We are going to form a new business joint venture! Great! (See A Case Study: Emtiro Health, LLC Part 1 for more context.)
To assure a successful formation and launch of the new joint venture, the leadership of the joint venturers, Northwest Community Care Network (NCCN) and Partnership for Community Care (P4CC), wanted to understand what could derail all the work they had undergone to date to build a trusting relationship and shared vision for the future so that they could develop a plan that would help them avoid such pitfalls. To help with that, Atromitos educated the leadership on the common pitfalls that limit the success of or lead to the complete failure of a joint venture. These include, but may not be limited to:
Strategic and business misalignment – If the joint ventures are not aligned on the strategic objectives and goals of the joint venture, as well as the scope of the business and business development, there will be tension and conflict that are likely to be destructive to the joint venture.
Governance gridlock – There must be a clear governance process at both the Board and management level that is clearly understood and agreed to, otherwise timely decisions will never be made.
Lack of effective communication – In a joint venture communication is vital, but it is exponentially more difficult, as there are more parties involved in the communication chain. Forming, launching, and operating a joint venture is a significant change and communication is the primary tool that helps individuals at all levels positively work through the change.
By understanding where the potential problems could arise, NCCN and P4CC leadership were able to directly address these problems through careful planning. We worked with the leadership team to develop and implement a joint venture formation and launch plan that identified:
Transition team, including joint venture champions
Governance and management bodies and processes, including establishing the management and Board of Directors of the new business joint venture
Processes for building core business competencies, including strategic planning, business planning, communication and change management plans, a product development process, operational requirements, and a brand philosophy and visual identity and
Timeline that assured all the required steps occurred in a timely manner
Avoiding common pitfalls by building strong business capabilities
Strategic and Business Misalignment
To avoid strategic and business misalignment, the leadership team engaged in a careful process facilitated by Atromitos to carry out joint strategic and business planning, the result of which was an agreed upon strategic plan and business plan for the joint venture.
To inform these plans, Atromitos conducted a comprehensive market analysis. The market analysis was presented to the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and the senior leadership of the joint venturers to provide opportunity for them to assess the information and make recommendations about product development, strategic objectives, and potential business development opportunities.
The executive and senior leadership from both joint venturers participated in a day-longed retreat facilitated by Atromitos and engaged in stakeholder engagement to inform the development of a strategic plan that would guide the first 18-months of the joint venture’s operations. Through a facilitated process, the leadership developed the company’s Vision and Mission statements and identified the company’s values or guiding principles. These are necessary to developing a strategic plan that assures the company remains true to why it was created. We also settled on four strategic objectives, each with identified action items and timelines to achieve those strategic objectives. We used a RACI construct, so that everyone understands who is Responsible and Accountable and who must be Consulted and Informed throughout the process. Importantly, the strategic plan includes key performance indicators, in addition to a process whereby progress toward achievement of strategic goals is measured. At Atromitos, we know that a strategic plan must be more than a list of “to-do” items; it must have performance expectations attached to it to be truly meaningful.
Through development of the company’s business plan, Atromitos supported the leadership through the process of identifying and agreeing on the key business goals of the joint venture and the steps that would be taken to attain those goals. The business plan serves as a roadmap for the business. We also helped the joint venturers come to agreement on the scope of the business, the services that would be offered, the target customers, and revenue and expenditure goals.
Atromitos provides strategic plan management and maintains the business plan for the joint venture so that the business plan evolves as the new company matures.
The joint venture between NCCN and P4CC is governed by a Joint Operating Agreement, in which certain management and governance issues are addressed. For example, certain decisions are the prerogative of the Board of Directors. The Operating Agreement also identifies the Officers of the company.
However, when bringing together two companies in a joint venture, each with its own way of doing things and its own way of making decisions, it is imperative that this decision-making process be aligned and clearly understood by all parties involved in the operations and management of the joint venture.
We began first by putting necessary teams in place. The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) has clearly defined roles with written and agreed upon job descriptions. Atromitos recommended and the ELT established an Operations team that consists of senior leaders from each joint venturer, assuring that the operational abilities and perspectives from each joint venturer are known and considered in operational decisions. Further, we helped the ELT identify three product development teams that have joint representation and are responsible for developing the products and services that Emtiro Health provides.
