My guest on this episode is Mia Jackson. Prior to searching and acquiring her health care supply business, Vital Care Industries, Mia worked in consulting, engineering and supply chains, a friend’s start-up for a time, and received her MBA and Masters of Science in Engineering Management from Northwestern. She brought a ton of great experience into her search business and we talk about how impactful that was in being a CEO for the first time. I haven’t had too many health care entrepreneurs on the show so we also spend some time diving into Vital Care’s product line and where it fits in a hospital setting. I found this part fascinating and I think you will too.
During our conversation, we also discuss her passion for health care, supply chains, and going paperless, how she wants her company culture to evolve, how she motivates her team, and how she helps team members advance in their careers and their ongoing education. This was such a fun episode and Mia’s energy is impossible to ignore, I hope you enjoy the episode!
Live Oak Bank – Live Oak Bank is a seasoned SMB lender providing SBA and conventional financing for search funds, independent sponsors, private equity firms, and individuals looking to acquire lower middle market companies. Live Oak has closed billions of dollars in SBA financing and is actively looking to help more small company investors across the country. If you are in the process of acquiring a company or thinking about starting a search, contact Lisa Forrest or Heather Endresen directly to start a conversation or go to www.liveoakbank.com/think.
Hood & Strong, LLP – Hood & Strong is a CPA firm with a long history of working with search funds and private equity firms on diligence, assurance, tax services, and more. Hood & Strong is highly skilled in working with search funds, providing quality of earnings and due diligence services during the search, along with assurance and tax services post-acquisition. They offer a unique way to approach acquisition diligence and manage costs effectively. To learn more about how Hood & Strong can help your search, acquisition, and beyond, please email one of their partners Jerry Zhou at [email protected].
Oberle Risk Strategies– Oberle is the leading specialty insurance brokerage catering to search funds and the broader ETA community, providing complimentary due diligence assessments of the target company’s commercial insurance and Employee benefits programs. Over the past decade, August Felker and his team have engaged with hundreds of searchers to provide due diligence and ultimately place the most competitive insurance program at closing. Given August’s experience as a searcher himself, he and his team understand all that goes into buying a business and pride themselves on making the insurance portion of closing seamless and hassle-free.
My guest on this episode is Mia Jackson. Prior to searching and acquiring her health care supply business, Vital Care Industries, Mia worked consulting engineering and supply chains, a friend startup for a time, and received her MBA and masters of science and engineering management from Northwestern. She brought a ton of great experience into her search business, and we talk about how impactful that was being a CEO for the first time.
I haven’t had too many healthcare entrepreneurs on the show. So we also spend some time diving into Vital Care’s product line and where it fits in a hospital setting. I found this part fascinating, and I think you will too. During our conversation, we also discuss her passion for health care supply chains and going paperless, how she wants her company culture to evolve, how she motivates her team, and how she helps team members advance in their careers and their ongoing education.
This was such a fun episode and Mia’s energy is impossible to ignore. I hope you enjoy it.
Good to see you, Mia. Thanks for coming on the podcast to be here. It’s exciting to chat with you about your search fund days and working with Broadtree and Vital Care Industries. And you’ve worked at consulting and startups before. Ton of operating experience prior to being a searcher. So I’m excited to dive into all of it.
Can you give us the quick background on how you got to where you are?
Yeah, so originally from Los Angeles, so I went to UCLA, undergrad at a chemical engineering degree, actually a biomedical engineering degree. I have to always say that now because I’m in healthcare. So it makes me seem more legitimate. I moved to Atlanta and actually started working and operations development program.
So that’s where I kind of started to really hone my skills in maturational improvements. Continuous improvement, supply chain, strategy management subsequently went to another company focusing on supply chain management as well. Then I went to business school at Kellogg. I did a dual degree there. Got an MBA and master’s in engineering management. They have a triple M program. So allowed me to do two, two degrees with the price of one and for the same amount of time. But it was really there where I was able to kind of take the business part and the business acumen. I had started doing some things prior to my prior role and I was able to match the two together of like, oh, all that stuff I was struggling to understand before now I understand it makes sense. Now I have frameworks.
