An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S2E9: Leadership Lessons For Challenging Times: Michel Emelianoff, CEO, Visiomed

S2E9: A conversation with top CEO Michel Emelianoff

In this episode of Leadership Lessons for Challenging Times, Michel Emelianoff, Chief Executive of Visiomed, a telemedicine solutions for healthcare professionals, talks with Xquadrant's Founder Richard Medcalf. 

Michel has been developing and transforming technology businesses for the last 27 years, and has broad experience in BtoB, software/hardware and services.

Learn these leadership lessons for challenging times...

In this discussion, we cover a wide range of topics as Michel shares with us his experience as Chief Executive during the chaos of COVID.

Listen in and you'll learn:

  • The big challenges businesses are currently facing in a COVID world (04’13”)
  • The practical steps you can take to best safeguard employee health without destroying productivity (08’50”)
  • The actions Michel took when business just stopped when COVID emerged (17’32”)  
  • What changes we should be expecting in the coming years (23’21”)

TRANSCRIPT (Click to open)

Note: this transcript is automatically generated and only lightly neatened up. So this should be used  only to get the gist of the conversation and any transcription oddities should be ignored!

Richard Medcalf
Hi Michel.

Michel Emelianoff
Good morning, Richard.

Richard Medcalf
Hi! Good to see you.

Michel Emelianoff
Same here.

Richard Medcalf
Well, hey, it's great to have you here. What do we just dive straight in? And perhaps for people who don't know you or don't know Visiomed, if you can just give us one minute of kind of elevator pitch, right? Who are you? And what does Visiomed do? 

Michel Emelianoff
Well, I'm Michel Emelianoff and I'm the CEO of the Visiomed Group, which is a listed company focused on the healthcare domain, and, more specifically, telemedicine. So what we do is we build solutions, telemedicine solutions for healthcare professionals, for mobility cases, as well as fixed healthcare points.

Richard Medcalf
Got it. So obviously, you're right in the middle of you know, in health care right in the middle of it this year with COVID. And I know we've been chatting in the past, and I thought it was really interesting what you were sharing, as we have we move, move from that initial kind of crisis mode, right, where everybody was just kind of trying to get through lockdown in between lockdown. And now we're into this longer, more drawn out and quite challenging time, right, where energy levels are down, and people are struggling. And I think when I was talking with you, you've really seen very close up some of those challenges. So I just have to understand, Michel, what are the big challenges that you're seeing businesses face? Now that we're kind of in this COVID world? And it's continuing? What's the impact that you're seeing on? You know, for CEOs?


Michel Emelianoff
I think the challenges are twofold. There's a business challenge, and there is a human challenge. From a business standpoint, clearly the the challenge is how do we get back to operating as close as possible to normality while not being normal at all, as we're facing a situation where at any moment, we can have case of a colleague that is showing, you know, symptoms and potentially has the COVID. And we need to take actions, sending people back home, pushing them to do a bunch of tests, and so on and so forth. So the business challenge is, you know, How am I going to handle the impact on my capacity to operate? So how do I organize myself to cope with that relatively volatile situation. And the second one is the challenge of the responsibility of enterprises in France, in particular, where we have obligation of results in terms of health and not means, meaning that you have to do everything in your power to guarantee that you're protecting your colleagues and your employees. So that's the business challenge. And the second one is the human challenge, which for me, is even more important. Which is that the current protocol that we're all following, according to the guidelines of the government is actually generating a lot of anxiety amongst the people working within within a company. Why that? Because it's one thing to say everybody's going to stay home so that we all get, you know, protected from the COVID. It's a very different situation to say, Okay, you guys, you've been in contact with that particular person who has eventually the COVID. So we're all going to send you back home, and not to protect you, but because we think potentially you've been contaminated. And we don't want you guys to contaminate the rest of us. And that's very difficult for people, because it generates a lot of questions on how they will handle this with their family and relatives.

Richard Medcalf 
Right. So what you're saying is in the original lockdown, we were all staying at home, kind of to protect ourselves. But now what's happening is you got suddenly, people are told they need to leave right and go back for two weeks or whatever to their own homes. That's creating two impacts: on the business side, operations are impacted suddenly, you've not got that person. Right. Necessarily. On the other side. They've basically just been told that they're likely likely contaminating influence, right? They might have COVID they don't see any symptoms. But now Do they even stay in the same room as their family? Right?

