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CEOs

Wes Mason, From Pleasing Wall Street to Serving the People

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Having worked primarily for publicly traded corporations, Wes Mason has seen the erosion of values and decreasing emphasis on safety and quality of care to satisfy the need for increasing revenue/profits to continuously keep “Wall Street” happy.

In 2012, Wes left the corporate world and founded Meridian Behavioral Health System (MBHS) with one like-minded partner and a small amount of capital.

Today, in its fifth year, MBHS manages eight behavioral health facilities and over 800 employees in the US. The company’s corporate team also grew from two in 2012 to today’s team of 14. MBHS acts as a holding company and provides a full spectrum of behavioral health services.

Read more to see how Wes realized his value through serving the community he cares about.

The unhappiness from keeping “Wall Street” happy

Before 2012, Wes was unsatisfied and frustrated.

“After working for publicly traded companies for a while, I got frustrated with not being able to always do projects or build programs that I felt were necessary.”

He said that the approval process for innovation and new programs was cumbersome in the corporate world and there wasn’t a lot of flexibility in moving things forward. Big corporations would always put their need of reaping profit before meeting the states and patients’ needs.

As Wes was going through the process of evaluating the needs for behavioral and mental health service in different communities, based on his experience, the idea to create something himself sparked.

In 2012, Wes started MBHS with a partner, someone who he had done creative programming with in the past. “We wanted something that’s less attractive to some of the bigger players but that focuses on community relationships and partnerships,” he said.

Unlike big corporations that tend to contract with commercial insurance such as Aetna, Humana or BC/BS, MBHS has contracts that are focused on working with agencies, such as the Department of Social Services, Department of Juvenile Justice and Offices of Behavioral Health.

The opportunity to run highly effective treatment facilities that incorporate best practices in the behavioral health industry, without the constant, unrealistic mandates of a large corporation, where patients come before profit is the primary mission behind the creation of Meridian.

With that in mind, his journey to excellence began.

The First deal – Plan B might be as good as plan A

The first facility Wes’ team looked to acquire was an old critical access hospital that he had wanted to acquire for an expansion project for his old company. Starting off, MBHS didn’t have the capital to acquire something in a five times multiple or higher, but it certainly had the money for new construction, he said.

“If we could find a building that had some beds attached to it, then all we need is a renovation, which would be more financially advantageous than an acquisition,” Wes added.

As the team explored more on the asset, they found out that one of the hospital owners was actually in senior care business. Wes immediately had a new idea — taking some of the older senior care buildings, repurposing them as behavioral health facilities and doing a deal that way.

Luck was on Wes’ side. He met with the hospital owner and found synergies between what he was trying to do and what the hospital owners were doing. What’s more, Wes’ team was able to create a network for geriatric programs that would be meaningful for the senior care facility and for its people who needed that level of care.

The two parties later struck a deal where the hospital would be more the financial arm and MBHS more the operational arm.

“We had no idea who the owners were. We didn’t know what plans were for that building or if there was even a shot, but we took a chance. It was a cold call. You have to be willing to make those calls and be vulnerable, if you want to be successful,” Wes said.

Even better, the old owners of the senior care company were former investment bankers who are also entrepreneurs. They thought that behavioral health would be one of their investments focus and gave Wes some capital to get the MBHS started.

Lead and give back

Wes credits the majority of his long-term success to his uncanny ability to recognize and optimize the individual talents and strengths. He stressed that constantly pushing people out of their comfort zone keeps everyone fresh and challenged while expanding the business.

Considering Wes started his career as a direct care worker, he understands firsthand that MBHS takes on very difficult patients that other facilities refuse to provide service. “Difficult patients, who have behaviors that are tough to manage can be a real strain on staff,” Wes said, “but we take on that challenge because we do what’s best for the patients and the community.”

“To do this, we must take care of our staff.”

Wes keeps a very personal relationship with everyone on the corporate team. Hockey games, family dinners and weekend gatherings, just to name a few, are ways he interacts personally with the employees and their families. He also has a personal mentorship program where all staff members have a chance to spend coaching time with Wes to better themselves and the facility.

Lesson learned from being an entrepreneur

Number one is to make sure you have surrounded yourself with the right support group, whether family or friends. Because it most likely is going to take twice as long and cost twice as much if you don’t.

“You’re going to need a lot of positive energy. I would also say that unequivocally, you can’t doubt yourself. You need to be smart enough to make changes and challenge yourself. Just because things don’t go exactly like you thought, don’t doubt your original conviction or your belief in yourself. You just have to adjust. I think that’s really tough for people sometimes to do in an entrepreneurial way.”

Everything is not going to go as you expected.

“When you are an entrepreneur, you think things are going to go as you hope, but that’s not true.” Wes said. “To me, the true test of character is how you deal with things when they’re not going your way, rather than when everyone’s making money and everyone’s happy and loves each other.”

Wes said entrepreneurs should always believe in themselves. “The first time you miss a number, you are going to have someone tell you that haven’t been right and it’s a problem.” Entrepreneurs should always have a clear vision, and they should have perseverance to make tough decisions quickly.

“If you’re not comfortable with change, being an entrepreneur is going to be difficult because there’s a lot of things that are out of your control. You have to learn to manage them and manage people in a way that is very different from a traditional job or occupation.”

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