And so thereafter I joined a consulting firm. I did consulting with that firm for a little over three years, and then I actually moved back to California where I’m from and had an opportunity to do a startup. Me and one of my good friends, we did a studying on standby, a beauty on demand, beauty services, great experience.
We didn’t get to fully launch for a number of reasons, but it was one of those experiences where you say, Hey, I think that can do this entrepreneurial thing. I’d always thought about it has always been kind of part of who I am, but it was really that first really taking an idea and creating the structure around it was pretty cool.
And then subsequently started my own consulting firm. I did that for another five years or so, and then joined Broadtree in 2018. So through the search process, When you first start, you decide you want to do search. You just start talking to a lot of people. I had been introduced to search back in, I think around 2012, like maybe a year out of business school as Kellogg wasn’t really – we had a finance course, Entrepreneurial Finance. And it was basically search, but with no title, that was one of my favorite classes. And it was taught by Steven Rogers at the time when he was at Kellogg. And it was about people buying businesses, how to evaluate the businesses. And that was something that also intrigued me.
So it wasn’t until after business school, a good friend of mine did a search and was like, you should do it. You have more operations experience than I do. And I was like, no, I think I need more experience. And so fast forward almost, I guess, seven years, eight years later, I actually decided that it’s time for me to do this search thing. And I was really excited and it’s going to raise my own fund, but I got connected with Broadtree and Zach and Jason, and really just kind of loved their energy, love them the whole program and how it was structured. And it was almost by Kellogg. I’m searching with the car. I used to do everything with a cohort. We’re a steady group at Kellogg for every class. So I know it’s a proven model when you can do things in a group and be effective.
And so I was really to do that, by joining Broadtree in 18, literally got an offer. I remember Memorial day weekend and I had to be in Atlanta. I was living in DC at the time in my 30 days by July 1st, and it was May 31st, but it was exciting that the opportunity to start to broad Broadtree and I closed about two and a half years after starting, but I obviously when under LOI a little under two years, so I like to make that designation because everybody talks about searching in two years. And there’s some hats we have this arbitrary deadline of two years is the magical amount of time. So you kind of have this, have you failed or not? If you found a company in two years, but that’s a long winded answer of kind of how I’ve gotten here. So my company that I acquired is called vital care industries, medical surgical supplies company in Chicago.
So I actually moved from Atlanta to Chicago in about a month or so before I closed in November of last year.
So what kinds of surgical supplies are they like towels or masks or needles of some kind? Like, what does that look like?
I always give this example. If you’ve ever had a knee surgery or hip surgery, you’re living in for hip surgery, but if you’ve ever had a surgical procedure, orthopedic surgery, there’s a CRM that’s in the operating room and it takes continuous images of that particular area. And so just like a patient in order to maintain a sterile field, the patient has to be covered. And the equipment in the operating room also has to be covered. So we manufacture and distribute equipment covers as our main product line.
And so. We make CRM drapes and other drapes for the operating room. We also do probe covers and things of that nature. In addition to that, we think about all the liquids that come out of the body, doing a procedure, they go into the suction canister and you can’t transport liquid biohazard waste.
So we sell a product called solidifier – absolute solidifier, and there’s an option with a treatment as well. You put it in the suction canister, it dissolves and kind of jellifies the liquid waste. And then from there you can actually throw it in the regular landfill waste. So that’s provides a great opportunity and benefit from a sustainability standpoint for a lot of hospitals to not have to do red back waste. We also have a dissolvable pouch option so there is no contact. It’s almost a closed loop system for the healthcare workers. So you’re keeping the healthcare workers safe and you’re keeping the patients safe. And so then we also have sterilization packaging and dusting cart covers are our four kind of main carrier.
Gotcha. Can you walk through the difference between you mentioned a red bag waste and then normal waste. So how is each handled and what typically goes in each bag?
You mentioned like needles before. So think about anything that has any bodily fluids or even medicines or anything like that, that could be a biohazard to anyone. That has to go on a red bag waste. So like, if you have a, I don’t know if you’ve seen the container where people put in the needles, it has like a sign and it’s red and it has a sign called biohazard. So think about anything that comes out of the body because you don’t know that different people have different diseases and things of that nature, especially heightened with COVID. You want to make sure that you’re not transmitting disease.
