Lots of things can get in the way of company growth. The time to improve employee engagement is worth it because people are the path to scaling. Today’s guest is Labinot Avdiu, CEO at Medication Management Partners. Inc Magazine ranked his company #4791 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Medication Management Partners, is a pharmacy service providing medication management solutions to assisted living, memory care, and behavioral health facilities. Labinot gives you insights on how to improve employee engagement. He shares what comes before engagement. If you are on a journey to improve employee engagement, this is the episode for you.
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Labinot Avdiu: The Transcript
About: Co-founded Medication Management Partners in 2010. MMP specializes in providing innovative medication management solutions to long-term residential care communities. Medication Management Partners passion is to improve quality of life and simplify pharmacy. Inc Magazine recognized Medication Management Partners on the List of the INC.5000 Fastest-Growing Privately Held Companies in America in 5 consecutive years. MMP is recognized as a Best Places to Work in Illinois and certified as a Great Place to Work since 2020. Labinot Avdiu has a passion for fostering a team culture of engagement, excellence, and innovation through principles of conscious leadership.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Labinot Avdiu: And essentially engagement as Don, defines as it is based on three, three dimensions. There’s the focus dimension, which is, does the employee know what needs to be done? There’s a capability to mention, which means does the employee have the resources, the training necessary for them to be successful and grow in their job? And then there’s the mindset that dimension meaning does, does the employee understand the larger the purpose of the organization and they believe is a hugging them. And so getting those three right, kind of a sweet spot is what we have learned is that definition of engagement.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Today we’re going to look at talent, acquisition, talent, retention, and talent development, all through the lens of improving employee engagement. Do you know what the three factors are to focus on to improve employee engagement? Well, we look at that with our special guest today, he is a co-founder at medication management partners and he, his name is Labinot Avdiu. I probably messed up that whole. Labinot really talks about what employee engagement means to their company. How that really translates into improve value and service across the company. We look at the company’s core values and how they actually got to where they are, how they use them. We look at the acquisition process and the retention process of employees. All of those are critical factors of you having the kind of business you want. Another critical factor behind that is your own leadership. Now, my perspective is you should know what your exact next step is to improve your leadership. You should be focused on that, just like you would focus on improving ourselves, improving your marketing, improving operations. Improving your bottom line. Do you know what that exact next step is? Well, my job is to help you figure out what it is.
And many times I have to identify the blind spots that you just aren’t aware of. And that’s my job. I spent 10 years being an executive coach to fast-growth founders, CEOs, and their teams. I want to help you become the best leader you can be. Let’s discover what your next step is. All you have to do is go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call inside that call. We’ll have a conversation to dive deep into, you know, what’s really getting in the way of you being the best leader you can be. What’s that next skill? What’s the thing that’s really keeping you wrapped up. Doesn’t permit you to be the leader that your team deserves. Just going to GeneHammett.com and go to schedule your call and here’s Labi,
Labi, how are you?
Labinot Avdiu: Very good. Gene, thank you for having me on.
Gene Hammett: I’m glad you’ve given me the easy version to pronounce of your name. What’s the what’s the given name?
Labinot Avdiu: Full name is Labinot Avdiu. So from, from Kosovo, former Yugoslavia Albanian, , now it’s the Republic of Kosovo and, that’s where I’m from moved to the US in 94 as a foreign exchange student and have been here for about 27 years now, going on 20, 28.
Gene Hammett: We appreciate it. I really have a lot of fondness for people that have come to America, living the dream of entrepreneurship. And I find that they’re, they’re really pretty successful. I don’t know what it is and their hard work and their ethics and whatnot. Maybe they’ve been given an opportunity. , but we, I appreciate you being here to, make a difference in this world. And I think your company actually does make a difference in a big way. So tell us about Medication Management Partners. ,
Labinot Avdiu: Well, thank you very much for that. I’m, I feel fortunate my family over time. , my mom and my sisters have migrated as well. My wife who’s of Colombian descent. She migrated when she was done and just fortunate. This is a, you know, this is a great country and, it’s, it’s just blessed to be here and be a part of it. , Medication Management Partners, my partners and I founded it in 2009 is when the concept came about and we launched in 2010. And the idea that was to create an experience of a service that improves the quality of life for seniors in assisted living memory care communities, as well as, , simplified the experience in the process of pharmacy for those seniors and their caregivers. And so understanding that healthcare, in general, can be complex and pharmacy is no exception in some ways, , can be even more complex. There’s just been a great opportunity for us to, to have an impact and improve. Like I said, the quality of life and simplifying pharmacy for, for those who entrust us with their, , pharmaceutical needs.
