ORLANDO, Fla. — My introduction to the 2015 Numotion meeting of ATPs and management personnel began with a slightly cryptic, very intriguing e-mail from Mark Miller, VP of marketing & strategic partnerships, the morning after I arrived.
His message: “10 a.m. at the Hard Rock Live at CityWalk,” referring to the restaurant/retail area outside Universal Studio’s two theme parks. Hard Rock Live is a large live-performance theater. But I’d been told Numotion’s meeting would take place at the Loews Royal Pacific, one of the Universal resort’s hotels. Why the change of venue?
Intrigue grew as the “water taxi” I boarded at the hotel approached Hard Rock Live: The theater had Numotion’s name on its marquee. When I walked up the Hard Rock steps and pulled the door open, a paraphrase of that old Rodney Dangerfield joke sprang to mind: I went to a seating & mobility conference, and a hockey game broke out….
As far as I could see — blue hockey jerseys. Each bore the number 1, with “Making It Personal” emblazoned across the shoulders and orange and blue Numotion logos across the bottom. The ATPs and Numotion managers wearing the jerseys were huddled in small groups, engrossed in conversation.
Thus my entry to a very different kind of event for the Numotion crew this year.
Not Your Average Sales Meeting
In fact, when I caught up via phone with Numotion CEO Mike Swinford after the early-February conference, he said the event was absolutely not designed to be business as usual.
“This wasn’t a sales meeting,” Swinford noted. “The meetings we’ve had in the past have been sales meetings; this was a leadership meeting. So we had all of our ATPs, 350-plus, but we also had all of the leaders and managers across the country.”
While typical leadership meetings often focus on a company’s executives, Swinford said, “I called it a leadership meeting because our ATPs are leaders. Whether or not they have direct reports, people look up to them, and they set the tone in our company. What they say or what they don’t say, when they’re excited, when they’re frustrated, whatever the case may be, they are highly influential in terms of setting the morale and the tone across the company. I view them as incredible leaders and clinical providers of services first and foremost, and of course, they drive a lot of our revenue and our sales.”
That focus on leadership during the event was critical, Swinford added. “So I think the subtle change of this meeting [to a] leadership conference versus just being our national sales meeting or our national education conference with our salespeople there, while it’s a subtle difference, I think it was met with open arms. I think the team at large was excited about how much we’re focused on leadership, not just leadership in the industry, but leadership within our company.”
Positively “Over the Top”
So what was the deal about the hockey jerseys? It turns out that ATPs started the day hearing from Jim Craig, goalie of the 1980 United States “Miracle on Ice” hockey team that beat a seemingly invincible Soviet Union team on the way to winning the Olympic gold medal.
Craig told Numotion attendees that the American team made up of college kids was able to beat the Soviets, who were much more experienced and had played together for years, because of teamwork and their dedication to each other.
After Craig finished his talk — each Numotion jersey bore his signature on the front — attendees transitioned to an activity with teamwork at its core. ATPs and Numotion executives were divided into teams, and in the standing-room section of Hard Rock Live were given assignments: To build wheelchairs based on unique specifications they were provided. Teams had to “earn” various seating & positioning components through teamwork activities, then work together to assemble the chairs.
Thus the scrums of hockey jerseys I’d encountered.
At the end of the activity, teams gathered to show off the chairs they’d built, and then were given the big reveal: The chairs were actually donations that would be shipped to Bethel Ministries International’s wheelchair distribution center in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. A group of volunteer that includes Numotion ATPs would travel along so they could dial-in the final fittings on site for each recipient.
Attendees roared with approval in one of the many moments that showed how this meeting raised the bar.
“Everything we did, we tried to come over the top and personalize the experience, [starting with] handwritten notes that we put in every one of our participants’ rooms,” Swinford said.
“Making It Personal” was the theme of the meeting and was evident at every turn.
“Some of our employees that are in chairs did a wheelchair users’ panel discussion in front of the entire group of participants, which was incredibly insightful, even to our 350 ATPs, who deal with people in chairs each and every day,” Swinford said. “It was incredibly eye opening in terms of the challenges that these individuals deal with. Just getting up in the morning and preparing to go to work is a three-hour journey and adventure that able-bodied people don’t have to deal with and can’t appreciate.”
In another session, Numotion board members opened up, sharing “different aspects of their personal lives and why they’re passionate about our business and our industry,” Swinford said. “We’re private equity owned, and we’ve got private equity partners who are passionate about what we do, why we do it, who we’re doing it for.”
The ultimate goal was not just to become more familiar with colleagues, but to demonstrate how personally invested individual members of Numotion are to the success of the entire organization and its many customers: referral sources, payors and end users.
“We made the board a very personal group of individuals that care deeply about our business and care deeply about our employees, and I think that was really the essence of the whole meeting, which was to energize people,” Swinford said.
“Certainly, we talked a lot about our strategy as well. We spent a lot of time personalizing our strategy so each and every participant could come away with a clear understanding of what we are focused on, where we are making investments, what the priorities are for our business — how we are going to accomplish those together?”
Making It Personal Every Day
Numotion was formed at the start of 2013 with the merger of ATG Rehab and United Seating & Mobility. Since then, it’s been full speed ahead, as the organization has acquired rehab technology companies and grown the last two years at a brisk pace while also undergoing management changes — Swinford, for example, was named the new CEO in late July.
So it would be understandable if all those changes were overwhelming to the ATPs and support staff trying to serve highly involved seating & wheeled mobility clients in the midst of that.
The vibe in Orlando, though, was anything but harried. The atmosphere at the meeting, whether at Hard Rock Live or in the expo hall, where ATPs viewed manufacturers’ latest and greatest complex rehab technology, was upbeat and relaxed. Colleagues laughed and chatted in small groups, lingering in the exhibit hall lobby or on the resort grounds long after formal activities ended for the day.
The all-encompassing sense of the event was, for lack of a more sophisticated word, happiness.
Swinford agreed, calling the event “a milestone for us in terms of establishing the right culture, the right direction forward, the vision. Everyone left incredibly energized. I’ve received over 200 personal hand-written notes or e-mails from participants saying in almost every case that it was the best meeting they’ve ever been at. They’re so excited to be a part of Numotion, to be a part of this industry. It was a big success.”
As for carrying that positive energy over to everyday operations, Swinford pointed out that in the few months after the event, he continued to visit Numotion branches and conduct town hall meetings. Executive meetings consist of not just checking financial numbers, but also employee satisfaction scores from ongoing surveys.
“We’re building an infrastructure of metrics, processes and just messaging that continually reinforces how good leadership and this theme of making it personal continues to be a priority,” Swinford says.
“Making it personal isn’t something you do in a meeting; it’s something you do every day. It’s leading by example. It’s making sure our leadership team understands the priorities of taking care of our people.”