The Read & Recover Initiative was born through the thoughts and actions of some kind people with some kind hearts. The owner of White Now, Jenny White had experienced periods of time with her then 3 year old in hospital with recurring bouts of pneumonia over a 12 month period – an experience that can be teatering on life of death for a toddler. With this in mind along with the great experiences that Jenny and her family had with the medical teams, Jenny thought of ways to simply ‘give back’ to those who gave so much to her family to ensure that her 3 year old survived. She noticed that some of the books in the hospitals were a little tired and ‘well used’. WIth further research of other hospitals, she found that this was an all too familiar story. Jenny’s child is a lover of books and this kept him going through the many nights in hospital. If something can keep a sick kid happy – then this is a Godsend !
At Christmas time 2009, immediately after Jenny’s child was released from hospital for the 4th time in 6 months, a ‘friend’ on Facebook (a friend that Jenny had never met) posted that he would like to grant some Christmas wishes. That gentleman, Brad Sugars was a very successful businessman living in Las Vegas (an Aussie ex-pat). Jenny posted on his Facebook page that she would like to donate 100 books to 10 hospitals in Sydney. Soon after, Brad granted this wish but increased the donation to 1,600 books for 100 hospitals Australia wide. The kindness and generosity of Jenny and Brad lead to this amazing initiative. The inaugral year was 2010 with the initiative to be continued in years to come !
Isn’t it just THE BEST feeling when you get a group of decent, easy-going, happy people in the same space? And isn’t it amazing what can be achieved with a group like this?
On Tuesday just gone, we assembled “The A-team” to assist with the packing of the 1600 books for 100 Children’s Hospitals as part of our “Read & Recover” initiative. I am sure that it will be blogged about further in the near future, but I just wanted to share briefly, what I took from the day! Whilst it was never about me, I came away with a fantastic feeling and it was all because of the wonderful people I shared the experience with.
Upon arrival, everyone jumped to the various tasks and throughout the process there was plenty of happy chatter, a few laughs and a general air of comraderie. Over the ensuing 5 hours, (minus time for lunch of course) – we unpacked, bundled, wrapped, packed and posted the books so that they could get to their various destinations all across the country.
From me personally, I just wanted to say a HUGE THANK YOU to the wonderful people that I got to know a bit better and spend some quality time with. The opportunity to get to know some truly good and decent human beings was an honour. The fact that I was able to do so whilst we all worked together for the greater good was truly a wonder and something that I feel greatly priviledged to have experienced.
Sue, Kathy, Michael and Jenny – THANK YOU for being so kind and generous with your time and more importantly, with yourselves. It was my absolute pleasure to have been able to get to know each of you (even you JW) that much better and I look forward our next catch-up!
When we started our Read & Recover Initiative in partnership with Brad Sugars, we knew that it was going to be a big job, full of fun and a fair bit of hard work and hey, we’re ALWAYS up for a challenge and ALWAYS up for hard work ! To us, it was going to take some great organisational skills and a passion to make kids smile. If you think about the process in its simplest form, all we have to do is buy 1600 books and send them to 100 hospitals. All of us at White Now consider ourselves as organizational machines (and we usually are except when one of our kids has been up all night then we are more like organisational disasters) !!
We started with a plan and a time line. Isn’t it true though that it’s not until you plan a process that you actually work out that the simple logistics that you had once thought of, have turned into a 68 page procedure manual that takes 2 weeks to develop and another 2 weeks to digest ? Our aim though is to get these books out there and we will do what it takes to make that happen.
We are rapidly crossing the tasks of the list with each cross triggering a smile on our faces knowing that we are one step closer to getting those books out. There have been so many people who have offered their assistance to pack or deliver the books or simply be involved somehow, and they are patiently waiting until it is ‘packing day’. We had many photographers offering their services to do photo shoots for us with Brad and also taking images of the delivery of the books to the hospitals. We ended up securing Michael O’Farrell from www.ofarrell.com.au, who is already an absolute pleasure to deal with. This contact came through Facebook and we thank his daughter for putting his name forward.
