Jeanie Smith has always had a passion for healthcare and people.
So when she saw a newspaper ad in the early 90’s for Rochester Regional Healthcare Association Family of Companies (RRHA) she applied for it. She had hoped that it might be a good way to start a career in healthcare administration and perhaps be a stepping-stone to another position. She got the job. And she excelled at it ever since.
Twenty-four years later, Jeanie is the Chief Strategy Officer of that same company, helping them grow from 50 million in volume when she started, to more than 350 million in volume today.
Most incredible, while achieving career success and rising to her executive position, Jeanie was also married, raising five children and taking care of her aging father.
When I asked her for advice about balancing between a career and her busy home life, Jeanie states, “Family comes first. Work comes second. Everything else is third.”
She said she doesn’t have an equal balance between work and home, but what she does have is “an ideal balance for me.” If you think this means she is always at work, she found time to be the basketball coach for all five of her children’s teams. Her three girls and two boys currently range in age from 10 to 19. They have all attended Fairport Schools.
In addition to work and family obligations, Jeanie has served on committees at the Bivona Child Advocacy Center, a Rochester non-profit that assists abused children. Jeanie has personally volunteered worked with children going through the healing process after abuse.
Jeanie is modest, and constantly swings the credit to her success away from personal attributes, and credits the company she works for.
According to Jeanie, RRHA helped her tremendously, by allowing her to work-flexible hours, particularly when while her five children were young.
“In many ways,” she says, “the company was ahead of its time, trusting and investing in me as a person, employee, mother and woman. They gave me the time to be a mom, a wife and a daughter when I needed to be there for my family.”
In return, she became a loyal employee.
She also says they allowed her to wear many hats within the company and provided her with several strong mentors throughout her career.
Jeanie says she learned her most valuable lessons from bosses, colleagues and customers. She said she was taught that ‘people buy from people’ and the key to sales “is building a unique relationship with everyone you meet.”
While she is quick to always praise her colleagues for her business success, it’s clear from speaking to her that she is also personally driven.
Jeanie obtained her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Administration at SUNY Fredonia and earned her MBA at St. John Fisher College. While she learned the academic aspects of managing a business while pursuing her degrees, it’s her exceptional people skills that strike you as a large contributor to her success.
“You need to learn from everyone around you and always look for the good in them,” she says. “It’s cliché, but I truly believe that it’s important to treat everyone with courtesy and respect, from the custodial staff to the CEO.”
When pushed to describe her own talents and skills, she says her three best personality traits are that she’s driven, disciplined, and passionate about healthcare. She credits her parents for instilling a strong work ethic in her. “I was raised with a strong set of values and was encouraged to work hard to succeed.” She smiles when she says that, obviously thinking of her parents.
When asked about her favorite part of her job, the mother of five says she truly enjoys being busy and she’s the ultimate multi-tasker.
“I appreciate having the ability to wear many hats in this company and be involved in all aspects of a small business, including sales, marketing, sourcing, contract negotiations, customer service, and most recently, strategy and process improvement,” Jeanie says. It’s actually exhausting to hear all she loves to do at work, then she goes home and cares for such a big family.
Yet she has the energy to do it all.
When asked to give women career advise, she says that “women need to seek out challenges and opportunities within your organization. If you see a need for improvement, make it known and make it happen.
“Women need to step outside of their comfort zones and take credit for their ideas,” Jeanie states. “If you have a great idea, share it and take credit for it!”
Jeanie also loves to talk about the company she works for.
As Chief Strategy Officer, Jeanie would like more people to know about the work they do and to understand the RRHA brand and their role in improving health care. She said the family of companies within RRHA are truly a “hidden gem.” She explains that there are four individual, yet related businesses within the family of companies. Their shared goal is to improve quality access and healthcare in the areas in which their members live, while minimizing costs.
The first of the four companies, Rochester
Regional Hospital Association, was formed in 1947 and became the Rochester Regional Healthcare Association in 1998. RRHA is a not-for-profit association whose membership is comprised of sixteen hospitals and their related-health systems in the Rochester and Finger Lakes Region. The Association works with members to attend committee meetings, share information and best practices to improve the health care to the population of an entire region rather than compete with each other.
Next came Rochester Regional Healthcare Advocates, in 1988, another non-profit company that advocates for legislation that affects it’s members.
The last two organizations under the RRHA umbrella are the Joint Ventures Corporation and Seagate Alliance. They are RRHA’s group purchasing organizations (GPO) that have more than 1,300 members in 28 states.
A GPO aggregates the purchasing volume of its members for various goods and services and develops contracts with suppliers through which members may buy at group price and terms if they choose to. RRHA offers purchasing power on everything from medical supplies to nutritional food for hospital patients. The companies have expanded group purchasing into all aspects of healthcare, hospitality, education and other businesses.
According to Jeanie, the family of companies offer their members “best in class pricing, high-quality product portfolios, and unparalleled service.”
“I like to dive right in to understanding our customers wants and needs, then do whatever it takes to exceed their expectations,” Jeanie says.
So between having a full home life to a successful career in healthcare, what could possibly be on Jeanie’s bucket list?
“I am half Irish and half Italian,” Jeanie said. “So I would really like to travel to Ireland and Italy. It would be a way to honor my parents, who never got the chance to travel there.” Given that she has always found a way to make time for everything in her life that’s important to her, we hope she will share visits of her over-seas adventure with Rochester Women Online.