Wilson has the energy and passion to make a difference

December 28, 2009
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Many of us grudgingly make New Year's resolutions we're unlikely to keep. Others willingly add new responsibilities to an already full agenda when a new year begins, and delight in doing so.

Floyd Wilson Jr. falls into the latter category.

The executive vice president of human resources for Metro Health was recently selected by the Convention and Arena Authority to fill a vacant seat on the seven-member panel. He will represent the Convention and Visitors Bureau on the board that oversees operations at DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena.

In addition to his CAA seat, Wilson also will join the bureau's board — meaning he has added two new community commitments to an already full list. Both posts become official after the new year.

How does someone who has been immersed in the health care field for nearly 17 years develop such a strong interest in the hospitality business that he wants to become involved in the tourism and meeting industry?

From Wilson's perspective, the answer is simple.

"Because the new model for health care is hospitality. Irregardless of what business someone is in right now, they're in the hospitality business. That is your differentiator, as far as I'm concerned, and as far as we're concerned here at the hospital. You have to have a hospitable attitude toward everyone who comes in and out of your doors," he said.

Wilson said he learned that valuable lesson from a well-known local authority on the subject before he ever joined the health care industry.

"Bob Woodrick over at D&W has always talked about a love of humanity, and that you can never do too much for the customer. Everything we did there involved the customer. That's a philosophy that I've kind of lived and breathed over the years.

"Be it entertainment, health care or buying groceries, you name it, part of being in those businesses is to provide excellent service to the people coming in and out of your door," he said.

"So for me, it's kind of hard to differentiate what's not hospitality. From my perspective, I think I can provide the board with a level of understanding from a broader, more first-hand experience of what people want in the community, based on my experience."

Wilson will take over the seat that Gordon Foods executive Clif Charles held for the past nine years. Charles, also an African-American, led the CAA's efforts to increase involvement of minorities in the shows playing at DeVos Performance Hall and at the arena, and with the business ends at both buildings. But so far, no one at the CAA has asked Wilson to take over that role.

"No, I have not broached that subject with anyone. But part of my value to the board is I bring a diverse point of view. Being African-American, I bring that point of view, as well. You know, I always look at diversity as 'proversity' because I think there are more similarities about us than there are differences," he said.

It would have been easy for Wilson to graciously decline joining the CAA and CBV boards by citing the many boards he already sits on.

"For me, it's a way of giving back. I've always been involved. If I'm not coaching my kids, I sit on boards. I can give an evening, an hour a week here and there, to give back to the community. The community has been really good to me and my family," he said.

Organization: Metro Health

Title: Executive Vice President of Human Resources

Age: 46

Birthplace: Saginaw

Residence: Forest Hills

Family: Wife,Yolanda; children Floyd III, Garrisen Kamille and Zachery Thomas.

Business/community organizations: Board member for Goodwill Industries, Catholic Social Services, the Health Care Employer’s Council and MaryFreeBedRehabilitationHospital. Also involved with the Grand Rapids Economic Club, Society for Human Resource Management, Alliance for Health, Michigan Minority Business Development Committee,

United Way
and Special Olympics.

Biggest career break: Being mentored by Ron Knaus, Mike Faas and Don Oglesby.

Bureau President Doug Small said the CAA's choice of Wilson as its newest board member was a good one, especially considering that two other high-quality individuals — Kathleen Ponitz and Carlos Sanchez —also were nominated for the post.

"What I think that they got with Floyd was a guy that I found has energy and passion to want to make a difference in the community, and I think Floyd has the potential to be one of those guys that can make a difference out there. I think his heart and his passion is in the right place and he wants to do it for all the right reasons, not just to be a board member," he said.

Small said he saw those qualities when he interviewed Wilson.

"I always tell people (that) when I hire a staff member, I look right past the grades and I look for attitude, character and enthusiasm. I already knew that with Kathleen. I did not know Carlos very well and I did not know Floyd at all. I looked at attitude, character and enthusiasm, and I think Floyd exuded all three of those characteristics," he said.