We are right in the middle of calling the hospitals and this is where the interesting challenges have manifested. The plan was to call each hospital, find the appropriate person to chat to about the initiative, grab their details, gain their permission to donate the books, send them a formal letter, get the delivery volunteers to call them when it is time to deliver, have the hospital contact receive the books at a mutually suitable time and there endeth the process. Don’t forget that we are organizational machines here at White Now and if there is a process to follow, we will do it. What we didn’t plan for was all the variables that we would find once this ring around started – these include;
The person we need to talk to is on leave
The person we need to talk to is unable to return our call
The Reception staff want to handle this themselves and won’t pass the call on
The hospital is unable to take books for hygiene/OH&S reasons
The hospital is unable take books, they can only take monetary donations
The message gets lost
The hospital wants to give the books to kids to take home
The hospital wants to see the actual books prior to accepting them
The hospital will only take them if they are posted
With all of these variable thrown at us, we soon realized that we had to be flexible to meet the needs of either the individual taking the call, the hospital or the donation protocol. So guess what ? That is what we did. We put our ‘flexible, accommodating’ hats on and tried to meet all of their needs. Once we did this, we could achieve White Now and Brad Sugars’ goal of getting 1600 books to 100 hospitals. What was so great about talking to the hospitals was that even if they could not accept the books, they usually offered suggestions about other hospitals that could. Everyone seems to care which is simply amazing.
We have learnt a valuable lesson with this process and that is that you can plan and set up procedures to YOUR requirements, but the other stakeholders may not always be able to follow your procedures. You have to quickly adjust your strategy to suit everyone…… and that is just what we are doing; Some books are staying in their factory wrapping, some books that were to be delivered are now being posted, some hospitals that were to receive books now are not receiving the books with other hospitals being added to the list, our formal letters change depending on the individual requirements of each hospital and soon there will be 1600 more books in Australian hospitals.
It is certainly true that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail, but when you are planning anything, build into the plan the flexibility to meet the needs of others as you cannot always predict others behaviours.
It’s not every day that you walk into a Post Office and tell the guy behind the counter that you are not there to buy stamps, but you would like to buy 1600 kids books from him. This is the story of Stuart from Australia Post.
I first went into the post office a couple of weeks back to simply look at the shelves to see what was available and decided that, after all our hunting for the perfect books to give to 100 hospitals that this was it ! I lined up in that all too familiar post office line that always seems to go out the door (why is that ? – that is a service/operations question for another conversation I think) and 10 minutes later arrived at the counter in front of Stuart.
“Hi Stuart, I’m Jenny and I am hoping to chat to you about buying a few books”. Stuart in his happy, willing tone said “of course – what would you like”. I informed him that I was looking at buying 1600 books and a heap of packaging and postage as well. This was a sale that was worth thousands of dollars to the local post office and Stuart must have worked that out in his head pretty quickly as he then stepped out from behind the counter to come out and have a chat to me with no barriers like counters or tills. From that point on, Stuart was focused on my needs. Stuart was not a manager, he was a postal service officer, but for some reason, he seemed to take ownership of this with the skills of a manager. I knew that Stuart was going to really help me from this point onwards. I was looking forward to dealing with Stuart and secretly hoped that I did not get tipped to a manager instead.
I planned to go back once or twice more before sealing the deal. I just had to confirm this spend with the key stakeholders in the initiative. A week later, I went back into the post office expecting that Stuart would have been moved from the job and the manager of the business would take over the sale. I was so pleased to see that when I went to the counter, Stuart was called to meet me “Stuart, that lady for all those books is here to see you”. This was the manager calling for Stuart. She had generously and rightly empowered Stuart to carry out the sale to its end. So many times I witness a manager taking over from an employee thinking that they can do a better job. An employee never learns how to do a great job unless they are empowered to do so. I could tell that the manager had coached him a little by the questions that he came back to me with and that was great! Stuart was on a roll. He organized the order to a tee and promised to call me when it was ready so I could come in and pay! I got the call as promised and went down to see him with credit card in hand. What I had also done was put that special touch to the transaction, I had made a plate of Anzac biscuits for his team.
After the transaction was complete, Stuart’s manager came out to thank us and of course, I spoke so highly of the efforts that Stuart had made in sealing the deal. The manager then offered to personally deliver the books to the venue where we will pack them which I of course accepted. We had made Stuart’s day and he had made ours….. I don’t know what was more rewarding for him; knowing he played some part in giving books to hospitals; making such a big transaction; or being the person whose customer brought him a plate of Anzacs.
