Julie Johnson: Adopt an open-door policy

Thursday, August 31, 2006

In the early 1990s, as the Motor City downsized high-cost operations in the United States and jettisoned jobs to Asia, Julie Johnson shifted gears. From her work in finance and human resources in the automotive industry, she moved to a similar position in health care at Detroit Oxygen & Medical Equipment.
She's never looked back, no matter how tempting the impulse, given the dramatic forces now reshaping the industry. But Johnson's no whiner. She interprets the upcoming reimbursement and regulatory changes as a challenge, and thus an opportunity for her company.
"I'm continually intrigued and challenged by the complexities of this industry," said Johnson. "We're now facing the challenges of reductions and regulatory changes, and we're trying to face them without cutting service."
At Detroit Oxygen, Johnson's in the driver's seat. She took over the company's operations in 1994 and since then has groomed Detroit Oxygen into one of the most vaunted home respiratory companies in the state. Nevertheless, she's got her hands full ensuring the company doesn't suffer a lapse in compliance and continues to push hard for quality and financial success.
And she's not taking the easy way out.
Daunted by reimbursement challenges, some operations managers have slashed costs across the board. Not Johnson. On the home oxygen front, she's investing in high-tech solutions.
"We've invested in technology as a way to remain competitive," she said. "Everyone is doing things differently. This is how we're doing it."
As a manager, Johnson prides herself on an open-door policy and counts this metric as one of the hallmarks of her success. When she talks about her business philosophy, she talks about the ability to listen and understand.
"I want each employee to feel extremely comfortable in coming to talk to me," she said. "If the employees are happy, they are successful. That's just the philosophy we have adopted. It starts at the top and goes all the way down."
Though respected as a prominent business leader in her field, Johnson doesn't believe that gender, one way or the other, has played much of a role in the success she's had as a manager or the way in which she sees the field of play in home medical equipment.
"I deal with a lot of different people in the state of Michigan, both women and men, at similar levels, and we're all committed," she said. "Our goal is to be successful, both personally and professionally."

Years in business: 15
Company/location: Detroit Oxygen & Medical Equipment Co., Warren, Michigan
Position: COO
Business philosophy: "Patients are happier and progress more quickly when they convalesce in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own home."