If Patrick Hampson ever hands you his business card, you’re just going to have to guess his title.
The same goes with any of MED3000 Inc.’s employees. While titles have some relevance at the health care management and technology company, positions purposefully have been left off each employee’s card since the company’s founding.
“That way we’re all partners at MED3000,” says Hampson, who actually holds the title of founder, chairman and CEO. “I think it’s just another thing that adds to the culture. You have to do a lot of things that just keep building at the culture, and at some point, the culture takes over for a company.”
Instilling a sound culture is important, but it’s especially vital when you’re taking a small entrepreneurial business as Hampson did, and you grow it to a national scale.
“It’s easy when you have one or two employees, and you can walk down the hallway and talk to them,” he says. “But you have to maintain it, and you have to hire people that believe in that culture.”
Since day one, Hampson has driven a culture based on strong relationships. The principle carries back to his youth where the hours spent on the court, on the baseball field and in the locker room taught him the true definition of team mentality.
“Whether it’s your clients or your employees, you’re less successful unless you have a relationship with these people,” Hampson says. “Everything we try to drive is relationship driven, and it makes us more successful on the service side, it makes us more successful on the sales side, and it makes us more successful on the employee-retention side.”
Hampson has grown the company from one employee to 1,760 at the end of 2009. MED3000 reached revenue of $137 million last year and is expecting $150 million for 2010.
Here are the two steps Hampson takes to maintain a culture of strong relationships and ultimately grow MED3000.Find the right talent
MED3000 continues to add employees each month, and Hampson still uses the basic principle he started the company with: Hire smarter.
“To grow to $300 million, you still need to get people who can continue to bring ideas to the table and help analyze the marketplace and continue with re-engineering yourself and reinventing yourself, so you can continue to grow a company versus get stagnate and flat,” Hampson says.
Hiring smarter means you bring on board people with their own opinions and sometimes their own vision. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have confidence in your own abilities, your knowledge of the industry and your vision of where you plan to take the company. At the same time, you need to be open to listening to opinions that may change your mind on the company’s fundamentals.
“You really don’t want a lot of people just telling you what you want to hear because you’re not always right,” Hampson says.
Besides, isn’t the whole purpose of hiring smarter to bring in alternative viewpoints and experiences that will better your company?
“It’s like in basketball having free agents: You hire a bunch of great athletes, and then you try to make sure that these are great athletes that can work within a team concept,” Hampson says. “You basically try to hire smart people who can work within a team and who really want to move the company first and their careers and themselves second.”
From the onset, Hampson hired people with better credentials than his own and who possessed a belief in his vision and his culture for the company. That allowed him to focus on the vision, while the rest of the team built the company’s infrastructure.
Once you’re comfortable with the fact that you’ll need to accept other’s ideas, you need to find the right employee match. Hampson recommends first using your extended network of contacts.
“You try to get out into the community, you try to get into different situations where you meet other executives, even competitors,” Hampson says. “Then you work hard trying to get a relationship with those people. Get to know them on a nonbusiness aspect, and then, over time, you try to recruit them to the vision. It’s usually a pretty good process because they know who you are and where you’re going because they spend a lot of time with you.”
Whether or not you’ve built a relationship with the person, the way you go about the interview process is critical. Hampson places a large emphasis on listening instead of talking. Basically, allow the person time to interview you.
“We do a bidirectional interview where we’re interviewing them but they’re also interviewing us,” he says. “It’s important to listen and let the candidate do a lot of talking about what their vision is, what their goals and objectives are for themselves, and let them tell you what they would do if they were CEO. If you give the opportunity to people to really speak and feel comfortable in that environment of telling you their ideas, you really pick up a lot of good information, but you also pick up which candidates are the ones that fit your culture versus the ones that don’t.”
If you’re recruiting employees into a team-oriented culture one that emphasizes building relationships and company first the best indication of whether they’ll fit is if their answers include a desire to learn rather than teach. At the same time, Hampson says don’t gloss over the obvious such as indications on their resume that they’re a team player, their participation in team sports or maybe involvement in the community.
Also, take the face-to-face time to outline your vision for the company and see how they respond. Hampson lets interviewees know upfront that MED3000 is trying to grow from the bottom up and that the company is looking for entrepreneurs with a vision that can move them forward.
