Mike Humphrey, CEO, Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists (SOS) ; The Right Man for the Right Job at the Right Time

By: Martha Conway

Mike Humphrey, CEO, Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists

Mike Humphrey, CEO, Pamela Hilliar, Director of Customer Service and Patient Access, Jessica Woodruff (standing), CFO, Kim Murray, CCO

Mike Humphrey, CEO confers with Kim Murray, CCO

From Humble Beginnings

In the late 1990s, several individual orthopedic surgeons in the Syracuse area began seeking an opportunity to provide great quality patient care while expanding orthopedic services to the community, but not increasing overhead and administrative costs. After much dialog they decided combining their talents and resources would allow them to provide patients the best medical technology and facilities for care.

It was then that Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists was born.

Dr. Stephen Bogosian, a joint replacement specialist and founding physician of SOS, recalls that the practice originally had some growing pains. “A couple of physicians left around the time we formed the practice, and it was difficult in the beginning, with increased stress involved in the expansion,” he recalls, adding that the newly formed business needed a deft hand to guide its future.

The practice found that Michael Humphrey, was the right man for the right job at the right time, joining the team in 2004 as chief executive officer. “Mike was pivotal during SOS’ early days,” Bogosian said. “The founding surgeons had a framework, but not exactly the right staff. His unique skill set was a great addition for us. He has a good knowledge of the business of healthcare, an organizational sense and analytical mind ideal for the position.” Putting a non-surgical CEO at the helm allowed the surgeons to focus on quality patient care while ensuring the practice was successful.

“Mike has great relationships with everyone at SOS,” Bogosian adds. “He’s quiet but talks when something needs to be said. We are a big team with many personalities and Mike is strong in both group and one-on-one conversations, making sure everyone is heard. Orthopedic surgeons are a competitive bunch and he’s quite adept at working with us all!”

Bogosian credits Humphrey with leading SOS’ growth over nearly two decades. “He has an excellent knowledge of operations and has surrounded himself with top-notch administrators and managers. Mike has proven to be a great CEO for us – building a community organization, recruiting excellent surgical talent to central New York, and most recently, he navigated us through the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Taking the Lead

Humphrey was born and raised in Utica, NY, and earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting at Utica College of Syracuse University. He also earned his CPA and joined a public accounting firm in Syracuse, specializing in healthcare with hospital and nursing home clients. “I have always been intrigued by healthcare,” Humphrey comments. “It is ever-changing and ever-present.” 

During long stints in the finance department at both Crouse Health and St. Joseph’s Health, Humphrey learned the ins and outs of healthcare operations and honed his financial acumen. While getting to know many SOS physicians and staff during his tenure at St. Joseph’s he simultaneously observed how strong leadership that supports medical practitioners greatly benefits patients. Then SOS had an opening for a CEO.

“Working within large hospitals which are multi-faceted organizations with a variety of personalities and professionals, I learned the importance of teamwork and especially of employee satisfaction,” Humphrey said. “It is critical in a healthcare setting to support the people caring for others. It really can impact patient satisfaction.”

Chief Clinical Officer Kimberley Murray was a longtime St. Joseph’s employee who worked in a variety of capacities there before joining SOS seven years ago. At St. Joseph’s, she worked with Humphrey and SOS’s orthopedic surgeons across subspecialties, so it was a smooth transition to SOS. “I had already worked with Mike and the surgeons,” Murray said. “I felt very welcomed here.”

Murray said Humphrey is a warm, personable, fun-loving kind of guy. “I was very fortunate to come work directly for him,” she said. “He’s running a multi-million-dollar company as if it’s a small business. He has an open-door policy and knows employees by name. He eats lunch with them, jokes around and talks sports.” She also adds that Humphrey is extraordinarily family-oriented and that carries through to how he manages employees and the practice. “Family comes first,” she says.

Humphrey, along with other key staff members at SOS, instituted the SOS CARES initiative which outlines the practice’s commitment to care which is practiced from the top-level down throughout the entire organization. Every employee is primed to exhibit compassion, accountability, respect, excellence, and service in whatever function they perform. Humphrey knows that such an initiative will only be successful if an organization’s leaders embrace it. “You have to show up, show dedication and foster an environment of family, open communication and celebration of work successes,” he said.

Humphrey said it is humbling to consider how many employees and how many types of employees it takes to do what SOS sets out to do. “They are the core of what we do – from schedulers, nurses and x-ray technicians to billing, insurance and surgeons – all of them face different challenges and are a part of the many components necessary to successfully provide first-class orthopedic care,” he said. “Physical therapy also is a big component, a service we added seven years ago – that added nearly 100 more employees – and now they are an integral part of the team providing the next level of care.”

“We focus on customer service and patient experience, and Mike always wants to know what more patients want and need,” Murray said. By objective measurements, SOS has thrived under the SOS CARES philosophy. It was named a 2020 Best Places to Work by the CNY Business Journal and in 2015 it was given a Best Companies to Work for in New York State Award, which is a partnership of NYS-SHRM, The Business Council of New York, Best Companies Group and Journal Multimedia Corporation. Additionally, during the period between January 2019 – May 2021, SOS earned a 4.84 out of 5 score in overall patient satisfaction.

“I like to know at the end of the day that I made a difference to someone or contributed to an important aspect of some process,” Humphrey said, explaining he tries to include people to define outcomes and change things to drive or adjust what SOS is reaching for. “Inclusion is vital to controlling costs. Our culture is not one of looking over your shoulder. We use positive reinforcement of achievements, provide feedback as we move forward and examine important processes and procedures to achieve goals.”

Humphrey said it’s important to learn to work with a diverse group of people, respect their skills and experiences. “Different organizations need different things, but working hard and leading by example are key,” Humphrey said. “It shows staff you are there and willing to put in the time and effort; others will follow suit.”

Among Humphrey’s goals have been making SOS a better place to serve patients while helping physicians meet their goals.

Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, a surgeon specializing in hand and wrist care, joined SOS in 2016. He and his wife being from New York, he looked for a practice in upstate New York. “I’ve been here five years now, and it’s been a great experience,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a great company to work for and great people to work with. Mike was the first to reach out when I interviewed. He gave me a tour and showed me the great aspects of coming here.”

Fitzgerald said Humphrey is integral in keeping staff and the business on track. “I wanted to learn how the business runs,” he said. “They don’t teach you that in med school. From the public-facing staff to the physicians, Mike incorporates best practices and makes sure employees know they are important members of the team.”

