Sean Russell, President
REACH Air Medical Services
Your business card says President, but if you got to create your own job title, what would it be?
2014 was quite an eventful year. As REACH moves forward into 2015, what do you see as the company’s primary challenge/opportunity?
2014 was a big year, full of new opportunities and hard work and significant growth. During the last quarter, multiple opportunities arose pretty much all at once. Everything converged over about two months, and the holiday season was in there, too. As a company, we rose to the occasion. Everyone brought their dedication and skills and best thinking to the table, and together we saw things through.
I think our primary challenge going forward will be the thing that is our continuing challenge, which is maintaining our culture and who we are despite all the distractions: growth, regulatory requirements, political climate changes and the many other things that affect our industry. It’s a challenging industry even without any of that because we combine two heavily-regulated professions, clinical and aviation. Bottom line, our primary job is to maintain the practices and principles that have kept us successful all along.
With that in mind, what would you say is the predominant strength or asset REACH can bring to bear on this challenge, as well as others?
I would say it’s our culture. Based on our founding principle, our culture remains one of adaptability and perseverance. And of safety. Our employees will always be supported in making the safest choice in any situation, and we have a very accountable team when it comes to that. They consistently do the safe thing and the right thing for the patient, the team and themselves.
What are you loving most right now about being President/Coach?
I’d say the greatest thing for me is the same thing it was 25 years ago. I wake up and feel good about REACH every single day because I know that we will do something positive for somebody somewhere. I try to stay very aware of the line between pride and humility, but it’s hard not to be proud of our staff. Our REACH 12 team recently used the term ‘humbly arrogant’ which is very fitting in this case. You know, every month leadership conducts a “We Care” discussion, where managers bring forward the amazing things their team members have done over the past month. It is so humbling and centering to hear what our employees consistently do on a day-to-day basis, whether they’re a Comm Specialist or someone at Admin or a clinician or a pilot.
In addition to the exemplary people, culture and mission here at REACH, what do you find exceptionally inspiring?
One thing for sure is the stories that I have the opportunity to hear. For example, on Super Bowl Sunday we put together seven complete neonatal and pediatric teams to transfer seven patients that UCSF needed to have moved to their new location. The employees on these teams gave up their weekend, and it was for a competitor’s customer. There was no financial or strategic advantage for the company. Our people stepped up because it was the right thing to do for the patient.
On Superbowl Sunday, the REACH Flight Crew gathers at UCSF Medical Center to move their neonatal patients to new NICU.
I also love it when I hear someone out there say that they know one of our employees and go on to share how amazing they think that person is. The philanthropy and community volunteer work alone that so many of our people take part in is inspiring. REACH employees truly are integral pillars of the community. Just getting to spend time with them is inspiring, when I get to do that.
On a softer note—and this is deeply meaningful to me—we have a number of staff that are former military, and the opportunity to serve them is special for me. You know, these team members served our country, and then they came here. If you think about the type of people that typically go into the military, which remember is a voluntary service, they are people who want to give of themselves to a great and noble cause. That’s the type of people here at REACH. I’m in awe of the things they’ve accomplished. They are truly a source of inspiration to me.
Switching gears from business to personal, will you share something that you really love to do, like a favorite hobby, or a skill you like to practice? Or is there something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet?
The most gratifying thing I’ve done in my personal life is coach my son’s football teams. I did that for 13 years. When I look back, I don’t know how I did it, but I did. That’s what I’d really like to do again, to help youth, to instill principles and values. With sports coaching, you get to help them learn that it’s not about the win or the loss, it’s about the lessons they learn, and I think that’s so important. 13 years later, these young men still call me “coach”, which is an honor.
Last chance open mic. Is there anything else you particularly want to share?
I’d just like to say that when we on the leadership team are making decisions, especially difficult ones, something that always makes it easier is thinking about the people in this company that we’re here to serve and support. With that in mind, it helps us make the best choices possible.