Day by day Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

William V. Day describes his time at St. Barnabas HealthSystem as the man who came to dinner and has been there eversince.

Back in the late 1960s, Day, who was working as a consultantat the time, came to St. Barnabas after being contacted by theorganization’s board of trustees to determine whether the troubled facility should close.

“I got here and found a place that had a wonderful mission,”says Day, now the president and CEO. “I think that’s part of thereason it had been able to continue for 67 years but needed justabout everything you could imagine in order to go forward.”

Day and his team did a study and advised the place should notbe closed, and they devised a plan that could help the organization survive.

After putting the plan together, Day was set to leave whenthe board asked the group to stay and implement the plan.

Day stayed a lot longer and has helped the company growinto a $100 million organization.

He says his three biggest challenges back then are the sameobstacles he faces now — finding enough money, finding andretaining good employees, and then getting those employeesto buy in to his plan.

“It’s the kind of thing I face today, as a matter of fact,” hesays. “They’re just bigger problems.”

Finding funds

Of course it’s important to find enough money to pay thebills, but Day says he also has to find money to be able togrow and invest in people.

“We try to invest in ourselves,” he says. “We’ve tried to,rather than be in debt, we’ve tried to be debt-free and saveand use that money.”

Day says that’s as easy as simply not spending money youdon’t have, but it also comes down to balancing mission withmargin. The organization gives away just short of $6 million infree care a year, and, while that takes communication to raisethe money and sell people on the company, it also comes downto finding a good balance of what you can and can’t do.

“If we don’t have the money, we don’t spend it,” he says.“It’s almost like a seesaw. If, at one end, you have missionand, at the other end, you have margin — at one end, youhave responsibility, and the other end, you have authority.

“If one or the other is out of balance, it doesn’t work. Inother words, if a manager has too much responsibility without a commensurate amount of authority, he or she won’t dowell. Here, if we wanted, the only way I could give away thatmuch in free care is to be able to have it at the other end ofthat seesaw. If I don’t have the money, I’m not going to do it.”

If you’re having trouble finding a way to obtain money orhow to spend it, Day says form a board, even if it is only foradvisory purposes.

“I think it’s important for a CEO, or anyone else trying to dothis, to surround himself or herself with the best people possible, and that’s both at the governance level, the board level,and in the executive level,” he says.

“We all need people to open doors for us because there area lot of people out there with some very good ideas, but theyhaven’t figured out how to sell the idea or to contact the people who can open the doors for them.”

Find and retain good people

When Day first took over as CEO, he tried to convince people he knew to join him at St. Barnabas, but a lot of themthought he was crazy.

These days, he doesn’t quite get that response, but it’s stilla challenge to get good people to join the organization. St.Barnabas is in the high-growth areas of Allegheny and Butlercounties where the competition for labor is ferocious.

Day says going to places where you can meet potentialemployees, hear their story and then communicate yours is away to find solid workers.

Over the years, he says he’s talked with people about theorganization, where it is going and how it’s going to get there,and describes the journey and how they and their familieswould enjoy it.

“As we say, ‘If you want to shoot a moose, go where themoose are,’” he says.

“It’s probably a poor expression, but I’ve used it over theyears. In other words, I’ve gone and obviously swiped peoplefrom other organizations, but I would go to meetings andseminars and luncheons and observe and listen and try tofind people that I thought would fit my team.”

Day says during a conversation, he is impressed with someone who wants to work hard. He also wants to be associatedwith winners, and, when it comes to resumes, he focuses onthe results.

“So many of them talk about process rather than results,”he says. “We hire people because they know how to do thingsand how to produce results.”

Day says when you are looking for help to not only go outand meet people, but to also try to find someone from a similar business.

“If you find someone who has been a winner in anotherorganization and has produced the results, you can save anawful lot of time and effort and money by recruiting someone from a similar field,” he says. “If not, be out there, keepthe antennae up and find someone who has done well insales or finance or who knows operations.”

The key is not waiting for the good employees to come toyou, he says.