Fitzgerald said Humphrey’s understanding of all points of view, making sure the ship is heading to its destination and his management helps uphold SOS’s ideals. “Any field where there are a lot of physicians in one group is going to be difficult to manage because there are a lot of personalities,” he said. “Mike knows all current aspects of SOS, and he’s always one or two steps ahead, so he’s never playing catch-up. He’s always ready for the next hurdle.”  

Fitzgerald also admires Humphrey’s focus on people. “Money is not the primary goal: Patients and the community are. SOS is a great orthopedic practice because positive patient outcomes are our primary goal. Mike’s management style is to be on top of keeping in touch with subspecialties and all areas, not just physicians.”

“To be successful in this position, you have to know the medical side and business side,” Fitzgerald said. “Mike gets both and understands his people, helps us achieve goals, makes sure all sides communicate well to meet objectives. He’s able to see how numbers relate to the work being done in real life situations.”

Humphrey aims to solidify SOS as the industry standard for private orthopedic practice in the country and bring talented, top-notch physicians to the practice. “We’ve had much success recruiting gifted young physicians,” he said. Since he joined SOS, 13 new surgeons have joined the practice. Although there is a wealth of talent from Upstate Medical University, SOS has gained a national reputation as a desired orthopedic practice to work, and some physicians joined the practice having no former ties to central New York.

Navigating Unsteady Waters

Murray and Fitzgerald talked about how tough things were during COVID when elective surgeries were stopped. “I think with the 18 months we just went through, we’re all humbled and grateful to have Mike at the helm. He enabled us to continue to treat patients and serve the community,” remarked Fitzgerald. “He made sure the ship remained focused on its destination and his management helped uphold SOS’s ideals. His leadership through COVID helped us take care of patients and ourselves.”

“He was a real cheerleader during that time,” Murray said. “He said it was a temporary blip on the radar, and that we were going to get through it as a family.” As the pandemic emerged in 2020, SOS quickly had to transition its operations to reflect public health needs and requirements. Elective surgeries were postponed, resources diverted to the medical centers caring for Covid patients, and many employees became remote workers.

Murray likened Humphrey to a seasoned soldier. “If you were surrounded in combat, he’ll always find a way out…like COVID. We are pretty much back to where we were pre-COVID, thanks to his leadership.”

Commitment to Community

From the start, Bogosian said SOS has been committed to the community. Through volunteerism, board service, and financial contributions, individuals at SOS and the organization as a whole continue working to meet the needs of and reflect the diversity of the community. SOS has built strong relationships with local schools, sports organizations, not-for-profits, and other humanitarian projects. The group is proud of its affiliation with Operation Walk New York, the United Way of CNY, the MOST, and many other civic groups.

Personally, Humphrey has served four years on the board of directors for On Point for College, a program that helps underserved populations achieve their higher education goals. This year he is chairman of the development board and is coordinating a golf tournament for the initiative in honor of his parents, both dedicated educators.

SOS Now

Recognizing that surgeons needed the full support of a strong organization, Humphrey helped build an outstanding practice that encompasses surgeons and a wide array of other orthopedic services and totals about 700 staff, up from only 300 when he joined.

“We have a one-day surgery center, multiple office locations, and orthopedic and sports therapy. Humphrey said. “We are more than just an ortho office; we are a network.” The network also includes SOS Plus, an after-hours orthopedic clinic, the SOS Shop providing products that boost orthopedic health, medical imaging, and even clinical research.

Additionally, in 2007, SOS and the New York Spine & Wellness Center, (NYS&WC), the leading provider of pain management services in central New York, agreed to a contractual arrangement which allows Humphrey and other key managers to provide oversight and management services. The SOS team works with NYS&WC‘s talented and committed physicians and their clinical management team to create a model and culture in their practice similar to SOS. “This integration of care and sharing of knowledge and best practices has allowed both practices to grow and to enhance the level of care provided to the patients they serve,” comments Humphrey.

Key to the success of the SOS network is engaging patients in their orthopedic care. “Patient experience is paramount at SOS, and staff try to be open and amiable, with a lot of patients being seen over a span of time. It’s a professional atmosphere, and we explain all diagnostic and treatment options, lots of which are non-operative. Patients are part of the treatment decision-making process; we explain all options and don’t dictate to them. We often see whole families and multiple generations in a family.”

Fitzgerald agrees SOS strives to be the best they can be to meet patients’ expectations. “Pathology can be very different from patient to patient,” Fitzgerald said. “We excel at individualizing treatment to each patient. Everyone’s experience is unique to them. We have a great team dedicated to getting patients back to where they want to be.”

“We believe patients should be well-informed from engagement to discharge,” Murray said, explaining that patient referrals come from urgent care services, hospital emergency departments and primary care physicians. “Patients are given all the information they need from getting to their first appointment through treatment. We make sure we’re accessible in a meaningful way. We answer all medical and insurance questions, field Workers’ Compensation and disability-related issues, and the departments work together to handle any claims.”

Murray said Humphrey has been a power source for SOS. He has been recognized by peers as well, being named the 2017 National Practice Executive of the Year by the American Alliance of Orthopaedic Executives. “There’s no limit to how his mind works,” she said. “His greatest strength is strategy. The rest of us can achieve great outcomes with enthusiasm because of his strategies. He exudes mission, vision, and value, establishing the groundwork for the team to provide exceptional orthopedic care to everyone in central New York, without exception.”

“He’s a robust person in a humble shell,” says Murray.

Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists is central New York’s regional leader in providing quality, total orthopedic care to patients. Founded in 1999, its team of experienced orthopedic physicians and support staff offer state-of-the-art medical care, from diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation and recovery. SOS has more than 25 physicians and employs approximately 600 additional staff. Its corporate headquarters are in East Syracuse, and it has several locations serving Camillus, Dewitt, Fayetteville, Liverpool, and North Syracuse. Additionally, SOS operates the Specialists’ One-Day Surgery Center in Syracuse; SOS Orthopedic & Sports Therapy with multiple locations; and SOS Plus, an after-hours care center in Dewitt.

For more information on Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists, visit sosbones.com.

G.M. Crisalli and Associates, Inc. ; Brings Experience to Healthcare Construction

By Martha E. Conway

Island Health Center, Ithaca NY

Work in progress – American Renal Associates Dialysis Center, Rome NY

Upstate University Hospital, Syracuse NY

Upstate University Hospital, Syracuse NY

G.M. Crisalli and Associates, Inc., started with two people working out of a two-bedroom apartment 32 years ago. Now they have 44 employees working out of their main offices located on Hiawatha Boulevard in Syracuse. The firm generally serves clients from Wisconsin to Maine to Maryland and all states in between.