And since, uh, landfill waste seeps into the ground and things of that nature. So you don’t want to put anything that’s hazardous. So biohazard waste has to be specifically treated and disposed of in a certain process. There’s a regulated process for that. And so you have to have a particular company come and pick up that biohazardous waste. And that cost of that is significantly more than obviously having the regular janitor of the hospital pick up the white bag waste is what we call it. And that’s just the regular waste you would throw a soda in and they’re able to have the treated absolute solidifier utilize that and throw that into a regular white bag waste. And that’s because of treatment. I think about like chlorine. It’s able to kill all the pathogens and viruses and everything. So there is nothing left living, so to speak, to be able to cause any issues with any downstream processing.
Can you break down how red bag waste is disposed of? Like, what does that process look like?
I don’t know the details. I know that there’s probably a good area to look into, but there’s specific companies that are designed to be able to pick up and process that red bag waste. There’s a whole kind of industry and regulation around it. I don’t have the exact details. Obviously because you have a third party, that’s has a high level of standards. It costs a lot more than obviously the regular waste management people coming to pick up your trash.
And you mentioned your dissolvable packets that are used with bodily fluids. Did you mention that they have chlorine in them to sterilize them as well?
I just used the concept of coloring. They have a treatment and it does something similar where it is able to kill the virus and pathogens, which allow that, which was bodily fluids, considered a biohazard waste, to now be treated as a regular white bag.
Gotcha. Gotcha. Thanks for diving into that. That’s fascinating.
I don’t remember if it was when I first joined or actually I think it was in diligence and I got, it was like a science experiment. You got to see filling it up with water and then putting the dissolvable pouch and just kind of seeing it quickly dissolve and jellify is a really cool experience. That’s always fun to share it at cocktail parties. No kidding. But yeah, it’s a pretty cool product that we have and yeah. As we kind of share that more with more hospitals, there’s two benefits. The traditional use of the product is in a bottle. And so the health care worker has to open the bottle and it’s small granules and they pour it into the section cup or in some cases, especially for different places, they will pour it in the trash or they’ll pour it in different places. Wherever there’s liquid that forms you don’t want to think about at home. You pull up your trash and you have liquid at the bottom is going to leak through the bag sometimes.
So they use it everywhere, but we like the dissolvable patches, especially in the surgery setting is because it’s suction canisters. There, you can put it in beforehand, and then everything that comes in, as long as you have the right measurement, it will solidify it as it goes through the procedure. And during that process it’s also treating it as well. And from a cleanup standpoint, one of the things that I’m learning as I am new to vital care is the most profitable time in a hospital is when they’re doing a surgery, you think about that. And so that’s why COVID was so impactful to hospitals.
So you always want to be able to do a surgery. And so you want to minimize that time between surgeries. So utilizing our solidifier properly allows you to minimize that cleanup time that it takes to clean up from one surgery and set up for another. You want to condense that time so you can spend more time doing surgery. And saving a minute or two here or there definitely makes a huge difference.
Do these packs go bad? Like, could you have a ton of them shipped to a hospital and they sit there for three months as they’re used? Or is it something that you need to manage the logistics of and get them delivered in a pretty timely fashion?
Yeah, we actually don’t have a formal expiration date. It’s a chemical reaction. So it just, it doesn’t go bad or anything like that. And so hospitals are able to, they don’t have to worry about the expiration of their solidifier or anything like that.
That’s awesome. It sounds like the perfect business for you given your past experience in supply chains, how helpful was that coming into this space?
Very very helpful. One of the cool things is I’ve always had a passion for healthcare, biomedical engineering degree, and I wanted to be a doctor at a point in time. And that’s why I did the biomedical engineering. I actually recruited for healthcare. And so I’ve always had a passion for it. And Vital Care has allowed me to kind of explore that passion and to jump right in, but also brass tax. It’s a manufacturing and distribution company, and that is my expertise. So I was able to kind of marry the two together. And it’s just interesting how, like in life, everything has just, all the pieces have built and come together. And so we do have manufacturing facility in Southeast Asia. We also have a facility in Arizona that is light manufacturing, and then we have a sister facility in Mexico. So the supply chain experience that I’ve had has come in handy, especially now that we’re dealing with local supply chain prices. There’s a limited number of containers, limited number of chassis and real availability that has come out of those things. And so that has been helpful as we navigate these kind of uncertain times, but also on top of that, just to optimize the supply chain.
