With jobs in human resources that have taken them around the world, Nicole van Hattem and Lauren Penny know what keeps a corporation running. Out of all the strategies they’ve learned and implemented, they’ve found one that’s proven to be most effective, and that’s a team of healthy employees.
On a mission to empower global wellness and maximize potential, Nicole, a 2011 Integrative Nutrition graduate of the Health Coach Training Program, and Lauren, a current student, founded Art of Abundant Living, and have experienced growing success since day one. Even more interesting, is the fact that their business is based in Doha, Qatar, a place with health trends unfamiliar to most people. Qatar was recently named the country with the most obese population in the world. This interview highlights how Nicole and Lauren got to where they are today, and how they plan to address the increasing health concerns in Qatar.
When did you first realize there was a strong need for health coaching in the corporate world?
Since a huge proportion of our lives is spent at work – typically five days in a seven-day week, it’s important that each and every one of us are engaged in what we are doing. Corporations want employees who are highly productive. From experience we know that fit and healthy employees, who are highly engaged in their work and have a work-life balance, are more productive for longer periods of time.
Our roles in human resources have allowed us to witness a significant number of colleagues struggling with stress, work-life balance issues, lifestyle related health problems, and the corresponding effects this had on both their personal lives and performance levels at work. After reflecting on this and then speaking with business leaders and professionals from a broad range of industry sectors, there appeared to be very little practical support and guidance that empowered individuals to make changes in their lives. After watching interventions that addressed the symptoms rather than the causes of imbalance, such as disciplinary action for performance, behavior targets, and standards not being met, it was clear that the key to ensuring sustainable success for both the individual and the organization lay in supporting change holistically through health coaching.
Tell us about your business.
Art of Abundant Living is about empowering global wellness and helping people create their best lives. Our four core activities include: corporate wellness and engagement strategies, health coaching services, products, and retreats. We do this by getting people engaged in their workplace, fit, and more productive. As corporate wellness consultants, we work to transform the way corporations approach employee productivity and sustainability. Our corporate consultancy programs reduce: employee absenteeism; preventable chronic health conditions; employee turnover, productivity issues; disengagement and loss of potential profit. Our employee engagement and wellness strategic solutions maximize stakeholder returns, profits and return on investment.
What made you stay in Qatar to create your business as opposed to moving home?
Qatar is a dynamic and rapidly evolving country. It is powered by visionary thinking, and along with a passion for innovation, there is a national vision developing that commits great resources into the health and wellness of the citizens. Qatar is also very supportive of entrepreneurs and geographically is centrally located, making it relatively easy to travel to anywhere in the world.
It was recently announced that Qatar has the world's most obese population, and people are not very aware of the current health problem. What are the main concerns and how can you help increase public awareness?
Statistics show a strong correlation between obesity rates and diabetes, chronic and acute health problems. Awareness of the challenges is growing and initiatives are being put in place by both the private and public sectors to increase awareness. Our commitment is to working with and alongside these initiatives to support rapid change in this area. We aim to bring awareness of healthier eating within the arab culture and food traditions. It's about bringing awareness within the strong culture and values as for people to live healthier.
Do you work primarily with businesses and in offices or do you ever work with local communities or schools in Qatar?
We go wherever the people are. While our focus is on corporate strategies, we work with a number of schools in Qatar, and at least 10% of our resources are invested in community awareness and outreach programs.
Why do you think your business has experienced such a rapid growth spurt? What advice can you give other Health Coaches who are looking to create a larger presence including products, services, retreats, etc.?
Look at where the gaps in the market are, and focus attention on offering specific packages to corporations to close this gap. Take the time to create a clear vision of what you want your business and your life to be like in 5, 10, 20 years. You might be frightened at times to take the leap forward – be practical and then just go for it. Network, network, network – get the word out there of what you have to offer and how working with you can transform their lives. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be bold in your passion for making a different in this world.
What sort of client success have you experienced? Can you give an example of a breakthrough with a client or company?
Choosing one is a little difficult, however one that immediately comes to mind is a lady in her early 20s, a new mother and an entrepreneur. During her six-month program, she let go of three dress sizes, refocused her business priorities, and is now studying at IIN in order to deepen her knowledge of how to take care of herself and her family. On the corporate side, Nicole recently presented to a General Manager’s conference, where 70 of this international hotel chain’s GM’s met to review business progress and discuss strategies for going forward. The Founder of the company flew her across the gulf for a workshop on work-life-balance issues with the team, as he could clearly see the link between wellbeing, employee engagement and sustainable performance for his company.
What are the main changes and improvements you see in the health of your clients?
A clearer vision of what they want for their lives, practical achievable and sustainable changes in health and lifestyle choices, increased self-confidence and a commitment to self-care and self-leadership.
Are there any key concepts to remember when building a business in another country? How do the marketing concepts you learned in the Health Coach Training Program apply to your work in Qatar?
Each environment is different. Understand your target audience and be clever in how you target your marketing, and use your resources – in particular your time. Networking is the key. Establish personal relationships when setting up a business and establish a trusted network of people to support you by giving ideas, feedback on concepts and sharing experiences as to support the business growth. In Qatar the two most effective marketing tools are networking and social media.