There are two areas of interest in this description of our rather unique business model. The first speaks to the “Structures and Mechanics” of our model, and the second to “Our Culture”. We always welcome inquiries from other mental health providers who are interested in learning more about our business model, and the opportunities it might provide. Contact us if you would like a deeper dialogue.
Structure and Mechanics
- The FHC is a not-for-profit corporation in Michigan, and has been since 1976.
- We have a six member Board of Trustees who meet about five times a year.
- Our Executive Coordinator is not an “Executive Director” because we are a community of responsible adults who only need to be coordinated, not directed.
- Our primary office location is in the Bundy House, located at 534 Fountain St. NE in Grand Rapids. This lovely Heritage Hill Home was built in 1884. The Board of Trustees owns the building and provides it to us rent-free. They do, however, maintain the structural integrity of the building.
- We each are responsible for the decorating we do in each of our offices.
- The Board of Trustees are nominated by current Board and Staff members. Nominations are presented yearly to the Member of the Corporation for election.
- The sole voting Member of the Corporation is Central Reformed Church. Their governing body, the Consistory, acts on the nominations and elects our Board of Trustees.
- Central Reformed Church retains this right because the creation of the Fountain Hill Center was their idea in 1974. They birthed the Center.
- The Bundy House is maintained by the Board of Trustees, as was said. They are able to do so because of an endowment fund that was created in 1997.
- Money from the endowment fund is also earmarked by the Board for Outreach purposes.
- The day-to-day operational expenses are paid by the Center’s professional staff. We do this rather simply; whatever it takes to operate the center is divided among the Center’s staff.
- After each staff member has contributed their share to the Operations Account, they are entitled to retain their earnings.
- The Staff meets weekly, at 11:00 on Wednesdays. Together we carry on the business of the Center according to our Policy Manual.
- The people who are on our Staff are all professionals. Each is Licensed and/or Certified in their particular discipline. Appropriate credentials are maintained.
- Each Staff member has joined the Center because they have a vision for ministry. We look for Staff members who have a passion for doing something. We support and encourage, resource when we can, and share interest and enthusiasm. Each Staff person is, however, responsible for generating his or her own clientele and income.
- We keep overhead expenses relatively low because we all chip in to help around common needs. We share chores.
Our Culture: The ISFP Organization
If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Types, then you will be familiar with the ISFP personality type. Well, the MBTI has been adapted by William Bridges in his book, The Character of Organizations, to describe business culture. We are an ISFP organization. If you read the description that follows, you will get a sense of our culture.
- Introverted: takes cues and draws power from within, is fairly closed
- Sensing: concerns itself with actualities, attends to details
- Feeling: reaches conclusions on the basis of values and beliefs
- Perceiving: likes to keep options open, distrusts too much definition
The ISFP organization is designed to make it possible for individual performers in some craft or art or profession to do what they do well. Hierarchy and authority in general are at best tolerated for the conditions surrounded by a very loose network of support services.
The culture of the ISFP organization is individualistic and emphasizes expertise and grace. The organization’s management structure hardly deserves its title, for it is little more than an umbrella under which the key individuals operate. Leadership similarly is minimal, unless it is embodied in a master performer or artisan, whom all the others admire.
This kind of organization depends for its continuity on countless little satisfactory encounters between the practitioners and their publics. If these practitioners are skillful and sensitive, they will stay in touch with those publics. But their own values may preclude changing what they do—which they would see as prostituting themselves—and so they may go out of favor. There is little long-range planning or formal marketing effort to keep that from happening.
Within the organization, there is little concern for formal communication. People may express themselves vocally, but there are seldom the concerted efforts that demand clear communication of intent and response to intent. The organization’s records, training, and management structure are also informal. Formal systems are poorly developed and generally viewed an unnecessary.
The ways in which people interact within the ISFP organization have a pragmatic quality: ”What are we doing this for? What do you want out of it? What do I want?” Individuals end up exerting more or less power depending on the particular situation and their own desires, so the pragmatism is efficient in only relatively uncomplicated situations.
The work itself has a peculiar quality to it: It is more a form of play or a game or a contest that it is work in the conventional sense. Skill, whatever its content, is esteemed, and competition is expected. The results of the competition may be a kind of ranking in excellence, but that does not translate into an organizational hierarchy any more than the seedings in a tennis tournament do. And as with such seedings, there is a colleagueship that cuts across the rankings.
The ways that ISFP organizations handle change depend on how the performers themselves handle it. They tend to like excitement and not to be afraid of risk, so there is nothing about change per se that frightens them. If they can continue to respond to a changing audience, the organization will probably back them up. But the organization itself will not take the lead, will not plan, will not develop new resources, and will not test-market. Yet it will not resist change either, for its positions do not constitute real power bases or turfs from which to view change as destructive.
All in all, the ISFP organization is a kind of anti-organization. It works best when it is part of some larger organization that can do for it what it cannot do for itself. If it is self-contained, one would not expect it to last very long. Rather, it would be more likely to die and be reborn as some similar organization—probably another ISFP. Some people spend their working lives going through this death and rebirth cycle with a sequence of ISFP organizations.
Written by: Andrew D. Atwood, D.Min., LMFT, CSW