Arletta Samulak: Focus on what you do best
Perhaps it's because she grew up in a starkly different culture, or maybe it's due to having a very supportive husband and father, but Arletta Samulak moves very easily in an industry dominated by men.
Samulak joined Associated Healthcare as a reimbursement manager in 1997, and earned the CFO title four years ago.
"The image of CFOs is that we are bean counters," she said. "But when (company president Don White) promoted me, I believe he saw me as a leader who could participate in various areas--strategic planning, corporate compliance, contract management, information technology and operations. I go way beyond billing and accounting."
Samulak has an interesting background to say the least. She emigrated to the United States from Poland when it was still behind the Iron Curtain in 1985. Her father helped found the Solidarity labor movement with Lech Walesa in the early 1980s and was even imprisoned because of his activities. When he was released, the family left Poland to make a new life here.
"It was a difficult adjustment at first, because I didn't know one word of English," she said, her Polish accent still evident. "But we were very happy to be here."
It didn't take her long to assimilate. She attended college and got into the HME industry as a biller for a pharmacy in Buffalo, N.Y. She immediately realized that her future would be in healthcare finance.
"I found it to be very challenging and I love that," she said. "It was constantly changing and evolving. I wanted to be a part of it."
Samulak found herself at the epicenter of change when she joined Associated nine years ago, just as the industry was reeling from the 30% oxygen cuts mandated by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The company responded by undergoing a dramatic restructuring and she oversaw all of it. While it proved to be a tumultuous process, it had to be done, she said.
"We had to resharpen our focus on what we do best, and ultimately it proved to be the right decision," she said.
Like so many immigrants who flock to America, Samulak considers herself very lucky to live here and cherishes a system where "the sky is the limit." That outlook extends to her view on gender equality in the workplace.
"I focus on our similarities, not differences," she said. "I strongly believe that men and women have the same approach to our careers--we are looking forward at the advancements we can make." hme
Years in business: 15
Company/location: Associated Healthcare Systems, Amherst, N.Y.
Size: $16 million
Position: CFO; also responsible for all IT-related planning, budgeting and implementation
Professional associations: HFMA
Business philosophy: "A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm"--Charles Schwab