Communicating across all channels
With the amount of uncertainty change brings, a policy of transparency is one of the best approaches a company can take. In order to stay transparent, Aesynt followed an incredibly open communication strategy.
“Our employees knew that we were trying to sell the company,” he says. “They knew every step of the way. We had 23 companies that were interested in buying us initially. We told the employees that we had 23 companies. We told them when we were down to nine companies. We told them when we were down to four potential buyers. We told them when we were down to two. And so they were involved in the entire process.
“We felt that to be really important, because we’re going to be successful if we have a dedicated and passionate employee base,” he says. “And you can’t be passionate about something unless you believe in it.”
Each person in management, including McEwen, had a written and disciplined communication plan to personally execute, while holding each other accountable.
A communications employee was responsible for measuring different communication points with customers and employees throughout the entire process.
A team was created within the company that understood the culture of the organization. These people not only helped carry the messaging, but also provided counsel back to the leadership team, giving rapid feedback if the employee base was growing concerned about something.
In addition, Aesynt used technology to keep in close touch with its remote employee base, which is about half of its workforce.
“The best thing you can do is take the fear of the unknown away from people so they can focus on driving the organization forward. So, that was a key lesson for us for sure — I mean we’re still learning that,” McEwen says.
This strategy also applied to Aesynt’s customers.
Based on the company’s customer satisfaction metrics, McEwen says they learned health care providers felt the organization wasn’t communicating intimately enough with them.
“We were acting too much like a large company,” he says. “And so we put processes in place and investments in place, adding additional people to help our customers, because our customers are going through a really difficult time.
“If you’re a hospital, this is an incredibly stressful time for you right now. The way you care for patients has to change. The way you get paid is changing. Everything about it is changing, and so they require a lot more support.”
Team building by way of practice
As part of the process to make change as seamless as possible, management teams often dedicate time to team building.
“If you’re coaching a sports team, you practice eight or 10 times more than you play the actual game. In business, it’s the exact opposite. You very rarely practice as a leadership team,” McEwen says.
By formally practicing how to solve problems and different situations as a team, Aesynt management discovered two things. It created an incredible amount of trust, and as events occurred in the market or with the divestiture, they’d already been through them, so they were able to make decisions more effectively and quickly.
It also showed them their strengths and weaknesses and enabled the team to openly discuss them.
“I’m a pretty outgoing person, and I’ve got a driver personality. It’s natural for me to like to make decisions,” McEwen says. “But that’s a problem in very complex situations where my natural behavior is to make a decision.
“The right thing to do is recognize that it’s a complex problem, and to ask two team members who are more patient individuals to take a lead on solving that problem for you because they’ll be more thorough.”
On the flip side when you’re trying to turn around a business, in many cases with commercial decisions, having the exact right answer wasn’t as important as moving the organization forward, he says. In that case, you’d turn the lead over to team members who have experience making rapid decisions with less information.