Good companies deliver expected results, maybe a little better than expected. Great companies deliver extraordinary results across multiple dimensions for a prolonged period. Great companies create, innovate, and deliver awe. This idea is one of the key reasons Deliver Awe is one of One Call’s values.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Warsop.
Thomas Warsop leads the incredible team at One Call, helping to ensure injured workers get the care they need, when they need it. His passion for the mission of the company is evident every day.
Prior to joining One Call, Tom was the Chairman and CEO of York Risk, a leading third-party administrator, where he focused the company squarely on its mission of reducing risk and getting people and organizations back to health, work and productivity.
Previously, Tom was the CEO of The Warranty Group, the world leader in extended warranties and service contracts for consumer products; Group President of Fiserv, a leader in financial services technology; and President of the Financial Services Industry Group at Electronic Data Systems Corporation (EDS), a global provider of technology services. He has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from Southern Methodist University where he was a President’s Scholar. He and his wife, Christine, reside in Florida. Their daughter, Elizabeth, is a fourth-year dental student. Their younger daughter, Samantha, is a marketing professional in Chicago.
Tom is a Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors. He also serves on the board of directors for One Call, ACI Worldwide (Nasdaq: ACIW), Nation Safe Drivers, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My name is Tom Warsop, and I am the President and CEO of One Call. At One Call, we get people the care they need, when they need it. I grew up in Kansas City. My grandmother was from Denmark, and she gave me a deep appreciation of cultures different from the one I was living in, a love of languages, and a no-nonsense, transparent way of talking to people. I’ve lived literally all over the world, as have my wife and children. Getting to know people on every continent and working with them to drive value for clients has helped me realize the power of relationships and the value of diversity in all its guises. I have learned from every person I’ve ever worked with, and I try very hard to give others the benefit of my prior mistakes and learnings. My career has had consistent themes: using technology and business transformation to make companies better quickly, driving growth in organizations that may have slowed or stalled, and improving operational performance leading to stronger client relationships.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
It’s not from the very beginning of my journey, but I vividly remember an experience I had when I took over as the client executive for my company’s largest client in the UK. I had been chosen to revitalize what had become a very difficult relationship with this organization. I was told the issues were “personality conflicts” between the top executive at the client company and my predecessor. As it turned out, this was only a small part of the problem.
From about a week after I started, and continuing for a period of a few months, I received a formal breach notice from my client almost EVERY EVENING at 5 p.m. The letters used a slightly different set of reasoning each day, and my lawyers and I rebutted every one of them. Eventually, the top executive and I agreed to stop fighting and find a way to reinvent the relationship. When all was said and done, we extended and expanded our relationship — we created what was one of the largest outsourcing contracts in UK history.
My wife, Christine, helped me realize then, as she always does, what really mattered. She reminded me I had a commitment to the client, to my team, to my company, and to my shareholders. I had to find the way through the mess to a good outcome. My client and I were ultimately able to do that.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
You need a little inside information to understand this one. I’m color blind. Not black and white color blind, but I have both the classic types: red-green and blue-yellow, so I’m not great with matching my clothes. I compensate for this by relying on my wife and daughters, but this story predates my marriage and my children’s births.
When I started my career at Electronic Data Systems Corporation (EDS), we all wore suits and ties every day. We had very specific rules on attire: pastel-colored shirts, wingtip leather shoes in black, cordovan, or brown, conservative neckties, and solid colored wool suits. I had gone shopping for some new work clothing, and the salesperson helped me choose what I was assured were a few very nice and professional outfits that followed these rules. On my second day, I wore a khaki wool gabardine suit, a pale-yellow shirt, and red tie with yellow trim. My fiancé (at the time, now my wife) had told me it was perfect, and I wore a pair of my new shoes as well.
About an hour into that second day, I was called into the office of my manager. He proceeded to tell me I needed to go home and change. I said I didn’t understand — I had carefully followed the rules. He said, “Well, technically I suppose that is true, but your shirt isn’t white, your suit isn’t blue, and your suit is gabardine.” I was confused. He said, “Look, Tom, there’s what is written down and then there is what is practiced in real life. Around here, men wear blue worsted wool suits with white shirts and simple ties. You look like you work for a tailor shop, not a technology firm. We want you to exude confidence and stability. Now you know.” I took this in, shrugged, and started to leave to go home and change. He added one more thing. “Oh, by the way, you should probably label your shoes. You are wearing one black one and one cordovan one. It’s better to match.” I had bought two pairs of shoes — identical, other than the color. Never a good idea for a color-blind person.
