Katherine: Hello everyone and thank you so much for joining us on This Needs to be Said. Our friend, Paul Contris of Welcov is here with us. We’re going to talk about organizational change or changes that you would make in your business and that process of how that could affect the growth or not or the shrinkage of your company. Paul, welcome back to This Needs to be Said. How are you?
Paul Contris: I am well. Thank you. How about you Katherine?
Katherine: I am doing wonderful. I’ve never really known until I got into the business for myself, how things change. I’ve driven past businesses and they go from what the old logo looked like and then they spruce it up or you see the pardon the mess while we remodel. I never thought about changing inside. What do the people do? Does this bring about new uniforms and new behaviors? I never thought about that until the topic came up with me and an associate recently. Just talking about change in general and the challenges that we face when we want to make a personal change, and then think about getting a lot of people together trying to make the change, and all of those people having the same resistance at some point as the other one about making the change even if they believe the change could be good.
Katherine: Today I wanted to ask you about that because you’ve been in business for a while. I’m certain that you’ve made changes, upgraded, updated things. I want to know what that process has been like in your experience anytime you’ve had to change anything in a business.
Paul Contris: Sure. Yeah. We’ve gone through a lot of changes. It’s been a little over 20 years, founded the company in 1997. Began with one campus with a skilled nursing facility and a small assisted living facility in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. At the beginning, we had maybe, oh I don’t know, 150 employees and two facilities on the same campus. Now we have over 50 facilities and probably anywhere between 3500 and 4000 employees. Obviously, to go from that level to where we are now there’s been a lot of changes. I think a lot of those changes are common to businesses going from a startup to an established company. One thing that comes to mind is that when we were much smaller, as we acquired facilities, we had one then two then three then four. We had a lot more decentralization autonomy at the facility level, because we didn’t really have the corporate infrastructure until we got large enough to be able to support that. I think that’s one of the key challenges for a company like mine to be able to navigate that because there’s … you definitely get some economies of scale and benefits of being a larger company.
Paul Contris: You can obviously get better contracts with your vendors when you’re doing it on a large volume basis. You can bring those corporate resources to provide support to the facilities that maybe you couldn’t before, but it’s a fine line because really at the facility level you want to have that administrator have a certain level of autonomy, because they’re the boots on the ground. They can see what’s happening on a day to day basis so you want to let them have that latitude to be creative about whatever the situation is, whether the labor situation or anything else.
Katherine: And they will be responsible for your company culture or that particular organizations culture-
Paul Contris: Right. In our business, it’s definitely a local thing. What might be appropriate for one facility in Casper, Wyoming might not quite fit for a facility in St. Paul, Minnesota. You’ve got to have some sort of flexibility there, but at the same time, you do want to have an overall corporate culture. With Welcov, we’re very patient centered. We kind of try to abide by the golden rule, you do under others as you would have them do to you. We really want to have a culture and an environment of caring. You’re taking care of these people. How would you like those people if it was your loved one, your mother or father. That’s really how we want to care for our patients. That’s the corporate culture that we want instilled in all of our facilities no matter what the local is. It’s a fine line as to how restrictive you are and what people do, and then what kind of freedom do you give them to be able to be creative and innovative.
Paul Contris: That’s the challenge. When you’re smaller, in some ways you’re more nimble in you got to rely on the people that you have, and that can be problematic too because if you have somebody who has some whatever weaknesses then you don’t have the support to back them up.
Katherine: Yeah. Wow.
Paul Contris: As you get larger it’s a good thing because, okay, if somebody has an issue then you’ve got an HR team and a finance team. They can tap into that and that will help them.
Katherine: That is something that I think a lot of business don’t think about and people either. If I’m the employee, and I have trouble on the job, and I’m working with a small company, I’m not identifying, they didn’t have the support to keep me on so the best option may have been to let me go as opposed to a bigger corporation … that may not have been what you meant, but this is what I was thinking about. If we have employees that we’d like to keep, but if we had more support we could help them but our structure doesn’t support that. Wow.
Katherine: As a consumer, I don’t think about that with companies either. It’s always, why did they do that? That’s what popped in my head when you said that. Was that what you were referring to or something totally different?
Paul Contris: Well, yeah. No. That’s one aspect of it. I’m just saying that as you grow there are changes that are inherent in that process of growing. Sometimes an employee will be more comfortable in a smaller company environment, then not really like the systems implemented by corporate office. Then it’s just not a good fit for them as you grow, maybe they go to another small company. Then there are other people, they like that corporate oversight. It kind of depends on the individual too.
Katherine: The conversation is always good because I wonder with myself being in business and associate, when do you have those levels of reevaluation or growth and the topic of organizational change and it sounds really big but it applies to every level of a business. How do you run things? How do people experience your business? And with you and your user experience, you guys have grown from 150 to thousands of employees, of course, trying to maintain that same company culture has to cover all of those people to keep it uniform. Also, you added allowing the facility heads in the different areas some creativity. You are walking that fine balance and that’s just something people don’t think about. You know? You just are doing your task until one day you really have to think about it. You’re now faced with, how do I resolve this? I didn’t put something in place. Why didn’t I do that? How do I change?
Katherine: I had one friend who started a marketing company some years ago and she was doing a lot of night time promotion for clubs versus corporate stuff during the day. She wanted to change from being the party life to corporate life and that was hard for her because her network had grown for people who go out to clubs. She had to make this shift and it changed who was going to be in her organization, because it didn’t fit for them to do daytime stuff. You take the chance of maybe losing people who were there and your network may get smaller because of the change that you make. Maybe everyone’s change isn’t that abrupt, but things we have to think about.
Katherine: When you cross the street, some things on that side are going to be different than how it was here. Any change is a big deal, I think, in businesses. As you grow, it seems like a logical thing. When you grow you have to cover more people, but things change because you can’t do the same with the thousands that you did with the 150. You’re going to have to do more or alter something if that system no longer works or can’t work for that many people.
Katherine: This has been good and I know we just scratched the surface just a little bit, Paul. I want to say thank you for sharing with us what your experience and changes and how to consider making those changes in your organization. Tell people how to get in touch with your organization outside of This Needs to be Said.
Paul Contris: Our website is Welcov.com. That’s www.welcov.com.
Katherine: Awesome. Paul, until next time have a wonderful day.
Paul Contris: You too. Thank you. Bye.