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This piece is presented by Avera Health.
Jim Woster has always been an early riser.
That’s what tends to happen when you grow up in a farming and ranching family, as Woster did in Reliance, in central South Dakota.
And it’s partially why he’s able to describe a 6 a.m. Mass at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center as “fun.”
One morning, about 28 years ago, he was leaving that early morning Mass at the Catholic hospital when Sister Colman pulled him aside.
“She said: ‘I see you on TV. I know who you are,’ ” said Woster, who used to deliver reports on the ag market.
“I said: ‘I know who you are. You’re Sister Colman.’ ” he replied.
She answered, “It wouldn’t hurt if you’d stop by and see patients once in awhile.”
It wasn’t exactly a request, Woster explained.
“It was kind of an order. When Sister Colman says something, you just did it.”
Almost 30 years later, he still visits Avera patients daily. He has taken on the title of “goodwill ambassador.”
Sometimes, he’ll stop and see familiar faces from his farming days. He has been known to serenade pediatric patients at the Avera Behavioral Health Center.
And there are plenty of other parts of the unofficial job that likely go unnoticed but for encounters like Avera vice president of public relations Lindsey Meyers had one day.
Her first memory of Woster involves seeing “a guy outside pulling parking tickets off cars.”
Woster seems half-embarrassed by the account but picks up the story nonetheless.
“There’s a street near the hospital with two-hour parking, and there were three tickets on the window, and this poor couple just didn’t see the sign,” he said. “I just picked them up. It’s easier. Can you imagine you’re walking out of the hospital after a long day and there’s a stack of tickets?”
The value of empathizing is just one lesson he said he has learned over a career that took him from co-owning Olsen-Frankman Livestock to decades on the airwaves and most recently his role with Avera.
Because we all likely could benefit from a little Woster wisdom, we’re proud to present:
Don’t get into a business you don’t know, especially if you’re not going to be there yourself.
If you want to lose money in a hurry, try running a restaurant, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. (Woster and some Sioux Falls Stockyards friends did this briefly.) We could have done well if we had been there ourselves, but if you’re not there yourself, it’s hard to get it to go.
You have to enjoy your work. When you leave the house at 4:30 a.m. no matter what the weather and you don’t like what you’re doing, you’re going to be bad at it.
Understand who your customer is. When I started doing television and radio, I had fun with it. That was back when everybody watched at noon. But when it’s raining and they’re behind in the field and you try to be cute, everybody’s mad. Understand when your customer or audience is struggling.
Don’t underestimate the importance of getting everyone in the same room who needs to hear the same thing at the same time. My brother-in-law was high up in a major corporation. He ran plants around the world. He said the worst thing was when they started going to conference calls and emails instead of a Monday morning two-hour meeting. Somebody always misunderstood the email. He went back to all getting in the same room once a week.
It’s really helpful if you can do all the jobs you’re asking the employees to do. I could have never gone in and actually done the office work, but it’s important you do your best to understand what they do and do it when possible.
How you treat people is really, really important. Try to understand why they might need to leave when somebody at home is sick. We made it a point if they need to leave for some reason, it’s OK.
We had to deal with difficult people, like everyone does. Let them rant and rave and talk and do their thing and even half agree with them until they calm down. And most will. You never know what people are going through personally, and sometimes they unload on you even when it doesn’t really have much to do with you. Ninety-five percent of the time when somebody blew up we’d hear later that something else was really going on.
If you can, get to know your customers. Many of the most successful businesses in Sioux Falls really know their customers. They say hi to them. They know where the kids are. And it makes a difference.
Know your mission. That’s something Avera truly lives and breathes. Big or little business, that word “mission” can mean something different to everyone. But know who you are and what you’re trying to do and particularly who you’re trying to serve. It’s really, truly important.
Jim Woster went to Mass at Avera McKennan one morning almost 30 years ago. He left with the unofficial role of goodwill ambassador.