Six months into the pandemic, Tanya Holcomb became the first general counsel of BAYADA Home Health Care. BAYADA employs more than 26,000 home health care professionals who provide a full range of in-home care services worldwide, making it possible for millions of people to experience a better quality of life in the comfort of their own home. Tanya came to BAYADA from a distinguished in-house career in manufacturing and technology companies – so our conversation focused on making the transition into a new industry during a global crisis affecting the health care industry more acutely than any other.
We start with eight “fill in the blank” questions with Tanya:
- The best thing a GC can do for a client is:
“Be proactive and identify risks before they happen.”
- The hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally was:
“Enter a new and highly regulated industry during a pandemic.”
- I love it when law firm lawyers:
“Know what I need before I have to ask for it.”
- I really dislike it when law firm lawyers:
“Make me do all the strategic thinking . . . I should not have to significantly redline documents.”
- What I love about my team’s culture:
“The way they live BAYADA’s core values every day: compassion, excellence, and reliability.”
- One little thing I should really change about the way I work:
“I am working to expand my team so I can be more strategic and not as involved in day-to-day work. Then again, as a new GC, having to dive into the day-to-day has been a great help in learning a new industry.”
- One sentence of advice for my 25-year-old self:
“Building trust is key to success; be credible, transparent and authentic.”
- Thing in life I’m most proud of:
“My three children. I’ve worked hard to ensure that they appreciate their privileges – and that they use them for the broader good. I’m proud of the human beings they’ve grown up to be.”
Tanya – six months into the pandemic, in a virtual work environment, you became the first-ever GC of a big – and growing – home health care company. Given BAYADA’s purpose to deliver home health care with compassion, excellence, and reliability, it’s clear why you wanted to take on the GC leadership role. Now that you’re over a year into it, I want to know, what have you learned?
Well, it’s been an intense time to say the least, and I’ve learned a lot. Home health care is obviously very affected by the pandemic, and it’s highly regulated. I’ve been forced to take a deep dive into learning the regulations in a short timeframe.
But when I think about the main things I’ve learned – I think the first is that people, our clients and our employees, are always the most important part of the story. That’s something I knew from my prior leadership roles, but it’s so central to health care. In home health care, our caregivers and support teams are the company’s most important assets. The leadership team at BAYADA really rallies around the employee experience and the challenges employees face caring every day for thousands of people. We’re able to appreciate and recognize our employees for the heroes they are.
From a business perspective, employee retention is a huge leadership issue everywhere right now – keeping people engaged and excited about their work. The employee value proposition is important at any time, but especially now. If you don’t have a compelling value proposition, you’re not going to win the war for talent. So, we listen closely and carefully to our employees to understand what they need in order to show up as their best selves, and provide the best care or service they can.
So my first big lesson was that even in the face of all that was new, regardless of industry, people are still your core responsibility as a leader.
At BAYADA, you’ve been building the ship while sailing it, as they say – hiring some folks and figuring out Legal’s role in the organization. What have you learned from all of that?
From the first day it has been a matter of becoming a strategic partner to the practice and functional leadership across the company. Legal is a key partner to our businesses. We’re at the table when the businesses are developing their short and long-term strategic goals – so we can best understand what they need, identify the legal issues, triage and then help craft strategy that achieves goals while mitigating risk.
In terms of expanding the Legal department, we have a talented team that provides great support to our practices and service offices. So the goal now is to identify the skills and capabilities needed to support BAYADA’s growth trajectory.
We are also focused on establishing processes that will serve the company well into the future. Process orientation is something many might associate with the manufacturing and technology setting, but it’s so important for us at BAYADA. And digital transformation is also critical here. We’re implementing best-in-class technology to support our teams so they can do their best work.
The last year was a big change for you professionally on a lot of fronts – transitioning into the health care industry in the middle of the pandemic in a totally virtual environment. What have you learned about yourself from that experience?
One of the biggest changes for me was actually the nature of my legal work. I was a litigator throughout my career, but at BAYADA I’ve spent more than half my time on complex transactions. That’s a new challenge for me, but I’ve learned how transferable litigation skills actually are. As a litigator, I was able to bring a certain facility with deals from the other side – from deals gone bad. Litigators bring the perspective of future risks, and the knowledge of how transactions can go wrong. I think that’s a valuable contribution in terms of risk management. I learned that even after a couple decades in litigation, I was able to push myself, to do something really new.
Another new thing was transitioning into an organization on a virtual basis. It’s important to me to build relationships in the workplace – I think that social piece is really valuable. But working with new people entirely through a computer screen – could I really build relationships that way? It turns out that I was able to – I think we have all adapted, and those important relationships have grown, even when we can’t be in the same room.
Overall, I would say that even at this stage of my career, diving into new and uncharted waters can be overwhelming but also exhilarating, and an opportunity for personal growth.
BAYADA Home Health Care, a not-for-profit organization, provides a range of care services to patients in the comfort of their homes. BAYADA employs more than 26,000 nurses, home health aides, therapists, medical social workers and other home health care professionals in 23 U.S. states, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Korea and the United Kingdom. In May 2019, BAYADA served its one millionth client.