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Melissa Grooms is the Director of Integrations at SENTA Partners. Melissa’s Everyday Hero story highlights how a unique upbringing and a great attitude propelled her into a career she never imagined and helped launch SENTA and its partners to industry-leading heights.

Southern Ear Nose Throat & Allergy Physicians (Atlanta, GA) (“SENTA”) is an ear, nose and throat (“ENT”) and allergy services organization providing support services to leading ENT and allergy providers in the Southeast. Affiliated practices provide comprehensive medical and surgical specialty ENT and allergy services, including treatment for thyroid disorders, sinus conditions, ear pain, allergies, and throat disorders.

Transcript

Introduction

Melissa Grooms: I think it's all about attitude. It's all about attitude, and I'm excited to see where the next five years take me. But I want people to know who I was four years ago, you know, unsure, non-traditional. I didn't have a lot of the check marks that you would have at, you know, my age. And there's so many things we cannot control in this world, in this life.

And, um, I think if you go into whatever you want to do with an open mind, I truly think that the options are limitless. And I'm proof of it right now.

Anderson Williams: Welcome to Everyday Heroes, a podcast from Shore Capital Partners that highlights the people who are building our companies from the inside, every day, often out of the spotlight. With this series, we want to pull those heroes out of the shadows, we want to hear their stories, we want to share their stories.

We want to understand what drives them, why they do what they do, how they might inspire and support others to become everyday heroes too.

 

In episode one, we highlight Melissa Grooms, Director of Integrations at SENTA Partners. Melissa's heroes journey started with a different view of the world, the view of an outsider. Of someone who knew she was different, who knew her family was different, but this may be exactly what set her up for career success.

Melissa’s Background

Melissa Grooms: My dad's from South Bend Indiana. My mom's from Japan, she's from Osaka, so I kind of grew up in a household that was not necessarily the norm in Atlanta, Georgia. So I was lucky enough to grow up going to Japan quite a bit.

So I've also got family over there. So being exposed at such a young age to cultures that are just totally different than the one I'm used to seeing, it kind of felt like it's easy to live in a bubble, especially in the United States and so having the opportunity to just take a full step outside of that and experience and appreciate a completely different culture.

And then growing up in a household that had, you know, my dad eats meat and potatoes and my mom eats sushi. And so watching how those two cultures came together under one roof has given me the opportunity to really be able to take a step back and appreciate different types of things and be very open to, other lifestyles, other ways of thinking.

I think that's really shaped a lot of what I've been able to do in my professional career, is having that ability to appreciate and know that there's a lot more out there in the world that I don't know.

Anderson Williams: Yeah. That's amazing. That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that.

Early in her career, healthcare wasn't the obvious professional destination for Melissa.

In fact, her career started as non-traditionally as she describes her family. But her journey into healthcare was one, driven by her desire to help people, to find more meaning in her work.

Melissa Grooms: So I came from automotive, it was a family owned business, it was very dirty, very greasy, very oily, just not very traditional business world.

Great experience from a small business perspective, but I knew it wasn't something I wanted to do forever. So I have a degree in international business and accounting. So I wanted to get into healthcare, but I'm not clinical and I'm not really clinically inclined, but I love the idea of being able to help people.

So I even looked at getting my RN to go with my business degree and kind of having that unique dynamic of business and clinical. And then I said, well, you know what? Let me get into healthcare. Let me see what it's like and see if I really do like it, and this is where I want to be. And so just happened to find a position at Northwest ENT in Marietta, Georgia.

It was a fantastic experience. I was lucky enough to have a PACS administrator at the time who saw potential. Physicians who were supportive of that, and once I got in there, I knew that's what I wanted to do, and I've loved it ever since.

Anderson Williams: What was your role when you first started?

Melissa Grooms: I started as an AP clerk.

Anderson Williams: But just as Melissa was getting settled in at Northwest ENT and starting to climb the healthcare learning curve, she thought her new career was getting derailed.

Northwest ENT was getting acquired by a private equity firm. Melissa had heard rumors about private equity, but she wasn't totally sure what it all meant. It just seemed like it couldn't be good, particularly for her.

This is Chris Mioton, who was the partner on the SENTA deal, and the first person from Shore Capital to meet Melissa Grooms.

Dealing with Private Equity

Chris Mioton: You'll hear people say, if you've met one private equity firm, you've met one private equity firm. Investment strategies approaches vary from firm to firm, and certainly the culture of the firms does as well. So we pride ourselves in being transparent in addressing those concerns and fears head on through broad town hall type engagements or one-on-one conversations.

We stress that our investment strategy is focused on growth, both at the company level measured in service lines, locations, revenue, et cetera, as well as individual and professional growth with the ability to be promoted into increasing levels of responsibility or move into different functional areas.

Melissa Grooms: What I was afraid of is from a non-clinical perspective, there's no need for a purely administrative person post transaction. That was one major fear and that was quickly allayed primarily because we were very small at the time and didn't have a lot of people so we had to keep running the business. And I'd say the second related piece of that was, this group seems great, they seem trustworthy, but is what they're telling me the truth? Are they going to come around and do something different after the transaction's done?