Gene Hammett: Well, I know that I have aging parents and I have a lot of friends that are dealing with this issue. So for all that you guys do to take care of our people that are taking care of. We appreciate it.
Labinot Avdiu: Well, and, and thank you very much, you know, in our setting, you know, we’re providing services that ultimately enable caregivers. So think, you know, nurses, licensed LPN, CNAs, or med techs. These are really the frontline caregivers that especially over the last year and a half. You know, gone above and beyond. And, and they always have in a lot of ways, and in some ways they are, you know, they’re taken for granted, but, but they’re just really hard-working folks that, that really care a lot about what they do and the fact that we’re able to help them do their jobs better, reduce the risk that they potentially face when they’re, you know, dealing with many medications for dozens of lesson. You know, it’s something that we take a lot of pride in and being able to provide them a service and products that, that, you know, increase accuracy, reduce the risk for errors just makes them, be more confident in their jobs. And really, they don’t want to make mistakes. Nobody wants to make mistakes, and especially in the environment, we’re not in, they get pulled in a lot of different directions. So our focus is to, again, focus on, on, and make it as simple as possible, especially when it comes to farms.
Gene Hammett: Labi, given the fact that you have a very critical job inside of the role of we, haven’t taken care of these patients. I want to dive into what has made you guys really the company you are, and you feel like it’s your attention to employee engagement. Hey, a lot of people don’t really understand what that is. Can you give us your definition of employee engagement?
Labinot Avdiu: Yeah, actually it’s not, it’s not my definition. My definition comes from a book I read. that was written by Don Rheem. , and it was thrive by design is the name of the book and essentially engagement as Don re, defines as it is based on three, three dimensions. There’s the focus dimension, which is, does the employee know what needs to be done? There’s a capability dimension, which means does the employee have the resources, the training necessary for them to be successful and grow in their job? And then there’s the mindset dimension, meaning. Does the employee understand the larger purpose of the organization and do they believe in it? Is there a heart in it? And so getting those three right, kind of a sweet spot is, is what we have learned is the definition of engagement. If you have an employee that knows what to do. And really cares about doing it the right way, but it’s not capable. They’re not going to be engaged. Right. So if they don’t have the resources, the training, they really want to, they know what needs to be done, but they don’t have the resources and the training. Then it’ll lead to disengagement. If you have a person who has the resources, has the training knows what needs to be done, but their hearts is not it. Then typically they won’t do well. They will not be engaged, especially in the environment that we’re in. There’s really no straight line in, in our, in our industry. There are always curveballs. And so, you know, having really smart, intelligent individuals that also very empathetic is required in our job. And then our industry specifically. And so those three dimensions are how we, how we’ve learned to define, engagement.
Gene Hammett: I love to see when actually people read books and they, they take it and apply it. It sounds like you like this book and you felt like it was something that you wanted to apply. We can’t say that with all the books behind us and all the books we read. So why did this book make a difference for you in how you wanted to your organization to run?
Labinot Avdiu: Well, like, like many small businesses, especially entrepreneurs who are engaged in the day-to-day initially when, when you’re growing your business and you are consumed by the opportunity and the challenge of realizing that opportunity and realizing your goal, the concept of, of people and how they are important to your larger mission can be overlooked. You know, specifically in, in the case of say pharmacy, I’m a pharmacist by training. We’re not necessarily taught in pharmacy school that, you know, talent, acquisition, talent, retention, talent, grooming, and development is important to a successful business of pharmacy. And so in our case specifically, it’s just something that we learned because our growth mandated, we got to a point where we were growing, which was great, but our folks were struggling in that, in that effort, and in that journey. And what we quickly learned was that we didn’t necessarily ever scarily have some of those, dimensions that I mentioned earlier. We didn’t have some of those things in place to ensure that folks feel fulfilled, right. And their job and that they feel that there’s growth and opportunity for them, going, going forward beyond just the today’s tasks.
And so really that, that, that ceiling that we hit, where all of a sudden, you know, five, six years ago, we felt the pressure of the labor market that already are being, you know, widely pull publicized now in our industry and in healthcare in general, in senior living, these pressures have been, have been around for four or five-plus years now. And so we just, we literally hit the ceiling where we just realized we have to do something different. And when you’re a small company, you know, human resources is something that you know, you outsource right? It’s about payroll, lower it’s about, you know, Cobra or benefits, and those are all important, but really it’s the crux of it is about talent, acquisition, talent, retention, talent development. And so, we made a strategic decision that we needed to invest in our human resources as a critical linchpin to our organizational leadership. And so as opposed to outsourcing it and having kind of a consultant, human resources generalist. , we decided to really make an investment, on someone who is, you know, an entrepreneurial spirited-minded individual who understands what, what human resources is really about at that talent acquisition, retention, and development perspective. And that’s been a huge, change for us. And those are some of the things that impacted us and forced us to look at this from a different lens.
