When Joseph D. Sansone founded Pediatric Services of America Inc., he faced the challenge of taking a children’s health care organization public. But by showing Wall Street the value that PSA had and the return that it could garner, he succeeded. Now, as chairman and CEO of Pediatria HealthCare for Kids, which specializes in treating medically fragile children, he and his 50 employees don’t have to answer to Wall Street anymore, but he says even if you’re not running a public company, you always have to answer to someone. Smart Business spoke with Sansone about why a successful company never crosses the goal line and how to create a value-driven culture.
Involve others in decisions. Get everybody’s buy-in let’s hash it out and make sure we’ve looked at every side and angle of what the issue is, and if the decision has to be made, I’ll make it.
Sometimes it’s not with 100 percent consensus, but that’s what you do. At least you get people’s input.
Autocrats, you can get lucky a lot of the times and your personal gut feeling, and some of these guys, it can carry them a long way, and it often does. But as you grow and get more complex as a company, your need for input from various segments becomes more and more important, and making a decision on your own without including all these people is a real danger to an organization.
If you’re running a small corner grocery store, you could get away with it, but if you’re running Whole Foods, I don’t think you can.
Use process for making changes. Decide which segment of the plan is effective and who had the responsibility for that the first time around, and decide whether or not that person needs help or needs replacing or is unaware of the changes. And then you address that piece of it.
If you look at what affects a company, it’s not generally something that hits at the top. It’s all the way down. Sometimes it hits at the base and creeps its way up, so you’ve got to look at the people who have accepted responsibility for the management of those issues and make sure they’re completing their tasks.
Help employees improve skills. Talk it through and ask them to lay out a business plan of their own for their particular task. If you look at every segment of management and every segment of operations in an organization, each one needs to be planned out, and the person that’s doing it needs to come up with the how, why, when and where of how the task is going to be accomplished.
Sit and evaluate that with them. What decisions have been made? Was it a wrong turn people took? How do you get them back on track? It’s a matter of evaluating the plans of action and refining them to meet whatever new challenges come up.
Keep moving forward. Sometimes you’ve crossed the finish line or you’ve made it to the top, but that sounds like you’ve reached the end of the line. Success is, ‘Have we stayed on vision, and have we accomplished those tasks for the near-term that we’ve set out for ourselves, and are we on the track to achieve those longer-term goals?’
We’ve never particularly crossed the goal line because the goal line keeps being further and further out there. You just continue to revise and refine your business to meet the new challenges and stay a living entity.
Embrace change. Gather all the information you can as an individual, and then gather all the information you can as a senior management team, and lay it on the table. It becomes part of the strategic planning.
Use strategic planning as a living document it’s constantly being reshaped. Stay involved in your industry. Stay on top of the changes. Bring in people that are visionary to work with you.
You want people who are able to do the task and are committed, dedicated and they’ve got that spirit behind them that permeates the company. It’s a combination of knowledge and people.
Having those blend together, you’re able to determine which way to go.
Gauge people by actions, not resumes. Until you start working with them and seeing the results of their work, you don’t know, but you can quickly figure it out in the first few months, an understanding of how they completed their tasks. It’s a matter of maintaining an interaction with them.
Don’t just hand them a task, stick them in a cubicle and say, ‘See me next year.’ You’re constantly working with them and making sure they’re accomplishing what you expected them to accomplish.
Create a value-driven culture. You create a culture no matter what happens.
Culture is decor and a feeling of how this company really works. It is a reflection of senior management’s attitudes, enthusiasms and specific goals. When you meet the top people in an organization, you can tell the value of the organization by how they treat their people and view their company.
If our decision was to run this company to make as much cash as we can, and we didn’t care about the quality of the health care we cared about how can we do it the most profitable that’s the kind of culture you’d have, and you’d have a culture that said, ‘We’re going to make this a money machine’ versus a culture that says, ‘Hey, I’m going to hire the best clinicians and top nurses and best therapists, and we’re going to have great care, and by giving great care, people will want us, and we’ll make money that way.’
That’s a different culture altogether. It’s a decision that top management has in setting up the basic goals of the company. Your culture is a reflection of how you achieve those goals and what the importance of goals are.
Balance values and Wall Street. That’s hard, and these days, it’s harder. At the end of the day, you always have bosses.
If it’s not Wall Street, then it’s venture capitalists. If not venture capitalists, then it’s the bank. Somebody holds the purse strings for you.
The balance is it’s a constant communication with your owners [about] where you’re going with the business, how it’s doing, have you met projections, have you met your budgets. That’s what a businessman does.
HOW TO REACH: Pediatria HealthCare for Kids, (770) 414-0055 or www.pediatriakids.com