 

My brother works for KKR and so I immediately reached out to him to say, hey, who is Shore? What is this microcap? What's happening? So I quickly realized, in working with Chris Mioton that there wasn't a lot of cause to be nervous, or the fear that I was creating was truly driven by me.

And, you know, I was deciding to be afraid, and so I decided to trust the process, trust what I was being told, which was almost too good to be true, and it has turned out to be just I pinched myself once a week, it's been fantastic.

Anderson Williams: As it turned out far from being dispensable, Melissa was immediately an invaluable contributor to the new SENTA platform.

Chris Mioton: It was quickly apparent that Melissa would be integral to diligence, as she knew not only the practice operations, but was familiar with the financials and the various data we would need to analyze.

Anderson Williams: This is Adam Low, CEO of SENTA Partners.

Adam Low: When I first met her, she was the account payable clerk at Northwest ENT, our first practice, the founding practice of SENTA. She quickly moved to the platform level; we made her finance operations manager. She helped pay bills at the platform level, do finance roles and anything that we needed at the time. Kind of a jack of all trades. I call Melissa, employee number one, and I was employee number two.

Technically, she is employee number one. Melissa came from our first practice, so she was with our company before I started. And it's super unique as I've experienced now three years later, to identify someone from a microcap type practice environment for them to come into the platform level.

Anderson Williams: Now Melissa uses her previous fears about private equity and her actual experience with Shore Capital to help educate and settle other people's fears and concerns as they join the SENTA platform.

Melissa Grooms: There is a lot of fear when you hear private equity, for people who don't know anything, they're like, oh, private equity, you guys just cut costs. I'm like, that's not what we're here to do. And so, I'm in a place where I get to meet everybody and just really tell the truth versus this fear that people are telling themselves.

And you begin to trust people when their actions are consistent with what they're telling you. And Shore from the very beginning was do no harm, like we're not trying to negatively impact employees. We're not trying to cut costs just to cut costs and every step of the way, every action that was taken emphasized that.

And, you know, I'm a Shore fan for life because, it's hard to find companies that do that, I think especially in a private equity space.  

Transitioning to the Platform Level

Anderson Williams: Aside from the fears and unknowns of private equity, the role of integrations is a massive undertaking that requires detailed technical and project management skills. But more importantly, it requires deep empathy for the people who are involved.

As Melissa explains, if the people being integrated into the SENTA platform don't understand the why, if they don't feel valued and heard, the integrations process will never be successful. The relationships she builds through the integration process are the key.

Chris Mioton: Melissa has the benefit of having been on the other side of this, so she knows the feelings that those team members are going through.

She knows the amount of effort that they've had to put into diligence to getting to this milestone. And for some of the team members, they may find out a week before a close at a town hall, and you're having to manage through those emotions. So I think the first is to focus on the people.

Melissa Grooms: I run most of the diligence work streams outside of Q of E and legal diligence, so all the operational diligence work streams to get to close and then start developing relationships and with the leadership with the physicians so that when we do transition from business development to integrations operations, it's a white glove handoff.

You know, integrations technically is project management purely, right? You, have a list of tasks you need to complete, and you have to do it within a certain amount of time. You have to make sure it's done well. And what I found is, yes, that's very true, but it's also a very small piece of it. It's the core, but so much of my job is the relationship building and building that trust and that buy-in, being that friendly face of SENTA partners to come in and say, guys don't worry, we love what you're doing, you're doing everything really well, we're here to help you do it better or help improve things where we can.

I think that's the biggest and most important piece of it, beyond, you know, the technical project management piece.  

The Integration Process

Chris Mioton: The integrations process is the first true test of SENTA's capabilities for a new practice, and some team members may approach it with a mix of emotions, including skepticism and fear. In the early days Melissa is the SENTA leader that a practice engages with most, so her and her team sets the tone for the practice's partnership with SENTA in the early days.

Anderson Williams: Anytime you're leading something this complex, combining multiple organizational cultures, dealing with technology and data integration issues, working through just plain old people issues, you're going to make some mistakes, you can't let those defeat you. You just have to get better at what you're doing, and if you keep that focus and attitude, the results will come.

When you look at your time with SENTA, what is it that you've done, accomplished, however you wish to look at it, that you're most proud of, and is there a story, an example that sort of illuminates that?

Melissa Grooms: Sure. I think the integration process I think with every affiliation evolves and it evolves very specific to the leaders at each, each portco and you know what is right for that group of people, what they want to do. And so the integration process has really grown from, you know, we were basically transitioning payroll and AP to now we have this entire infrastructure with the goal of making sure that this is a white glove positive experience.

So at the end of it, everyone is really excited about being a part of the SENTA team, and a big part of that is communication. And we had some missteps and we've been continuously working on that over the last 24 months. And as we got new affiliations, we we got better at it. And I would say one of the proudest moments that I've had recently, is we just affiliated with South Carolina ENT, very large ENT group, our biggest ENT affiliation and a very complex deal.

