Blood, Sweat, And A Few Tears: 6 Ways To Purposefully Use Sweat Equity To Enhance Value

By Nancy Newberry, CMAA, and Tom Schramski, PhD, CMAA

Volume 2 Issue 12, June 9, 2015

unnamedJust over 75 years ago, on May 13, 1940, Sir Winston Churchill gave his famous speech to the British Parliament that included the following:

“…I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.  We have before us an ordeal

of the most grievous kind…You ask what is our policy?  I will say:  It is to wage war by

sea, land, and air, with all our might…”

These were times of great unpredictability in the face of tyranny, so the response was understandable.

The metaphors of war (“battling ruthless competition”) pervade the modern marketplace and success often depends on a well-conceived plan that is implemented with disciplined effort and hard work.  Yet, today’s healthcare business executives can employ intelligent sweat equity to enhance value without exhausting themselves and perishing on the battlefield.  Here are some ways that respect the perceived urgency of your situation without exhausting your resources:

  • Revisit and update the vision for your company in as practical and specific a manner as possible. “Becoming a premier home health agency” is fine, but “becoming a $15 million home health organization with growing operations in x, y, and z counties in the next three years,” is far better for making the vision focused and inspiring.
  • Create and/or update a specific plan for your growth/diversification with specific accountabilities and timelines for key management.  Great plans are flexible, regularly updated, and transparent with dashboards so everyone can see and act on the available data.
  • Review all of your resources, especially those human, and make sure they are focused on the vision and the plan to attain the goal.  If they are, great, and if they are not, then have them refocused on the vision, not primarily on individual, personal aspirations.
  • Encourage experimentation and new ideas throughout your company, while rewarding ways to effectively and efficiently operate your business model while maintaining excellent service quality.  If someone comes up with a new idea that rankles the old guard, it always deserves consideration, even though it may be ultimately rejected or reshaped.
  • Ensure that IT and financial operations are focused on your vision and that the data processed enables everyone in the organization to achieve their goals and objectives.  How do you respond to the financial staff person who says, “we don’t provide that type of information in this department?”
  • Organize your executive behavior so you are the driver of the company vision and as if you were leaving the company in the near future.  Leaders who pursue this approach usually find that they discard several activities that seemed important, but lose their luster with careful examination.

Today’s healthcare marketplace is not the same as the battlefield of WWII and the language of global violence is not useful when we are dedicated to providing services and products that improve the lives of millions.  The rally of arms to fight a war for your organization is often short-lived and cannot be maintained in a world of instant communication.  Nor should it.

The real challenge is the sustainable effort that is required over many years for the value enhancement of most healthcare businesses.  Are you in it for the longer term?  If so, sweat equity becomes a precious resource that you want to employ wisely.