In my particular case, I purchased almost like three companies and put them together as technically just two entities.
The two companies weren’t integrated at all. So I was able to put those together and, and doing that, creating more complex supply chain, but making sure that we have been working over the last six to eight months to really streamline that and to ensure that that becomes one of our competitive things.
It sounds like you have a lot of, of course, passion, like you described for healthcare and supply chains. And passion is an interesting topic and search because there’s the sense that, or the idea that an entrepreneur who’s passionate about a business will ideally have a better odds of success. Cause there’ll be more likely to work harder on the business, even when it’s not super helpful or it’s not very nice time for them in the business. So can you describe me a few experiences where your passion for healthcare and supply chains helped kind of push through maybe rougher times in the business early on?
The healthcare business, in most cases, in a lot of cases, in order for someone to have their surgery, they need our product. And so as we deal with the supply challenges, that’s important. You want to make sure that you’re able to solve these problems so people can have their surgery, making sure they’re getting their product when they need it. And so I think when you think about my mom has had a knee surgery, my dad, before he passed, had a hip surgery, I know how important those things are, how much in pain people are and how it’s crazy, the miraculous the day after their surgery, they’re walking around and they say, Hey, this is nothing compared to what I was dealing with before.
So I know that the value and the benefit and the impact, it can have to people having new surgeries. And so knowing that does kind of keep you motivated, keep you going. And knowing that you actually are in a small little way, you’re helping improve someone’s life.
What things happened in the first few months with your business that you least expected?
Definitely the kind of bottoming out of the global supply chain. I think that we weren’t expecting there would be so much of a overload of the LA ports and it’s almost like a spaghetti. You really couldn’t – there was so many things happening at the same time where usually a container would sit at the port for three days, maybe five days, crazy if it’s seven days, and they were sitting at the port for 40 plus days, still happens now, it hasn’t changed that much. We have a bit of a lull and then it’s kind of spiked back up. And it’s one of those things. I think that really surprised me the most, but is the most challenging is because I can’t go to the LA port and move my container there.
Other manufacturers that are truly in the times, my size are dealing with the same challenges and you’re just kind of handicapped and you just kind of – it’s out of your control. And so you’d have to manage the customer communications, try to be as transparent as you can, and try to provide as many options. And then on our end working internally to figure out, Hey, we have Southeast Asia – we’re getting a lot of our product. How can we leverage our affiliation with our Mexico facility? What can we do? Because we have the Arizona facility, we can have a sterilization partner. How can we leverage those things to be able to pivot slightly in order to be able to deliver the product to our customers? And sometimes that’s not always so transparent to the customer. Obviously they want their product and they want it now. But figuring out how can we be creative to be able to meet demand happened almost like week two of coming on board.
So navigating that ever since then, you mentioned earlier that there were effectively three businesses and you’d combine two of them fairly quickly. Can you describe the integration process for bringing those two companies together?W
We’re still in that process. The complexity, especially when you’re dealing with foreign entities, is pretty high. And so the previous owners had the kind of main company in Illinois that was Vital Care Industries, Inc. And they had acquired another company back in 2016, Cotton Medical Technique. And that company manufactured the Mexico facility and microscope drapes. And so microscope drapes are similar to – I’m thinking about when you have eye surgery using a microscope in the operating room that also needs to be covered. And so it was a perfect kind of fit from a product standpoint into the portfolio.
However, the company was never fully integrated. They maintained separate books, separate customers, separate everything. So even purchasing the company, you’re getting two companies that are standalone, basically. And then in addition to that, we purchased the manufacturing facility in Southeast Asia, which is now a third entity running on its own accounting processes, and just kind of, when you think about just overall employees, They’ve been running autonomously for so long. They have to adjust to that as well. And these new processes, this new structure, there is more accountability that needs to happen. There needs to be more transparency. And so we always start with the financials and the accounting. So we’ve been working to integrate that. And so we can be able to easily have consolidated financials.
