‘There’s no reason we can’t be the Airbnb of the wellness world’

Corporate health has gone mainstream, creating an opportunity for an Irish company that grew up servicing big tech, Spectrum Wellness MD Stephen Costello tells our reporter


Spectrum Wellness managing director Stephen Costello is plotting a move to a larger site in Dublin city centre as the company looks to take on another 100 staff on top of its existing team of 55 following a fundraising of €3m to help it break into new markets
Spectrum Wellness managing director Stephen Costello is plotting a move to a larger site in Dublin city centre as the company looks to take on another 100 staff on top of its existing team of 55 following a fundraising of €3m to help it break into new markets

Corporate health and wellness programmes have become more than just a perk at a global tech firm; for many workers in high-tech sectors they are regarded as the norm.

That increasing ubiquity across the market is something Dublin-based Spectrum Wellness plans to capitalise on.

Managing director Stephen Costello told the Irish Independent that the opportunity to become a global player is “massive”.

“What a lot of the global players have done at the moment is that they’ve invested in digital-only solutions, so they’ve built a platform and that’s it,” he said.

“We know we can’t do that – we haven’t just decided to be a health and wellness provider, we’ve been doing it for five years so we know what doesn’t work. You won’t get good engagement if you just do digital.”

Costello maintains that this is especially relevant with big tech-based companies which have a large millennial-led population who are “completely bombarded with tech literally all the time”.

“They need to turn off, go sit in a seminar, go get a massage, get their hair and nails done, whatever helps them switch off for 30-40 minutes.

“And you can’t have that if it’s digital only.”

Branching off from Spectrum Health in 2012, Spectrum Wellness offers what it describes as evidence-based services to around 1,000 companies in Ireland, including the likes of Google, Aer Lingus, Microsoft and Bank of Ireland.

The Enterprise Ireland-backed company has been largely self-funded to date, but is in discussions with a number of venture capital firms as it looks to raise €3m by year-end to help break into other markets.

Its recent focus has been the creation of a technology platform from scratch, with 15 developers on board, allowing them the scalability to do just that.

“We’ve learnt a lot over the last five years about how to run health and wellness on-site. But we can’t scale on that model, can’t grow to 30-40 countries in the way we do it now.”

The platform is gearing up for a UK launch next January, with the rest of Europe being targeted towards the end of 2019, or early 2020. The recent announcement of 100 new jobs for the Merrion Square site are largely sales roles to sell that platform outside Ireland – and to continue to develop it.

Costello agrees that the company feels like a tech startup at the moment; albeit with an established client network that is helping the transition across the water run even smoother.

But while the expansion drive is very much the key focus at the moment, just as crucial for Spectrum Wellness is maintaining the standards they’ve set over the last five years in Ireland, according to Costello.

“It’s one thing to roll out a health and wellness programme just to say that you’ve done it, and tick some sort of global agenda or some compliance box.

“But a lot of the companies want to take wellness to the next level, they want to be able to see how many people booked in, of the people who booked in, how did they do and how did it impact on their health and wellness goals.

“For us, to maintain the personal touch internationally, it is going to involve account managers on the ground, but also – if you are a consultant or nutritionist or personal trainer on our platform – we will still follow the same standards and vetting process as we do now.

“We’re going to apply the same principles and processes as we do here, we’re just going to build the workflow in a scalable way.”

Costello maintains that having this level of expertise, in addition to their breadth of services, and more recently, the technological investment, sets Spectrum Wellness apart from its competitors.

And their corporate clients can expect just as bespoke an arrangement as a wellness programme participant.

“Smaller companies invest in onsite services much more because they want the employees to go and see the massage therapist, to sit down at a mental health seminar, because that’s a real engagement from their perspective.

“What the larger companies are trying to do is spread a limited budget across as many services as possible and across as many sites and shift patterns.

“Somebody in that organisation has gotten sign-off for a wellness budget. They are really passionate about it, but what they don’t have is the tools to convince the rest of the organisation that this is a good idea so we equip them with those tools.

“We try to bring them from an entry-level client all the way up to a bespoke client. That doesn’t mean that they’ll spend as much as Google, but it just means they’ll get as complex and well-thought-out strategy as Google’s – because that’s achievable for anybody – moving from ‘this is something nice to do’, to ‘this is providing real business value to the organisation’.”

With 100 new roles, in addition to the 55-strong existing team, and predictions of more employment opportunities by the end of 2019, space at Spectrum Wellness’s site is going to be quite limited.

Costello has already informed staff that an office move, somewhere else in the capital’s city centre, is on the cards. Somewhere befitting a global leader in health and wellness?

“We’re a leading facilitator of health and wellness because we have the platform for client access and the data sets to make the right decisions.

“There’s no reason we can’t be the Airbnb of the wellness world and take it to every market we possibly can do.”

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