Michelle Garrison hesitated to make the leap when she accepted the role of chief finance officer (CFO) for GetixHealth in 2015. The company had been a client of Garrison’s, and she was worried that she might feel stifled by what seemed like a maintenance role. That apprehension, however, turned out to be unfounded.
“Our CEO told me that this was not a place where I was going to get bored,” Garrison remembers. “I can tell you that he absolutely made good on that promise.”
Within Garrison’s first six months on the job, GetixHealth underwent six acquisitions. The company went from one location with about two hundred employees to fifteen locations (including a substantial branch in India) and more than seventeen hundred employees. Garrison would go on to occupy a dual purview, becoming the company’s chief human resources officer (CHRO) as well as CFO.
After working on thirteen total acquisitions, supporting the creation of more than a dozen new sites, and building an entirely new HR skill set, Garrison is anything but bored. She’s currently helping GetixHealth unite culturally as one company while also finding new and innovative ways for the finance team to push the business forward.
An Entrepreneur’s Heart
Garrison brings a unique perspective to her role. A graduate of Georgia Tech (she earned an electrical engineering degree), Garrison owned and operated her own electrical construction company for twelve years. “I was working for a construction company and decided there were opportunities for me to start my own, so I did,” she says. “I had to operate as my own CFO and just learn on the fly.”
During that time, Garrison recognized just how important a trusted advisor could be—mostly because she didn’t have one. And it wasn’t until she decided to move on that she realized what she wanted her own future to look like.
“As I was working on an exit strategy, I hired a consultant who I wish had been there with me the entire time,” she says. “It got me thinking about how many other entrepreneurs out there could use a person with financial expertise to help move them forward. I decided my mission going forward would be to help other entrepreneurs succeed.”
Garrison earned a master’s degree in accounting and financial management and found an ideal role at Strategic CFO, a company that works with mid-market businesses and entrepreneurs to provide interim financial support. GetixHealth was one of her clients, and the rest is history.
Check the Playbook
While Garrison welcomed the acquisition-forward focus at GetixHealth, it wasn’t a process she had been through before. So she did what she always does: build a playbook.
“Once I had a couple M&As under my belt, I started creating a playbook and refining it every time we went through something new,” Garrison says. “I think it’s my electrical engineering background coming out, because it requires critical thinking, process creation, and being very methodical about activities I’m doing repetitively. I’m big on playbooks.”
She’s applied the same methodology to her CHRO role. In an effort to promote more engagement between managers and employees, managers are required to meet one-on-one with employees at least once a month to build connections.
“We want to provide a framework for our managers to engage, and to make sure we know the kinds of directions our employees want to evolve [in]. When I look at this business, I see it as a beautiful Cadillac, best in class—but if we don’t take care of our engine, our human capital asset, then we won’t be able to move forward. Our people make the difference.”
Of course, Garrison has built a playbook for this process as well.
On the financial side, Garrison partners with the chief technology officer and the operations team, who are utilizing bots and AI to continue to find new ways to serve the company’s clients. To address the always relevant “propensity to pay” concept, the GetixHealth team is using machine learning to create algorithms around patient payment behavior. A score is created utilizing a wealth of information, and GetixHealth then knows the priority in which it should seek to collect payments.
“It’s allowed us to prioritize our efforts and not have to continue to add more bodies to our call centers,” Garrison explains. “It adds value by helping us focus on what matters most at the time, and the model is learning all the time.”
As Garrison continues to find new ways to help enable her company’s business, she’s also looking out for the next generation of leaders. Garrison serves on the diversity, equity, and inclusion board for the CFO Leadership Council.
“I just want to see more people given the chance to rise to the occasion,” she says. “I was given the opportunity to grow, and want to see others have that same opportunity.”
Creating the NCAF
When her son Chase was diagnosed with a right coronary anomaly (a congenital heart defect), Michelle Garrison barely understood what the doctors were telling her, and had no idea where to turn for support.
That led to Garrison creating the National Coronary Anomalies Foundation (NCAF), a nonprofit that was established to increase awareness of coronary artery anomalies and to foster a community where patients, patient families, and physicians share experience and knowledge about this condition to help prevent sudden cardiac death. Along with offering information and forums, the NCAF helps out with costs for patients traveling to receive treatment.
The NCAF is participating in a grant awarded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute for its efforts, and Garrison says she’s grateful that she’s been able to create an organization that can help provide answers for fearful patients and parents. Her son Chase underwent successful surgery and is currently a junior at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.