“At MED3000 if you have a job description and you want to be in a box with limitations of what you do, you probably wouldn’t be successful here,” Hampson says. “But if you’re a person who can work in a matrix environment and take a step back and try and figure out what you need to do on a daily basis for the best of the company versus what’s just in your job description, then you’ll be successful in our organization.”Value each employee
Hampson sees his work force as not only 1,700 employees, but 1,700 families, 1,700 mortgage payments and probably close to 4,000 family members.
“That’s the most rewarding part of the business,” he says. “If you focus on that, especially in rough economies, it really brings extra value to the job.”
Thinking about those numbers has made MED3000 a more conservative and more sustainable company, but it’s also helped get to the core of how you can add real value to your company and to your employees.
For Hampson, valuing employees starts with a culture based on the fundamentals of relationship building: communication and empowerment.
First off, you need to be the one to set the culture and expectations. Hampson doesn’t only want employees to have good dialogue with each other; he also wants them to feel they can reach out to him at any time. He gets that point across by being in front of employees and constantly reinforcin g that message through communication, such as face-to-face interaction, e-mails, newsletters and phone calls.
“You should not sit in your corner office,” Hampson says. “You should go out and talk to people; you should e-mail them, communicate with them and let them feel comfortable communicating with you.”
MED3000 talks about the importance of communication. Its open-door policy is outlined in the company handbook. Employees and clients have Hampson’s and upper management’s direct contact information.
But if you want employees to buy in to your expectations for communication, you need to live them. Showing employees you value a relationship with them starts by simply knowing their names, knowing about their families and interacting with them in their environment.
“Employees actually see me out in their locations,” Hampson says. “I visit with them. I don’t always go out to meet with management; I actually go out and meet and walk around and shake hands with all the employees and talk to them and spend a day. I think, from the day we started the company, employees sent e-mails to me, and I respond immediately. I think it’s just really the communication we’ve instilled with everybody that that’s the way to be.”
When Hampson thinks 1,700 employees, he also thinks 1,700 opinions.
“That’s 1,700 opinions that can help you grow the company,” he says. “It’s a pretty powerful course.”
Showing employees they are valued means asking for their thoughts and giving them tools to offer feedback. But they’ll only do that if they first feel comfortable communicating with you and management.
Hampson is open to any employee e-mailing or calling him, and he makes sure every message is responded to within 24 hours. He expects his management team to use the same speed with personal responses. And if they can’t get back to the employee in a day, they’re honest.
“You give them the answer that you’re going to look into it,” Hampson says. “Then it’s critical that you follow up, and they’re not sending you an e-mail two weeks later, and you didn’t remember. We try our hardest to respond and get them the answer they need and or get them to the person that can answer the question for them.”
Obviously, at times, employees will be apprehensive to speak up or share a concern with management. So MED3000 has implemented a hot line where if employees have recommendations or concerns, they can call the number and leave an anonymous message for management.
“It’s for all 1,700 employees to communicate upwards and tell us anything we can do to improve,” Hampson says. “They can help in managing the company.”
The hot line runs along the same 24-hour rule that Hampson uses for responding someone from HR or senior management tries to reply to the issue within a day.
You need to develop a way to receive employee feedback, whether it’s through a hot line, employee surveys, employee evaluations, exit interviews. Whatever process you think best fits your culture and will best keep a pulse on your organization.
But Hampson says evaluation and surveys can’t take place of actively talking and listening to employees.
“You have to set aside the time,” he says. “After you get opinions and some of the opinions are successful, you have to reward people so they continue to give you opinions. But I’d say the biggest issue is making sure that not only yourself but also your management team sets aside time to listen to your employees. Then take action on the good suggestions that they have.”
The key to rewarding people is to make sure every employee knows what that person did. In MED3000’s case, if an employee in California did something praiseworthy, those based in the company’s Connecticut office have heard by way of e-mail or employee programs.
“This year, we actually shared some of the profits of the company because the employees really had a great year,” Hampson says. “We gave them surprise bonuses. So when they see they share in your success, it creates that culture of being a family and everybody working together,” he says.
There are two ways to grow a company according to Hampson, hiring people who will preserve the culture you’ve set and valuing employees’ ideas.
“The only thing I can tell you is keep growing from the bottom all of your employees and your managers and your senior managers,” Hampson says. “You keep the people who want to work in this type of culture environment, and you keep influencing their decisions by communication and access and transparency. It’s just something you work at all the time.”
How to reach: MED3000 Inc., (888) 811-2411 or www.med3000.com