. That not only helps you stand apart, but it helps your company stand apart, too. And I’m not saying ignore the competition, but don’t make all of your decisions based on what everybody else is doing. That has helped me at so many different stages and phases of my life. When I stopped comparing myself to others, I started thriving.
Dean: When not comparing yourself to others, how do you discern when you need to listen and when you don’t need to listen?
evolve into the complete person you’re intended to be
Allison: I think you need to always accept feedback…constructive feedback…you need to always be open to that and you should always hear what somebody is offering up, or feedback that you’re getting from customers, but you always have to put it in the right context and understand: is there something else behind this? Or is this coming from an authentic, genuine place of improvement…[Dean: And even credibility] Right! And so I think that you need to be mindful in what you internalize or take from any conversation. I’m not saying not to listen to anybody, I’m saying understand where everyone is coming from when they’re offering up suggestions or offering up feedback because you can always grow. One of my favorite quotes ever is ‘the whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you’re intended to be.’ And the only way that you’re going to get there is by constantly improving and growing and expanding everything that you do and with that comes feedback. What it doesn’t involve is getting distracted by everyone else and the race that they’re running and I think that’s the key. Everyone is running their own race and if you start to worry about what everyone else is doing, you’re going to veer off the course and it’s going to have a negative impact on what you’re doing so you have to keep that perspective. That’s how I thrived when I was in competitions, that’s how I thrived in my career, business, as an entrepreneur, and as an employee. So, when I drown out the noise and focus on the end goal, that’s when I get to where I want to be.
Dean: So I’m often talking about the status quo — whether it be personally or in my career — and the need to fight it. I want to know what does the status quo mean to you?
Allison: The status quo …there’s nothing wrong with status quo…and for a lot of people, status quo is okay. But I think that there’s two different types of people. There’s the individuals that are okay with that…and that’s doing your thing, going to work, getting paid, supporting yourself…all of those things; but then there’s the next level and there are two different thresholds.
Dean: Does it represent ‘satisfactory’? or does it represent…
Allison: Yeah, I kind of think of it like filling out a survey [laughs]…like there’s three bubbles or five bubbles and the middle bubble would be status quo. It’s not not meeting expectations, but it’s also not exceeding expectations…it’s right in the middle. I prefer to be in the fifth bubble [laughs].
Dean: I’m interpreting your interpretation of the status quo as being ‘comfortable,’ maybe call it average or under the radar…But, you know, a lot of the things that you’ve done have been anything but status quo and so I want to talk about Advanced Recovery Systems. What is the most remarkable thing about it
visionaries and entrepreneurs
Allison: Well, Advanced Recovery Systems…You know I’ve been a part of it since the very beginning and I watched it grow and I think that for me, one of the best experiences has been to be able to work with Dr. Eisenberg and Dr. Gold, who are both visionaries and entrepreneurs, and have been abundantly successful in Healthcare over the course of their careers. They’ve really changed outcomes…saved more lives, and had such an incredible impact over the last several decades that I’ve been able to not only learn how critical it is to place patients first, but also how important it is to view it from a business perspective as well…and there has to be a balance there and so I’ve learned a tremendous amount on how to grow and scale companies and how to really enjoy learning from people who have done it over and over and over again…it’s been a real honor. I mean, think about the fact that we opened our first program June 2013 and four years later, we’ve got eight programs open. That’s exceptional work. We went from 66 beds to now over 400 beds and we have no desire to slow down whatsoever so it’s been a really incredible experience and I feel like I’ve been very fortunate in my life and my career.
Dean: If you could attribute your growth to one thing, what would that be?
Allison: So many things [laughs] I think doing things well is critical. You can’t just throw stuff together and expect to grow a company or scale a company, a business, or anything. It’s so important that you do things well and that you pay attention to the details because the details will come back to get you in the end if you don’t do it right. Also, we are always looking for the next opportunity to grow the company, to find a new space, start a new center, to acquire a program…we’re always looking. We’re never just sitting there saying, “Oh, we’re good for now.” That is never our mentality. Ever.