Each team is governed by a Charter and a consensus-oriented decision-making process. With input and guidance from the ELT, Atromitos developed a clear governance and decision-making process that begins with the Board of Directors and cascades down through the individual product teams. We also worked with the ELT to develop a hiring process that governs how the joint venture hires staff, including how that affects the staff of the joint venturers.
Lack of Effective Communication
The language used to communicate change and the frequency with which it is used can mean the difference between a rough and smooth transition. Atromitos educated the joint venture leadership on the importance of communication and change management, including identifying key components of effective communication and how to incorporate this into a change management plan. The goal of a communication and change management plan is to minimize resistance to change and to positively address resistance when it is encountered.
We advise the leadership on the development and implementation of a communications plan that is informed by a staff satisfaction and engagement survey and related staff focus groups, development of a FAQ that executive and senior leaders can use when communicating with staff about the joint venture and what it means for them, and weekly messages sent by the joint venture President and CEO to the staff of each joint venturer to keep them up to date on the progress of the joint venture.
Atromitos’ marketing and communications team has also developed and implemented an external marketing and communications plan that includes a comprehensive web and social media strategy and other means of communicating with external stakeholders so that they too understand what the joint venture is, why it was formed, and what it will do.
Building a brand and visual identity that strengthens and unifies the organization
In addition to setting the joint venturers up for success by building strong business capabilities, Atromitos led Emtiro Health through the creation of a brand and visual identity that would distinguish them in the marketplace as a new joint venture.
With a wealth of experience in branding, brand management, design, and overall visual identity, Atromitos’ marketing and communications team helped the new joint venture hone its message and deliver it in a bold and compelling, yet concise and effective way.
Atromitos understands that an organization’s visual identity spans from a website and printed marketing collateral, all the way down to business cards and e-mail signatures.
With direct input and involvement of the ELT and Operations team, Atromitos’ Marketing and Communications team set out to build a comprehensive visual identity for the new joint venture that would unify the venturers and establish the new organization as reputable.
First, we started by listening to the leadership. What did they not want to convey? What imagery spoke to them? We talked to them about every detail even down to colors they liked and did not like and words they did and did not want to use.
Next, we focused on the name of the new joint venture company. What’s in a name? Everything. When developing a name for a company you need to think through many things, not the least of which is whether the company will want to trademark the name. If the answer is yes, then you must get very creative. In this case, we took the leadership through a facilitated brainstorming process to identify different attributes that the leadership wanted to convey in its branding. After many weeks, and lots of engagement with counsel, the leadership settled on Emtiro Health.
Emtiro is not a real word. It’s two Greek works combined: Empneo meaning “support” and Syntiro meaning “inspire.” This was the perfect name for the new joint venture because it reflects exactly what the company does. Through the work that they do, they “inspire” and “support” patients, providers, payers, and communities to achieve better health, total well-being, and brighter futures.
Next, we worked through identification of the organizational color palette. We presented numerous options to the executive and senior leadership for their consideration, helping the leadership understand what the different color palettes convey and the feelings induced in viewers. Ultimately, Emtiro Health decided on a green palette.
The color green has a wide range of visual and mental associations, a fact attributed to its use in many phrases and expressions (think, "grass is greener," "going green," "getting the green light," etc.). Another contributing factor is that green takes up a larger portion of the spectrum of colors visible to the human eye than any other color—meaning one type of green can have totally different associations than another. For example, a dark forest green can become very manly, traditional, and calm, while lime green (think Gatorade) has a high level of energy. These natural greens, from forest to lime, are perceived as tranquil and refreshing. You may have noticed that all these associations have one thing in common: green has an overall positive message.
As a secondary color, green is a mixture of two primary colors, blue and yellow; it is considered peaceful and stable due to its natural balance of cool and warm colors. Green is generally considered to be a cool color in and of itself and because of this, green often establishes itself as an unofficial primary color. Whenever primary colors are being used and a warm/cool balance needs to be achieved, green is incorporated.