“We build almost everything except roads and bridges and infrastructure” said owner and President Gary Crisalli, who’s been in the construction business for 45 years. “There’s no type of building construction work that we do not perform.”

From first job to first in the field

Crisalli said he was interested in medical construction early on in his career and was encouraged by a previous business partner in the mid-1980s to bid on a remodel project at SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital. G.M. Crisalli & Associates, Inc., got the contract in 1990, and the project was completed in 1991. Crisalli successfully bid other projects at Upstate and has done an increasing number of medical facility projects for all major hospitals and many private medical facilities throughout the company’s history.

New builds and renovations have unique considerations, from making sure existing services remain available to local, state and federal restrictions for various types of construction. Essential to successful healthcare-related projects is considering the special working conditions demanded of each worksite, i.e., the type, age and condition of the existing structure and municipal services to the structure; knowing if the area will be kept operational by the medical group; and availability of access and working hours – is this a 24-hour, round-the-clock project? Are there quiet times and peak times of patient service necessary for work crews to consider? Are all team players who will be affected by construction kept in communications to understand the impact on their ongoing operations?

“Less-experienced contractors may not know how to create and work within the restrictions of a protected environment, the impact of air filtration and quality air monitoring and how to successfully manage those things for staff and patient safety and comfort,” Crisalli said. “Everything has to be kept very clean and dust-free, and you have to monitor airflow and air quality. You must be aware of all considerations involved in working in sterile environments. You must have good communication and control of the activities on the jobsite at all times, knowing who is there and what tools and materials are being delivered, installed and used throughout the construction of the project.”

Crisalli says when performing medical work of any kind, the scheduling process must be at the last third of the preconstruction process and extremely thorough – a must, due to the long lead times on specialty materials and equipment needed for projects. Worked into that scheduling are staff and facility requirements during construction and all safety and code issues to be considered before, during and after construction completion.

“We like to have all stakeholders buy into the project schedule prior to project commencement to alleviate delays in the construction process,” he said.

Reputation for quality and integrity

“For the benefit of our clients, we try to bring our vast construction experience and knowledge to the project in order to be the best-trusted partner, liaison and friend before, during and after the project is finished,” Crisalli said. “Our reputation is based in our integrity, in the trust given to us by our many clients and in the accuracy in estimates, schedules, work quality and high level of professionalism. We take our responsibility as construction professionals very seriously. We believe our clients should rely on the professionals building the project and should not have to worry about the construction of a facility that they have hired our company to build for them.”

Crisalli said he employs 18 experienced project superintendents. He stated that one half of the company employees have been with G.M. Crisalli and Associates, Inc., for 10, 20 and even 30 years. Crisalli feels very fortunate to have worked with Associate Rocco “Rocky” Paone for the last 30 years.

“Experienced and dedicated personnel, construction administration, construction procedures, practices and performance, at every milestone along the way, result in the highest-possible quality project,” Crisalli said. “At the end of the process, we want to see our clients satisfied and happy with every aspect of their new facility.”

Crisalli said the firm is always looking to integrate new systems to anticipate clients’ needs and ensure projects are turnkey operations at completion.

“Most of my people have been with us for quite a few years,” Crisalli said, “but we have a few new people, too, helping us do whatever we can to make us a better company. We have our own group of sub-contractors, offer competitive rates and have the capability to adapt and grow – like what was demanded of us working in a pandemic.”

One of those adaptations was the implementation of DocuSign to tame the contracting paper lion.

Client care is Job No. 1

Vice President Rocco “Rocky” Paone handles the marketing and sales and performs the front-ending of projects (the pre-construction functions formerly done under the umbrella of ‘estimating’).

“I also cold-call potential clients and follow up with clients whose projects are complete, as well as work to maintain relationships with a variety of professionals across a diverse field of disciplines,” Paone said.

Medical construction requires a level of cleanliness more than most construction projects, he said, explaining that Crisalli and Associates understand the demands of working in something tantamount to a clean room environment.

“It’s not for everyone,” Paone said. “You can’t just take someone out of residential construction and tell them to go drywall an operating room. There are a specific list of additional ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ in the medical environment, and sometimes they impact patients’ lives and safety. We have to maintain stringent levels of quality control for these projects.”

In addition, the firm pays particular attention to the health of its own employees, making sure they are current with tuberculosis testing and additional health considerations, especially in the era of COVID.

“There are a lot of additional boxes we have to check to work in a medical setting of any kind,” Paone said.

And that medical savvy transfers to other projects requiring those heightened precautions, such as cleanliness and quality concerns.

“But we can build good, old-fashioned buildings, too,” Paone said.

Project in progress

Crisalli and Associates is working on a tenant improvement fit-out for American Renal Associates Dialysis Center in Rome.

“We were competitively bidding the project and added G.M. Crisalli to the bid list based on the strength of their health portfolio and depth of knowledge exhibited by Rocco Paone,” said Marc Eagles of American Renal Management, LLC, Project Management. “Construction projects are always challenging. This project was no different. G.M. Crisalli’s knowledge of the market, construction processes and subcontractor strength helped to make this a successful project.”

Money is a big motivator for clients, and medical clients are particularly cost-conscious, Paone said, wanting to spend their money wisely.

“We work with clients to help them analyze budgets and look at what is really needed versus areas where savings can be safely realized,” Paone said. “If anti-static or anti-microbial flooring is called for, you really can’t compromise a lot there. We try to make clients aware of the trade-offs in these kinds of decisions. We’ve learned how to adapt to these details better than your average contractor and offer customers the pros and cons of every potential alternative and decision as they set up their budgets.

“We care about clients, we care what clients think about us, we care enough to tell the truth, even when the truth hurts. We’re all looking forward to a very rigorous 2021 season as COVID waves its ugly head goodbye and we tackle the projects that were sidelined and those sprouting up as a result.”

“The medical field will grow because of the increasing aging population and new and improving technology,” Crisalli said. “We plan to be at the forefront of that.”

“Without exception, every GM Crisalli employee involved with this project was professional, knowledgeable and easy to work with,” Eagles said. “I would recommend them on their construction acumen, professionalism and competitive pricing.”

Medical project résumé

G.M. Crisalli’s project list includes extensive renovations, constructions and additions at SUNY Upstate Medical University, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center, Van Duyn Home & Hospital, Carthage Area Hospital, Nunn’s Hospital Supply Store, Crouse Hospital, Cayuga Medical Rehabilitation Center, Mohawk Glen and Health & Dental Services Center, among others.