Michel Emelianoff
Yes. Do they visit their parents or grandparents what do they do if they have small kids? What do they do if their spouse is pregnant and about to to deliver? I mean, I've I personally faced within the company these questions. And I can tell you the level of anxiety that people are showing is extremely important. Even more when we look at the time it takes for them to get an answer to whether or not they have been contaminated. Because today, if you follow the protocol for the PCR test, first off, you need to work with, you need to wait five days till the last day of the contact with the person that potentially was contaminating you to do the test. And then if you look at the reality today is you wait between five to 10 days to get the test results. That means during 14 days, you have no clue whether you have it or not. And you have to try to cope with that situation and try to find a solution to protect your relatives.

Richard Medcalf
Yes, yes, it's that's hard. Right. So how do you? What's been your guidelines? Right, or your playbook as you try to wrestle with this situation? I mean, there are these three, these two sides, you mentioned, right, there's operations and responsibility. And then there's the kind of personal side? And let's start perhaps with operations, you know, operations, right? How do you juggle safeguarding employee health on one hand with productivity on the other? Right, what have been the issues that you've seen, and how have you tried to find a way through in this time.

Michel Emelianoff
I think the most important thing is to try to as fast as possible, identify who are the individuals that are potentially at risk. And effectively make sure that they're taking the right steps to, you know, either be treated or you know, be put somewhere where they can't contaminate anybody else. And make sure that the ones that have that are not showing any problems, can continue to live their lives relatively normally. And work relatively normally. And there is a big debate in France today. But the reality is, you have plenty of rapid test that exists to ones that are rapid PCR, if you made that are enabling you to detect early contamination within 10 minutes, they're not as precise as the PCR that we know where you have to go to a lab. But to give you a pretty good indication. And then you have blood tests, also that you can use, rather later in the cycle of COVID, to try to figure out whether people have generated the antibodies, lowing to manage the comeback of people. So what we have done, and what we are encouraging other companies to do is to proactively, you know, use these rapid tests that can be done in a pharmacy or can be done by your nurse, so that within 10 minutes, you get a picture, you get a picture of who is positive, and you need to confirm that with a real PCR, and it's going to take some time, but you need to be quarantined, and who is not positive. And in that case, no panic, no anxiety, let's continue to work properly with all the protections that are obviously necessary within within the enterprise. So to me, the big thing is, how do you how do you make this anxiety and not knowing go away as fast as possible using those rapid test, and then you take the right measures, stay at home, if you a theories of risk, continue to work whether remotely or in the office, depending upon the operating model that you have decided to want to implement. If effectively, there is no problem.

Richard Medcalf
Yes, I got it. So yes, it's really trying to get data right, as quickly as possible. Even if it's not the most reliable data. It's having, it's getting the whatever 80/20 rule, right going, again, enough data to be able to make make the best decision that we can at that stage, right, rather than kind of going into this Limbo and not deciding for a long period of time. Right.

Michel Emelianoff
We've seen the protocol from the government evolve. If you go back, you know, four weeks ago, it was PCR, there is only one test that exists in the world and that we trust. Now today, they are accepting the other tests that have been used by some of our neighbors in Germany, for example, and where clearly they are managing the situation better than we're doing. So I think it is time, you know, that we accept that those tools are available, they're good enough to be able to make decisions and put CEOs in a position where effectively, you know, they can show that they've done everything possible to maximize the safety of their employees and the health of their employees.

Richard Medcalf
Yes, absolutely. So, Michel, what about as CEO of Visiomed, when you look at the when you look at employees and what they're doing, how are you creating that productive environment that you talked about? Right? What? What have been the issues that you've had to work through there? Right? Because everything has changed, right, the way we've had to work and working from home coming back into the office, you know, what are the challenges in that? And what are some of the approaches that you've used?

Michel Emelianoff
So I think we are we fished a particular situation, because we made a decision that used to well, we consider it was a smart decision in February, which was to move the company from from one location to the other, and that move was planned mid May.

Richard Medcalf
Okay, so you did a physical office move right in the middle of lockdown.

