"The leadership title is not always important."
MHA Alumni Spotlight: Sean Bagbey
Interview Conducted by Madison Garland
Tell me about your childhood.
Growing up, my brother was diagnosed with sinus inversus, which means all his organs are backwards. My brother never let this get in his way and he went on to be a college athlete.
When we were kids, though, he had a lot going on and he needed my parents by his side - and with that I learned to be independent. There was not much extended family around mainly just my parents. They instilled in us kids that we were going to work harder than anyone else.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
When I do have free time, I like to spend it with my two children. I have an eleven-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl. My hobbies include golfing and archery, and if I had more time, I would love to spend an early morning on the golf course.
Why did you choose to be a PTA?
When I was high school athlete, I got a bad ligament tear and ended up with a great PT. That all lead me to pursue three undergrad degrees at the same time: PTA, athletic training, and exercise science.
All three meshed well together; I was carrying about twenty hours a semester and doing summer class for four years. During college I realized that my calling was to treat patients. My four years of college were very busy, and I was constantly on the go with classes, but it was all worth it when I look back on it now.
What made you decide to get your MHA degree?
I have always had natural leadership tendencies and abilities, but as a PTA I sometimes got overlooked. At a facility I was working at, I had done a lot of work for this particular manager when he decided to leave. He asked me to go with him, I told him no because I liked where I was and there was an opening for director that I wanted. I ended up getting passed over for the position. I went to the chief physician of the practice and asked why, and his response was "I don’t know if a PTA could lead seventeen-person staff."
At that point I thought there is no reason to be mad at them for the decision that was made. I became the assistant clinical manager and site manager. My MHA propelled everything else. It is a big reason why we started this company. After I got my MHA, I encouraged one of my coworkers to go through the program. Him and I have co-founded this company together.
What was an early leadership lesson for you?
The leadership title is not always important - it is more about be able to understand what is going on and being able to read an environment. Helping to guide whomever to the right position and the title will follow over time. The biggest lesson was as we were forming this company, things began to fall apart at the place we were because we had open discussions about taking over the rehab. The CEO changed and it was decided that were not going to get the company. In that moment I had to learn that I could not protect everyone, all I could do was be transparent and make sure they had the proper information.
Do you think your leadership style has evolved over time?
It is still evolving with my new role. Until you have had experience managing people, it is hard for others to understand how much it takes out of you mentally and physically. It really takes a lot of time to make sure it is right. My biggest thing is if someone could not do something right, I would get them through the process.
Now, I am learning to let them fail and then guiding them through the process as best as I can. My leadership journey has been an evolution over time more than anything else. In the professional physical therapy world, there is what is called HPA that runs a course called LAM. I enrolled and gained knowledge from those leaders.
As well as the opportunity to be a mentor, I was able to guide someone who was going through a similar situation to mine. That for me was the biggest learning experience I think I have ever had.
How did you get to where you are right now and what made you decide to start your own company?
The CEO of the company we worked for had come to three of us who that were in senior leadership of the department and wanted to get the employment below fifty because it affects insurances by the banks. We had always discussed what made us different and what made us unique – and we knew that culture was the most important thing. We set out designing this company based on two things: one, that healthcare is not good enough and it can absolutely be better and that became our center piece. The second thing was to create healthy and happier care in communities. We began to form the company around those ideas.
We set forth that we were going to be more involved in the community above anything else, so we don’t market to positions. We rely on our involvement and we grade our clinicians on their request per month which shows how much involvement they have in the community. We want our patients to have a true experience – not a transactional one.
How do you hire?
Front desk receptionists and clinicians go through the same process. Our website has an application portal where someone can apply – this is where the therapist, the clinic manager, the COO, or anyone else who will be working directly with them will look at their resume.
Then we have a matrix we score their resume on, the questions for the matrix are simple: Do they demonstrate community involvement, are they involved outside of their world?
That is one of the biggest things we look at and if they score high enough then we interview them. The only difference between the clinician and receptionist is the person who interviews them other then that we look for the same things. We are not looking for someone who is volunteering 100 hours, more along the line of things they are interested in. It could be going to the farmers market every Saturday.
One of our clinicians is a power lifter and wants our practice to be a place where power lifters go and by him being dedicated to that community it brings others in our doors. Looking for those doing something greater than themselves – because if you’re not then your chances of becoming self-centered increase. We would rather go short handed then hire the wrong person.