Interview with Lee Chambers, Environmental Psychologist and Lancashire’s Wellbeing Champion

Lee Chambers MSc MBPsS is an Environmental Psychologist, Wellbeing Trainer and ICF Life Coach. In 2019 he launched Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing, with the aim to improve health outcomes and employee wellbeing in the North West.

Born in Bolton on May 22nd, 1985, he is a first generation university graduate, having graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in International Business Psychology before going on to complete his masters in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey.

Lee Chambers Essentialise Psychology

Martin Moseley: So Lee, for anybody who doesn’t know, can you tell people what Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing offers?

Lee Chambers: Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing run workshops, events and consult with SME’s to promote awareness of the benefits of conscious leadership, a coaching culture and employee wellbeing advancement. We assist organisations in creating wellbeing strategy and policy that can be planned, measured and embedded within business processes. We also look at the potential wellbeing challenges posed by the future of work, and how we can start to prevent those today. We run physical and mental health training events, carry out health assessments, and use environmental psychology to aid with user-centric office design, and creating inclusive, caring workplace cultures.

MM: That sounds ambitious, can you tell me the story behind it?

LC: The story behind Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing in many ways is my own personal journey. After having a mental breakdown in my second year of university, which led to me failing my year and being taken home by my parents, I felt the need to become more self-aware. I started on a mission to become more emotionally intelligent. After going back to university and graduating in International Business Psychology, I started working as a Financial Advisor at a national bank. I had a real desire to help people achieve financial stability and wellbeing. However, this was 2007, and after six months on the graduate scheme, I lost the funding for my professional qualification, and then a week later, the job itself.

That re-enforced within me that for my own career and educational development, I needed to be accountable and take ownership by organising it myself. This led to me setting up my first business, PhenomGames, and working in local government, where I saw first-hand how some of my colleagues struggled with their wellbeing. With the profits from my business, I was able to undertake qualifications in Nutrition for Human Performance, Strength and Conditioning Coaching, and Football Coaching.

I decided after three years to leave local government to pursue a different challenge and moved to a work programme company, where I helped unemployed people find the career path that was right for them. I then helped them gain the confidence to communicate with clarity at interview. This role was fulfilling as I saw my clients align with their passions and grow as individuals, and secure a job which they felt was right for them.

My career took another turn six months later, when I was offered a job with a sports performance agency. I was able to see the cutting edge of science and experimentation at the elite level of performance, and just how much time and energy is spent for the smallest of gains. While there, I also felt that is this was channelled towards thousands of ordinary people, it would make a significant difference in the world, and benefit communities on a broader scale.

At this point in my life, I became ill and lost the ability to walk, due to a chronic autoimmune illness. While finding myself immobile in hospital, I had a lot of time to reflect on my past., my purpose and what impact did I want to bring to the world. I became grateful for many of the things I had previously taken for granted. After 11 months of physiotherapy and rehab, I managed to walk a mile unaided, and that gave me a burning desire. That desire was to build awareness of just how resilient we can be and how big an asset our physical and mental health is.

I undertook further qualifications in advanced sleep and environmental psychology, wanting to start an integrated practice. I used my knowledge and experience to start on the path to becoming medication free through experimenting with my nutrition, sleep and movement to find out exactly what gave me energy, drained me, and triggered my disease. And then I made the decision that when my daughter started school, I would launch Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing. In July 2019, I moved into prelaunch, and by December 2019, I was fully up and running with a mix of individual clients and business clients.

MM: You’ve certainly been on a journey, so what inspired you to start your own company?

LC: When I think of the young Lee Chambers, I see a certain element of entrepreneurship in my life. Amy parents always worked hard to meet our basic needs, but I felt that maybe I could control my destiny. At age seven, I used to gather things that we didn’t need and sell them on a picnic mat at the end of our street with my friend. By age eleven, I’d start selling Amiga games in a magazine by mail order from my bedroom. I’d even set up a mobile sweet shop at school reselling food and drink until being stopped for hygiene reasons.

But as I passed through education and into University, I gradually started to look at a career that fit my skills. In my third year, I built a business plan for a company I wanted to launch in the video game wholesale industry. I went to see a respected business advisor who was my mentor, and he advised the plan was watertight. But he said I was too diverse, too young and too disruptive to make it work in that market. This knocked me back to focusing on the career option.