Rather than be embarrassed, I learned a valuable lesson that day. Sometimes it is much more important to know the house rules than to be an expert on the documented policies. Learn what is important to your client, your boss, your family, and work with it. If you think it’s really important to change, push it. If it’s not, move on.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think it’s really all about our mission and values. Of course, every company has a mission and a set of values, but it’s not always the case that these truly drive what those companies do. For us, our mission of getting people the care they need, when they need it provides the motivation for coming to work, for continually improving, and for connecting with all our stakeholders to ensure great outcomes. Our values very simply state the expectations we have of each other. The values are simple, but powerful. We THINK BIG, GO FAST, DELIVER AWE, and WIN TOGETHER. Eight words that define how we do what we do.
There are many great stories that come to mind and illustrate what is important to us. One that really stands out is the story of Bobby. He was injured while at work in a machine shop and, unfortunately, lost his arm from the elbow down. Bobby’s employer acted swiftly and got in touch with the workers’ compensation carrier who engaged with One Call to ensure continuity of care when Bobby was released from the hospital. One Call worked with the carrier to get Bobby fitted for his prosthetic, arranged for physical therapy, and ensured he had the resources he needed to navigate his care. Today, Bobby is back out driving his Harley and living his life beyond his workplace injury. There are other people who may have similar stories to Bobby, and we want to help them all.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Find a way to disconnect from whatever is clouding your mind. A couple of months ago, I read the book Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, which explores the history of meditation and self-reflection and how daily meditation can change your behavior and mindset. It inspired me to try it out. Now, each day, I find a quiet place, sit up straight, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing, uninterrupted for ten minutes. Being able to disconnect allows me to clear my mind and refocus on what matters.
- Take control of your schedule. Many of us are experiencing “Zoom fatigue,” which can be tiredness, anxiety, and burnout from using video chat platforms to meet with colleagues, and this is only compounded by back-to-back meetings. At One Call, we changed the default setting in Outlook to automatically propose 25-minute or 55-minute meetings so people can have a short reprieve in between meetings. This allows for time to stretch, refill their cup of coffee or catch up on emails. We have also introduced biweekly “No Meeting Thursdays” so our colleagues can work uninterrupted for the day. These small organizational changes reap big benefits for our colleagues, enabling them to be more productive and less stretched throughout the day.
- Always have an agenda. At One Call, we set the expectation that every meeting should have an agenda. This gives all meeting participants the opportunity to be prepared to have impactful engagements and best utilize the allotted time to make progress toward our goal. We expect every meeting leader to have an “end in mind,” a very clear and concise description of what they to accomplish in the scheduled 25 or 55 minutes.
- Express gratitude. The pandemic has put undue stress on everyone. It is important to recognize your personal and professional achievements through this adversity. That is why we introduced “Thank You Thursdays,” a monthly meeting that brings together a rotating group of One Call colleagues, where we discuss personal development and achievements, answer questions or concerns about work, and most importantly, express gratitude for one another.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
John G. Crysler was my boss twice in my career, and he also gave me the most meaningful recognition of my career. I led a strategic planning exercise for our team. We built a vision of the insurance industry in 2020 (it’s funny to say that now, the project was in 1995, so it seemed a long way off). The project output was really fascinating, and I asked our senior leadership team to come in on Sunday afternoon to review it and ultimately sign off on its publication. We spent a few hours together, and I stayed behind to clean up the flipcharts and sticky notes after we finished. Later, when I walked to my car, I noticed a small paper tucked under my windshield wiper.
When I picked it up, it was John’s business card. On the back, he had written a short note — “Tom: Thank you for all you do for me and the team.” That card is one of my prized possessions. You see, John is a man of few words. He does not give praise often. He’s better at the tough love. That note cost nothing and took 30 seconds. What he may not have realized at the time was the immense impact it would have on me. I realized right then that very small gestures and simple thank you notes have a huge impact on morale and motivation.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Twenty years ago, Jim Collins presented a very simple definition of a great company in his article “Good to Great” in Fast Company. He defined greatness in purely financial terms — a company whose return to shareholders exceeded three times the general stock market for a long period of time (he chose 15 years). Certainly, financial metrics are important and quantifiable. Looking at this through today’s lens: a great company needs to not only deliver excellent returns to shareholders, but also do good for society, contribute to preserving the environment, and be a good “corporate citizen.” Good companies deliver expected results, maybe a little better than expected. Great companies deliver extraordinary results across multiple dimensions for a prolonged period. Great companies create, innovate, and deliver awe. This idea is one of the key reasons Deliver Awe is one of One Call’s values.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Start with what you know. I don’t mean organizations shouldn’t stretch themselves and explore new opportunities — not at all. I do think it is important that the foundation of your business is something you are familiar with and passionate about. Driving that passion and continually pushing each other to get better leads to growth and continued success. One Call has over 30 years of experience in the workers’ compensation industry, and we have a deep understanding of coordinating the care for injured workers — from their most common needs, such as physical therapy and transportation, to more advanced treatment options, such as complex claims and injury-specific solutions. We are a clear leader in this important part of the healthcare ecosystem, and we are committed to growing within it. We are also expanding to new, adjacent markets. Most notably so far, we have applied our proven transportation offering, whereby we get people from home to a healthcare appointment or work and back, to the federal health markets — Medicaid and Medicare. We are innovating, expanding, and changing — keeping a firm hold on our expertise as a base.