In addition to that kind of – in parallel – is how do you streamline the supply chain? And again, this is going to be a continuous effort as we have gained more capabilities and more insight. And as we navigate COVID and all the other stuff, challenges with the port and things of that nature.
But yeah, so it was, and has been very interesting to be able to put these companies together and to integrate them. I think we’re going to be integrating so to speak, quote unquote for the next, probably additional six months, six to 12 months or so, just because there’s so much complexity and so many different layers that you have to bring in from a people standpoint to processes, standpoint systems, all of that has to be integrated in, and you have to understand the details of it before you can fully integrate. It’s been fun.
Yeah. Certainly one other thing we talked about was management cultures, and I’d be curious to hear a little bit more of, as you make this company truly your own, and it starts to look the way you envisioned and you’re on a nice growth path. What do you want your culture to look like?
Really really good question for me. I want it to be a performance culture. One of the things that I am now very known for my organization is to let data drive our decisions and to really utilize that. So we can be the most informed. In addition to that. I think utilizing data empowers employees at all levels to make decisions. So it’s not just me breaking down orders, but really allowing my management team to say, Hey, this is what we’ve seen. This is what we reviewed. And I am bringing to you a potential solution. So that’s the ideal. I would like that to happen. We’re not quite there yet, but the team is definitely growing. They’re starting to understand that in order for us to drive change, for us to grow, we need to utilize data to do that. We need to know where we’ve been and how we’re going to get there, and we need to have a plan to do it. So I think that’s the type of culture that I am hoping to be able to instill.
And in the process of instilling, I’ve been able to see the benefits. I’ve been able to see how my employees are excited to really own their area and to have that level of responsibility. And for me to push them, to be able to make their decisions and not always have to say, Hey, what do you think? For me to be able to say, Hey, that’s a great idea.
You should go do it. Let me know how it goes. And have that balance. So that’s my goal. I really want to empower my employees to make effective decisions, to teach them how to do that and ensure that we have a continuous improvement culture as well. We stay stagnant, we’re going to be behind. So we have to always be on all levels of the organization in all areas, figure out ways to, how can we do this better? How can we do this more efficiently? How can we do this with less money?
And I think I am instilling that in my employees of how we approach problems, having approached things, to be able to know that, Hey, there may be a better way. And they, because they’ve been working here a lot longer than I have, they probably know a better way because they’re doing a work around. When I first came in to actually listen and find where there’s some really pain points people were having, and to kind of address those as quickly as I could – simple things about providing laptops for key employees, for them to have some flexibility.
Also as a deterrent, if anyone got COVID, they can work from home doing that, or my inventory manager, she was doing things so manually. And so we invested into a upgrader addition to our current Sage platform for her to be able to do purchase a lot more efficiently and to inform our overall sales and operations process planning process. So identifying those things are quick wins and they may cost a lot, but they go a long way.
Yeah, certainly. I love that. The idea of using data to empower employees, especially the inventory example. Did they have to just count inventory manually at the time? Or what did that look like?
No. So in this case she was doing more of the purchasing side. So she’s a purchasing coordinator. She’s also as in charge of inventory management. So in order to do that, she was interestingly enough, downloading something, printing something out from our safe system, and then hand typing things into Excel in order for her to do her analysis. And so finding a system that would do that for her and actually recommend what different based on safety stock release, statistically based forecasting demand, what she should actually be buying.
And so we’re definitely more informed and utilizing technology to make sure that our inventory levels are at the right place, to make sure that we’re not overbuying or under buying, and taking what used to be a manual process and take her a long time – it’s just now she needs to review what the PO should be. And now she can cut off all that time that she was doing. Something that the old company, the sellers, they had started a process of actually implementing a process for automating the picking process. And so we’re in the process of finishing that up now. So that would also be something that the previous company had started, but it allows us to be much more efficient, reduce errors and little things like that. I think once you know that you can reduce your errors and you know, that you can make sure that you’re more effectively servicing your customer.
It sounds like data’s been pretty effective and empowering employees. I’m curious. What other means do you like to use or want to use more of to motivate your team?
