Mike Smucker, Resident District Manager in our Healthcare line of business, takes pride in serving alongside healthcare practitioners, managing a number of facilities and leading passionate teams to success.
Mike Smucker has a hands-on approach to his work, and takes pride in being a part of the healing environment that impacts customers, patients, and families every day. With years of custodial experience himself, he is uniquely equipped not only to maintain healthcare facilities, but to empathize with the people he leads as well.
“I started out as a housekeeping supervisor or assistant manager in a long-term care retirement village, and I’ve always been intrigued with the technical aspect of it. You know, the pH of floor refinishing, what chemicals to use and how they work, the science behind our business always intrigued me. And that’s helped me to really become a subject matter expert, while at the same time managing people and empowering them to do the same. In fact, this past winter, we had about a foot of snow drop in a 24-hour period, and we had about 20 call-offs. And I said, hey, let me hop on the auto scrubber. So I rode the machine around the hospital for a couple of hours. The ability to do that helps me remember how difficult the work our employees do is and helps me further engage them in the process.”
The experience of working in healthcare, however, is unlike any other. While working alongside healthcare providers and practitioners, Mike and his team find themselves on the frontlines with opportunities to make an impact around every turn.
“In healthcare, we have patients that come in by the dozens, by the hundreds, by the thousands, and we have the opportunity to make a positive impact on every one of them. You know, the patient is going to get words from their doctor that are going to change the rest of their life with the condition they have, then the next person that patient is going to see is the housekeeper coming into the room. So what do we say? How do we interact? How do we smile? The critical piece that we play in support services, and in being there and supporting with that network, really drives society, drives people, and drives our love for our work, and we’re fortunate enough to play a part in that each day.”
While the work can be incredibly rewarding, there is no question that it can be challenging at times. Mike and his team have faced situations that facilities/custodial professionals would never encounter outside of the healthcare environment. Through committed leadership and passionate teamwork, however, Mike and his team are more than equipped to tackle those challenges and make a positive impact when people need them most. Mike recalls a moment in his career when he saw his people – an Aramark as a whole – at their best and their bravest.
“On Valentine’s evening in 2008, I was about to head home and take my wife out for dinner, and then we got these urgent calls that the ambulances were on their way. There was a shooting on the NIU Campus, and I’ll never forget the horrifying sight of our emergency room being inundated with kids with gunshot wounds, the amount of cleanup that was needed, and the emotion that was pouring through us all. At the same time, however, it was amazing to see our team members saying ‘I will stay and I will help clean this and I will care for this. I’ll bring the supplies where needed.’ Staff and leaders even came from other Aramark accounts to help. Yes, it was a catastrophe, but we were in it together. That outpouring of community and people to care for these individuals and families really just shows the value of why we’re in this business and how we can really step up to action.”
To hear more about Mike’s responsibilities as Resident District Manager, working at a hospital, or what makes Aramark a special place to work, check out his Q&A or Soundcloud clips!
— Mike Smucker, Resident District Manager
What makes working in healthcare meaningful for you?
We have the opportunity to make a positive impact on individual patients. What I love to do is instill that passion with our team members as they're in a huddle for the day, being able to remind the entire team why we're here in health care. The patient is going to get words from their doctor that might change the rest of their life and the next person that patient is going to see is the housekeeper coming into the room. So what do we say? How do we interact? How do we smile? We get to go into rooms where there are moms with their newborns for the first time, and we get to be one of the first people congratulate them. The critical piece that we play in support services, and in being there and supporting with that network, really drives our people and drives our love for our work. At one of our facilities, we celebrate with patients as they head home after being healed from COVID. The hospital plays a song and we're part of that healing environment in the hospital.
What impact does your staff get to make on patients?
When it comes to our staff, the word hero is not an overstatement. They come to work each day even through COVID. We've got banners around the facilities that say that and we remind them in the morning huddles when they're coming in, whether it's through a foot of snow, or just a regular day. They're all heroes that make a positive difference. And we get the letters from families to prove it. Recently our housekeeper on one of our floors at a hospital got one. The patient said, "I couldn't have my family members visit me due to COVID, but this housekeeper was my family while I was there." She was battling a cancer diagnosis and this housekeeper spoke with her and shared kind words with her every day, and really made a huge impact and that patient.
How do you approach developing your team?
Within my network, we have an assessment across the hospitals, and we meet at least twice a year. We look at our talent within our region and within our hospital system to consider who among our hourly staff members or our salaried managers are ready for further development. I challenge the leaders to take ownership for their own growth. I'm not going to invest in your growth if you just sit there. You need to schedule that time with your mentor, you need to be able to understand where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, what you need to develop and what you need to build upon. You need to be able to hear the feedback from people in higher level positions that can give you that constructive feedback, and I challenge each of my managers to really continue to work through those milestones of development. I want them to be ready for that next level successfully.
Why is healthcare a good industry to get into?
Healthcare as a whole is somewhat recession proof because people will always need care. There are financial drivers as well, of course. We want to be more efficient and productive and innovative. We have the opportunity to be on the forefront of that to bring innovation, to bring those cost savings in a dynamic that's going to continue to grow. In my 22 years of experience in healthcare, I have seen innovations grow leaps and bounds, whether it's just the string mop that somebody used to use on a floor evolving to a microfiber process that is able to clean more efficiently and more quickly, or robots moving down our hallway cleaning the corridors. What is the potential in the future? Who are the great minds that that can come into this business that can bring those questions of why are we doing it this way? Or can we do it this way? And how about this for an innovative idea, and just bring those tools and recommendations and fresh eyes to our business that can really drive us forward. We're in outstanding company within Aramark.