- Keep it Simple. I spoke to someone recently about how often leaders seem to brag about how complicated their businesses and their jobs are. I think this is counter-productive in several ways. First, complexity is scary. I don’t know many people who love things they don’t fully understand, things that are very hard to master. I am a firm believer in simplicity, or at least in simplifying. People who know me well will tell you I tend to often oversimplify very complex issues. I do this purposely. I know I’m not giving a complete view of that complex idea or problem, but by making it seem simpler, I have found my teams can often stop worrying about how hard something is and instead tackle the most important parts of a problem and solve it faster.
- Embrace technology and business process transformation. Use every tool in your toolkit. It is critical to understand what you need to deliver — to understand the value of the product or service you provide to its users. At One Call, we use lean sigma techniques to thoroughly understand our business processes and to identify opportunities to eliminate waste from them. Now, we are leveraging technology to streamline manual tasks and enable better experiences for all stakeholders. A few months ago, coordinating an appointment or service required us to schedule a three-way call with the injured worker, provider, and care coordinator in order to align on a date, time, and location of the service. We have begun to implement a much more simplified, automated process that enables injured workers to view available timeslots and book appointments directly via text message, web portal, or a smartphone app. This low-touch process saves time and increases convenience for everyone involved. We are also incorporating notifications such as text messages to confirm, change or cancel appointments, updates such as single view of a claim, and functionality that allows for intelligent self-service options.
- Consider the needs of your clients. Clients don’t always know how to achieve what they need, but they do know what they need. It is critical that any organization knows what the clients need and builds itself around delivering solutions to that need. As an example of this idea, the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to reconsider their working environments and develop health screening and contact tracing protocols, as well as determine what to do when colleagues became sick with the COVID-19 virus or had known exposure to it. At One Call, we previously focused exclusively on post-injury solutions, but we quickly mobilized to introduce our Workforce Wellbeing solutions. This includes preventive solutions such as health assessment technologies, where colleagues can have their temperatures checked and get their questions answered about any symptoms they may be experiencing, as well as a virtual home workstation ergonomics assessment for remote workers and logistics analyses that allow offices to safely move workers into and out of office spaces.
- Make sure your brand boldly reflects your business direction. As your business transforms, you want your colleagues to be able to communicate these changes externally and feel that the mission and vision accurately reflect the work of the organization. We recently introduced an enhanced visual identity — a refreshed mission, vision, and tagline. The refreshed One Call logo evolved to be similar to the infinity symbol, illustrating connectivity, continuity of care, and the flexibility of solutions that we provide. The new typeface and color palette reflect our care coordinators’ approach to their work: intelligent, innovative, and creative.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
According to The Pulse Report, two-thirds of Millennials and Gen Z say that a company having a social purpose is either more important or just as important today than it was before the pandemic. The days of a purely financially driven corporate mission are gone. Companies are citizens of their environments. Investors, clients, and colleagues expect us to contribute positively to society in a variety of ways. At One Call, our purpose is clear — to get people the care they need when they need it. We support our colleagues the same way. Last year, we created the One Call Foundation, a 501 © (3) charitable organization, to provide financial support to our colleagues in need of a little extra help during unexpected, difficult times. We have assisted our colleagues with things from keeping up on rent payments to funeral expenses for a loved one. We care deeply about our colleagues, and we want to be there when they need us.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
This is one of those questions where I usually start with one of my favorite truisms, one that has been expressed by many people throughout time: “It’s not easy, but it’s simple.” If something isn’t working, change it. If your business isn’t growing, get back to basics. Honestly examine what you are doing and tie it directly back to what your clients need. Be open to the possibility you aren’t selling the right things. Think again. Don’t fixate on the way things have always been. Bring in new ideas and new people. Consider bringing back old ideas you have discarded along the way. To sum it up — break down your business to what really matters and think like a startup. If you don’t think that way, your next competitor will, and you will be dead.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Audentis Fortuna iuvat. A Latin proverb generally translated as “fortune favors the bold.” In good times and bad, taking swift and decisive action after a reasonable amount of investigation is likely to serve you very well. The alternative for some is to continue gathering data until you are forced to make a decision. Often, this is disastrous, since you are usually left with no time to adjust before the consequences of the decision become obvious. When times are tough and economies are challenging, get the best feel you can about where things are headed and act fast to counter the problems you believe are coming. In the case of the pandemic, our company had no idea how bad the downturn would be, nor did we know how long it would last. Nonetheless, we took almost immediate action and made very painful decisions, such as putting a significant chunk of our workforce on furlough. At that same moment, we created our charitable foundation to support our colleagues who were impacted directly as best we could. Doing this allowed us to preserve valuable liquidity and continue providing great service to our clients. As the picture for the