Dean: You know, it’s interesting because when you mention these things…there are so many businesses that I talk to you where, you know, you become enamored with the shiny stuff, but then it really comes back to basics…Do you do what you’re supposed to do well? The details matter. I feel that every business should be in the ‘attention to detail’ business no matter what they do.
Allison: I watch companies implode because they didn’t pay attention to the details or they didn’t keep the reins in on the budget or they allowed frivolous spending or they didn’t monitor every aspect. You can’t ignore those things. You can’t think “I’ll focus on that next year”…you need to be really honest and sometimes being honest doesn’t necessarily have the outcome that you want. But if you don’t know exactly where you stand, how are you ever going to get better? You’re just going to keep making the same mistakes over again…
Dean: When I say, “Who is the most remarkable person you know and why”…who is the first person that comes to mind?
as my platform when I won Miss Florida
Allison: Honestly I have so many that this is a scary question for me because there have been so many instrumental people that have really inspired and motivated me. One of the most remarkable people that I know is my dad. He taught me so much about leadership and being in a position of authority. He doesn’t even realize the impact that he’s had on me and where I’m at in my career today. But I’ve got phenomenal business mentors, as well. Like I said, Dr. Eisenberg. Every time I’m around him, I just want to soak in everything…every piece of feedback, or suggestions, or advice, or even just listening to him…I’ve been so blessed to have him as an instrumental person in my life. I’ve also had incredible personal mentors that I wouldn’t be where I am now without them. I mean, I always look back and think, “How did I end up here?” because this isn’t something I sat there and thought, “This is what I want to do later on in life,” which I think is also very interesting…but they were pivotal people that influenced me. Lisa Maile who looked at me at 17- or 18-years-old and said, “You are blessed with a voice to tell your story,” and she helped me get that story together. Being able to share my own personal experience with what I went through…it lead me to being able to share it in other capacities, having it as my platform when I won Miss Florida, then on the national stage of Miss America, then taking advantage of the first opportunity to get into referral relations and helping people get into treatment. If I hadn’t had that experience of sharing my story and creating H.O.P.E. and doing all of these things, I wouldn’t have gotten that first job and that first job is how I got this job…so I look at it and say: Thank you Lisa Maile for helping make sure my story was heard, thank you Dad for showing me what an incredible leader is, thank you Dr. Eisenberg for opening my eyes as to how to build an incredible healthcare company at the level and expectation that we hold ourselves to. There are so many people that are extraordinary that I’ve been so fortunate to have in my life.
Dean: I loved that you turned this question into remarkable mentors because that is just really spot-on. What would you say to these two people: either the person that’s young and doesn’t have a mentor and they feel like they’re too busy, or the person who feels like, you know what, I’m maybe 10 years from retirement, who’s going to mentor me? What would you say to those people?
Allison: Oh, mentors are always necessary. You know, for the young individual that maybe is really busy: find time because what you will learn from your mentors will save you so much over the course of your career. You’ll be able to avoid mistakes, you’ll be able to see bigger than what you see right now. I think one of the biggest holdbacks and setbacks for youth is that often times, they can’t see beyond what’s right in front of them. And you can’t just think about that first job when you’re taking that first job…you need to be thinking about what’s next for you whether you’re 25, 35, 45, 55, 65, or even the individual that’s 10 years away from retirement. The world is changing constantly and so whatever industry you’re in, there are other people…the up-and-comers…who can also be considered mentors. You know, I think about industries in which they’ve always done things the same way. We now live in a digital world so maybe you could learn from someone that is well-versed in internet marketing, or e-commerce…but it’s a very different world so I think that the moment you say, “I don’t need to learn” is the moment that you’re saying, “I’m done.”
