That could be good news for of Living Assistance Services Inc., the Havertown company that franchises Visiting Angels agencies, providers of in-home, nonmedical services to senior citizens. Founded in 1998, the company in 2005 topped $120 million in revenue a nearly 77 percent increase over the previous year’s mark and reached 250 franchises.
A franchise consultant for most of his business career, Meigs has not allowed any shortage of experience to stymie his success. In some ways, he’s built a stronger organization by finding and hiring the kinds of people who can fill in where his skill or experience might tail off.
Meigs spoke with Smart Business about the importance of a self-directed team, the value of communication and the dangers of a cluttered organization.
I don’t try to micromanage the people I work with. I try to surround myself with people who are better than I am at doing various tasks that represent my weaknesses, ones that I wouldn’t have time to do even if I could do them. Beyond that, I’ll stay pretty focused on the areas of strength where it makes sense to dedicate most of my day.
I’m relatively laissez faire with respect to the work environment. I’m not beating up on them by any stretch during the course of the day, trying to make their lives miserable.
Maybe it would be better to be a little tougher than I am, more directive. I don’t have the time for that. So I do have to have people that are more self-directed. If I had people that needed more micromanaging than I’m capable of, then we’d really be in trouble.
Donald Trump could do a little better with his view of, ‘We’re going to meet in the boardroom and somebody will be fired.’ That’s never been my strong suit.
Acknowledge your dependence on others.
The only way CEOs are going to achieve success is mainly by relying on their past experience. They’re either in a position where they’ve got the experience to know how to go forward that they can draw on or they don’t.
I think you have to recognize how dependent on others you always are, regardless of how much you know, how smart you think you are. Whatever skills you have, you’re still tremendously dependent on those around you. You’ve got to focus on building relationships with all those people. Even the person at the bottom of the ladder in your company should have some kind of relationship with you.
We’re small enough that I can speak individually with most, if not all, of my staff every day. You want to take advantage of that opportunity as best you can. If you build relationships with your customers and your staff, you can make mistakes, sometimes big mistakes, and they’ll give you second and even third chances.
Beware of the bureaucracy.
I never worked for big corporations, so I don’t have the perspective that some others have. But my guess is ... that so many of these big companies, they get to a point where they’re successful, but after awhile, the bureaucratic weight of having so many departments and department managers where you don’t know what they’re up to can become a burden that can be difficult to control.
And then they start going in the wrong direction. I think to overcome that, you have to conduct the best talent searches that you can in order to find the most self-directed people you can. It gets even more critical the larger you get because if you’re just establishing a lot of departments and department heads who still need a lot of direction, then you’re in need of some monolithic head of that company that can still micromanage everybody, and I don’t think that’s possible. The larger it gets, the more impossible it gets.
Encourage the flow of information.
We recently started a program with Outcome Concept Systems for client outcomes data benchmarking where we’re compiling the data concerning the outcomes of our clients. And we’re trying to stay on top of the various home care and health care conferences and ideas that are being presented.
That’s the great thing about having a large network of franchise offices. You’re subject to receiving a lot of information out there in the field that would be very difficult to duplicate if you’re running your own single operation. Every day, in addition to the information we send out, other new information comes in from franchisees and others associated with us.
Reach out and touch constantly.
We believe that the more face-to-face exposure we can facilitate, the more buy-in we’ll get. You have to keep people on top of what you’re actually doing.
You have to bridge the gap of the physical distance between the home office and what are currently 260 franchise locations in 42 states. So many companies will do it by sending out a newsletter occasionally, make themselves available if someone calls them.
We try to be much more proactive than that because we know that, in a sense, you’re always proving yourself to the franchisees and reselling the value that you’re bringing to them. You can’t effectively do that without getting in front of them as much as you can.
We utilize the Internet every day to send out information to the total group. There’s probably not a day that goes by the total group doesn’t get new information from us, whether it’s a marketing piece that’s being distributed ... or the questions and answers that come in from our franchisees that are shared with the entire group.
Think ahead of your needs.
I’ve believed since Day One in bringing people on board who can help us. We’ve brought in new people all along, especially when we run into people who are talented.
I believe we’ve actually stayed ahead of the need for services to our franchisees, but certainly growth is something we’ll need to keep up with. We’re anticipating some significant growth and trying to plan for staying up with that. We just brought in a new vice president of franchisee guidance who’s got 20 years of experience in home care. We saw a need for somebody to go out and do field visits with our franchisees, hold regional meetings with them.
That’s really relieved a need for the franchisees. When I was bouncing that off the other directors in the company, some of them weren’t so sure it was the right move, although I felt a strong need to do it.
How to reach: Visiting Angels Inc., www.visitingangels.com