future became clearer and better than we had feared, we were able to invest in the future and bring our colleagues back to work. The bad news was that we all had to make do with less for a while. The good news is that are a better organization today because of what we learned and invested in during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Cultural transformation and evolution. I’ve been a CEO for a long time now, and friends often assume that the job is hard because it is hard to sell, hard to manage expenses, hard to hire and fire, and so on. Those things are challenging, but that pales in comparison to the challenge of building, enhancing, and preserving a corporate culture that supports our mission and commitments. Actually, that word, commitments, is a small example of what I mean. Our company doesn’t have goals and objectives. If you miss a goal, the response is often, “Well, that was my goal, but I knew it would be hard to achieve. Sorry.” On the other hand, when we set our plan for the year, we make commitments to each other. Our teams go around the room and promise they will do what they say, telling their colleagues, “I commit to you that I will…” That’s not a statement you can wiggle out of! Changing a word is easy but lining up everyone in an organization to fundamentally change the way you interact, behave, support, reward, and coach is very definitely not. As the old saying goes, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
- One word: Transparency. Tell the truth and explain as clearly as you can what you can do for the client to help them achieve their mission and explain equally clearly any gaps or challenges you see. I have known plenty of salespeople who believe you should respond with an unequivocal “yes” to every question during a sales process. This is absurd. If you do that, no one will believe you.
- I believe the keys to a successful sales call are simple. First, know exactly what you want to accomplish in the call. Write it down and tell your client at the beginning. Next, tell your client what you understand to be their needs. Use your own words, but make sure they can align what you are saying to their own ideas. Then, explain very carefully and honestly how your offering will meet their needs. Remember to come clean about any gaps or shortcomings and explain how you would handle these.
- Finally, ask for the business. This is such a simple thing, but I have seen many, many sales executives leave this out. What’s the worst that can happen if you ask for the sale? The client says no. That in itself provides valuable insight and enables you to adjust your approach or stop banging your head against a wall.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Do what you say and say what you do. I am reminded of a Sloan Business Review article I read almost thirty years ago. The gist of the article was that trust between two parties requires two things: First, each party must believe the other is competent, able to perform whatever task is at hand. Second, each party needs to believe the other is compassionate, that they care about each other. Without both elements, trust won’t exist. By establishing the clarity of competence and compassion, an organization can build strong, lasting, productive relationships and solidify its position and reputation with clients.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
First, ask customers for their perspective and act on the feedback you receive. If a customer has a problem or an idea for improvement, do something about it (or tell them why you can’t). Nothing is more frustrating than reporting a problem and feeling like no one does anything about it. Similarly, talk to your colleagues and make it clear that your job is to make their jobs easier and to allow them to be successful. Just as I said about customers, act on their feedback. You can’t do everything, of course, but acknowledge the big things.
And finally, measure the things that matter to the customer. Have the right key performance indicators (KPIs) so you know whether you are making progress and making the customer’s experience better every day. This is where One Call’s core value — Deliver Awe — comes in. We try to identify what truly matters to our clients right up front and to continually measure those things. We review the KPIs regularly with our clients to ensure progress, and we avoid surprises. All this gives the optimal opportunity to “wow” the clients.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
As the father of two millennial daughters, I can attest social media is critical today for all companies and that it isn’t going to become less important any time soon. There is, of course, reputational risk if you aren’t doing a good enough job and someone calls you out on it. Obviously, there is the potential that someone lies or exaggerates a problem, but that risk has existed long before any of us ever heard of social media. The power of tools like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, and others far outweighs the risk. We use social media to drive conversations related to our industry and business, and it allows us to connect with our nationwide network of clients, providers, and care coordinators.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
We learn from mistakes of course, so in some ways, errors are extremely valuable. Having said that, I’m sure we all want to avoid as many mistakes as possible. I have seen many founders or long-term CEOs wait too long to look for help as a business matures or changes. When a leader has been at an organization a long time, it is easy to become complacent or believe she or he knows better than anyone what to do to maximize results. Sometimes, the best course of action is for a new leader to take an organization to the next level. That’s a hard thing to admit, and I have seen many times when a founder or CEO stays too long and hampers progress. Even with the best intentions, sometimes a new perspective is better.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Renewable energy. I am passionate about finding ways to both reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and to clean up the environment. There are obviously many organizations focused on these ideas, but I don’t think it is possible to overstate the value to everyone on the planet. Everyone needs to find ways to do their part, from simple things like turning off the lights and using reusable water containers instead of plastic to complex and costly things like installing new solar roofs and building wind farms.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!