Crisalli and Paone said one of their favorite projects was the Cayuga Medical Rehabilitation Center and Island Health & Fitness Center in Ithaca, a two-and-a-half-year-long project including a design/project buildout of new tenant space and construction management services for a five-story health and fitness center with attached medical facility.

For more information, call 315.454.0000 or visit www.gmca.com.

State of Manufacturing: Obstacles, Opportunites

By James A. D’Agostino, CEO, MEP Center Director

I do not need to remind anyone that the past year was incredibly challenging. A global pandemic and shifting politics were just a couple of the dynamics facing businesses across all industries, including manufacturing. As we emerge from the various shutdowns and restrictions, manufacturing is booming across many key indexes, but manufacturers face a precarious path forward if they intend to not only survive but grow. A path filled with pitfalls and dangers, but one also filled with promise and opportunity.

Obstacles

The global pandemic revealed a hidden issue for many manufacturers: a fractured and overly dependent supply chain. Across the world, we all saw the fragility in our supply chains for critical PPE supplies, military defense components, and raw materials. Years of outsourcing and the pursuit of savings in lower cost countries finally caught up with our nation and revealed the massive void that currently exists. Manufacturers continue to scramble in an effort to obtain necessary raw materials in what seems like a rolling supply chain blackout.

In addition to the fractured supply chains, the past year has also exacerbated a major workforce issue for manufacturers. Despite the increased number of unfilled manufacturing jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels, manufacturers are now competing with fast food businesses and other non-manufacturers for labor. Long-time employees are contemplating resignations and retirements, and first-time employees are faced with an abundance of openings. Manufacturers are having to enhance recruiting and retention programs like never before. On top of all that, the past year has intensified a growing workforce skill gap for manufacturers.  This skill gap is not only threatening manufacturing competitiveness, but it is also creating unwanted shakiness in an economy that is looking to rebound quickly from the global pandemic. Along with high retirement rates, this skill gap is being fueled by mismatched training programs and recruiting shortages.

And if all of that was not enough, the past year exposed many outdated manufacturing technologies and processes that are ill-equipped to provide the necessary boost that companies desperately need for survival and recovery. With a reduced workforce, antiquated machines and processes are not able to run efficiently. Sounds kind of like the perfect manufacturing storm….

Opportunities

With all the challenges facing manufacturers in today’s tumultuous world, the outlook is not all bleak. Each of the aforementioned obstacles represents an important opportunity for manufacturers, and one that can provide a competitive advantage and help define their future success. The fractured supply chains have created a resurgence for “Made in America” products. How will manufacturers respond? Will they reshore products to rebuild their supply chains and help boost local economies? The various workforce challenges have heightened the need for human resources. Will manufacturers respond by further developing their employees, raising wages, and creating more holistic work environments that aim for better attraction and retention? Will manufacturers better define workforce needs and work with training institutions and organizations to develop a robust and sufficient talent pipeline? The myriad workforce challenges have also heightened the need for technology and innovation. Will manufacturers upgrade equipment and processes to better compete with countries that have lower labor costs? Will they invest in new cutting-edge technologies that allow their businesses to innovate and grow?

The next several months will define the future for many manufacturers, whether they realize it now or not. As someone who has spent their entire professional career in manufacturing, I can say without hesitation that manufacturers are more than equipped to navigate the uncertain times ahead. I am confident that those businesses who do invest in their people, processes, equipment, and reshoring will not only experience personal success, but they will also lend a hand to this country’s post-pandemic renaissance.

For more information on how TDO can help you capitalize on key strategic opportunities to move your manufacturing processes forward, please contact: James A. D’Agostino; (315) 425-5144, Ext. 306; jim@tdo.org;  or visit online at TDO.org.

The Changing Face of Risk and What it Means for your Business

By: Pierre Morrisseau, CEO, OneGroup

I don’t have to tell you how fast the world seems to be changing, and how novel risks seem to crop up and add yet more challenges to businesses.

There are many reasons for the increasing complexity of managing risk: Increased litigation, consolidation of insurance carriers, expanding regulatory environment, inflation, advancing technology, changing weather patterns—and the list goes on.

A question our clients often ask is, “How do we get ahead of all of these risks and the cost to protect ourselves?” While there is no one answer or simple solution because each company’s risks differ greatly, I always tell them to begin by eliminating as much risk as possible, put a solid risk management plan in place, and work with experts to finance your biggest risks.

While you can’t eliminate all risk, auditing your risks can reveal a clearer picture of what can be eliminated, and how best to focus your capital. Some risks can be self-insured while other risks can leverage insurance or other risk financing tools to help you manage bottom line costs. In addition, building a solid risk management plan also provides insurance carriers with the evidence that you are serious about managing risk, thus helping underwriters to work in your favor.

As companies look to out-perform their peers in highly competitive markets, it means moving faster, being innovative, taking on expansion including increased hiring—all of which, by default, increases risk. So, the only way for them to succeed is having better risk management. In fact, with the right help from risk management experts, risk management becomes an essential tool to increase your competitive position. It can help your company go on the offensive instead of simply being a cost to defend itself.

Something you seldom here when speaking of risk management is the impact your company culture has on the occurrence and cost of risk. Here again, taking the time to audit risk and create a risk management plan offers you the ability to create a risk communication and implementation plan. Building risk awareness and risk avoidance into your business culture may be the most impactful step you can take in controlling the impact of risk on your organization. Setting clear guidelines and goals is a critical step. Equally important is ongoing education, measurement and periodic review. Often, companies fall down in these areas due to lack of priority or lack of time and resources. This is where it is critical to work with a competent risk management team to keep you on track. The cost most often more than pays for itself and ensures you the best competitive outcome.

For example, my firm supports companies across all industries and at every size. We see companies whose executives view risk management as an expense to be avoided while others embrace managing risk as a strategic opportunity to give them a competitive edge and enhance their sustainable growth. These firms consistently work to understand their risks in human capital, operations, technology, financial and environmental, the latter of which we are seeing increased demand for as we open our operations in South Carolina and Florida where environmental risk is creating substantial volatility and cost.

The bottom line for businesses today is one of leveraging risk management to your advantage. Using it to support your bottom line is the far smarter thing to do.

Words to Lead By

By: Robert J. Corona, DO, MBA, CEO, Upstate University Hospital

What makes us seek words of wisdom? For years I’ve jotted down quotes that inspire me from all sorts of sources. Some have become part of my regular conversation; others have made their way into the way I frame my approach to work and life.

