Growth is the goal of every company. But growing successfully requires more than just increasing revenue and adding employees. As a company’s roster expands, how do you bring new employees into your company’s culture? How do you make them feel as relevant and valued as employees who’ve been with the company for decades?
It’s a question that’s particularly important for National Seating & Mobility (NSM), given the complex rehab technology provider’s expansive growth the last few years. By acquiring existing providers and opening new branch offices, NSM now has 123 locations across the United States and almost 1,600 employees total.
In some ways, adding employees was the easy part. Making them truly part of the NSM culture would take a different kind of effort.
A Constellation of Many Companies
Bill Mixon, NSM’s CEO, says that goal has been on his mind for a while. “I’m approaching four years (with NSM) and had been thinking a lot about the NSM brand because over the past three years in particular, we have become a constellation of many companies,” he told Mobility Management. “It’s like an extended family. So for a while I’d been thinking we needed to do something, as we’ve matured as an organization, to bring together this fantastic group of people.”
Among those new to NSM is Stephanie Buckley, VP of marketing, who joined the company in January 2017. “This brand development process has been going on since March ,” she said. “Internally, Bill said this was a unification of all the companies that had come under the NSM umbrella. That has a lot to do with culture. This process was really for us to understand not only what people on the outside thought about NSM, but also what our employees felt about NSM so we appropriately built a brand that reflected who we are.”
Rather than assume or guess at NSM’s reputation, the company hired brand experts and third-party researchers to guide a thoughtful discovery process involving phone interviews and online surveys from stakeholder groups, including clients, referral sources, employees and payors. In the end, NSM received feedback from almost 2,000 people across the spectrum of stakeholders. The process of collecting and analyzing the research took about three months.
“What came back,” Mixon said, “was that we are a trustworthy, open and honest company. We have a very strong reputation, and we’re perceived as not only being a leader in the industry, but that we have the best interests of our clients at heart. This resonated over and over again.”
Vision, Mission, Values
This was no small rebranding effort. NSM planned not just to create a new corporate logo, but also a new tagline, vision and mission statements, core values and all-new marketing materials.
“It was nice to see that how we felt about ourselves was affirmed by the research, but it also solidified in our minds the need to continue with the brand investment,” Mixon said. “We spent hours of executive time wordsmithing every word, every comma, every semicolon. We’re proud of the outcome. If you read those last couple of sentences in the vision statement — it’s powerful, I think.”
The vision statement, along with other rebranding information, can be read on nsmletsgetmoving.com, a microsite launched in concert with the brand redesign. The end of the vision statement Mixon referred to says, “We will never be satisfied until we have exceeded the expectations of those we serve in our quest to be a trusted partner. Breaking more barriers, impacting more lives. Taking us where we aspire to be, and our clients, where they deserve to go.”
Creating a new NSM logo also resulted in a great deal of discussion. The two-tone blue image combines two ideas: a wheelchair in motion on the top half of the graphic that also forms a lower-case “n” to represent the national scope of NSM. The bottom half of the logo depicts a person with uplifted arms, meant to reinforce NSM’s commitment to customers.
“Our new logo better represents the NSM of today.” Mixon said. “We chose to keep our core blue, and we feel the new logo is fresh and scalable. This brand redesign can carry us another 20 years.”
Those upcoming years for NSM will be about more than just complex rehab technology.
“We’re very excited about helping our clients in a new space in the world of home access,” Mixon said. “We’re up to 18 home access locations nationwide, and we see a real correlation between what we do in CRT with mobility and what we can do for our clients around home access. What you’ll see is that while all of our branding redesign work makes reference to mobility, we don’t reference wheelchairs. The brand is scalable to our strategy to help people better achieve mobility both ways — with wheelchairs, but also with the technology that we can bring into the home with home access.”
A New Energy
NSM has rolled out all-new marketing materials created with the new brand to celebrate the impact of mobility and independence. Many of the materials feature photography of NSM clients and ATPs.
“Because our clients are the center of everything we do, it made perfect sense to spotlight our clients, their families and ATPs and focus on telling their stories,” said Buckley.
The company also created a “core values coin” given to each employee. The coin features a heart, representing the new “HEARTS” acronym derived from NSM’s new core values: Honor, Excellence, Accountability, Respect, Teamwork and Service.
Rather than bulk mail the coins and materials to NSM branches, the company mailed a parcel to each employee’s home “so their spouses, their kids, their significant others, their families would see this package,” Mixon said. “It’s about our employees, it’s about our clients, but we also wanted our families who support our employees every day to know who we are, where we’re going as a company. We’ve gotten fantastic feedback from our employees, who appreciated the fact that we sent these packages on a personal level.
“We want their family members to know what they do, and how important our mission is to provide mobility solutions to those in need.”
Buckley said the work put into the brand redesign has paid off, judging from the early feedback.
“It’s been nice to see employees’ pride in the work we put in to better reflect them,” she noted. “I think they take this personally, and so do we. People are excited, and they’re renewed. It gives them new energy for the company and all the companies that have come together to make up NSM.”
Mixon said, “We’re up to almost 1,600 employees and continue to grow. Part of my job as CEO is to make sure we have the most outstanding culture and keep it oriented around the client. We care about what we do and work hard at it every day.
“We’re no longer a small company. But we have the ability to have a culture that allows us to operate with some of those smaller-company values. This branding process and the tools that have come out of it allow us to stay grounded and focused on the client and will carry us forward as we continue to grow.”