When the Association of Corporate Growth NJ hosted its first conference to recognize innovative companies and their leaders in the state, they didn’t anticipate that this would evolve into a significant annual signature event for them.   But over the years, that is exactly what has occurred!  

Tom Bergeron, Senior Editor at ROI-NJ, served as the emcee for the morning. He opened the program by conducting a fascinating fireside chat with Bob Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. Most would agree that the title CEO says it all in terms of stature, prestige and authority.  But as Tom was speaking with Bob it became clear that for him there is another title that is even more impactful.  That is the title of Chief Mission Officer! 

Bob Garrett’s vision encompasses change for the entire healthcare industry

By assuming this unusual title, Bob takes responsibility for establishing the tone from the top, nurturing and motivating the team, and upholding and driving the mission of Hackensack Meridian Health, which is to transform health care; in fact, to transform the way health care is defined, delivered and received. Being creative, innovative and transformative is integral to the organization’s DNA. In fact, it serves as the basis for their strong culture unified around this single elegant concept. 

Transforming healthcare  

Writing a mission statement is only the first step in shaping an organization – living the mission is the key to success. For Garrett, everything about Hackensack Meridian must demonstrate a commitment to transformative care. This means delivering affordable quality care and a unique patient experience throughout the continuum of patient interaction.   

To better highlight the mission and how it is achieved, Bob explained their core beliefs as the Four C’s. These essential values include Creative, Compassionate, Collaborative and Courageous. Upholding these precepts everyone has a voice and a role in transforming health care. 

Innovation in the middle market

Inspired by these opening remarks from Corporate Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Bob Garrett, this year’s honorees addressed many of the tough challenges that they faced as game-changers with a transparency that was refreshing – and valuable – for everyone in attendance. 

David Barnett, Corsis; Laurel Whitney, Push Beverages; Paul Sullivan, Acrow Bridge; and Michael Zedalis, Tingley Rubber, each described their company’s specific approach to innovation. While they each came from very distinctively different industries, they had much in common. 

Leaders of innovative companies, they all agreed, need to be willing to listen and be open to change; to be flexible, to be risk takers, to engage with a diverse work force by being collaborative and caring. These are the key characteristics that serve as the foundation for companies that want to disrupt the status quo, change the marketplace with a vision for the future, and bring together teams that can make it happen.    

Strategies for tomorrow start today

What was especially obvious during the panel exchange was that innovation is a way of life for these leaders. It is an attitude, a way of thinking and of acting, but it is not just a goal to achieve. It is a process, a moving target, an evolving journey. This philosophy is what most often distinguishes the leadership teams at innovative companies and it was apparent in the conversation that the ACG NJ honorees embrace the concept that change is constant and that those who refuse to move forward will be quickly left behind.