Commentary: Labi, just talked about people feeling fulfilled. One of the key things to focus on inside your organization as a leader is do people feel heard and appreciated those two things make them feel fulfilled. Now there are some other elements to it. Like the kind of work that through the mission you’re on, but this is absolutely free for you and takes really nothing. But a little bit of time, it’s just slow down and help people feel heard. When they share their ideas, are you just looking to move on to the next thing and say, yeah, that sounds good? Well, let people really feel heard. You love to be heard. Right? Well also want to make sure they feel appreciated. You recognize them about what they’re doing, the challenges they’ve overcome. Those things, all factor into people feeling fulfilled back to Labi.
Gene Hammett: How many employees were you at before you hired that person in the house?
Labinot Avdiu: Well, in all honesty, we were probably, we were probably. 60, but we were overstaffed. We were at 60, well, we didn’t have the right people on the bus, so we really did need to be at 60. And so we went through the process of kind of, you know, right people, right seat. Do they get, wanted, have the capacity to do their job, and that, you know, brought our head count down a bit to about 50 or 55, a couple of years ago, maybe about two years ago. And then over time, we built our census, our employee count back up, but the, the buildup was because the business truly needed it. I would, I would say that even in that instance, we were probably, two years too late. I think we could have made that decision even when we were originally at 35 40 employees. And we would have, we would’ve saved a lot of the headaches. And difficulties and lessons that we have to learn the hard way had we made that decision. You know, we made a short-sighted decision, which I don’t think is probably unique to us. I think a lot of small businesses make that decision where human resources is kind of just seen as a cell function of finance that, you know, dot some I’s crosses some, you know, some teas and, and I firmly believe that that’s not the case.
I, I believe that having a, a challenge people strategy. It is critical to the success of any business today and going forward,
Gene Hammett: I a hundred percent agree with you. And I, I love the fact that you brought up that you might’ve been two years too late on that because I’ve seen a lot of companies make that same mistake. You had mentioned talent acquisition, talent retention is one of the two benefactors of this focus on people strategy. , I want to look at them separately in these two questions. , so we’ll take the acquisition first having employee engagement, front and center, and doing the work that you’ve done in those three dimensions that you mentioned, you went over, how has that helped you acquire the right talent moving forward?
Labinot Avdiu: Yeah, well, it’s really very simple. If you have engaged. That are, you know, the right people in the right seat. In other words, they understand your vision. They they’re part of your culture. Your core values for us is to expo seeks first, to understand that’s the foundation, that’s our core value. Number one, it’s a complex business. You really need to have naturally inquisitive, smart individuals that are active learners. The second core value is you do the right thing. So once you know what needs to be done, and you’ve gathered the information that you, then you do the right thing. And it’s, that’s about like, not getting it right all the time, even though that’s what we strive to do, but there are humans involved in our business and mistakes will get made. It’s, you know, you make your best effort to get it right. And then if you don’t get it right, the first time you make it right after that, its attention to detail is our core value. Number three. Again, it’s a, it’s a very, it’s an intense industry. There’s the margin for error is very small.
We need folks that, that, you know, dot their I’s cross their T’s that builds into our fourth core value, which is if it were easy, everyone would do it. You know, we realized specifically in our industry, we’ve got Titans like CVS, Walgreens. There’s not a lot of independent pharmacies out there thriving. And so it’s a difficult gig, to begin with. And so we need resilient, gritty individuals that learn from mistakes. And, and really kind of take on these challenges, head-on and look at them as opportunities. And the fifth core value before us is live, learn, laugh, water, and that’s about individuals who, you know, want to feed their mind, body, and soul with what makes them happy, healthy, and contempt. So once you have those individuals that are part of your culture, they understand your vision. Recruiting becomes actually talent acquisition becomes very, very easy because they attract other people right. Much like any other effort, if you’re going to have organic growth where we’re, you know, individual say. Hey, you know, my buddy over here, or my friend over there is, would be really good. And let me ping them. , that’s that’s the best way. The second component is once you are recognized as an employer of choice and in our engagement data has allowed us to obtain certifications from great places to work, be recognized by best places to work here in Illinois, that becomes a kind of a front and center recruiting tool that our, our, our human resources director, Sam Orianne, who’s been with the company for about two years now.
