October 04, 2017

The Opposite of Scale

From the desk of Andrew Powell, CEO of Elements Traverse

As a boots-on-the-ground lover of the outdoors, a believer in wilderness therapy, and a student of experiential education, my choice to pursue an MBA must have seemed strange to those who know me. What they didn’t know was that I was on a personal and professional quest to turn a therapy-driven field into a professional outfit that matches and exceeds the efficiency and efficacy of any hospital. Although I learned many concepts and ideas that apply directly to what I do today, there are a few business concepts that hold no water in our field.

None so much as the concept of scale. Scale, and its more broad term, “economy of scale” refers to the concept that the larger an organization, the more efficient, cost-effective, and profitable it becomes. Of course it’s not too hard to understand that after all the setup, labor, and materials, it costs more per widget to manufacture 100 widgets than it does 10,000. Because this concept is rock solid in certain areas of business, several organizations have tried and failed to replicate it in our therapeutic world, building and buying huge sprawling programs that intend to serve every issue under the sun.

But our clients are not widgets. They are people. And affecting change is a deeply personal and relational process which is best achieved in a small, specialized and intimate setting. Furthermore, we at Elements know that the further from the ground that decisions are made, the greater the risk that those decisions corrode the treatment that is fundamental to what we do. With boots on the ground in our small owner-operated program, we not only have a better chance of making the most constructive decisions for our program, but we also stay connected to what got us into this in the first place.

Andrew Powell is CEO of both Elements Traverse and its sister program Elements Wilderness Program. After three powerful years on the trail, Andrew moved into field and program administration. Seeing the need for better organizational management in wilderness therapy, Andrew sought and completed his MBA at the University of Utah with the goal of helping wilderness become the most professional and consistent intervention available. At Elements, Andrew has found the best blend of professionalism and fun inside a small, specialized, and intimate program. His favorite part of the job is the ability it gives him to get involved on every level and in every department, with great people who are as passionate as he is about giving clients and their families the most meaningful wilderness therapy experience possible.