The moral of this is that in everything that you do, try and make someone else’s day and you will walk away with a smile on your own face every single time. Empower your staff to be great and they will come through with greatness !
PS: When it is time to send the books, the only person I want to deal with is Stuart !
The Read & Recover intiative, which is a joint venture between White Now and Brad Sugars from ActionCOACH (you can read about this amazing gift in previous posts) took its next step – finding which kids hospitals people thought the 150 books should go to.
If there is one thing I have learnt in my years of running businesses, it is to always ask others for their input and ideas – whether it be your team members, clients, potential clients or simply people that want to add value to what you do. With this in mind, our team put a post on the Wiz Whitenow Facebook site “Wiz WhiteNow” (http://www.facebook.com/wizwhitenow). This is what the post said “Wiz WhiteNow is needing your help to recommend hospitals to us! We are sending 150 kids books to 10 NSW hospitals with kids wards. This is a gift we are giving jointly with the amazing support of Brad Sugars from ActionCOACH. The generosity of this entrepeneur is inspiring & the time and efforts of the White Now team are appreciated. Would you like to suggest a hospital that would appreciate the gift ?”
The response was amazing and we qiuckly gathered up the names of the first 10 hospitals named. It shows that people can be so passionate about things that are close to their heart ! White Now and Brad Sugars would like to say a huge THANK YOU to the following people and their recommendations !
The Sydney Adventist Hospital
Si Harris & Susan Churchill & Denise Ferguson
Leah Gibbs, Emma Huszar, Tanya Westcott Gorton
John Hunter Hospital
Leah Gibbs/Amy Waight
Sydney Kids Hospital Randwick
Kathy Carnemolla, Damien Greig
Royal Darwin Hospital
Coffs Harbour Hospital
St George Hospital
Sutherland Children’s Ward
Our next step was to source the books – we searched high and low. We wanted to look for books that were a mix of Australian authors and popular well known kids stories. We went to many book shops, online stores, auction sites – you name it, we researched it. The final decision was made yesterday and the books were bought. The most amazing range that suited our needs were actually at an Australia Post shop – yep, it’s true. To those who recommended the hospitals and to all of our friends and colleagues who are supporting us in this venture, thank you so much ! People are the true essence of life !
These are the authors and titles in case you are interested;
I was reading through Facebook and one of our Facebook friends is Brad Sugars – billionaire, entrepreneur, business success story and all round good guy ! He was looking to make someone’s wish come true and posted a Santa Brad offer that you could not beat. He offered all of his 5000 plus friends on FB the chance to have anything that they wanted for Christmas. You just had to post what you wanted. I was simply amazed to see the responses. People wanted their house paid off, a new sports car, cash donations to start their businesses, free coaching from the coach himself, holidays to expensive resorts, you name it – they asked him for it. I sat and wondered to myself. Here is a man who has made his millions by working hard, being smart and being devoted to his future. Here are also a bunch of budding entrepreneurs as his friends wanting to get a break from him and get some cash to get ahead in their career/business/personal life etc. Amongst the hundreds and hundreds of requests there were a few who asked for monetary assistance to help others. Here is witnessed the TRUE Christmas spirit. There were a handful of people, who knows if they were wealthy and successful or lived in poverty but they asked for donations to help others. The light bulb went on !!
I have spent many nights in hospital throughout the year with my 3 year old. He has by no means got a life threatening illness like many other children, but has been hit with pneumonia multiple times. We have had such fantastic experiences in hospitals with people whose vocation is like no other – nurses ! If I could take my hat off to anyone, it would be them. The hospital we usually go to has a reasonable range of books for kids, but many are old and tattered and if I was to be honest, they are from another era. If there are two things that bring a smile to a sick, bed ridden child’s face, it is people and books. I then went to visit a range of other kids hospital wards and found that many wards had virtually no books. I then put to my team the idea that we could start a Read & Recover program and donate books to these hospitals. Everyone was on board and we were ready to post our Christmas wish on Brad’s wall. We want to give 150 books to 10 hospitals ! Let’s wait and see what happens !
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