Ron Guziak | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ron Guziak

Background:  

Sun Health is Arizona’s largest, locally owned, senior independent living nonprofit. Sun Health champions healthy living and superior healthcare in the West Valley of metropolitan Phoenix.

The Mistake:

Not trusting my instincts.

I came into this job in 2009, right after the real estate debacle. Because I came from a different industry, I didn’t catch on to some problems as quickly as I otherwise might have. I didn’t realize how weak of a sales force we had for our senior-living product. I just went along with what we had. 

We decided to address our lack of results by hiring consultants, who used old, tired techniques and processes that really weren’t connecting with our new audiences. We tried to solve the problem, but we hired the wrong people.

My instincts told me it wasn’t the way to go, but the team thought these people could help us. They were using outdated, cookie-cutter practices for our industry. 

We ultimately turned things around by getting rid of the consultants. We then hired a new marketing and sales leader, and a new sales team. That became a more innovative approach to what we were trying to achieve. It greatly shortened the sales cycle.

We ultimately turned things around by getting rid of the consultants.

The Lesson:

Even though I was from a different industry, I saw that there was a weakness, but I didn’t quickly develop a successful solution. Along the way, we initiated a very strategic planning process, which the board bought into. We moved quickly and aggressively, and the company has grown a great deal since that time, based on that strategy. 

As opposed to the consultants, who were mainly outsourced, we brought in our own, in-house people. We did our own training and brought in people who could think differently about what we were trying to accomplish. Our sales cycle had been very long and we were able to shorten it significantly, which brought us into a better occupancy position.

We focused on stronger interpersonal relationships with interested prospects, as opposed to throwing out the broadest possible net and capturing everybody that fell into it. It was a more focused effort toward identifying qualified people who wanted to be with us.

Everyone thinks the broad pipeline is the answer, but we needed to be more focused on targeted individuals. Our salespeople began to understand that better than the consultants we’d hired. They were much more relationship-oriented. 

It’s about understanding who your customer is, as opposed to hoping that there’s a customer out there.

Follow Sun Health on Twitter at @SunHealthAZ.

Photo courtesy of Ron Guziak

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