In one of my first presentations as hospital CEO, I featured the quote often used by Bréne Brown who wrote Dare to Lead. In it she advocates an approach to bring a “strong back, soft front, and a wild heart” to our work. I thought it was particularly resonant for a hospital environment and it used six strong words for what otherwise could have taken a much longer time to convey.  After that talk, I heard from more than one person how much they liked that quote and immediately understood what it meant.

Research shows that people are attracted to succinct descriptions, especially if they have a rhythm or cadence. In addition to making a point more memorable, other reasons the right quote can work: it provides an additional boost of wisdom from people who have achieved or gone before. Those sources can bring authority, reassurance or insights on a topic. For me, the right quote crystallizes my wider ranging thoughts.

While not everyone is drawn to personal mantras, in my leadership roles I’ve noticed most people have at least one. Those can become a shorthand to how someone will approach a problem or how they treat others. More than once I’ve heard colleagues cite, “the obstacle is the way” (shortened from the statement from the stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius who said,

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”) We can infer that they see the obstacle in a more nuanced form — and even something to learn from — than simply a barrier to push aside.

In addition to condensing a call to action or signaling intention, the right words can have motivating power. Early in the pandemic, handmade signs with encouraging messages started popping up in the hospital to lift the spirits of our front-line workers. Our President at Upstate started an online place for people to share their favorite quotes, and suggestions poured in. It provided needed place to share words of comfort and resilience. Those statements — some tried and true, others newly minted from the employees themselves — provided assurance that others had passed through challenges, and emerged.

As much as I enjoy them, I use quotes selectively, bringing out only one or two at a time as they fit the circumstances. Overuse can make great thoughts seem trite, and they should amplify not replace your own reflections. Over the years, my personal collection of favorite quotes includes these gems, each of which provides some great advice, should we take it.

  • Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.—Eleanor Roosevelt

 

  • Be the person who leaves a mark, not a scar. — Unknown

 

  • The person stating ‘it cannot be done’ shouldn’t interrupt the person doing it. — Unknown

On the wall of my office, this quote by author and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes is literally part of the wallpaper: Once the mind is expanded by imagination, it never reverts back to its original dimension. A daily reminder that it is so important that we stretch our minds, and keep growing.

Robert J. Corona DO, MBA, is CEO of Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, NY.  Previous roles at Upstate include Chief Innovation Officer and Associate Dean for Industry and Academic Relations, and the endowed chair for the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He also served for many years as chief medical officer and vice president of Medical and Scientific Affairs at Welch Allyn Inc.

What a Difference a Year Makes for Upstate New York Construction

Earl R. Hall, Executive Director – Syracuse Builders Exchange

Earl Hall headshot

It is remarkable what a difference a year makes when comparing the state of the construction industry in upstate New York.  Without reflecting on the obvious COVID-19 related and governmental mandated challenges from 2020, the state of the regional construction industry is strong.

One of my most accurate barometers has been the architectural billings and regional architectural activities.  While such is not the only measure for future construction opportunities, it does tell a compelling story for what to expect in the next 6-18 months.  Although my prediction of a 25% decline in the first half of 2021 projects out for bid was slightly high, my prediction of a resurging economic recovery in the second half of 2021 and all of 2022 is proving to be correct. 

Architects throughout the northeast United States and upstate New York are reporting a strong recovery, hampered only by a shortage of employees to fill many open positions.  The architectural billings from those firms have continued to grow substantially over the past few months, indicative of the strong demand from clients to develop future projects.  Much of the new architectural work is being performed in the commercial and industrial sectors.  While the northeast may lag the national average a bit, upstate New York is poised to take advantage of the increase in architectural services in the public infrastructure, institutional, commercial, and industrial spaces.  Unfortunately, there remains a shortage of qualified architects for hire.

Much of the design work is reported to be associated with building renovations, remodeling, retrofits, and rehabilitation work on existing structures.  Specifically, such construction work is more prevalent in the northeast region of the United States than elsewhere in the country.  Preserving existing historical buildings and upgrading existing properties remains high on the list of clients seeking architectural services.  A local example of this is the collaborative project between the Syracuse City School District and Onondaga County to renovate the former Central Tech High School into a state-of-the-art STEAM school in 2022.

Regionally, many projects remain in the pipeline for construction, with other significant potential projects being strongly considered by elected officials and project owners alike (chip fabrication plant in Clay, NY, and Route 81 project).  Project owners who postponed projects in 2020 are now planning those projects for later in 2021 and beyond.  The continuation of the Amazon projects in Liverpool and Dewitt, the new Crouse Health Center, Cree’s Carbon Device Manufacturing facility in Marcy and Utica’s new Mohawk Valley Health System hospital are just a few examples of current projects under construction in central New York. 

In addition to the construction resurgence, there remains optimism about the infusion of federal stimulus dollars to fund regional governmental initiatives, especially those projects included in the federal infrastructure bill recently approved by President Biden, Senator Majority Leader Charles Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Such infrastructure projects will include roads, bridges, wastewater treatment facilities and installation of broad band technology to underserved communities throughout New York state.

Headwinds

Although the construction industry is poised to take advantage of future construction projects in upstate New York, many issues employers are experiencing today may continue into late 2021 and beyond.  Concerns which may impact construction in the future include:

Inflation – From an economic perspective, inflation is defined as a general increase in prices and decrease in the purchasing value of money.  With the influx of trillions of dollars into the United States economy, and thus to communities across the country, inflation remains a huge concern to project owners and construction contractors alike.  Over the past 9 years, the average annual inflation rate has been 1.6%.  An annual inflation rate of 2.5% could very well add 10% to a project’s total cost.

Increase in Material Costs and Material Shortages – Due to inflation, the decline of purchasing power over time, the significant increase in material costs, and material shortages, project owners will pay more for the cost of material on their projects which may impact their ability to develop a project within budget.  While the industry is seeing some signs that the out-of-control price increases in steel, lumber, cement, etc. may have stabilized, industry leaders are wondering what the new normal in prices might look like in late 2021 and 2022, and when the timely availability of material will return.

Supply Chain Issues – The deliver of materials to construction job sites remains a major issue for contractors and project owners today, with no end in sight.  Labor shortages impacting all sectors of the industry from contractors, delivery drivers, suppliers, manufacturers, etc. continues to slow the delivery of goods and materials essential for the timely completion of projects.  Projects have not been canceled because of supply chain issues, but contractors remain concerned about contractual obligations to general contractors or project owners.  Pundits have opined such supply chain issues may see relief later in 2021 once the labor force problem below improves.

