Insights: Akron-Canton | Business Spotlight | Fall 2017

Employee engagement case study

How Sprenger Health Care Systems empowers staff employees to exceed customer expectations

Nicole Sprenger, CEO, Sprenger Health Care Systems
By Stephanie Taylor Christensen

While the health care industry has undergone significant change since the first Sprenger assisted living facility was founded in 1959, family-owned Sprenger Health Care Systems has continued to grow through three generations of leadership by furthering its mission, “To empower people to anticipate and exceed customer expectations.”

In order to deliver on the mission, Sprenger-family executives Nicole and Michael, who serve as the CEO and COO respectively, need to have a firm understanding of operations across both the facilities and levels of their organization. To that end, family members are encouraged to get experience in the industry, but outside of the family business, before coming home to Sprenger Health Care Systems.

Before becoming CEO in 2012, Nicole Sprenger worked for a skilled nursing facility in Akron, and then relocated to Florida to work as a business office manager. She later served as an administrator at three Sprenger Health Care Systems facilities , as well as holding positions in quality assurance and human resources. Her cousin, Michael Sprenger, who became COO the same year, has an extensive background in nursing and nursing home administration, including experience working in operating rooms, intensive-care facilities and Alzheimer’s care units.

Thanks to their broad experience, the Sprengers are able to participate in all facets of operations, which they deem essential to cultivating a positive, collaborative environment for staff across the enterprise.

“Being involved in everyday activities allows us to understand the business better,” says Nicole, CEO of the Lorain-based company. “If we don’t make the right decisions, we deal with consequences. If an administrator needs something, we’re just a phone call away and that eliminates the need to go through red tape to get approval on something.”

Sprenger Health Care Systems staff
Nicole Sprenger talks with staff members
(Photos by Cody York)

Family values

Today, Sprenger is led by third-generation family members Nicole and Michael. The brand includes 10 senior care facilities across Indiana and Ohio, including 1,065 skilled nursing, 278 assisted living and 268 independent living beds in Lorain, Summit and Wayne counties. And Sprenger has expanded its services to include skilled nursing, assisted and independent living, respite, hospice and memory care, and therapy services.

Through this growth, Sprenger’s leaders have recognized the important role its employees play in providing high-quality patient facilities and care.

“Our employees' loyalty and generosity have made Sprenger Health Care Systems the family owned company it is today,” Nicole notes on the company’s website. “As the company continues to expand, my first goal is to fulfill my father's and uncle's vision to empower our employees to provide the highest level of service.”

Engaged, satisfied employees are critical to providing the continuum of care that Sprenger’s leadership views as mission critical.

“Whether your plan is to go home after the hospital or move into long-term or end-of-life care, our goal is to take patients all the way through their journey so we can control the level of care provided, without setbacks,” Nicole says.

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Words of wisdom

Nicole Sprenger, CEO, Sprenger Health Care Systems
  • On financing growth:
    “Huntington has been our bank for several years. They’ve helped us navigate what makes the most sense for our financing and helped us understand how to diversify financing so we can build opportunities. They’ve really been a great partner in helping us grow and make decisions.”
  • On navigating change:
    “You can’t fight change. Instead, consider: What do we have to do to make this work? At Sprenger, we have been able to accomplish what we have because we approach change from the perspective of ‘This will happen. Now, how do we make this work?’”
  • On valuing employees:
    “Get the support of your staff and ask them what you can do. I’m only as good as the person who is giving care on the floor. If I don’t ask them what they need and how I can help, my company will never will get better.”

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