“I was out there in L.A. for his 60th birthday and I had a chance to pick his brain,” says Whitton, CEO of TheraMatrix Inc. “He’s a bit on the aggressive side. I’m not quite that aggressive, but he always has some words of wisdom.”
One thing Trump said that has stuck with Whitton is that you should love what you’re doing. That, he says, is a key to handling success and staying motivated each day.
“It’s life in general,” Whitton says. “Every day is a new challenge. I love coming to work, but is it a bed of roses every day? No. We see thousands of patients and we get one complaint, and that will burst my bubble. Out of the hundreds of letters we get telling us what a great job we’ve done, it’s one that can set you back a step. You have to learn from that one issue.”
Whitton has used his passion for the job to lead the 140-employee physical therapy service provider to revenue of more than $10 million.
Smart Business spoke with Whitton about how to identify loyalty in employees and how to handle mistakes.
Q: How do you handle negative feedback from a customer?
You have to take a deep breath, look at it and consider all the pieces to that puzzle.
You bring your team together, look at your options and develop a plan. I’ve surrounded myself with a very loyal team. Loyalty is one of the big issues.
No one goes into battle without a plan. We develop plans and alternate options. We don’t just sit and stew on it. We actually sit down collectively and come up with options.
Ultimately, I will make the final decision.
You can’t just rah-rah-rah and sugarcoat everything. After you have your pow-wows, you have to make the final decision. You have to be stern. You have to demonstrate both of those characteristics. Ultimately, somebody has to accept responsibility in everything we do in life.
Q: How do you know someone is loyal?
What is the definition of loyalty? You can look at that. It’s the honesty and willingness to follow your work ethics.
I, from time to time, take a few days off. Then, I come back, and I know things are humming along just like I left them. You can’t do that if you don’t have someone who is loyal to you and your values and mission. It’s developed over time. It’s not something that comes overnight. A disloyal person, you’ll find that out in a relatively quick period of time.
Q: What is your interview process like?
In upper management, we have a team that interviews. If it’s within the corporate structure, I bring everyone in from the CFO to COO and myself, so we all play a part in it. We try to establish a team environment around here.
For the average employee, we have a human resources department. We have a director of operations who is involved in the interview process. We also have a director in charge of out-of-state facilities.
When it’s an employee for one of the sites, we give them a majority of the autonomy.
We bring them in on a monthly basis to sit down with us, hear them and let them have input. Letting them play a role in our organization has been key and helpful.
Q: How do you reward employees?
To motivate, you have to set rewards. We set goals that are reachable. Whether it’s compensation or bonuses, that’s all got to be tied into the pact. We have various rewards. We do two quality surveys among our patients and recognize clinics that shine. It’s not only monetary gains. We try to recognize them with various certificates and verbally acknowledge them. We have 28 sites, and they enjoy it when we come out to recognize their achievements.
Q: What are some pitfalls leaders should avoid?
The CEO who closes his door or who is hard to get at. I’m not at the level of a GM or Ford CEO, so I can’t speak at that level. But distancing that can occur at the top is a pitfall.
I worked at a hospital and there were 20 layers you had to go through before you could get anything done.
Q: How do you know you aren’t building layers?
With my door and phone line being open, by our monthly meetings and visiting the sites. People have access to me, and if it were a layer thing, I think I would hear about it personally.
I make myself accessible.
HOW TO REACH: TheraMatrix Inc., (248) 333-3335, (800) 545-3422 or www.theramatrix.com