Labor – COVID-19, New York State and the federal government have compounded the labor shortage problem that has plagued the upstate New York construction industry for the past few years.  New York State’s inability to enforce return to work requirements for those collecting unemployment insurance has significantly impacted the construction, retail, and hospitality industries.  The federal government’s continuous $300 unemployment insurance supplement to New York State’s unemployment insurance benefits in many cases incentivizes those who are unemployed to not return to the workforce.  In addition, the federal government’s requirement for employers to pay COBRA premiums for those unemployed or ineligible employees only compounds the issues as such also is a disincentive to return to work. 

Analysis

The construction industry in upstate New York has strong momentum, powered by the predicted influx of federal and state dollars funding significant projects for years to come.  The funding of projects by various governmental entities, supplemented by the return of private capital into the market, will lead to a significant period of growth for the industry.  While headwinds may pose short-term obstacles for contractors and project owners, the future of the upstate New York construction industry remains on an upward trajectory. 

Granger Construction Company, Inc

By Sarah Hall

Les Granger, President, Chris Montrose, Vice President of Construction

Dig Safely NY, Corporate Headquarters, East Syracuse NY

1 Empower Federal Credit Union, Central Square, NY

Hannaford Supermarket and Pharmacy, Rome, NY

Microtel Inn & Suites, Altoona, Pennsylvania

Tractor Supply Store, Central Square, NY

Les Granger has no use for people who misrepresent the truth.

Granger, CEO of Granger Construction Company, Inc., values trust and integrity above all else, and those values form the foundation of his company.

“There is an understanding among the staff—this is how we want to present ourselves to our clients,” said Chris Montrose, vice president of construction at Granger. “They know they are fully supported in making decisions, providing straightforward and honest information to our clients.”

Granger went into the construction industry after he graduated from high school and his family sold the farm on which he grew up. He learned carpentry and masonry and later opened his own firm, working as a subcontractor, general contractor, and developer.

By the early 1990s, Granger was looking for something more.

“At a certain point in my life, I said, what do I enjoy doing the most? The answer was constructing buildings,” he said. “I love the creative process of putting a building where there once was nothing. I still have a passion for that.”

Thus, Granger Construction Co. was born in 1992. The company focused almost solely on retail construction up and down the East Coast until 2008, when, as Granger said, “retail business did not slow down—it stopped overnight.” The crash forced Granger to diversify; now the firm also works with clients in the hospitality, multi-residential, healthcare, light industrial and most general commercial markets. The company is also focusing more on what sales and marketing manager Don Kowell calls “pre-construction services.” This service provides real-time input on cost, constructability, and schedule during the planning and design phase.

“We’re good at managing and coordinating a project,” Kowell said. “While we still participate in the private commercial bid market, we’ve been doing more of the pre-construction/ construction management approach on projects.”

Under this approach, the firm, led by Montrose, will evaluate a project to determine the needs of the customer and put together a team of subcontractors that will best fulfill those needs. Granger said it is faster and more efficient than the traditional means of putting a project out to bid, and it often nets better results.

This has proven to be a successful approach for anyone looking to build or develop.

“If you can put the right team together of owner, designer, and contractor, I can almost guarantee you we can come up with a more successful project than doing it the traditional way of hiring an architect to draw something, then going out for competitive bids to general contractors,” he said. “The process can get there that way, but it takes longer, and it is harder to get the value placed in the right spot. If an owner can articulate what they would like to get out of a project, what their goals are, and in turn have the right architect who can put their vision on paper while working with the general contractor, this will ensure the design is both conceptually and financially in line with the owner’s expectations. Putting together the right team of people up front will generate the best value for the owner’s investment.”

While Granger Construction Company does some travelling, the bulk of their business is local, which is the result of a conscious effort to focus on the central New York region.

“We are focusing on trying to stay in New York,” Granger said. “But at the same time, repeat customers ask us to go and look at opportunities in different places. We still have solid resources up and down the East Coast.”

Granger Construction also does a lot of repeat business, made possible by the good relationships the company maintains with its clients.

“I think our relationships are built based on the fact we are just a group of hardworking people who are straightforward,” Montrose said. “We do not pull punches with our clients. We tell them facts—not always what they want to hear. We give them the information they need to make the best decisions possible to achieve the overall outcome they desire.”

Granger Construction also strives for complete transparency with others in the construction industry.

“We try very hard amongst ourselves and with our subcontractors and our suppliers to do what we say we are going to do—treat them fairly, pay them correctly,” Granger said. “This attracts quality subcontractors who seek to work with us on our projects.”

The culture based on trust and integrity permeates everything Granger does, including his interactions with his employees.

“It is really important that I can trust everyone I work with,” he said. “Everybody in the company has wide open access to everything, but that requires a trust that they will treat that information with the confidentiality that it should have.”

That culture accounts for the longevity of Granger’s staff, many of whom have been with the company for a decade or more. Kowell said that is what has kept him there for more than 15 years.

“It Is the family atmosphere, the trust and the faith that we have in each other,” he said. “When we get busy, we all help each other out. This attitude is across the board.”

That said, Granger emphasized that employees’ real families must always come first.

“We view ourselves as our employees’ second family, but their real families come first,” he said. “We recognize the importance of this, and we adjust for it.”

“When someone has a medical issue or something like that, we all cover for each other, help each other out, that type of thing, and it has just been a refreshing situation to experience,” Kowell said.

Montrose joined the company more than 20 years ago as a project manager. He worked his way up through the ranks to his current position as VP of construction. He sees his future as being at Granger, something that pleases Les Granger as he looks toward the end of his working days.

“I considered myself retired about 10 years ago,” he said. “Now I only work five days a week.

Montrose, the team builder, has been an active part of the growth process. In that focus, Montrose’s responsibility is to look for new talent to help lead Granger into the future. Among his picks is project manager Mike Eger, who joined the company about 13 years ago.

“He came in and started by coordinating subs on a job site and pushing a broom. He soon after became a project manager,” Montrose said. “His character, skill set, and his drive match up well to how we want the future of the company to be shaped. He will be one of the people who helps shape it.”

“Mike is a future leader in training,” Granger said. “He came here out of school. Right now, he is operating in project management, but we expect him to play a full leadership role down the road.”

As a leader, Granger does not micromanage his people. He understands that while different employees take different approaches on various issues, everyone at the company is headed to the same destination.

