“It is my job to be a strategic leader,” Trott says. “This involves fostering the right culture, aligning capital decisions with corporate goals and recognizing shifts in what our customers need from us.”
Trott focuses on those issues rather than on micromanaging the day-to-day workings of the company.
“I see too many leaders acting more like managers,” she says. “If you hire the right people to monitor the daily activities, you can concentrate on the big picture. After all, if you don’t do it, who will?”
After years of leading large-scale consumer behavior and analysis projects, Trott co-founded Quantum Health in 1999, offering coordinated health care programs that help employees get the right medical care in the most efficient manner possible.
Quantum’s growth is a testament to Trott’s strong strategic vision. The company began with five employees and now has 55; Trott predicts it will have 75 to 80 employees by early 2007. Revenue has increased about 35 percent a year over the last three years, with 2006 estimates of $7 million.
Smart Business spoke with Trott about why it’s more important to work on your business than in it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a strategic leader?
First, I would recommend they read ‘Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done,’ by Larry Bossidy. He reminds leaders that good ideas are a dime a dozen.
Success is not an offshoot of the idea it all comes down to the execution. It is better to have a ‘B’ or ‘C’ idea that is perfectly executed than an ‘A’ idea with a poor execution. Entrepreneurs need to work on the business, not in the business.
There is a huge difference in the two mindsets. Too many successful leaders marginalize themselves by getting overly involved in the daily operations. The entire organization suffers as a result.
Strategic leaders see themselves as separate from the organization, which is a living, thriving entity. Your job is to make sure this entity continues to move in the right direction.
How would you describe a winning company culture?
People, technology and processes are all essential, but our business is very relationship-oriented, so people drive our success. I am a firm believer in consciously creating a culture.
If you not intentionally do so, it will not happen. Culture consists of what the employees really care about. Technology and processes are important, but only to the extent they help the people.
Creative and autonomous decision-making is also part of our culture. Our systems are designed to flag opportunities for communication and intervention. We then allow our care coordinators flexibility in determining the best course of action.
This is not a business where there can be hard and fast rules we have to rely on the judgment and abilities of our employees.
What do you look for when hiring?
After establishing that the candidate is qualified, we determine whether he or she has the right mindset. We have a set of clearly defined values each employee has them on a printed card and we are serious about them. Those we hire must have the maturity to uphold our values.
For example, one of our values is, ‘Assume positive intent.’ This means that if someone raises an issue, we do not conclude the intent is to make trouble or complain.
Our assumption is that the employee or customer has pure motives. This allows us to maintain a nondefensive attitude and remain open to new ideas.
Another value is, ‘Provide solutions, not just answers.’ Our call coordinators are not timed on their calls. We do monitor the number of calls they handle each day, but if the number exceeds 50, our concern is that answers rather than solutions are being delivered. In the industry, the standard is 100 calls a day.
Taking initiative is another key value. The mindset we encourage is that if it’s hard to do, that is the first thing to tackle.
What is the biggest mistake business leaders make?
Egos and personal biases usually drive decisions that are bad for the company. Leaders tend to get caught up on what they think the company should be. In doing so, they develop blind spots.
You have to work hard to maintain an atmosphere where employees can be brutally honest. Often, working environments have unspoken rules about what can be discussed. Great leaders constantly solicit the feedback and opinions of their employees.
The bottom line is this running a company is really hard work. It takes an incredible amount of perseverance. Those who do not have the stomach for lots of uncertainty will not survive.
HOW TO REACH: Quantum Health LLC, (614) 846-4318 or www.quantumhealthllc.com