“You have to be proactive,” Day says. “I say it here often.‘Get up off your seat, or whatever you want to call it, and goout and talk to somebody.’ If it means go to Pittsburgh andgo to Harrisburg, I encourage my folks to do that. Go whereyou have to go and find these people. Or, if you see someone at the chamber of commerce meeting, or whatever kindof business association — American ManagementAssociation, American Marketing Association, wheneveryou see somebody, kind of listen, keep your antennae up.I’ve found people that way — found some great people.”

While finding good people is vital to a company’s success,Day says retention is just as important.

“I find to retain good folks requires effort and requires a lot ofcommunication,” he says. “What I’ve tried to do over the years,which I think has worked, and I’d recommend it to anybody, isif someone has done well ... I say something to them. On theother hand, if they have not done well, I say lets sit and talk.So, I don’t save up. I don’t save up on either the positive side orthe negative side. And again, it goes back to listening. I think[the key is] listening and observing and not having so much egothat I can’t notice that someone else is unhappy about something. Try to find out about it right away.

“I think it’s one of the key factors in retaining someone. It’smore important than the money because eventually somebodycan make some more money someplace else. That’s an endlessladder, if you will.”

Getting buy-In

No matter what you are getting buy-in for, Day says it isimportant to try and use words that help people see what youare communicating.

“I’ve tried to say around here, ‘There will be no improvementwithout change,’” he says. “By in large, people don’t like tochange.”

Day says he believes average people work in average facilities, good people work in good facilities and great people workin great facilities. Improving a good facility into a great facilitymeans the employees need to feel a part of the organization.

“We’ve tried to enable people to picture themselves workingin places where they are treated fai rly, where they’ve got allkinds of opportunity,” he says. “Nothing means opportunityanymore than bringing people up through the ranks. Let peopleknow the organization will grow and do good things. If theycan see themselves in that, then I think they will indeed buyin.”

Day says a major way to get employees to see themselvesas a big part of a growing organization is through recognition.

“Recognition is hugely important,” Day says. “We all walkaround with, you can’t see it, but I’m sure I got it on my shirt.It says, ‘I am important.’ And, I got 600 people, and they allhave that same thing on their shirts. It’s amazing.”

At St. Barnabas, employees who have served 10 or moreyears are welcomed into the 10-year club, where recognitionincludes being taken out to dinner. Day says employers canalso reward employees with shirts or jackets as well as puttingsome teeth into the employee of the month award and recognizing perfect attendance.

“There are all kinds of ways to recognize them,” he says. “Ifit’s in the weekly newsletter, the list is endless if people willonly think about the employee, rather than thinking aboutthemselves or their own egos. We need to sublimate our ownegos and exemplify and amplify the employees. There usedto be a saying in the newspaper business that names makenews. Well, they still do.”

Day says it costs hardly anything to recognize an employee,or even one of their kids for doing well, and the return is wellworth it.

“It’s the kind of thing that keeps people loyal and workinghard,” he says. “They buy in to the mission again.”

If recognition isn’t getting the job done, then making yourselfavailable to talk with employees can do the trick.

“There’s been this thing about management by walkingaround and all that,” he says. “I’m not sure that is a good ideabecause I think employees see through that. I’m not puttingit down. I walk around, but I don’t do as some of the textbooks have talked over the years about walking aroundevery day. Eventually, if an employee sees you every day inone of the buildings, they wonder ‘Why aren’t you working?’So, I don’t do that. But, showing a personal interest in eachemployee, and that’s hard to do, is important — showingappreciation for what they do and how hard they work andthe fact that it’s produced results. It still comes back toresults. We all want to be part of a winner.”

Recognizing employees not only gets employees to buy-in butalso creates a better environment.

“If I point at you and say, ‘Thank you so much for doing that,’”he says. “You’re going to come back either directly or indirectly with the three more fingers saying, ‘He is a pretty good guy,and this is a great place to work.’”

HOW TO REACH: St. Barnabas Health System, (724) 443-0700