Welcome to the first installment of our series, “Voices of Leadership,” where we interview the members of our leadership team from our various companies. We’re kicking it off with none other than Rayser’s very own President and CEO, Michelle Jensen!
Q: Tell us a little about your career background and how you got to where you are today.
A: I came in as the store manager for CarePro Home Medical. At the time, we just had one location here in Cedar Rapids. Before that, I was with TLC Laser Eye Centers, which did LASIK surgery. We were with the Iowa Eye Care Office in Robins, Iowa. I’d been there about four years. I started when we opened that office. I had gotten to the point where I had achieved what they wanted to achieve, had built relationships with referral sources, had a good process in place, and just really was looking for my next adventure. I had worked with a recruiter and said, “I’m looking, It’s not urgent. I love the people I work with. I love the job. I’m just not challenged anymore.” So as these things go, in a week, she called and said, “Well, I have this opportunity.”
I didn’t know anything about CarePro, hadn’t used their services, and didn’t know anything about ESOP. So probably, like a lot of employees, when she called and said, oh, it’s an ESOP, I honestly didn’t understand what it was about. The company hadn’t been an ESOP for a very long, so I don’t feel it had embraced the culture. But the position spoke to what I wanted to do. Even when I went to college, I liked business, but I also really liked healthcare. I liked having purpose and feeling like we were helping patients, and being mission-driven. It’s always been important to me. So I started in 2006 as the store manager for CarePro Home Medical. Back then, it was Fifth Avenue Medical, so we hadn’t gone through a name change yet. It was Fifth Avenue Medical on 10th Street between fourth and fifth. Little confusing.
As we started to grow that location and as the company, we had CarePro, but none of the divisions within the company used CarePro as the name. So we were looking to expand into Coralville. We had to decide what to do about a name because we didn’t want to be Fifth Avenue Medical on First Avenue or wherever in Coralville. That doesn’t make sense. That’s when we decided Home Medical would be the first to adopt the CarePro name. That was nice because that allowed us to expand and grow, at least within the corridor with that name recognition. From there, I became COO within CarePro, so I had responsibility for the home care division, so for both home medical and home infusion, including nursing, compounding, and all aspects of that. In 2015 I became president and CEO of CarePro Health Services. Then in 2018, as the pharmacy division was sold, we decided to go ahead and diversify and form a holding company, Rayser Holdings, and I became president and CEO of Rayser Holdings.
Q: What does it mean to you to be the leader of Rayser?
A: It’s a huge, huge honor. The people that work in all of our companies are just so devoted to what they do, and that always makes your job easier when you have employees who are devoted to what they do. We’re lucky. Our businesses are mission-driven. Our employees understand the importance of what they do every day, no matter piece they do. So whether they’re in support services, supporting the businesses, whether it’s a clinician on the frontline, a delivery driver delivering to a patient, someone building a car at KELTEK, putting together assembly units at J-TEC, or even setting stones at Midwest Memorials. I mean, everyone understands why what they do is so very, very important to the company. I think that says a lot about our employees. I think being employee-owned it’s something unique. A lot of companies aren’t. It is fun to try and describe it to people who don’t understand ESOPs, but I think it just allows that little something extra for people to engage and take what they do to heart. We always get suggestions on how to do things better and save money. Are there new ventures we should look at? I think those employees that decide to become engaged in the ESOP and learn about the ESOP can just feel that much more satisfied and fulfilled at work.
Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of thus far with your time with Rayser?
A: I think I’ve talked about this before, and it’s not that you want to have a crisis, but I’ve always been so impressed with how our employees have always responded in a crisis. So back in the day at CarePro, it was ice storms. For whatever reason, we seemed to have a couple of winters where we had really bad ice storms, which parts of the city and our patient base would lose power. Then we had technicians and everyone working extra to try and get oxygen to patients, having oxygen available for patients to pick up, and just managing that. And again, when disaster strikes, a lot of our businesses don’t get to take a break. So when there was a tornado for one of the KELTEK customers, they had to step up and get involved and help provide backup communication systems.
They were involved in that, or there was a tornado in Winterset. Our folks are always available, no matter what division they’re at, to step up and help. Whether it was ice storms, the flood in 2008, COVID, or the derecho. I’m always so impressed and especially when a lot of our employees are also dealing with something similar to whatever that crisis is in their home life. They’re trying to manage whatever kind of disaster situation they have at home, but then they’re also always really committed to if they can come in and they can work, or they can take care of whoever we need to take care of, whether it’s a patient, a client, or a customer, they’re always very willing to do that. In our community, our employees are always willing to help each other. So if somebody does have something happen, our employees have always been great about pitching in and doing what they can to help cover for that person. We kind of understand that someday we may be in that situation. So the more we can help each other out, that should just pay back over time.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our leadership team! You can listen to the entire interview right here: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/QJMSS6uMDwb