REACH Newsletter
Table of Contents


A View From the Crew


President’s Message: Sean Russell

Name, Title & Location

  • Sean Russell
  • President
  • Administrative Offices, Santa Rosa, CA
First and foremost, my job is to make sure that everyone on our staff has what they need to be successful and to take care of our patients in a high-quality and safe way. That means everything from systems processes to financial security to the more granular details of communication, culture and fiduciary responsibility. I feel that my message in this newsletter should be subdued or limited since it really is all about the crew. That’s what this year is all about. This is a very important topic. It’s about listening, and about how important a view from the crew is. I want our company leaders to listen to our staff and to see their views so we can better serve them.
Sean Russell Sean Russell

When Sean was a kid, what excited him most about getting to be a grown up or having authority?

As far back as I can recall, I’ve always wanted to be in a position where I’d have the ability to participate in and influence a good outcome. As a kid, all through high school, I was always class president. It wasn’t because I thought I was the most capable, it was because I thought, ‘I can participate!’ And when I look back to when I played sports, for me it was always about the team winning.

When I started at REACH, and when I decided to lead the fire service, I lovedworking on a helicopter as a paramedic, but I was frustrated at times by certain decisions. I wanted to help resolve the things that were frustrating–that’s what drove me.

Sean on the 2014 initiative of leadership returning to the flight line

I like that phrase, ‘Returning to the flight line.’ That’s a good overarching theme. REACH is blessed in that most of our senior leadership comes from the flight line. It’s great that we, as leaders, have that perspective and experience, but the down side is…it’s been a while since we were on the line. And the reality is, things have changed. So my intent is for all company leaders to get some fresh experience and exposure. We’ll all be out there interacting with the staff firsthand. We’ll all spend time on the flight line, like doing ride alongs and attending base meetings. What I’m asking of each member of our leadership team is one ride along quarterly—preferably more—and monthly base visits so they can just talk with the crews.

The other part of it has to do with REACH leadership meetings. Historically it’s been a very specific group of people that attends. Now, on a monthly basis, we’re also inviting the local leadership team, and we’ll spend the first half hour discussing their base and introducing their team. This will remind us exactly who it is that we serve, and we can talk about what’s working and what’s not. Each base will get to do a presentation, and we’ll have base-specific conversations. Each meeting will also devote time to discussing the previous month’s ride alongs and base visits.

We’re not attending the meetings to look over people’s shoulders. I’ve just learned that in our world of teleconferencing, where we’re not all in the same room and therefore not able to look one another in the eye, it can turn into the Phone Game. The message or policy being communicated can get filtered or changed. Information goes from meeting to meeting, and then it gets rolled out to the bases. And in teleconference meetings, everyone checks out once in a while, and at different times. We’re investigating how to change our meeting processes and communications to address these realities.

What else motivated this?

After getting last year’s change management behind us, this feels like the first opportunity I’ve had to think about what has always been my driving force, which is the desire to make sure the staff has everything they need. In my time at REACH, that has never been the primary priority. There have been many years of not having that focus.

When I look at the periods and times and cultural focuses since our inception, the first 10 years were about the visionary building process, and it was all about the patient. Then we spent 10 or 12 years mostly learning how to better identify and serve the customer. And of course we went through this period the last couple years where we focused on prep for the sell and then we focused on the change of the sell. So it’s been patient, customer, sell. Now we’re bringing it full circle by focusing on the staff, the employee. It all comes together if we focus on that.