Theodore Vairaktaris wants to explain what family means to him – but he first needs to make an important distinction.
“It’s really important to note that my family aren’t just those people I’m genetically bound to,” the Usher Group founder and owner says with his trademark passion.
“I consider family all the people I share camaraderie with, that push me and test me, that hold me accountable and can speak the truth with me, that ultimately make me a better human being. In my world, family and friends are all the same thing.”
Such words are not surprising from a man who has performed the incredible feat of growing Usher Group from a one-man painting business into a multimillion-dollar operation employing more than 500 people while maintaining a sense of family that any small business would be proud of.
And the way Theodore has done that is by surrounding himself with colleagues who both possess and harness what he considers the essential traits one needs to build a positive family culture.
“We all need love, compassion, understanding, accountability, creativity,” he says. “If you have a relationship based on those traits in a corporate environment, you have the ability to build a core structure that is impenetrable.
“We may have different titles and renumerations but we all represent one link in the chain. We pick each other up when someone is down, challenge each other to be the best we can be and are comfortable to be honest with each other when needed.
“If you have an environment where it’s all about climbing the ladder, protecting your own self-worth and the left hand isn’t talking to the right hand, that’s when you create the draconian model where one person is at the top of the pyramid telling everyone else ‘Do as I say’.
“I despise that dog-eat-dog corporate world. There is no ‘I’ at Usher Group – only we.”
Among the ‘we’ are nine members of Theodore’s genetic family, ranging from rookies learning the ropes to senior executive and operational staff.
And if there is one thing he knows, it is that none of them would consider themselves more worthy than other members of the Usher Group family.
“They would never walk up to someone and say ‘But I’m Theodore’s cousin’ because they know how much respect and love I have for all the individuals in our workplace,” he says.
“Some of our site managers and senior staff have been with me for 15 years and we are so grateful for the loyalty and commitment they have given to our family. Our colleagues bring so much to the table – their work ethic, compassion, commitment – and are ultimately doing it for our family.”
Theodore then signs off by revealing a mantra he and the special people in his life share.
“Whether you are my brother, cousin, uncle, aunty, best friend or a close colleague, it’s a case of ‘Never above you, never below you, always beside you’. That is the creed we live by.”