“If an employee knows what the target is, and he approaches it with integrity, he does not have to do it the same way I do it,” Granger said. “But there is integrity to what he does. We do not have rules that before Chris approves a contract, there are 32 different signatures to get. He has the authority to do his job. I can trust that he is making the right decisions.”

“For ourselves and our clients, we feel we have the right team to be successful—a team you can trust has the customer’s best interest as its priority,” Montrose said. “We have a good group of people who are all driven for the company and our clients to be successful.”

TDO- The Community’s Best Kept Secret; Serving Central NY Since 1988

By: Janelle Davis

Jim D’Agostino – CEO / MEP Center Director

Mike Metzgar – Business Development Manager

Scott Laundry – Senior Project Manager

Sarah Burlingame – Senior Project Manager

Marc Bicknell – Senior Project Manager

“We’re not the traditional consultants,” says Jim D’Agostino CEO and MEP Center Director for TDO (Train Develop Optimize).

Jim is a degreed mechanical engineer who has been working in manufacturing for over 20 years. He has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, in addition to his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Syracuse University.

D’Agostino has worked in several manufacturing jobs. Some of these jobs include quality roles, plant manager, and working in operations management. He has also worked in a variety of industries including automotive, precision machining, paper manufacturing and the furniture industry.

D’Agostino was recruited to TDO by a headhunter. “I was happy with my current role, but the allure of TDO, its mission, and the ability to assist numerous manufacturers in the CNY region was too much to pass up,” he admits.

About TDO

TDO, based in Syracuse, NY, is a not-for-profit consulting and training organization working primarily with manufacturers.  Founded by local economic development officials in 1988, TDO began as The Central New York Technology Development Organization. Covering the five-county Central NY region (Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, Madison and Oswego), TDO became the New York State CNY Manufacturing Extension Partnership center designation (MEP). 2018 brought to TDO (Train, Develop and Optimize), a new logo, and more determination and passion than ever to reflect their mission.

“Our mission is to help those small to mid-size manufacturers,” says D’Agostino. “We help with a lot of those nitty gritty engineering and technical consulting projects that deliver hard impacts and savings for our clients,” he continues. TDO offers this assistance in order to grow the local economy. They achieve this goal by helping companies increase revenue, reduce costs, and increase productivity. A lot of the work TDO does is technical consulting and engineering support.  They also look for ways to improve productivity and reduce costs.

TDO helps their clients grow by offering certifications, like the Lean Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Certifications. The Lean Six Sigma is a combination of the best attributes of “Lean Manufacturing” and “Six Sigma.” TDO offers these in-house trainings and workshops with the model to empower your company, innovate new paths, transform your organization, optimize for continuous improvement and bring to light your growth potential.

One of the more popular certifications TDO offers is Toyota Kata. “With Kata, we teach our manufacturers how to think scientifically and how to tackle those everyday obstacles to achieve their target condition or goal. It’s a structured scientific approach to continuously improve,” says D’Agostino. The Toyota Kata is offered with several options, including half day and full day simulations.

To further enhance your company, TDO offers access to free webinars via their website. These webinars cover relevant topics to move your company forward. You will learn from professionals like CEO’s and Client Development Specialists on topics such as, finance during the pandemic, grant information, and help to upskill your current workforce.

What makes TDO different

 “We have shared skin in the game,” D’Agostino says.

What he means, is that after TDO finishes a project with a client, six months later the client will receive a survey from a third party asking them if TDO helped them with any of the following; create/save jobs, grow/save their sales, develop cost savings, etc. All this data is compiled into a report card they get from the federal government every quarter. This report rates them on how good of a job they are doing at hitting those impact categories. It also provides them with an assessment that they can evaluate.

“It’s a neat model we have at TDO,” D’Agostino says. He continues, “This makes us a little different because if we find that we didn’t help a client be more competitive and achieve savings and productivity improvements, then we will get a subpar score and that will affect our grant funding. We are accountable, so when we go into a job, we see ourselves as an integral part of the team and are right there alongside them.”  

TDO has impacts to prove that they are making a difference with their clients. “The number of repeat clients that we have is incredible,” D’Agostino said.

Grant Assistance

Another benefit working with TDO are the multiple grant funding opportunities. As the regional MEP center, they have access to two exclusive grant funds. There are productivity funds through National Grid and NYSEG (Rochester Gas and Electric). Both companies have a reimbursable grant program offering funding between 40% and 60% of project costs. Both programs offer grants up to $40,000 for eligible applicants.

If you are a manufacturer in the five-county region working with TDO, then you can have access to those funds. From which source is dependent on who the client’s utility provider is. “40%-60% funding could make a huge difference for a manufacturer.”  D’Agostino explains that a lot of times this funding is the difference between a project getting approved.

Grant funding can help small to mid-sized manufacturers reinvent themselves, increase profits, create jobs, and establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity.

TDO can also connect clients with the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), who also has manufacturing funds available. CNY Works has really good lucrative funds as well. Each grant application is different and TDO will help you navigate through the process.

D’Agostino says, “We are able to connect clients to a bevy of funding partners depending on their need.”

Staff

D’Agostino made sure not to miss the opportunity to highlight his team. Speaking with respect and admiration, he explains that they all have similar skills. They have two, soon to be three, senior project managers, as well as a business development manager.

“We are all degreed in engineering and computer science, and heavy with technical confidence,” He explains. “We are all experienced in lean manufacturing.” He goes on, “We have an electrical engineer, an industrial engineer, a computer scientist and I am a mechanical engineer.”

“We are a very well-rounded team!”

‘Everyone in the organization is critical to success’ AmeriCU Credit Union President & CEO Ron Belle talks about leading through growth, challenges, and community focus.

By Martha Conway

Ron Belle, President & CEO

AmeriCU Financial Center located at Griffiss Technology Park, Rome

Belle presents Lisa Posselt, Consumer Loan Underwriter III, with an AmeriCU Service Award recognizing her 30th anniversary with the credit union.

Ron Belle, originally of Camillus, joined the AmeriCU team four years ago; as of last year and coinciding with AmeriCU’s 70th anniversary, he is now leading the team.

Belle graduated from Utica College of Syracuse University as well as earned executive management certifications from University of Wisconsin at Madison and Case Western Reserve University. After graduation, he entered the world of financial services before accepting a job at a Syracuse-area bank as a branch manager. From there, he worked his way up, securing increasingly responsible positions and managing greater numbers of people and teams.

During his career, Belle has moved five times living in four states as his career advanced; in 2017, he came home to central New York and AmeriCU. He’s been the president and chief executive officer there since May 2020.