Wilson, who grew up in Saginaw, said he has had a blessed career. By that he meant he has had help from individuals he said were outstanding people to work with and for — such as Spectrum Health executives Ron Knaus and Dan Oglesby, and Metro Health President and CEO Mike Faas.

"They've helped mentor, coach and provide leadership to me, and they are examples of solid individuals," he said.

"Mike with his creativity, with his belief and trust in me and just with his knowledge of the health care industry has been tremendous. I think Mike has one of the best health care minds in the country. He really understands it from a future standpoint. The vision to move to where we are right now: Mike lives, breathes and has a passion about that vision."

Wilson said Knaus has been there to bounce ideas off and to provide answers to the questions that have made him better at his job. "Even though we work for competing hospitals, he just continues to be a good friend and someone I can talk to," he said.

As for Oglesby, Wilson said he showed him that health care is more than a business; it is the fabric of a community. "At some point, everyone crosses the great Rubicon of health care, and Dan has a real caring spirit. I appreciate him for having that," he said.

What inspired Wilson to become actively involved in the community was the same tragic circumstance that drew him to health care. His older brother and sister, Reginald and Debbie, both died from complications stemming from juvenile diabetes. Debbie was only 25, while Reginald had just turned 31.

"Because they went through some tough times, I always said when I get an opportunity to help and give back, I want to do that. Every day people trust us to do the best we can with their loved ones when they come to the hospital. First off, we treat them with dignity and respect. Then we want them to leave better than they came."

Wilson got his start in human resources at D&W Foods in the early 1990s, back when Woodrick ran the business, and he ended up directing that department. Wilson joined Metro Health a little over three years ago after spending five years at Spectrum Health as chief human resources director in the Continuing Care Division.

He said the current high level of unemployment changes the scope of his job at Metro Health on two fronts.

"There is a lot of talent out there and what you want to do is bring in the best and brightest. So what you want to do is make sure your intake process is as sharp and clean and selective as possible, No. 1," he said.

"No. 2, in times like these, very good talent has opportunities to defect and go to other places. You want to make sure that you're doing all you can to retain your high performers. We're kind of coming upon a time where organizations are beginning to look again at talent. So it behooves us even more to put our arms around and re-recruit, if you will, our high performers."

Wilson earned a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from Central Michigan University and another in occupational safety and health management from Grand Valley State University. He capped his education with a master's degree in human resource development at Western Michigan University.

Wilson walked down the aisle with wife Yolanda 23 years ago. The two met at a christening in Saginaw. They were both in college but in different cities. As he tells it, they had a largely long-distance relationship until he graduated from Central. "She would tell this story more romantically than I can," he said with a laugh.

Floyd and Yolanda live in Forest Hills with their children: Floyd III, Garrisen Kamille and Zachery Thomas. "We've got the world's best kids, no question about it," he said. Wilson called young Floyd an "awesome son" and said Garrisen Kamille was an awesome daughter who sometimes takes issue with having her brothers tell her what to do. "She actually rules the roost, to be honest with you. She's an athlete. She plays basketball at Northview. And my youngest, Zachery, is also an athlete who plays basketball and football at Forest Hills Eastern."

Sports occupy much of Wilson's free time. He loves watching his kids play and coached them when they were younger. Now, he said, he does most of his coaching from the sideline. "They're at an age now where they're playing competitively for their schools."

As 2009 heads to the sideline this week, Wilson said he plans to keep doing what he has done in the past, which has served him and the community well over the last 17 years.

"Professionally, I just want to make sure that I'm doing the best that I can for my current employer. Metro Health is an awesome place."

Of his specific goals at Metro, he said: "Building good leadership here. Hiring the best people. Creating a culture that is built to last, is inclusive and is a family."

"Personally, I just want to stay healthy and continue to be involved in the community. And provide where I can — where I can help people."

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