In each “On Leadership” column, Allen Lima Leadership Executive Director Matt Childers talks with a regional business leader. This week, he profiles Mike Swick, president and chief executive officer of Lima Memorial Health System.
Matt: What were your early years like?
Mike: I was born and raised here in Lima. I had great experiences. My first job was delivering The Lima News, and my second big opportunity was working at the Dairy Queen on Allentown Road. It really formulated for me being in a service organization now, learning how to deal with service issues, which makes a huge difference today at LMHS.
Matt: What role did your parents play in your life?
Mike: They were — and still are — very formidable in terms of the work ethic. They defined it for us, That you get ahold of your “boot straps,” you pick it up and get the work done. Nose to the grindstone philosophy. They both worked. My dad had two jobs. He worked at Ford and Lima Lumber. My dad built every house we ever lived in. They were also “conservative risk-takers.” They had a vision. They started the Dairy King on Elm Street. They turned a Texaco Gas station into an ice cream stand!
Matt: Did you have an idea what you wanted to do early on?
Mike: No. (Laughs.) I thought engineering might be my thing. I went to ONU. I spent one semester in the college of engineering and realized that was not for me. So I needed to make a change, and my college tennis coach influenced me to enroll in the college of business. Stretch Armstrong, the tennis coach, wanted to make sure I was going to be playing spring quarter. So over to the college of business I went.
Matt: How did your coaches in sport influence or impact you?
Mike: Being a part of a team was important. We were a tennis family. Tennis helped bring out the individual in you. It’s just you and your opponent on the court. There is no one else. It really built character for me, my brother and sister. Tennis was also good in having you figure out how to change your game. It makes you think through the process. Sports builds lifelong friends as well.
Matt: Why healthcare for Mike Swick?
Mike: It’s an interesting journey. After ONU, I went to get my MBA at (Bowling Green State University). I was a bit of a wallflower, and I needed to get into a field that would force myself to communicate. Long term, that is what leadership is all about — communication! So I ended taking a job with NCR selling computers in healthcare. I did that for five years and then moved over to one of my clients at NCR, Toledo Hospital. I also met my lovely wife at Toledo Hospital as she worked in the IT department.
Matt: What advice would you give college graduates on leading in the 21st century?
Mike: You have to be in a position to pay your dues and not be the VP right now. Put your nose to the grindstone, and do the work. Take advantage of your opportunities and build your resume.
Matt: What do you look for in executive-level hires?
Mike: Personality, a positive attitude and a shared vision. I like to talk about “renters vs. owners.” Those are the type of people we are looking for. We hope to have “owners” be a member of our team and be our biggest cheerleader here at Lima Memorial Health System. The other thing we look at is work ethic. We want to see that reflected in the resume. Lastly, we have a social responsibility. You have to remember to give of your time.
Matt: A little bit more on your executive hires?
Mike: A leadership skill you learn is to not hire people like you. I want to hire people that are smarter than me. I do not want yes people. I have to have the confidence that this person is smarter than me and will be an asset, not a threat.
Matt: How did Allen Leadership impact you?
Mike: It was a great experience. The reality was all the things that I did not know of in our community. ALL gave me a broader look at our community. It gave me the opportunity to meet new people and build new relationships and networks. I encourage people who are not from Lima to join Allen Lima Leadership. It’s a great opportunity to network and huge in terms of learning the community. It’s important to be a part of the community and going back to the social responsibility aspects.
Matt: What can the good people of West Central Ohio expect from LMHS in the next decade?
Mike: Just as a reminder we are a not for profit. We are a community asset. We are the only locally owned controlled health system. Every dollar we generate stays here. I anticipate us continuing to grow and providing the great services for the people in our community.