“My wife is originally from Poughkeepsie, so this was a great homecoming opportunity for our family.”

His progress on the way up the financial institution ladder allowed Belle to observe and learn from several managers; two he considers mentors and speaks with regularly.

“At every level, you hone your management traits,” Belle said, adding that management skills evolve as you mature with experience and age.

To lead people through the realities of adapting to change, Belle said the most important functions of his job at AmeriCU are maintaining a strong foundational culture, having a well-designed strategy, and consistently communicating how change supports AmeriCU’s vision, mission and strategic plan.

“You have to focus on individuals,” he said. “You have to get to know the team and what drives them.”

Belle believes in a ‘shadow of the leader’ philosophy, with the understanding that people at every level in an organization can provide a positive influence that can affect sustainable change.

And one place AmeriCU’s nearly 350 teammates are focused on continuing to lead is in their respective communities. With 19 financial centers across nine counties, there are plenty of opportunities for the AmeriCU team to continue to engage with their communities through volunteerism and serving on boards for a variety of non-profits. AmeriCU is committed to providing comprehensive financial wellness, working with schools, colleges and businesses to provide financial resources on a variety of topics from home ownership to caregiving for aging parents, as well as learning about loans and building credit, all provided through in-person or live video seminars and online training programs.

“Across our central New York footprint, financial wellness education has grown and expanded, and participating schools and businesses have grown each year,” Belle said. “We often hear from teachers, students and businesses owners that the financial information we provided made a positive impact on people and families; that makes you really proud.”

AmeriCU’s growth has more than doubled in the past decade, and Belle said investing in technology is a necessity that has helped fuel that growth. Online features such as easier loan applications and better online banking services, attractive to new and long-tenured members, have been widely accepted and implemented.

Another reason for AmeriCU’s growth has been team. Belle said the company has expanded significantly, with a good mix of long-term, tenured professionals who have grown with the credit union, and new teammates who have brought new ideas and process changes from their experience at other organizations.  

“We always talk about how valuable teamwork is,” Belle said. “It is possible to grow too fast and put too much pressure on our people to meet the added demands. As processes change, you can’t do things the same way or even use the same technology, so it’s crucial to communicate these changes to all team members and remind them how critical they are to our success.”

 

In addition, visionaries at the top of the organization must look at all facets of implementing new programs or services and weighing technologies against each other to see if the benefits and growth support the cost of the planned innovations. One of the biggest challenges facing credit unions right now is striking the right balance between banking entirely online using self-serve technology or the more traditional in-branch model.

“We will always strive to maintain that balance between technology and personal human interaction,” said Belle.

AmeriCU is reimagining its vision and mission statement, which Belle said will build upon its community-focused and community-based ideals. The organization is focused on increasing its community involvement and leveraging the expertise of its team members in the communities where they are located.

“AmeriCU’s name is synonymous with members’ prosperity and growth, and every day we make sure the breadth and depth of services dovetail with our vision and mission, as well as align with our core values,” Belle said. “Our visibility in the community aligns with our strategic plan.”

Belle said he is proud to have AmeriCU based in central New York, a local full-service financial institution that provides members services and advice, from a new member’s first account up to and including retirement and insurance needs.

Belle said some people are uncomfortable with the word ‘member’ versus ‘customer’ or ‘depositor’ at other financial institutions; simply stated, credit unions are non-profit cooperatives owned by members.

Membership is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in AmeriCU’s nine-county field of membership and their immediate family; anyone who works for a number of employer partners; and active or retired military and their immediate family.

“We’ve built a great brand with AmeriCU,” Belle said. “We’re working hard to ensure AmeriCU is the best financial institution, and along with our community support and involvement, we strive to be one of the most admired organizations out there.”

For more information on AmeriCU, visit AmeriCU.org or call 800.388.2000.

An Opportunity To Design New Hybrid Workforce Models

By: Pierre Morrisseau, CEO, OneGroup

Pierre Morrisseau headshot

Remote work for many appears to be here to stay. The pressing challenge for CEO’s is finding the right hybrid mix of remote work and in-person collaboration to sustain the corporate culture, values and mission.

Connecting people remotely with technology has had a profound impact on business. In many ways, it has increased focus and productivity. The bad news is we can’t quantify what we are losing. Are we really connecting? Are we truly developing strong relationships? Are we missing the many casual opportunities to mentor and teach that happen when we are together?  I believe that finding the right balance between remote work and returning to the workplace is critical to our success. We need to find the best way to gathering around the proverbial water cooler.

We’ve seen that remote work calls for additional skills development and communication techniques. We’ve learned that further innovation is needed to make remote work more productive and engaging. We question: How do we re-engineer in-person activities? Is this a chance to create new work models and facilities that enhance the focus on relationship building, learning and engagement when we do come together?  I believe there is tremendous opportunity for innovation here as well.

When OneGroup built its new building, we wanted to create a truly innovative space that facilitated teamwork, collaboration, innovative thought, engagement, and holistic solutions.  Not just for our employees, but for our clients, our partners, and our communities.  The innovative workspaces allow teams to collaborate to ask better questions. It facilitates diverse groups of our employees, vendors and our community coming together.

One of my favorite parts of that journey was taking a group of employees to the Herman Miller design studio in Michigan where they explained, demonstrated, and lived the concept of deconstructing the office.  They asked these questions (and many more): What is the true use of the space? What is the impact on human psychology in that space? How will it enhance the users’ objectives?

They realized that an office was meant to be highly functional for everyone.  Their model defines several types of work, yet 80% of an employee’s time is spent doing just one of these.  They showed us that you can build your primary space for the 80% of work and build other spaces in the building that fit your other types of work—to build in flexibility and creativity. To see some of this in action you can go to www.hermanmiller.com/stories/why-magazine/.

In the end, the journey to learn and open our minds to new ways of working was as valuable for our culture as the final construction of our new facility. We learned there is real power in teams. They are more impactful in quickly bringing solutions, and they create a more rewarding experience for our team members. The process—although we had no idea at the time—also prepared us to easily transition to remote and safe in-office work while not missing a beat in serving our many clients.

I think the quest for the hybrid work environment follows the same thought process: deconstruct the workplace and perhaps even the total work concept. As CEO’s it provides a great opportunity to ask better questions and to collaborate with each other, our employees, our partners, and our communities. Every organization is different and will want to develop their own specific solutions, but our challenges are remarkably similar. We share business fundamentals that can be applied in each of our organizations. I see this as a tremendous opportunity for each of us to take our organizations to a higher level.