Readying for health care reform Featured

7:00pm EDT February 25, 2010

Daniel Touizer doesn’t know what his company will be dealing with next year. But that doesn’t mean he’s not ready for it.

“We’re always researching the industry for ideas to bring in-house and coming up with new strategies that’ll make our company stronger and more profitable,” says Touizer, the chairman and CEO of Cinergy Health Inc.

Leaders have always had to prepare for uncertainty, but it seems like change is now the norm — especially for Touizer, who is staying tuned to the health care reform discussion that could change the health insurance industry.

Smart Business spoke to Touizer about preparing for changes you can’t control.

Q. What advice would you give leaders for staying on top of external changes?

Listen, there’s a lot of regulation coming down in many industries. Stay abreast of what those regulations are to make sure they wouldn’t impact where you’re headed in business.

You just need to make sure that your business is always preparing for certain changes … that you can’t stop. But you have to keep your company alive so you have to plan ahead and make sure you have other strategies so that you can weather any of those storms and still have a viable business model.

Always look for other opportunities because you never know where you can uncover an opportunity that never existed a day ago. You have to stay in tune and keep your eyes open because that opportunity can be the one that can really turn things around for you.

As a leader, I’m really thinking one year, two years ahead and taking steps now that will ensure that — even if health care reform does move my business in a different direction — that we can survive and prosper for many years.

[Leaders need to] be ready with other strategies so they can keep their customers, their employees and their shareholders happy. That’s what a leader needs do: Always be accountable for the future of the business. Always be the leader and the visionary, because no one else will do it unless you do. So leaders need to be on top of their game and be ready to make changes and just plan ahead.

Q. How are you preparing Cinergy for what may come?

In my industry, you really can’t tell what’s going to finally happen. You still have the public option, which is looming, and no one knows if it’s going to be in the bill, if it’s not going to be in the bill. And if it is in the bill, does it end up crushing health insurance companies because of the way that public plan will operate?

So if that’s the case, then as a national insurance agency, we look into now creating different products in the insurance industry that are not health-related, such as life insurance, dental insurance, property and casualty insurance — other lines of insurance that we can market the same way using the same marketing principles.

If health care were affected in a very bad way businesswise, we would survive because we would be involved in other distribution platforms. And if health care reform doesn’t affect the health care industry, we will just have grown our business and done things to enhance revenue and profits. Either way, it’s a win-win. It’s offensive and defensive, and that’s always a good approach.

Q. How do you keep customers and employees reassured during change?

With customers, we just let them know that we’re always going to do as best we can given the framework that we have to work with; that no matter what, there’s going to be someone on the other end of the phone to help them. There’s some external things — like health care reform, let’s say — that even consumers understand companies have no control of. But we field the call. We take the time to speak to our customers, to educate them if they hear things that they’re frightened about. We’ll take the time to give them the facts so they’re not as panicked.

There’s always things you can’t control. But you can control what you do inside your company. We’re controlling the customers to service them the right way so that we keep them. We’re controlling how we compensate our people to stay competitive so that we can retain them when the market’s getting very competitive. We try to control the environment where they work so they’re happy and they have no reason to go anywhere.

You need to communicate — very important. I’ll pull [employees] into my office and say, ‘Hey listen, we’re going through such-and-such situation, and I want you to know that I really value your input. This is what companies are all about: sticking together and getting through anything.’ So when they feel that bond, it goes a long way.

I’ll even sometimes give a little extra financial compensation at a time like that because that really seals it where they feel that not only are they feeling that bond, but their work is even valued more.

A little goes a long way in times of big change because it makes people feel that they’re part of the change or they’re being valued for the extra effort they’re putting in in a time of change. That makes people feel part of a team. They can weather the storm better when they feel included and reinforced by leaders that, hey, we’re all family, we’ll get through anything together.

That’s usually a good way to make them feel comfortable even through rocky times, as opposed to being hush-hush and having people with question marks in their mind. That usually breeds uncertainty in people and it’ll always affect the way they work.

How to reach: Cinergy Health Inc., (800) 847-1148 or www.cinergyhealth.com

Want more? Get more in-depth with Daniel Touizer as he discusses how he adapts Cinergy Health for changing times.