After losing my job in the financial crash, I decided I wouldn’t take that advice, and I wouldn’t conform. And that became the driver for my first business, PhenomGames, alongside the fact that I wanted to take ownership over my career and earnings. Also, I love to build things and learn new skills, and being an entrepreneur is like business science and experimentation in action.

MM: It certainly sounds like you enjoy the challenges of being an entrepreneur. What would you say is the most difficult part of running your own business?

LC: The most challenging aspect of running your own business is taking the time to step back, jump in the helicopter, and work on the company, rather than inside it. It’s easy to micromanage and do it all ourselves, especially if we enjoy it. I made this mistake with PhenomGames. At one point, I had a turnover of £750,000 and wasn’t willing to delegate anything. If I couldn’t automate it, I was doing it myself. It took me losing the ability to walk to see how letting go of areas where you bring less value and don’t enjoy, to leverage the talents of people who are gifted in that area. And this is how you sustainably grow and scale. It is easy to identify the business as you, yours and bound to you.

And this is fine if you are happy operating that way. It’s important to realise that you as a person, should look to grow and develop as much as your business, so you don’t end up with a mismatch between your businesses growth and your own. And I would like to think that the Lee Chambers of today is evolving as Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing grows.

MM: An interesting way to look at it. How about the best part of being an entrepreneur?

LC: The best thing about running your own business is the autonomy of life design you can incorporate on your business journey. This flexibility allowed me to keep working through a serious illness. It also allowed me to spend a significant amount of time with my children before they started school. These are times and memories I could never buy back or regain, and because my business allowed me to make this decision, I cherish them dearly.

It has also played a significant part in my recovery, as I have been able to work when it has been optimal for me, rather than defined, rigid work schedules. And this has allowed me to look after myself while I’ve been increasing my own self-awareness and emotional intelligence. I am not neurotypical as a person, and this level of work-life integration has allowed me to build a business that works for my life, my values and my strengths.

MM: It’s great to hear your grateful for your business. How has Coronavirus affected your business plans?

LC: Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing is still a relatively young business. And luckily, we had a hybrid physical and digital delivery. I did however lose a number of events I was a speaker at, and some became Zoom conferences. Environmental Psychology assessment are reliant on office access so we’ve been using digital tools and considering how we would incorporate VR in the future.

We have continued to work with clients digitally and started the process of bring some of our physical assets online. We now have our first few international clients which has certainly been a positive to come out of this challenging time. It is important to be agile, innovative and dynamic in crisis. While I lost my job in the credit crunch, both Uber and AirBnb were born out of that crisis and have gone on to disrupt two traditional industries worldwide on a large scale.

MM: An interesting perspective you have. And to the aspiring entrepreneurs of the future, what advice would you give?

LC: My advice would be to set out your business values when you start, as well as your financials. Is your business something that you enjoy, brings your strengths and generates value, while solving a problem and making a difference to the world? If you can say yes, you will find it much easier to navigate, thought the difficult times and darker days that every business goes through. And you will have a lens that all decisions pass through, from which clients you take on, who you employ and collaborate with, to who you consider investing. Clarity on these values keeps you connected to why you started and gives others a framework to know what your business stands for and is a vehicle to achieve.

Don’t be afraid to start, many of today’s companies began with a basic idea, launched it, and then evolved it based on feedback and data. A minimum viable offering will always beat a perfect offering, as the perfect offer will never launch. And while market research is a guide, times move quickly, and sometimes it’s not who you think your competitors are, but who your potential customers think they are.

Don’t fear failure; every business failure has lessons to be learned and data for the future. I have learned more from my business failure than I have from my business success, and success is undoubtedly an easy trap to fall into.

Never lose the vision of why you started, and treat your employees as people, who have the potential, ideas and feedback to become pivotal on your business journey. They are the driver of growth in your business, and if they are well, engaged and happy, your business will attract the best talent in the industry, be profitable and a become a place of innovation.

Finally, congruent branding, defining client avatars, and communicating with them in mind, is solid advice for any small business. You have to find where they are in this online world, and you certainly can’t afford to market to everyone. Ensure you communicate how you will solve their problems, what the impact is, and the benefits you bring, as well as inferring why you do it.

Lee Chambers Wellbeing Consultant

Lee Chambers: 

Twitter: @essentialise – Instagram: @essentialisecoach


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