Michel Emelianoff
Absolutely. So it just happened to be a disaster, because obviously, nothing was normal, and we couldn't move forward with all the prep work, and so on and so forth. So we ended up not having an office between literally, mid May, till mid July. And then on top of the confinements that was imposed to everyone. So we had, you know, literally literally five months of lockdown and people working from home. And we have seen that, for our company, that was creating a lot of problems. Problems, because some jobs just can't be done from home. Others can be done from home, but when you are within a relatively small company, where you need a lot of collaboration, interaction in real time, you can because things are moving extremely rapidly, not being able to be in the same physical room to do some whiteboarding exercise is quite difficult. And I understand there are a lot of tools that exists today, where we can use that, but it's not the same, it impacts the efficiency. And then finally, and that was something that I I have not necessarily realized at the beginning, but literally 50% of the employees that we have, can't work from home, under good conditions. And these people really suffered during that period of five months having to work from a place which is not meant to be an office, kids running around or you know, old parents and so on and so forth, not having the ability to have a room a quiet room where they can actually go and work. So clearly we have, we've decided as soon as we could to change the model, and bring as much as possible people back into the office with you know, all the measures to protect themselves. Masks, obviously gels and so on and so forth and distances between the different workspaces, the proactive testing as well, that we have implemented. So, you know, each time we have a doubt, we do that with the rapid test that allows us to react pretty quickly and not have people go into into panic mode. So there is no there is no one size fits all, as far as the operating model is concerned, there is a you know, there are a lot of different elements to be taken into account, and the one that really needs to be paid attention to is, under what conditions can people really work from home? Is that feasible? Is that acceptable for them? Or is it very difficult?

Richard Medcalf
I think it's a great point because, you know, the lived experience of a leader or CEO, right might not at all be the lived experience of their employees. Right. And as you said, either because, well, obviously, perhaps different social levels, income levels, accommodation, even just where they live, right. I mean, you know, you've got employees in a relatively narrow geographic area. But obviously some people have got company employees around the world. And who knows, right? What the lived experience is if somebody two levels down and the organization in some other country, right it can be so different. And it's easy to imagine, well I get to work from home and I've got my huge monitor and quiet space and headset or whatever it is. Not everybody has that and it can be extremely difficult and some people are isolated. Some people are overcrowded. It's very different for people.

Michel Emelianoff
I can tell you we had a couple of people going into depression during that period because it was very, very difficult for them.

Richard Medcalf
Yes. And so, Michel, how have you had to show up as a leader right? What's been that learning edge for you that growth edge in this you know, who have you had to be in this time to balance the company and lead your employees?

Michel Emelianoff
I think for us, it was a very, it was a very challenging time. On two fronts, one, literally, and I think this was probably the same for most of the companies, but our business stopped, literally stopped, we were selling telemedicine solutions to healthcare professionals. And literally, these guys went into the plan blanc. And everything that was outside of the ordinary wasn't really a topic of, you know, for discussion, reviewing, revisiting the way they work, and so on and so forth to improve processes was not a priority. And really what they wanted were masks, gels, and whatever other protection equipment. So literally, the business stopped. And we had to react very, very quickly, to try to continue to have some level of activity to, you know, pay the salaries of our employees. The good news is being in that healthcare sector with a lot of suppliers in that domain, we were able to source the type of equipment that healthcare professionals wanted. But we had to adapt and I had to adapt to a business that was completely different than our core business, and tried to manage on a real time basis reinventing the distribution business or retail business if you wish, that for which we had absolutely zero process and zero structure to handle, and do that with people working remotely in the very difficult environment that we face. So it was a lot of time communicating again, and again, with, with the different individuals, making sure that we were in contact almost all the time, because of all those very quick decisions that we needed to we needed to make. So very different way of working for me very different way of trying to inject energy, not that easy to inject energy remotely, to be honest with you. Especially when people are, you know, facing a situation for which they're not accustomed for which there is not a process that they know when they master. So that was that was kind of the challenge for me.

Richard Medcalf
Yes, that's amazing, right? You had to build a new line of products in the middle of that enough situation? Which is, which is yes, incredible. What would? If you could write yourself a note, you know, like, get back in time and tell your past self getting, like some lessons and lessons for this period? Like, what would you tell them? Right? How would you kind of pre warn them? Or what would you encourage them to do differently, or pay more attention to, if you're having to do it again?

Michel Emelianoff
I would really try to pay attention to the accommodations that people live in, and whether they are fit for homeworking or not, because even if it's for two weeks or three weeks, if it's impossible for these people, and it's going to put them at a little under a lot of stress, because they just can't be on the phone with five kids running around. There is no point of having them continue to work. And I would, you know, I would have probably made some different decisions and asked some people to stop working as opposed to try to continue in that very difficult environment. So try to you know, proactively identify these individuals that are going to be facing difficulties and say, okay, don't work. The second one, where was it you know try to redefine the role of the games and the rules of engagement more proactively as well. I mean, the rules of engagement between the team workers, because we have to reinvent everything, which means a lot of frustration for a lot of people. So you have to be super careful in the way you communicate to one another. Because everybody is under a lot of stress. Everybody's under a lot of frustration. And if you don't pay attention, you can create a lot of tension between individuals. So try to reset the rules of communications, the rules of engagement, to try to make sure everybody's super careful in the way they communicate.