I have an open door policy to make an effort to meet with a lot of my key employees on a weekly basis or biweekly basis. And it’s also just a level of curiosity. Like one of the things I wish I would have had, I had more time to sit with more people and pick more product in the warehouse and sit with my customer service people more. And I hope to do that in the future, but understanding what each of the employees are doing and really have a listening party.
I think another thing I think that was really helpful is I think within the first three or four weeks, I had a kind of strategy session with key employees of the company at all levels. Basically, they got to express what they felt Vital Care stood for, so from there we had using stickies, we were able to come together and define a mission statement, a vision statement for the company. And then on top of that, we did a SWOT analysis. And from there, I have used that as the basis of my three-year strategic plan. And I think having employees involved because ultimately they are what you need in order to grow a company. You can’t do it by yourself. I can’t will things to be. They’re knowledgeable, they know their jobs, they know the industry. And so it is about leveraging that and empowering. To utilize what they already know to make effective decisions and to help us contribute to our growth.
I love the idea of walking around to different parts of your business. How might you do that? Do you think you’d have like one day, every other week where you just bookmark down in your calendar, as I’m going to go see five different people throughout my company and see what they’re working on and ask them questions. Like, how might you arrange that and what needs to happen before you can do more?
I try to do it informally now, but definitely you have to set aside time. So I did that in the beginning, but I think definitely setting aside the whole day is not really realistic. So kind of what’s two hours here that I’m going to spend with each of my customer service people or for me going out and spending some time with our outside sales team, doing some retinols and things of that nature. So really just putting it on a calendar and scheduling is what I need to do. So you just gave me a reminder, but yeah, putting it on the calendar, holding that space, holding that time is important as well.
What have been some of the most interesting pieces of feedback or advice that you’ve gotten from your team on improving the company or different ways of doing whatever processes they’re involved in?
I like to utilize technology. I like to be efficient. I also am very environmentally conscious. This is coming from California. So one of the things that I was just surprised of how the company was very manual and they utilize a lot of paper. One of the things that I wanted to be able to do is figure out ways to minimize the use of paper throughout the process. A lot of the ideas and changes didn’t come from me. It came from the individuals working there and they figured out what the new process should look like. And in some cases starting to implement it before I gave the okay.
But they had figured out that process and we took one step forward and then eventually we’ll revisit it and improve it.
But that goes back to that continuous improvement. We need to take one step and say, Hey, we make sure that we have the backups in place for technology. So just simple scanning of documents instead of having the pieces of paper in house and we ever had to send it to anyone, we usually scan it anyway. So we don’t have to mail a piece of paper.
Being able to take that has just been a small thing again, provided a cultural change. And that wasn’t driven by me. The idea of reducing paper was driven by me, but how we did it was driven by the employees. I thought it was going to be more of me having to map out the process and do all these things. And I realized that I had to empower my employees. So I asked them to do those things and they came up with the ideas and the solutions of where we are now. And there’s still some opportunity areas.
Were all of the solutions, they came up with software to do certain things, or there are certain processes that just, they eliminated it entirely, or I’d love to hear more about that.
Yeah. It was really simple stuff. So we have invoices and pick tickets and things of that nature, kind of a packet for every transaction, basically every order, instead of putting that together and putting it in a file cabinet, we’re just going to scan it. It sounds really simple, but we’re going to scan it. And I wanted them to make sure that they thought about – don’t just scan it. We have to go look for, make sure that we are doing it in a way that when we go and look for information, it would be easy to find.
So, yeah, made sure they thought about that process. We have file clerks that their whole job was to file, and now their job is to scan, scan and rename files. So we can effectively be able to go look them up.
I love it. I’m a huge paperless nerd, the wealth management firm I worked for, I think got annoyed at me because I saw their huge filing cabinet of client files. And I remember spending several days just ripping things out and shredding, absolutely everything I possibly could. Do you give us a sense for how much paper you were using and then how much, because there’s an element of going forward. We don’t want to use paper, but we also have a lot of historical documents that are in paper. How much of that do we spend our time digitizing versus just saying from here on out, we’re just not going to use paper and we’re not going to worry about past documents?
