Business diagnoses, treats labor niche

  • Article by: DICK YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2010 - 11:23 PM

Siblings find success tapping a pool of semiretired medical executives for stressed health care clients.

Damian Martin and Mary Christensen and have built a thriving business recruiting semiretired health care executives for short-term projects or positions.

Photo: Dick Youngblood, Star Tribune

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When I introduced you to Mary Christensen and her brother, Damian Martin, three years ago, they were operating their inventive job-placement business out of her basement and generating a modest $320,000 of annual revenue.

The business, which recruits experienced, semiretired health care executives for short-term projects or interim management positions at Minnesota hospitals and clinics, has come a long, profitable way since then.

Now ensconced in 1,600 square feet of modern office space in Bloomington, the business has increased its revenue since 2007, to a 2010 total of $1.1 million.

And given the baby boomers' relentless march toward geezerhood, which promises a shortage of seasoned workers in every job category in coming decades, the odds are that the business will continue growing apace.

Indeed, Christensen and Martin said assignments booked or underway promise a 70 percent revenue gain in 2011, to about $1.9 million.

Christensen, 40, and Martin, 47, started Experienced Resources LLC in 2005 to recruit high-level executives -- vice president or director level and above -- who are in transition from full-time employment.

Their talent pool, more than 600 executives with at least 20 years of experience, offers expertise in all phases of medical management, including operations, finance, human resources, nursing and marketing. The focus on health care reflects Christensen's background as an office and human resources manager at several hospitals and clinics.

There are several reasons for the rapid growth, Martin said, including networking memberships in several health care associations, the hiring of a veteran hospital CEO to promote client development and expansion beyond the Twin Cities to greater Minnesota.

But the key has been the downward pressure on health care reimbursement by the government and insurance industry and the lingering impact of the recession, which forced layoffs at hospitals and clinics.

'Win-win situation'

This, in turn, has added to the load on remaining executives, who now are so burdened with day-to-day responsibilities that "they don't have time for the innovation and creativity needed to face the future," Christensen said.

The way she sees it, Experienced Resources offers "a win-win situation for everyone," including both the executives who can keep as busy as they want and health care organizations that can get the help they need when they need it and at a cost they can afford.

In short, the focus is on what Martin calls the "Flex Generation," a registered term that refers to the flexibility required by both clients and executives in the talent pool.

So, how's it working for clients? Cheryl Hermann, vice president of operations for Allina Medical Clinic, offers a reason why Experienced Resources not only has attracted major clients, but has won repeat business from them.

"I have worked with temporary talent who will come to our organization and function as consultants, stand on the sidelines, do only what they are asked to do and make recommendations with little or no thought as to the implementation challenges," Hermann said. "In contrast, the professionals from Experienced Resources truly partner with you. They share a genuine investment in the success of the organization."

She lauded the company's ability to match talent with a client's needs and its penchant for staying in close contact to assure positive results.

Larry Schulz, CEO of Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, talked about an "urgent need" he asked Experienced Resources to fill and the match that provided "a top-flight executive with many years experience who brought instant credibility while working with our staff."

"They deliver what they promise," he said.

Better yet, "we also got our need met for less cost than if we had hired a permanent staff person," he added, an important element given the economic downturn. Experienced Resources charges $100 to $175 an hour for the part-time work.

The looming worker shortage will have a particularly heavy impact on the health care industry as demand for higher employee skill levels grows, Christensen said.

She cited a projection by the Governor's Workforce Development Council that 70 percent of Minnesota jobs in the next eight years will require education beyond high school. Yet, only 40 percent of Minnesota adults hold a postsecondary degree, the report said.

Christensen said this trend will challenge the health care industry significantly, given the shift under way from fee-for-service to a focus on quality outcomes.

"This will require a level of expertise that will be less and less available as health care managers and executives retire," she said. That's why "we believe the expertise in our talent pool can really make a difference in Minnesota health care," Christensen said.

It might also make a big difference on her profit-and-loss statement.

Dick Youngblood • 612-673-4439 • yblood@startribune.com

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