“Positively West Virginia” podcast host Jim Matuga turns to Leah Heimbach, president and owner of HMS, for the latest on how the company is handling COVID-19 while continuing to serve vulnerable populations in these challenging times. From how HMS has navigated the pandemic while continuing its important work, to providing business startup advice, Heimbach provides powerful insights throughout the episode.
Navigating the Pandemic While Overseeing Infection-Control Surveys in Nursing Homes
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has particularly impacted seniors, especially those residing in nursing homes. “Nursing home populations are tremendously at risk. A good number of our staff are what we call ‘surveyors’. They go on site and do inspections of nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities to assess their infection control practices and make sure that they’re operating in compliance with federal and state regulations,” explains Heimbach. These inspections are critical in protecting residents from contracting and spreading COVID-19. “If we’re not there on site… and we’re not helping nursing homes be compliant, then people can die. So with this important work, it’s exciting to see the impact we’re able to make in a positive way.”
“I knew there would be challenges with nursing homes and other facilities being able to provide appropriate infection control precautions for their own staff and for their residents,” Heimbach said. She knew the need for healthcare services would skyrocket, so she immediately looked into protecting her staff and sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE). “At first, we couldn’t send our surveyors out because I just wouldn’t let them go into the facility unprotected,” she continues.
When asked about the most valuable leadership lesson she’s uncovered throughout the pandemic, Heimbach said it’s to take care of your staff—because they’re the ones going into the hotspots and putting themselves at risk, making it necessary to attend to as many of their concerns and requests as possible. “I make sure the people who work in the survey division of HMS stay informed and that we communicate frequently,” Heimbach says. “They want to know what I’m doing to protect them, how much PPE do I have right now, what’s the plan for getting more, and what’s the follow-up if they end up getting exposed.” Navigating through the pandemic has been a team effort.
Best Practices for Starting a Business
“No idea is ridiculous,” Heimbach answers when asked to give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a business. She emphasizes the importance of networking and talking with other business owners to brainstorm or work out ideas.
“You’ll fail…you will make mistakes. The key is that you have to get back up and keep going,” Heimbach tells young entrepreneurs. Early on after forming HMS, Heimbach read the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. She says it changed the way she runs her business. “I’ve had some staff who either weren’t happy, weren’t meeting requirements or just weren’t flourishing. What I found is that by talking to them about their passions, what they think they’d excel at, sometimes if you try them in a different role they succeed more.”
“I understand what a difficult time this is for everyone, but take it a day at a time and realize that at some point we will find our new normal. Everybody has a little extra layer of tension and I just think if we keep taking a look at the big picture, taking deep breaths, stepping back and doing all the things we can do to support each other, things will be just fine.”
Listen to the full episode here.