So that is actually the current conundrum that I’m trying to figure out right now. So we’ve obviously for this year, actually February, March of this year, we’ve kind of gone forward. And so I have the team going back of what’s in the file cabinets now, which is really from January to February, into February, early March, going in and scanning and doing it in the same process. So we definitely need to go back and everything needs to be the same for this year, but prior years – we literally have going back to – they kept great records, the sellers, they have a skid for every year. That’s probably about it. Maybe nine to 12 boxes on each skid that’s wrapped and it has a date every year.
And so in my warehouse, I have a big section of paper and I’m working with the sellers now to define how far back do we want to still hold the paper? Do we want to have somebody come scan it? Is it worth that? And what do we just need to shred? Have somebody just come and take it and shred it? Working through that now actually, ironically. They used to talk about that, but yes, we think about like every invoice, every transaction, every order that somebody, whether it’s one case, a product or 200 cases of product, that order has three or four pieces of paper that are tied to it and is put in a file cabinet eventually put in a box and is on a shelf in my warehouse.
So as we grow that real estate is really important, we could put a product on there. And so we are working as we implement the new software for picking scan code process. We need to find a new home, whether it be a shredder or a scan or both for some of that paper.
I love that. I love getting rid of paper. It’s fantastic in various settings. One other topic we discussed was advancing the careers and education of your team. How do you think through offering different team members advancement both in their career in the company, but also just ongoing education? How do you start to structure that?
So one of the great things – two things. So we utilize paychecks and they have a great performance management process. And so we’ve been starting to utilize that now. So the idea is everyone has a review. Everyone knows where they’re at. The management, their supervisor, is supposed to identify where your opportunity areas are and what are your goals and how can we help you get there? How can we help you improve? How can we help you achieve your goals? So you have that part of the management coming out of the performance review process.
In addition to that in parallel creating for every role – having a list of what are the key competencies and skills you need to be effective in that role. And for someone to do a self-assessment and say, Hey, this is where I think I am. And then having the supervisor say, Hey, this is where I think you are. And then that also creates another dialogue of – effective communication is what you need to be a good customer service person. And you need to have effective communication in written and verbal. And you can say, Hey, you’re really good at written, but Hey, you have an opportunity area in verbal. And whether it’s taking, being part of Toastmasters or whatever it is, or in a lot of cases, I talked about data before. And so we’re working to do something internal to really empower employees, to be able to effectively use Excel.
You’d be surprised, but like I had to learn it on my own. It’s not something I learned in, there was a couple of classes in business school, but you had an expectation that you had already learned it. And it was just, thankfully I had a crazy role before business school that I had to do scenario planning and all of that, that I really honed my skills.
And then as a consultant, I took it to the next level. And that already has that ability, that exposure. So something as simple as Excel classes and best practice sharing. Because there’s people at various different levels.
I love that you use the word, you have an opportunity in this area to improve your skills, rather than you are just not good at this area and scale that I’d love that framing. What are some other ways that you use that framing to encourage employees? If they’re not good at something, giving them the positive outlook. Yes, we can get better at this. This can become a strength for you, and here’s how you can do it.
It just caused me to laugh because my VP of sales, that’s what she says all the time. I can, if we ever have an issue or a problem, she comes to me and she says, we have an opportunity. So I know what that means, but yeah, I think it’s – words are important. How you frame things are important. They’re both important in your private life and your personal life and in your professional life, things happen. You’re never going to be perfect. There’s going to be things out of your control. Let’s figure out how to manage our way through and create structure and processes in order to mitigate the risk and the exposure. And so when there is something that goes wrong or there is, you notice an issue, you notice all the paper, it’s an opportunity area, right.
And it’s opportunity for you to figure out a solution. Opportunity for you to grow your skillset, an opportunity for you to learn something. If you make a mistake, the opportunity for you to learn how to never make that mistake again. So I’ve used it in every aspect of our company, both on the professional development side and just the process side in general, we’re always looking for opportunities to be better.
And if you take that mindset in, you apply it to your person and you apply it to what you do on a daily basis. Because a lot of us do stuff that’s, we’ve been doing for whatever reason, just because it’s the daily routine. And like, it’s just an annoying thing we do sometimes. I don’t know why we do it and it takes us an hour to do it.
