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There Is No Competition For Best

Kurt Theriault

By Kurt Theriault

For every dollar spent on treatment for mental illness, chemical dependency – or both– the state of Minnesota saves seven in return.

The savings come from less use of costly resources such as 911 and ambulance calls, hospital stays and imprisonment. The return on investment case on effective treatment is undeniable.

Supportive Living Solutions (SLS), a local Minnesotan company, provides housing and home care treatment services for the mentally ill, chemically dependent and homeless. Founded over 43 years ago, SLS has impacted thousands of lives over that time – and has literally saved many others.

With a mission to improve the quality of lives in the communities they serve and being the best provider they can be, SLS is experiencing significant growth.

Serving 60 individuals and generating just $450,000 in 1996, the operation today serves over 450 people and revenue has grown to more than 16 times that.

I sat down with CEO Bill Arrigoni and director of business development, Ryan Dieveney, to learn more about how they’ve been able to drive this growth and where they see their mission-driven business headed next.

Theriault: First, how did the business start?

The business started with a focus on chemical dependency. Many people are victims of generational abuse in their families. Their life is so deeply broken. The chemical is oft en the symptom of the problem.

Fact is, chemically dependent people need more than 30 days of treatment to straighten their life out. These people need time afterwards. That was the genesis of the business. Providing this mode of care commonly referred to now as “aftercare.”

What has been found and is ultimately driving our growth is there is less recidivism when people have been in a supportive atmosphere post-treatment.

Theriault: Who do you serve and how do they come to you?

The people we serve are generally low income, have a disability and are in need of support. But really, we are ultimately serving our communities. We provide services to the communities who have people in need.

Theriault: Many companies talk about mission, but you really operationalize this passion for helping others. How has your focus on mission impacted your business directly?

Our mission is to make a difference and significantly improve the quality of life in our communities. This was our founder’s mission and remains ours, which goes right into our core value of passion and caring deeply about the people we serve.

This permeates down into every single thing we do at our company and especially how we build our teams of people within the firm.

We ensure each person on our team not only deeply cares about the issues we solve, but are then driven to make a difference in people’s lives and communities.

Theriault: What has sparked your growth?

The launching of our home care division, which offers services to people so they can stay safely in their homes. We began with zero clients in the division just a few years ago and today have over 275. We created a delivery model that the counties and state love.

Beyond that, it is how we operate. We execute on our mission each day – to improve the quality of our communities. We actively approach our communities – our clients – and ask a ton of questions. What is the need? What is your frustration? What are your struggles with other providers? We then take this information and make significant changes to how we work with them. This is what drives us.

Theriault: All of a sudden you had to operationalize in order to meet a growing need. How did you put yourself in position to meet this need and deliver on your promise to the communities?

We knew we couldn’t keep running our company and doing things the way we had always done them if we wanted to get from here to there, so to speak. the tools and processes we had in place were not going to get it done.

We made a decision to put some discipline and tools in place to help us scale the business and deal with big issues decisively as they come up. Whereas in the past we might take a couple months to deal with an issue, we no longer had that luxury. Because of the growth opportunity, the issues were bigger and had to be wrestled to the ground more quickly. We weren’t as skilled as we needed to be in this area at first.

We got the right players at the table to help identify the problems facing us, discuss them and come up with good solutions. It didn’t happen in one sitting, but we got better over time. We got to some fixes. Every time we made a fix, we’d get a bump up, but then discover something else was not quite right.

Theriault: Staffing was a real challenge wasn’t it?

Yes. The real challenge as the number of people we could help was growing was staffing for that correctly. We’d discover, like other providers, that we weren’t prepared to provide services immediately to new people that needed them.

We realized we weren’t accounting for staff turnover. By this time, we had everyone on our team’s wills involved in solving big issues like this. It became about discovering a people formula for us that worked. Based on projections, we’d come up with a way to identify how many people we needed. Then, we’d work with our HR team to find them.

The growth of the business also forced us to do better training, more frequently. If we can be the highest bar in this business, that raises everyone’s game around us in this space and that is how we really help all communities in the long run.

Theriault: How do you build and ensure the passion you have permeates through your entire team?

We preach to our entire staff, every day, that our mission and purpose is to make a difference to our clients through every single interaction you have with them.

Put that smile on your face, love in your eyes, radiate positivity, give others hope and create an atmosphere of enthusiasm and vision for a better life. Radiate that even in the most monotonous things that you are doing. We talk like that around here.

Our core values are so ingrained into our culture and are not aspirational. They are who we are. We hire, promote and sometimes have to fire off them and everyone knows it.

Theriault: What are your plans for the future of the business? Where are you headed next?

Anywhere we go, whenever we share what it is we do, someone shares with us that they know someone who could use our help. Furthermore, they share that there is nowhere in their state they can turn for good help.

There are many states in the country that need our services and we want to bring excellence to every one of their communities. The need for what we do is astronomical out there. That’s where we are headed.


Kurt Theriault is president of Allied Executives and works with CEOs, business owners and executive leaders on leadership development and business performance improvement through peer groups, coaching and educational workshops. Visit www.alliedexecutives.com or email Kurt at ktheriault@alliedexecutives.com.