Mission Works
Trevor Price, Founder & CEO, Oxeon Holdings and Jacob Sack, Director, Oxeon Partners

Mission Works

If we’re not careful, our “recruiting shtick” for Landmark Health can roll off the tongue too easily. Too mindlessly. Too nonchalantly. A conversation with executives in the market usually goes something like this: “Yes…Landmark provides care for incredibly vulnerable patients, those with 6 or more co-morbidities…the frailest and most sick…compassion is most important…” And inevitably, later the conversation turns to “yes…they’re backed by a leading private equity firm… typically executive compensation is base, bonus, and equity… they have one of the best CEOs we know in the industry.” Then, there is an extended, pregnant pause as executives on the other end of the line process what they have just heard. This “double-bottom line” realization is a big deal.

Mission-driven health care companies are a big deal.

Landmark Health is driven by a clearly articulated company mission statement. In discussing their mission, Adam Boehler, CEO, shared “we are resolute in our delivery of high quality, comprehensive and compassionate care to individuals, wherever they reside and whenever they need it.” At Grand Rounds, there is a very palpable mission, but it’s more broad. Owen Tripp, CEO and Co-Founder of Grand Rounds, expressed a desire to “create a world where all patients can access expert medical advice to improve their lives.” Oxeon’s mission is to Make People Healthier, and everyone here embodies it on a daily basis.

While Grand Rounds is less explicit in its mission statement, don’t confuse a lack of packaging for lack of rigor. Before every meeting, the company shares a story about a patient, reinforcing why Grand Rounds exists. Sometimes it is an employee who conveys the experience. Sometimes an executive. Sometimes the company brings one of its patients to the meeting to explain how Grand Rounds helped them. In every meeting, the company mission is powerfully reaffirmed.

In a recent conversation, Owen shared:

“You have to ruthlessly uphold the mission, especially when the dollars get bigger, and you start enjoying more commercial success. When certain executives make decisions that may be viewed as practical and expedient in other companies, those same decisions may compromise mission at ours. Employees are watching. They watch to see if your personnel actions back up your words; if your sales decisions back up your words. It’s not enough to just launch with a great mission – you have to actively live and abide by it in all facets of the organization, every day and in every decision.”

By all indications, from the way the company conducts its business and to the demonstrable success they’ve enjoyed, the mission at Grand Rounds is fundamentally understood by every single person who goes to work there. An employee once hung up on Owen to answer a patient call. Now it’s common practice to cut internal meetings or conversations short to prioritize patients.

We asked Owen how the mission at Grand Rounds is embraced by the venture and private equity investors who sit on his Board of Directors. Our assumption was that most likely the mission at their institutional investment firms are divergent from the one present at Grand Rounds. Owen replied that “they are incredibly supportive of our Mission and the decisions we make… but I wonder whether that is because we have experienced great results from those decisions. I sometimes think whether it would be different if our results were different… less patience for mission-driven decision making. I find myself knowing that our results are BECAUSE of these decisions – they are inextricably linked and so I believe our investors will continue to be fully aligned with our mission and still fulfill their investment objectives.”

Mission Works. Why? Mission helps attract great people to your company and gives them a reason to care beyond the company’s financial performance. While mission attracts great people, it also gives them a decision-making framework that inspires them. It gives them something to go home feeling great about each night. (Side note: When Trevor’s kids were younger, they thought he was a doctor. He would go home, and they would ask – as little kids do – what Dad did that day. He would say “We made people healthier.” Ahhhhh, Dad’s a doctor! If you know Trevor, thank goodness that’s not the case…) Mission brings an entire organization together towards a common goal that is greater than any one individual, leading to an “engaged” workforce. This has been proven to lead to great companies that perform exceptionally well.

But a Mission has to be authentic. It can’t be mandated from the top, and it can’t exist to sell business. A well-conceived mission resonates because it works. And too often “bottom line” conversations are binary, leading to a distinction of whether the company is for-profit or non-profit. It’s the wrong question and a meaningless distinction. A company’s tax status doesn’t drive its potential impact. Rather, it is the mission, leaders, business plan, creativity, and culture that matter. In fact, not only does Mission matter, but a mission-orientation gives a company an opportunity to be truly disruptive – a chance to achieve that “double bottom line,” or in more relevant healthcare jargon, the “triple aim.”

As you saw (if not, watch this!), purpose and meaning are clear drivers for Adam at Landmark Health and are motivating factors for the entirety of their team. Landmark Health exists to provide better, in-home care to the most vulnerable of patients. It’s the reason a Nurse Practitioner responds to a 3 am house call; it’s the reason the technology and innovation teams travel to remote areas to test new telehealth products. It’s why client satisfaction and clinical outcomes are the most important criteria by which the executive team measures success. Net savings is a positive byproduct of this work, but more compelling is that Landmark is providing a fundamentally different—and more effective—clinical experience for patients.

At Oxeon, our mission to Make People Healthier was consciously conceived to be all-encompassing. That starts with us as individuals and as team members. This consciousness helps us identify, align and be part of our clients’ end goals rather than just fulfilling a discrete part of their needs. On Day One of our new employee training, as we orient our people around how to think beyond being a service provider, investor or entrepreneur, we examine our mission statement and how it serves to align the work we do. In a recent employee engagement survey, 100% of Oxeon employees indicated that they completely understood our mission and values, and strongly agreed that our company lives by them in all of our decision-making.

As we expand and incorporate new business lines and add new senior leadership, we’re working as hard as ever to keep our mission, our values, and our people at the center of what we do. We were recently given an opportunity to be deeply involved in a project that could have a substantial impact on patients who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The opportunity may negatively impact our operating income but profits did not factor into our decision to get involved. In fact, we consciously acknowledged the potential for loss and eagerly signed up to go forward in the name of our mission. While you are reading this article, 25% of our company is in a village in Guatemala delivering healthcare and building a clinic, all to Make People Healthier.

Mission enables us to do the “right thing,” even when it does not appear to be the “profitable thing.” These decisions empower us. Our employee engagement continues to grow, as we see in every quarterly culture survey. Applying our mission to every single person inside the company, to our clients and services, and to our investments and their objectives, is consistently aligning and empowering.

We call lots of health care leaders every year, and even if they’re not interested in the role or the idea we’re discussing, Oxeon’s mission resonates. Landmark Health’s mission resonates. Grand Rounds’ mission resonates. And it’s not just a catchy message up on the office wall. As companies like Landmark Health and Grand Rounds continue providing better care more cost-effectively, we all will continue to realize the power of Mission-driven companies, and most importantly patients will benefit from their care.

Trevor, the Founder and CEO of Oxeon Holdings, and Jacob, Director at Oxeon Partners, are committed to helping mission-driven healthcare leaders and executives build successful companies. Trevor, in his A.D.D-fueled existence as an entrepreneur, has started or turned-around 10 companies. It was only in this most recent chapter of his career, in starting Oxeon, that he fully discovered and realized the power of a Mission and Values driven organization. It is no coincidence that this chapter is the most enjoyable one to date. Jacob comes to Oxeon after working on the portfolio team at a national social venture philanthropy, and prior at a policy and research organization, committed to understanding what works to improve the lives of the most vulnerable kids and families. Trevor and Jacob are based in New York, NY.