A perfect example of where this is seen is board games that involve only four individual players. Chances are that the four colors used to designate these players are red, yellow, blue, and green, creating a visually balanced game board. It is this visual sense of balance that gives the color green a soothing and relaxing influence. Green is known to help alleviate depression, nervousness and anxiety. It also promotes a sense of renewal, self-control and harmony. For this reason, television guests will wait in a “green room” to relax before going on air.
We then worked on the logo and tagline. Fortunately, the tagline was self-evident based on the company’s name and purpose: “Inspired Support.” When designing the logo, it was important to the leadership that it tell a story.
Atromitos provided Emtiro Health with several distinct options and directions ranging from literal to abstract. Members of Emtiro Health’s executive leadership team were offered the opportunity to take part in an anonymous survey to provide feedback on each option. Ultimately, leadership landed on the “e” made of geographic shapes coming together. This is exactly what Emtiro Health is: two organizations coming together to form something new.
Now we have a name, a logo, tag line, and colors, but we needed to identify the additional imagery that would help convey Emtiro’s brand identity. It was important to Emtiro Health to use a set of standard brand imagery concepts that went beyond the expected stock medical photos as the core of its image library. We explored the idea of puzzles to represent the work Emtiro does to connect people to their health care; light bulbs to represent new ideas; and, finally, imagery including a compass to signify Emtiro Health’s work to provide the guidance and support to providers, payers, and patients to navigate an ever-changing health care landscape. While Emtiro Health’s image library does largely depend on imagery related to the medical field, families, and communities, the compass is at the core of who Emtiro Health has become visually.
Finally, we developed and maintain the company’s brand philosophy, which includes:
Definition of an organizational font family
Development of organizational style guidelines that define proper and improper uses of certain elements for consistency
Atromitos not only helped design Emtiro’s visual identity, we also brought it to life through:
Development and design of branded organizational letterhead, meeting agendas, name badges, PowerPoint templates, e-mail signatures, and business cards
Development and creation of professional Squarespace website optimized for mobile display and search engine results
Development and design of miscellaneous marketing materials including one pagers, brochures, marketing gifts, and conference exhibit collateral such as banners, table cloths, and signs.
Atromitos knows that a strong organizational brand and visual identity builds loyalty and trust with customers. A clear and consistent brand identity gives a business or organization personality and distinguishes the organization from competitors.
It is crucial to ensure that an organization’s visual identity is aligned with the organization’s vision, values, target audience and positioning because if it’s not, it could cause confusion in the market. For example, if an organization provides quality services with attention to detail, lack of attention to detail or consistency in the brand will send a conflicting message to prospective customers.
Every company has a story to tell. Atromitos helped Emtiro Health to tell their story fearlessly.
Where are we now?
The NCCN and P4CC leadership worked with counsel to legally form Emtiro Health and with an auditor to carry out due diligence to assure that each joint venturer would be a good company to partner with in forming a joint venture. After many years of hard work, and because of the commitment and dedication of the NCCN and P4CC leadership, Emtiro Health successfully launched in October 2017 with a fantastic reception in the marketplace, building a strong customer base with diversified revenue.
The leadership and staff of Emtiro Health truly embody the values of the company: Excellence, Integrity, Accountability, Collaboration, Adaptability, and Boldness. Under a strong executive leadership team and Board of Directors, Emtiro Health is making important operational, strategic, business, and financial decisions that will assure its long-term sustainability while building a shared culture of innovation and accountability.
When asked why the leadership brought in an external consultant to help with this process, the then-Executive Director of NCCN said “because they bring credibility to the process and an external, unbiased perspective that we need when making decisions.” We look back over the last two years with immense pride in the work we have done and are honored that the NCCN and P4CC leadership chose Atromitos to help them through this fantastic journey.
So much so that Emtiro Health and Atromitos have formed a strategic partnership. Our President, Michealle Gady, now serves as the Chief Strategy Officer for Emtiro Health and the Atromitos Communications team is the Emtiro Health Communications team. Additionally, we have engaged in joint product development and jointly work with community-based organizations and health care providers to help them achieve clinical-community integration in a way that meaningfully connects providers with community-based organizations so that the CBOs can provide necessary services and supports to patients to address social determinants of health, things like housing, healthy food, and transportation.