And this has been fantastic. She’s able to then, you know, utilize both the experience that the employees have and this recognition external recognition that we’ve gotten to show folks. Why they should want to work at MNP. The other, the other component is, is that our selection process is very, very thorough. What we’ve learned over time is that the best way to ensure great engagement is to make sure that you have the right people, to begin with. It’s there’s no way to reduce your turnover if you don’t, if you’re not very selective in who you let in, in the first place. And so our interview process, our screening process. Is very thorough. It really is one of those like higher swell, mentalities. We really want to be careful about, , letting individuals in. And as part of that process, they get to tour our, our pharmacy here. They get to meet with some of our staff, you know, and they see that yes, people are working hard, but they really are enjoying.
I like to say the word we are not a formal, company in the sense that we really embrace authenticity and let folks be, genuine and in their environment, we want them to feel comfortable in the environment they’re in, but we’re very serious. And so people pick that up really quickly.
Commentary: Hold on, Labi, just talked about the best places to work and receiving that honor. It really is something I think can be helpful if you’re in the real retention and acquisition of talent place. Because the acquisition is a really good place for you to market and position yourself that you care about people. And how do you know? Well, we’ve won this award, you’ve done the work and you can actually show them data instead of just saying we care about people. So it really makes it easier for talented people to choose you. And it also works inside the retention process because the work that it takes to make those lists and you have to and to maintain that is the work that it takes to retain employees. There are alignment there, so you can use this kind of things to figure out how you can really share the message that you are a great place to work. Well, you win this honor and then you market it and you use it and positioning across the company before you hire people. And during the process, that’s my 2 cents back to Labi.
Gene Hammett: So we spent a lot of time on acquisition. I think you walked us through quite a bit of that. Appreciate it. What about retention? If you’re focused on employee engagement, how does that improve retention of employees.
Labinot Avdiu: Yeah. So again, if individuals understand what, what good looks like, and they understand that they have the resources or the training or where they need to go to get that, to be successful in achieving those, those outcomes. And they’re in the right position that fulfills their, their talents or their interests then they want to be around. They want to stick around. And if they’re surrounded by individuals that they are emotionally connected to something, Don ream calls is emotional Velcro. That is an added layer of an incentive for them to continue to stay and grow with the organization. So it’s, it’s creating an environment where they can be successful, creating an environment where they can develop a relationship. That are both professionally and personally fulfilling to them. And then obviously for them to understand where the organization is headed, what that means for them in terms of opportunities for growth. We have individuals for whom their experiences at MMP is transitory. Meaning, you know, they really want to go to medical school and, or, or some form of healthcare and they join them MP.
In their college years, they really want to understand, well, what does pharmacy and long-term care look like? And then over time, maybe they’re with us a year or two years and they move on. Or we have individuals who’ve been with us for 10 years. We actually just celebrated a ten-year anniversary with one of our employees who started as an entry-level technician and has moved on overtime to a, to a supervisor, we have a pharmacist. We started with us as, as technicians, and then went to pharmacy school, continued at MNP over time, and then joined them NP as a pharmacist once they’ve gotten their degree. So, you know, retention for us doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never leave MNP it just means that you, you maximize your opportunity and your. For the position that you’re interested in at, at the time at MMP. And then if there is the next phase of your life, your professional growth, if that opportunity exists at MNP, then retention means that you, right. You, you get that opportunity. You take on that role at MNP. If not, if that position doesn’t exist or it’s not aligned with where your career takes you next, then at the very minimum, what we would like is for folks to be able to look back and say that was a great launchpad.
Gene Hammett: I love that approach to it. Labi really giving us something to think about with employee engagement, and how we improve employee engagement through values and such. That really appreciate you being here on the podcast.
Labinot Avdiu: This has been great. I’m glad to share our story here.
Gene Hammett: I want to wrap this up while Labi listening in. I really want to focus in on some of the core values that he was talking about. , if not, you don’t need to steal his values. You need to come up with your own, but they are a central point to how people work together, but also the hiring process. When you do this well, everyone knows what to look for and they polish the culture so that you’re not getting in those bags, bad eggs, and toxic people that you have to let go of. And that really does give you a headstart when you have the right people in place. Now the key behind all this, what I can see from Labi is really having a keen sense of leadership. We didn’t talk about leadership today, but everyone, I know that puts an emphasis on culture and employee engagement and values understands leadership.
And so you want to make sure you know, how you’re evolving as a leader. Most people don’t know what their next step is. I will help you figure that out. If you want to sign up, get a conversation with me, just go to GeneHammett.com and you can schedule your call. We’ll help you figure out exactly what your next step is.
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