A lot of moving pieces, a lot of legal complexity to it. And because we've improved all these processes, the deal champion for that deal at a board meeting, he said the process had gone so smoothly and they were so unsure of what was going to happen post-transaction, he said he and the other physicians couldn't be happier.

So for me, that was accumulation of all the hard work that the entire team had done to improve the process and get to a point where we still have a lot of room to grow, but we know that what we have today does what we want it to do and does it in a nice way, if that makes sense.

Anderson Williams: Yeah, absolutely. It's incredible feedback, right, because it's, it's complex and difficult regardless of how good you are, right?

Melissa Grooms: Absolutely.

Anderson Williams: So to have it be complex and difficult but not painful is actually quite a win.

Melissa Grooms: It was like, "phew" yeah, that could have gone a very different way.  

Melissa’s Superpower

Anderson Williams: For sure.

As we heard from Adam Low, the CEO of SENTA partners, in his experience, it's not that common to see someone transition from local practice to platform level leadership, much less from local practice, AP clerk to the platform level, Director of Integrations. From processing payments behind the scenes to being the face of the company for its most key partners at the most critical time.

And all of this within just a few years and without an obvious professional background to make much sense of it. So how has Melissa made this transition? How has she grown and invested in herself to be in the position to seize new opportunities as they arise at SENTA Partners? How has she not only seized those opportunities, but far exceeded expectations?

How have you invested in yourself? How have you developed? How have your skills and knowledge kept up with that growth trajectory?

Melissa Grooms: Attitude was a big piece of it. I've been very intentional about being open to everything I can be. Part of it's my background, and part of it was very intentional to say, okay, I need to learn and absorb as much as I possibly can.

And you know, it started with the first ELA in 2019. I started with the fractional CFO they brought on until Adam started as CEO. Just knowing that I did not know anything about this new group coming in, this new way of thinking about a business and just absorbing everything I absolutely could.

Before I started the integration role. I just read everything I possibly could. And I read articles from McKinsey from like 2018 of how the focus needs to be on integrations. I was in a professional business fraternity in college. I reached out to some of my brothers and said, what are you doing? How are you doing it? How does it work? Talked to my brother who was a fantastic resource, being more on the other end of the private equity spectrum, but him having seen the business and understanding what Shore is here trying to do.

Anderson Williams: Melissa's journey wasn't about luck, and it certainly wasn't an accident. Melissa made it happen. She talked to anyone and everyone who might provide helpful insight. Melissa put in the work.

So Adam says you kind of have a way of saying yes and then just figuring it out. Does that sound right?

Melissa Grooms: I think, I can't stand the mentality that there's a million reasons why you can't do something, but there's usually a way you can do something, and so I really prefer to think about life in the world and problems and issues, in a, okay, how can we solve for this, versus a, these are all the reasons you can't do something.

Anderson Williams: What advice do you give a young woman who's coming up behind you based on your experience?

Melissa Grooms: I think if, I could give advice to anybody who's looking to take the next steps, like what I was lucky enough to do is just to be open and be hungry and learn and listen.

Make sure to raise your hand, make sure to opt in, make sure to ask the question. You know, I was encouraged to do that, and because I was a little reluctant, I think sometimes some women are, but if I hadn't have done that, I would still be, you know, finance operations manager doing day-to-day, AP basically. But because I was bold enough or felt very bold to say, you know what, I'm actually really interested in integrations, or I would like to get more involved, or would love to sit on the strategy session just to learn more.

 

I think just raising your hand and being brave enough to do that. I think if I could just tell everybody, just ask, because that's sometimes hard to do.

Anderson Williams: From her very dirty, oily, automotive experience to AP clerk at a local ENT practice, to the director of integrations at a private equity backed ENT platform. Melissa Groom's journey is a unique story of rapid personal and professional growth. Her ability to overcome her fears and self-doubt have positioned her as a powerful force behind SENTA's growth and success. And on her journey, Melissa's everyday hero superpower has been her attitude.

Adam Low: I don't think she's got a ceiling. She's one of the people I think in our organization that one day could take my job and be CEO. She possesses the right approach and attitude and you know, now she's integrated eight ENT and allergy practices, which might be more than any one individual's done in the entire country.

Melissa is like the unicorn, the shining light example of someone who comes from a practice and can scale and gets it and is smart, and has a helpful servant attitude and has the motivation to succeed.

Melissa Grooms: There are so many opportunities, regardless of my age, regardless of my background, regardless of my gender, that the only thing that would limit me, is me.

Anderson Williams: This podcast was produced by Shore Capital Partners with story and narration by Anderson Williams. Recording and editing by Andrew Malone. Editing by Reel Audiobooks. Sound design, mixing and mastering by Mark Galup of Reel Audiobooks.

Special thanks to Melissa Grooms, Adam Low and Chris Mioton.

This podcast is the property of Shore Capital Partners LLC. None of the content herein is investment advice, an offer of investment advisory services, or a recommendation or offer relating to any security. See the terms of use page on the Shore Capital website for other important information.

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