Fundamental: No Margin, No Mission
Late last week, I stumbled upon an article from the Charlotte Observer about Thompson from April 27, 2015 titled “ Thompson Child & Family Focus at Crossroad”. The article went on to describe a $4 million funding gap, but also quoted the CEO at that time as saying that “We’re not going to change our mission: We will always be here to protect and heal hurting children”. Fast forward that to March 23, 2017 (my first day as CEO of Thompson). The $4 million gap actually grew to $5 million. We closed out the 16/17 fiscal year spending $13.5 million while bringing in just $8.5 million (this included $1.7 million in fund raising that year). If we did not shift the culture to one that fundamentally believes “no margin, no mission” and that financial stewardship & performance was important, I know 2 things that would be true. 1. The past 4 years would have been extremely difficulty for all of us 2. We would be shutting down the mission and all of our campuses/services right about now (the end of a 135 year mission that promised the community that “we would always be here to protect and heal hurting children”).
At Thompson we evaluate the performance of leaders and program based on a 3 legged approach. 1. Outcomes 2. Employee Engagement 3. Financial Performance. In most cases, if we are struggling in one area, we are struggling in 2 or all areas. One is not more important than the other as they are all connected. They must all function well for us to be successful.
That being stated, we do expect programs/leaders to achieve and/or exceed their “agreed upon” budgeted revenue and expenses as this is what ensures that we can sustain and build needed internal capacity and infrastructure over (especially if you lead in a revenue driving program/service in which utilization, productivity, and census is critical to achieving our overall goals).
In order for us to live out this fundamental as part of the Thompson culture, the following statements are true/finite:
- Thompson does care about numbers, but not the numbers themselves. We believe that each number represents a life that we are impacting. If we care about the children, families, and communities we serve, we have to care about the numbers.
- Thompson cares about productivity for 2 reasons. 1)The inability to hit realistic agreed upon productivity requirements can/will negatively impact a specific program/services and/or the entire agency – we basically start spending more money than we are making) 2) Not meeting productivity requirements is actually counter-missional. What do I mean by that? If we require and build our budget around 20 hours of interventions per week, but only complete 8, there are possibly a minimum of 12 children/families not receiving needed services even though we have staff available to provide them. This directly contradicts our mission & our vision. We are also not maximizing our resources.
- Thompson is a business. Although we are a non-profit (tax status), we are a business and should operate as such. No business that I am aware of can stay open if they are losing money continuously.
As a leaders at Thompson, you have to ask yourself “am I going to add to the culture or fight it”.