Dean: I feel the same. Mentors are personal teachers and I’ve often said that you do want to pick and choose what you pick up from your mentor, too. But I think about how mentors have mentors and successful mentors have successful mentors and I think that says it all. To build amazing things takes a great amount of motivation and I want to know what somebody said to you, and something that stuck with you throughout the years that’s really motivated you. Maybe something someone said that when you were young or at a pivotal point. What comes to mind?
this might look really big and really scary right now
Allison: So honestly, the quote that I mentioned earlier (‘The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you’re intended to be’)…that’s my motto for life and that’s not something somebody told me, but it’s a quote that resonated with me and it’s something that I really hold onto. I’m really inspired by people that don’t see limits. For example, I took B-School with Marie Forleo not too long ago and one of her favorite quotes is ‘Everything is figure-outable’ …and ‘figure-outable’ is not even a real word, [laughs] but it’s her way of saying never look at something and not see an opportunity to find a solution. And that has helped me so much. It helps me overcome walls that I would put up for myself and I was like ‘no, no, no,’ we can get through this…and this might look really big and really scary right now, or I might have so much fear going into this, but I can figure this out…and so that has been something that has stuck with me. And then the quote from Lisa. I can remember myself standing not too far from here and her saying, “You are blessed with a voice to tell your story.” I think that we all have our own unique blessings, our own unique gifts, our own unique talents… You know, something that I have in my office is two circles that intersect in the center. The one circle is what I want to do and the other circle is what I’m good at and then there’s the center that overlaps…and that area is where you should focus your attention because that is where you are able to scale your own potential and then go after things and accomplish them. It might not always be everything that you want to do, but sometimes you have to realize that you also have this other subset of gifts and talents and you can figure out how to combine things and how to leverage them, but you have to be open to the fact that what you want to do right now…you might not be able to do right now.
Dean: So, remarkable people tend to be humble and I want you to put that humility aside… ‘k? Put on your third-person hat and dig a little bit deep to be open. What is your secret to being outrageously remarkable and being able to do everything you’ve been able to do?
Allison: I’ve got lots of tips and tricks!” [Dean: give me a few, Allison] I keep my blinders on as much as possible. I already mentioned running your own race, but I envision myself as the horse with the blinders on. I have to do that. Every time I’ve ever taken my blinders off, I haven’t succeeded so I have to get my blinders on. I have to write down what scares me and how I’m going to overcome it so, you know, whether it’s a presentation, or a proposal, or whatever it is…or taking the next leap, or making a really difficult business decision…I have to write it down because I remove its power once it’s just written out. It’s like, okay, this is it…I’m going to overcome this now. I ask a lot of questions. I think sometimes…I mean I can reference myself early in my career. I didn’t want to ask questions because I didn’t want to expose the fact that maybe I didn’t know everything. I wanted to appear like, ‘I got this,’ but inside I’m going ‘I don’t have this at all!” Like, I’m freaking out. [laughs] So, if I don’t know the answer, I’m going to find the answer…but always do your research and your homework so that you’re making informed decisions, so that you’re taking that next move or that next step with having done the legwork, and that involves asking a lot of questions.
Dean: Do you write them in a journal or notebook of fears?
I am adamant about this
Allison: No, it’s just literally like a mind exercise. I just write down my thoughts as soon as they happen. I write it down because if I don’t write it down I’m giving it power and then it’s going to become a mind block or roadblock as I’m trying to accomplish other things. So that’s something that’s pretty powerful and I do my goals regularly. I am adamant about this. My twirling coach back in the day made me do it when I was an athlete. She said, you’re going to take a business card and you’re going to write your short-term goals on one side and you’re going to write your long-term goals on the other side… [Dean: are you talking about baton twirling?] Yes, I was a competitive baton twirler for 18 years.. So she said, laminate it and put it in your wallet so every time you open up your wallet, you’re going to see this and this is going to remind you that this is what your priorities are and this is what you’re shooting for because not every day is easy and there are going to be days that are really, really hard…so put your goals in a place that you’ll see them. We still do this now. My husband and I do goals individually for our careers and we also do them for the household and the family and what we’re trying to accomplish this year. I make my teams at work do quarterly goals and they’re beautiful. They don’t just start off with what are you looking for and what you want to accomplish the next three months. I make them start off with what did you accomplish the last three months because I want them to always be reflecting and have a point of reference for everything good that they’re getting done and all of the milestones that they’re meeting and hitting. So you have to always reflect back in order to look forward and that’s something that’s super important to do.
Thank you, Allison. I feel more motivated after getting the chance to sit with you.
Want to share with others? THANK YOU! Click on social icons at the top [Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin]
Don’t want to miss the next interview? Sign up here to be an insider (if you haven’t already)!