Healthy outlook Featured

12:18pm EDT May 24, 2006
Jim Hummer knows that to run a healthy business, you need healthy employees. And to help businesses across the country keep their employees healthy, Whole Health Management operates nearly 70 on-site corporate health and wellness centers, serving nearly 200,000 employees at organizations including Fortune 500 companies. With 2005 revenue of nearly $35 million, Hummer projects 2006 revenue of near $45 million. Smart Business spoke with Hummer, president and CEO of Whole Health Management, about how he manages his growing company.

Have a simple strategy.
If you look at most companies that are really successful, their strategies are fairly straightforward and simple. They focus on a handful of things that really are important levers within the company for producing quality, service and reasonable cost.

Create partner relationships.
You have to understand your client’s objectives. Once we understand their business objectives and how that impacts their objectives for their employees and their employees’ health, that’s where we pick it up and say, ‘How are we going to operate our services?’ and ‘What types of services are we going to deliver that are going to support the achievement of the client’s objectives?’

We work pretty hard at trying to align those interests of the employee, employer and us as a provider. If we focus on keeping people healthy, all the other things fall into place — the costs, morale and the culture.

Adapt to a changing industry.
Our mission and the vision for what we wanted to do have not really changed since we started the business.

Our plans to fulfill our mission and achieve our vision have morphed over time because the health care industry is changing. New information, technology and techniques are becoming available, so we have to change with that. We are always looking for the most optimal way of delivering services to our patients, and that necessitates some change.

We’re a learning organization, so we take a look at all of that and say, ‘What can we learn from everything we do, and how will we do things differently the next time around?’ That is something that we really try to ingrain in (employees): how we operate, how we think, the receptivity to change, the ability to adapt and grow. Those are all very important elements.

We’ve experimented. We’ve seen what things work and what things don’t, and we’ve tweaked that approach over the years. It’s not like one or two big things that we do, it’s a thousand little things. When you add up all those little differences, it makes a big difference in the total [client] experience.

Maintain efficient and effective operations.
The efficiency side is fairly straightforward. You’re always analyzing your costs: ‘Are we on budget?’ and even if you are on budget, ‘Are we doing things the most cost-effective way?’ We will make changes if we feel we can deliver greater value to our client.

The effectiveness side deals with quality. We’re always looking at how we can improve our delivery offering. We just don’t look at charts and say, ‘OK, that was that,’ and then put it away.

We feed that back to each individual, and they see how they did, and we show how they stand versus their peers. It’s all about learning and growing and getting better, which takes a lot of care and feeding.

You’ve got to put all the resources and programs behind that to really make it work. It requires an investment in support staff. The support center’s job is to make sure that our onsite associates are successful in meeting the client’s needs. That requires an investment in people and in information systems.

Balance quality and cost.
The biggest challenge is balancing quality and cost because you can always go overboard in delivering the absolute highest quality but then, you can go broke doing that, too. We have to be innovative about how we keep that quality up there.

If you get great, high-quality (employees), those things take care of themselves. They’ll make sure that your quality is good, your service levels are good, and they’ll make sure that they’re spending the money in the most cost-effective manner.

If you do it right the first time around, you can oftentimes deliver higher quality care at a lower cost.

Attract and retain good employees.
I’m always on the lookout for great talent. The type of person who succeeds here is mission-driven, smart and has passion about what he or she does in life — they don’t just collect a paycheck.

When we find those people, we bring them in and give them as much support as possible, but we don’t hold their hand. We let them run, and we let them do what they were driven to do.

We retain people by treating them with respect and dignity. We hold them to a high standard. We encourage them to learn and grow. Oftentimes, the best way people learn and grow is to push themselves and fail, so they learn from failure.

It’s not a big deal to fail here. It’s OK to try something new, and if it doesn’t work out, you learn from it, make the adjustments and move on, so the next time you do it, you can get a better outcome.

When you have smart, mission-driven people who are allowed to fulfill what they believe is their mission in life, then you get great outcomes. We’ve been very successful at doing that. We’re not perfect, but we’re making good progress.

HOW TO REACH: Whole Health Management, (216) 921-8601or