Meet Rhys Brooks

Operations Manager – Slade Health

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Resolving to grow: How Rhys Brooks has blossomed into a true leader

Operations Manager Rhys Brooks always knew he had a knack for public speaking and thinking outside of the box, but he never saw himself as a leader. That is until he joined Slade Health – part of Icon Group’s Compounding division.

At Slade, Rhys realised he needed to stand up, offer ideas, and encourage others to do the same. This can-do attitude has seen Rhys build a highly successful career with us, and we’re confident there’ll be many more achievements ahead of him.

A leap of faith

When 21-year-old Rhys Brooks – hair dyed peroxide blonde – walked into a job interview at our Hornsby facility in 2012, he thought he was bulletproof.

He had no understanding of what an Operations Manager did, but nonetheless told the Operations Manager early on: “I’d love to do what you do.”

Rhys and his former manager have a good laugh about this now because Rhys has since proved himself to be a more than capable leader. In fact, he’s now an Operations Manager himself, leading Slade’s Geebung production facility and a team of 85 people.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Rhys. He’s worked hard to get here, and his most recent transition – from Production Manager to Operations Manager – involved a leap of faith where he moved from his hometown of Sydney to Brisbane.

“When you know what you want and have the support of those closest to you, sometimes you have to take a risk because opportunities don’t always arise at your front door and you have to be ready for them”.

Rhys hopped off the plane in February 2022 – at the tail end of a typically muggy summer. Then came March and intense flooding, which devastated the river city and large swathes of the east coast of Queensland and New South Wales.

“From a personal side of things, everything that could have gone wrong for me did when I moved to Brisbane. From contracting COVID-19 to floods to rental battles, it all happened. But I can only laugh about it. These things are out of your control, so you can’t spend too much time worrying about them.”

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Overcoming obstacles for patient care

When Rhys arrived at Slade Geebung so did the floods, truly putting his leadership skills through their paces. The Geebung facility produces individualised life-saving chemotherapy and antibiotic drugs for patients across Queensland and Northern NSW, but the rising waters disrupted supply routes to several regional cities, including Toowoomba and Lismore.

Rhys and other managers across the sites held meetings throughout the week of the floods and across the weekend, mapping out how to get desperately needed supplies to clinics in the face of extensive road closures. Despite it all, the pace of their purpose and scale of their impact never faltered.

“We found ways, and that’s one of the most motivating and powerful things we do here. We have a group mentality across the Slade sites. It wasn’t easy, asking another site that’s already under pressure to help us, but that’s one of the things that allows us to deliver as a true team, we support each other.”

Rhys’s career at Slade has been in the production side of the business, so he doesn’t often get to connect directly with patients. However, he’s well aware of the impact he and his team have on our patients and the important role Slade staff played during the flood crisis.

“It’s important to know that what we do is for the betterment of people who are suffering. You hear stories about the effort Slade went to during the flooding, trying to find different ways to give our customers the care they needed. It was tough but very satisfying.”

Leading with humility

Since the floods, life has returned to normal at the Geebung production facility, and Rhys has been able to settle into his role and start implementing his vision for the team.

“I’m really enjoying coming to work. In my role, I can influence in real-time how effective we are on the floor, and I get to see people develop and grow. Being able to actively listen to my team and make positive change even in just the little areas is motivating beyond belief.”

Rhys has been with Slade (formerly Fresnius Kabi) since 2012 and in that time, his understanding of people management and leadership has matured and deepened. He says nothing helped him more in this area than when he participated in a leadership course run by Icon called the Founders Forum.

“When I walked into that course at the start of 2020, my whole perception of leadership changed. It was eye-opening to see how the leaders got the most out of their staff in so many personal ways. They commanded respect without being demanding or egotistical. Instead, it was about influencing and leading their people by knowing what mattered the most to them and showing them that you are human too.”

This style of authentic leadership resonates with Rhys, who is also conscious of the importance of humility as an Operations Manager.

“I can’t know everything in my role, so it’s really important to have a balanced, empowered team to lean on to make the best decisions possible. I want the team to feel comfortable and to stand up for their ideas because watching something succeed that you contributed to provides no greater feeling.”

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