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Posted: July 17, 2014

When passion drives profits

And culture leads to success

Erin Gibbs

American Vein & Vascular Institute (AVVI) is a now a member of the 50-company Class of 2014 Colorado Companies To Watch, awarded by statewide sponsors and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and also endorsed by the Edward Lowe Foundation.

We are honored to be included in this year-long program, governed by a board of directors comprised of leaders in the private industry, government and non-profit fields. Colorado Companies to Watch serves to recognize local companies who face the challenges of fast-track growth.

More than 95 percent of companies fail in the first five years of operation, and this elite group represents an influx of more than $600 million to the state economy annually. This is our fourth-plus year in business, and we still have big plans to open new clinics (in and out of Colorado – hence the name change), expand services, create more jobs and provide better health care opportunities.

In our world, passion leads to profitability. Profitability stems from service to our communities and employees. It’s a circle of life, and I appreciate those who are dedicated to making Colorado “business friendly.” As we look where to grow, there are actually states we have skipped because of their “unfriendly” business policies.

The fact that we’ve passed the initial startup stage – pulling all-nighters and working out of cramped quarters – is a milestone, and one that represents big-time change for the staff who have been with us from the beginning as well as those who are us joining now. Our culture is shifting and it is clearer than ever that culture drives success.

Culture trumps strategy. Staff members who have trouble transitioning into a more streamlined and efficient workplace (with policies and procedures that were unnecessary or didn’t exist in the early days) lament the change and loss of connectivity via a now necessary hierarchy. New employees don’t seem to notice any change at all but do wish for communication as well as better onboarding and greater understanding of who we are, where we came from, and what we do. Managing that gap is one of our biggest second-stage challenges.

That said, one of the most satisfying aspects of rubbing shoulders with our 49 Companies To Watch “classmates” is the fact that no matter the industry, we all share an understanding of these business challenges. We are all dealing with much of the same, and I’m happy to learn from how others work through common issues:

  • Growth funding
  • Technology
  • Appropriate staffing (spending what it costs to get next-stage staff members, and also letting go of those who can’t make the leap to a brisker, tougher job in a bigger company)
  • Competition
  • Internal and external communications
  • Supply and demand issues
  • Management challenges
  • The unknown

Of all that we face, I believe that the unknown is the biggest risk. We simply do not know what is coming at us: It could be continued slashing of reimbursement from insurance (our lifeline), a cure for vein disease that eliminates the need for treatments or something else altogether.

Whatever it is, we must be able and willing to make the decisions to overcome and survive. I recently heard “Kodak moment” used to describe the moment of failure for a company, instead of a cherished memory. I do not want a Kodak moment to bring us down. Rather, if we face an industry-changing technology or shift, we will need a company and culture that bands together and turns that risk into opportunity. This is a key shared value I sense among the 2014 Class of Colorado Companies to Watch.

So what’s our next step? A focus on employees. We are recruiting a VP of Organizational Development to build, mentor, coach and develop our staff into the team we need for the next phase. By investing in human capital from the top tier down, we believe that we are sending a strong message to everyone (down to the front lines) that they matter. The other pieces will fall into place with our employees seated in the right place on the bus, and enjoying the journey to create something incredible in a world challenged at every turn.

At the recent gala where the winners were announced, we had the chance to hear from some great speakers, including Penny Lewandowski, Vice President Entrepreneurship & Strategic Direction for the Edward Lowe Foundation (which founded the Companies to Watch program.) She described entrepreneurs and new businesses as a little bit crazy; we have to be crazy to take the risk and try something new. It gave me great satisfaction that just a few months ago, I wrote a column about “All Kinds of Crazy,” which so often is how I feel. But in this crowd, crazy is the new normal, and I feel right at home.

Erin Reilly Gibbs has played central roles in the development of innovative services and educational content in the healthcare industry. Before founding RMVI Services in 2010, she helped MayoClinic.com launch its first edition website and produced the first online video health library as well as online text and interactive health content. She co-founded American Vein & Vascular Institute (AVVI – previously Rocky Mountain Vein Institute) in 2009 and Trinity Vein Institute in 2012, now all housed under the AVVI moniker. AVVI now has more than 50 employees, operating in Pueblo, Parker, Canon City, Vail Valley and Colorado Springs in Colorado and in Arlington, Texas. Recently, AVVI was selected for ColoradoBiz Magazine’s Top 100 Women-Owned Companies and a 2014 winner for Colorado Companies to Watch. 

She can be reached at egibbs@avviusa.com or 719.242.8650.

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