The Art of Showing Up

13th May 2024
5 min read

Getting on a call is still no substitute for being there.

Photo by Product School

I had the honour and privilege last week of joining Intan Oldakowska from Rex Ortho on a two-day manufacturing tour through Melbourne's biomed precinct as part of MTPConnect's CTC-M program.

It was a jam-packed run around many of the big players in the biomedical and medtech space, both in research and design, as well as manufacturing. The intention being to build awareness of the various groups out there that can help the attendees on the their respective startup journeys.

As an aside; I wonder what it takes to get on the itinerary. Surely for the cost of an hour or two of some staff, and a couple of boxes of pastries, it pays for itself tenfold in terms of new work coming through the door. Success of course attracts success. The problem from my perspective is how could one ever get a foothold in this racket as a small player?

While I was there as a representative of REX Ortho, I also had my business development hat on. After all, the kinds of startup companies represented on the tour (not the mega organisations on the itinerary) are my people.

For me it was a couple of days very well spent. I got to speak with many people working hard to make their dreams a reality, with the limited resources they had. All their challenges were unique, and their stories fascinating.

In a very specific moment of empathy, however, I got to witness what it was like from their perspective. What opportunity the manufacturing tour offered them. They were passionate about their problem, and looking for others to help them solve it. The tour was an opportunity for them to discover what was possible and find those who could make it so.

Another aside: If you have the money that is... Most of the top-tier organisations we visited are also on the top tier of pricing. Unfortunately excluding many on the tour.

This insight made me realise, watching the two days unfold and the conversations that followed, that to find what you need, sometimes you just have to show up.

The Power In Being Present

I'm a massive advocate of working from home and using the digital tools at our disposal for remote work. After all, most of the clients I work with don't even live in the same state as me.

I also recognise that working from home doesn't work all the time, or for all situations.

Even ignoring the need to be physically present to work on prototypes, or to workshop, or to perform research, there is power in being in the same room as people. There are layers of communication not available through a video call, and a level of serendipity not available through a Google search.

This is what I found observing the participants of the manufacturing tour engage with the various organisations we dropped in on.

When you pick up a sample and turn it over in your hands. When you peer through the window of a lab at some very fancy instruments. When you quiz the tour guide about rates for the hot desks. You could see cogs whirring in the back of heads about how puzzle pieces might fit together.

Further, chatting with people in a low-key, no-obligations environment is a great way to unlock trains of thought that never would have been covered any other way. When conversation doesn't have an agenda, and is free to roam wherever interesting, you learn all kinds of fascinating things about people. What they do and how they do it. And who they know.

In such a small industry as Australian medtech and biotech, there's no better way to learn from others than over a coffee and a lemon tart.

Keep Showing Up

When I first started Virtimachi I was truly starting from ground zero. No clients and few contacts. No credibility and no reputation.

One of my mantras at the time was just to get out and meet people. I would go to whatever industry events were on, and awkwardly introduce myself to whoever looked like they were up for a chat.

And it was awkward to start. Introducing myself to people I didn't know, with no context, was so far out of my comfort zone it terrified me. To make it worse, part of me felt the stakes were high because I really was in need of some work.

But as time went on, and I kept showing up, I got more comfortable talking to strangers. I had more work too which took the pressure off trying to find some at every turn. When you're more relaxed, and there's no salesy undertones, you can have much more authentic conversations that wander down interesting paths.

More than that. By constantly showing up, you get to chat with the same people again and again. You get to build relationships. Each time exploring different topics and learning new things about each other. By constantly showing up, you can build trust with the people you might one day work with.

In this regard I'm especially grateful for HMIC (nee, MedTeCCH) in Newcastle, that allowed me to cut my teeth in the "industry networking" arena.

Build It And They Will Come

The MTPConnect event last week was a powerful example of enabling growth by smooshing like-minded people from both sides of the equation together into a single bus. Unfortunately, many of these types of events are exclusive, and limit the amount of exposure only to those included.

Conversely, while HMIC does a fantastic job of providing an inclusive platform for companies and individuals to come together and grow the local industry, HMIC is an exception rather than the rule.

I have not experienced, or even heard of, a similar platform in Sydney.

Sure there are little pockets of special-interest groups, but I feel this is something generally missing in many capital cities. To me that seems like a missed opportunity.

People love getting together for an opportunity to discover what is possible and find those who make it so.

Certainly the next step is for the industry at large to recognise the value in creating these kinds of inclusive platforms. So people across each region can be in the same room. To deliberately or serendipitously catalyse problems into solutions.

Especially when coffee and lemon tarts are involved.

Tagged: biotech · business · consulting · medtech · networking · startup

ⓒ Lincoln Black 2024

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