Richard Medcalf
Yes, that's a great point, right? When everything shifts, you need to come up with new rules, right, yes, and a new framework in which to operate because communication is not the same, and pressures are not the same. So I think it's a great point. And Michel, I know time is moving on but I can't let you go without just asking for your perspectives right on the future because Visiomed, you know, your telemedicine technology, you know, healthcare technology. I know COVID has kind of taken everybody by surprise and it's been the big focus this year, obviously, and it's keeping going. But if you look more broadly, what are the shifts that are going on that, you know, business leaders, everybody, right should be knowing about? I mean, what are you seeing as the big shifts in healthcare, right, that are going to be structural for people in the next couple of years?

Michel Emelianoff
So, you know, I think, pre COVID, it was pretty obvious. I mean, we were all having these issues in France with people, the doctors in the ERs complaining about the volume of people and so on and so forth. So, globally, there is an issue of not enough healthcare professionals available and available where patients are located. That was obvious, pre covid, but as been super abusive during COVID, which has emphasized the the problem, I think, what it has shown, as well as a couple of interesting things: it has shown that you can do things remotely. And you know, every doctor started to do tele consultation using Skype or other means, because they didn't have another option. And they had to realize that effectively, it is possible to have a conversation with a patient and cover a certain set of pathologies remotely, it has also shown that the vast majority of the problems, you can't really handle if they're not measures of certain parameters or ability to look at certain parts of the body of the person that you're trying to consult. And that effectively, when you can combine this ability to, you know, access remotely to a doctor, with a minimum number of measures of critical medical data, you can actually cover 80% of the pathologies that we see, and what the other ones needs to go to emergency care. So I think the net is that I think that's crisis has shown that effectively, leveraging connected medical devices combined with you know, teleconsultation platforms, you can actually heavily contribute to, to address the issue of access to health care, in in countries like France. And so what I'm expecting in the years to come, is that we're going to see the adoption of that type of technology, whether in mobility cases, ie, emergency care, firefighters, and so on, and so forth. But also in, in home care with nurses visiting patients will have the ability to connect to a doctor that is remote, to do a consultation with a patient without having to move the patient, you will have also I think the developments of healthcare or point of care, that are fixed location, closer to companies, in particular, in areas where we companies do not have any health care professionals and all that friends below 500 employee within a site, you don't have to have a nurse or healthcare professional. So the vast majority of sites do not have anyone to take care of the people. And you will see in the future the deployment of those points of care in those areas that will offer a solution of proximity to employees to go and consult without having to take days off. Because you know, they need to make an appointment with a doctor. So my expectation is to see a lot of those solutions being deployed, that will allow people not to have to wait multiple days to get an appointment to go to a doctor and and be able to access these resources relatively easily.

Richard Medcalf
Yes, that's great. So I think often we think about the communications aspect right of teleconsultations. But the point is, there's yes, there's the communications platform. And then there's the data platform, right? There's making sure you have both that come together at that moment so that the physician has got something to go off right rather than just the screen which is clear, right and it's important, but bringing those two together hasn't really happened at this stage.

Michel Emelianoff
Absolutely.

Richard Medcalf
Well, great. Well, Michel, it's been great speaking with you if people are interested in knowing a bit more about you or about Visiomed, where do they go?

Michel Emelianoff
They can go at visiomed.fr which is our websites or they can also sent me an email at memelianoff@visiomedlab.fr

Richard Medcalf
Perfect. I'll put that in the show notes. Michel, it's been great speaking to you. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your insider track on on what's really going on, managing employees and managing a business as COVID drags on. So it's been great to speak with you today

Michel Emelianoff
Was my pleasure. Thank you so much, Richard. Have a good one.

Richard Medcalf
Many thanks. Bye now.

Richard Medcalf

I hope you enjoyed this conversation. Now let's turn to you. If you're a top performer, who's already accomplished great things, and yet knows that there's a whole new level of impact and potential open to you, why don't we get on the phone and strategise on how to get you there. Head over to xquadrant.com/speak to find out more. Until next time, be bold and be purposeful.


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