And we realize it. What about if I just did this? And I would say, What about if I positioned this or put this on my calendar, like finding ways to I’m a big continuous improvement person, Lean Six Sigma. All of that is my background. So I am always looking for opportunities to improve something. But one thing that I did learn is that you can’t do it all at once. And you have to do it piecemeal, right. And you have to get buy-in from people I could go in and create, like you hinted before, like some type of automated process that does all those things. You go from paper to some type of automated process, but I don’t think we were ready for that. We just needed to go from one step to another. Take the paper and scan it on the copier. Just like, let’s do that. So we know where it is. If we never need it, we can still print it out. Things of that nature. So understanding that you have to do stuff well.
I love that. And speaking of education and continuous improvement, what college class would you teach if it could be about any subject you wanted?
I had this quirky. I think it would be a combination of utilizing data and presentation. So I like PowerPoint. And if I had even more time, I’d probably make really elaborate PowerPoint. I like to really figure it out about how to effectively convey something in a visual direct way. And so I actually enjoy creating board slides. I’m one of those crazy people, but I think in order to do that, the other piece that supersedes it is the analysis. Being able to understand what you’re presenting and having the tools to say, I’m trying to talk about how we’re going to go our customer base. I got to know where we are. I have to have the data and then I have to have the market analysis to figure out what’s even possible.
And so you can have all those things and still the board is like, I don’t know what you’re trying to do or any other person on the other side. So I think I would do a class that kind of is a hybrid between data analytics and PowerPoint building and storytelling, because that’s basically what a PowerPoint is. It says telling a story.
What strongly held belief have you changed your mind on?
That everything is not going to be perfect. I think a couple of things. So like, I think sometimes you have to just get it to 85, 90%. And keep it going and you’ll spend so much time trying to go that last 15%. So knowing where to be precise and knowing what’s going to be good and that being okay. And with the perfectionism in me – you want to get to the three significant digits.
I’ve been thinking about, even when you’re doing certain things, you’re rounding up. So you spend so much time. You think you want to make sure everything triangulate to this, right. Obviously, but it doesn’t spend so much time where you’re trying to go to the nth degree and you can tell the same story. So using perfectionism to kind of go too far. I mean, one other thing, I think that’s significant. There is a mindset shift of either in my case, being a manager before individual contributor, you realize that you have to let it go. You can’t do everything as a CEO, I can’t do APAR. And also run the Salesforce. That is why you have to build a management team. And that’s something that you should also think about as you are looking at companies, where are their holes, and really understand that and really have a good plan to address them.
And I think understanding that I have to put the right people in place, or I have to leverage the people that are there to be able to do the things that they need to do at that level. That will give me the time to effectively be able to guide the company from a strategic standpoint. So really learning early on that I had to be less tactical, instill in my employees to utilize these techniques, but also elevate and be more strategic.
I like it. What’s the best business you’ve ever seen?
So I laughed when I saw this question because it’s so hard. I think why answering this question is so hard is because not that I’m negative Nancy or anything like that, but I’ve been a consultant. And even through search, you just are seeing, I am like built to evaluate a company and built to like tear it apart.
And so not to avoid answering your question, but I don’t have – like every company, whether it’s big or small, they always have their challenges. And I think they have some companies do certain things well, I think how I’ve seen another companies that have engaged their employee base, they do that effectively, or how they’ve been able to really create a good finance and accounting team.
But I haven’t found a company that I would say is run so well. Because I guess it’s the consultant in me – once you look under the hood, you realize that it’s not, and the smaller is probably the crazier it is. So that to not answer your question, but I don’t think I have a good answer to that one.
Yep, totally fine. Thank you, Mia, for sharing a little bit of time and sharing your acquired wisdom through the podcast. I’ve appreciated getting to hear a little bit, I especially love the paperless part. That was really fun. So thanks for sharing this.
No problem. Well, thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Love talking about search and talking about Vital Care and excited about the future and what’s to come.
Prior to acquiring her health care supply business, Vital Care Industries, Mia worked in consulting, engineering and supply chains, and received her MBA and Masters of Science in Engineering Management from Northwestern.