Since 2018, Dr. Ramin Baschshi has served as the CEO and president of Unlimited Possibilities (UP), an Orange County nonprofit providing disability services to over 5,000 children and families every year.
The organization, formerly known as UCP of Orange County, has served as a beacon of hope for families since 1953 by providing disability services for families at every stage of life, from birth into adulthood. For those with the privilege of working alongside Dr. Baschshi, the words “visionary” or “passionate” will often be the first used to describe her.
Despite the challenges of the past two years, she has shown exemplary leadership in the face of unprecedented circumstances, all while remaining relentless in her vision to push forward and create an equitable world for the underserved within Orange County.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Ramin Baschshi: My name is Dr. Ramin Baschshi, and since 2018 I have served as the CEO and president of Unlimited Possibilities (UP), a nonprofit based in Orange County providing disability services to over 5,000 children and families every year. The organization, formerly known as UCP of Orange County, has served as a beacon of hope for families since 1953 by providing disability services for families at every stage of life, from birth into adulthood.
Since I was a child, I always wanted to be a doctor and give back. I have that instilled in me from growing up in a very giving household—my parents were very altruistic. This kind of work can feel extremely challenging and difficult sometimes, but then I remember why we do what we do. We have to stay focused on the larger picture, which is giving back to the community that needs us the most.
2021 and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned?
Ramin Baschshi: We’ve learned across all industries that we must be flexible with our workforce. Speaking from a medical nonprofit perspective, this is a challenge because all our clinicians must be present in our facility from Monday through Friday to serve our patients.
This all goes back to being in different generational workforces, and this new group of professionals entering the workforce had COVID solidify what they want and can ask for out of a position. As a leader, don’t get annoyed by this because it will benefit your organization in the long run. Any business is driven by people.
Even if you have an amazing product, individuals have to create, maintain and promote that product. As a leader, recognize and respect this. This will help you become more lenient and understanding with your team and what they need to thrive.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2023? What advice would you share?
Ramin Baschshi: It stems from the top. From a business perspective, the competition is very high. If you run a larger organization with larger profits and are in that top one percent, your business will not be substantially affected. For businesses like ours that don’t fall into this category, one bad year could swing the pendulum in the wrong direction.
We have to look at risks very closely with our financial team and project these risks as it relates to revenue and expenses and plan accordingly. My general financial advice would be to have a great CFO who can plan and assess and guide a team through a calm or rough economy.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Ramin Baschshi: When the pandemic hit, healthcare and the education system became very lucrative. Hospitals, for example, were flushed with money. However, if you’re a medical organization but not part of a hospital, like an urgent care clinic or medical nonprofit like UP, you won’t benefit from this flush of money.
While organizations like UP provide essential services and therapies, we don’t receive any government funding as support like the hospitals did because the government doesn’t recognize us as essential. When you’re not part of the government entity and you’re competing with the conglomerates, the difficulties begin to add up not only with revenue to keep the organization doing but also with the labor crisis.
For example, therapists are passing up positions with nonprofits and going to the school district because these schools with this additional funding are able to pay $55-$85 an hour to do a session with a child versus the average $40 per hour rate that nonprofits pay. Plus, they are only working nine months out of the year based on the school calendar.
No matter how much they love an organization, they’re going to go where there are better pay opportunities. My advice for retaining talent would be to cultivate a strong team and be in dialed with their needs. Make them a priority, because they will then hopefully do the same.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2023?
Ramin Baschshi: The pandemic hit right as we were moving into our new therapy facility, so in hindsight, I’m not sure that was the right time to make that move and temporarily uproot our organization. I would have liked more advice on that. However, because we were in a state of transition, it made it a little easier to adapt to the changes in the workforce brought on by the pandemic.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2023?
Ramin Baschshi: The pandemic challenged how we think about technology and the workplace and how it can make organizations better. Tools like Zoom allowed our team to stay united even though we couldn’t physically be together. We were able to move forward and meet our goals. Remote work now provides our team the flexibility they need to balance work and home life and prioritize team health and wellbeing.
Technology improved our organization by providing an option for at-home care. We collectively had to be able to technologically pivot, and for UP, offering telehealth therapy appointments was crucial to keep up our patients’ progress and we continue to offer this to parents as a treatment option.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Ramin Baschshi:It’s a tie between my phone and computer. On average per week I spend about 12-13 hours between the two.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Ramin Baschshi: Storytelling plays an important role within my position for both internal and external communication. As a parent with three healthy children, I cannot relate to the challenges our families are going through. However, sharing patient impact stories with the public and donors is an excellent way to personalize our mission and what we do for people who cannot immediately understand.
I’m also an oversharer when it comes to internal communication with my team. I believe that talking and explaining helps people realize that disabilities can happen to anyone and encourages open conversations so that my team can be the best advocates for UP as they can be. We share stories about our experiences, our families, etc. to motivate us and remind us of what we’re here to do.
Lastly, when speaking externally or internally, I prioritize the organization and our mission. I rarely lead with my position because it’s not about that.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Ramin Baschshi: Hiring and retaining talent in this workforce has been extremely difficult. COVID created a new kind of work ethic, and working from home is really difficult for our organization. We have four different business models, all of which are reflective of service and being present in the building or out in the field.
We’ve also faced challenges with philanthropy. Because we are a fee-for-service organization, the competition around giving to our cause is very unique.
To address these challenges, we’re actively creating ambassadors around our mission, which stems from our board. Our board members are our ambassadors, who educate others about the importance of what we do and market the organization to their peers.
In 2023, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Ramin Baschshi: I am most excited about virtual reality therapy. This type of therapy is the way of the future in terms of connecting caregivers, patients, and their families and also extending and expanding care. It is one additional element for the future of pediatric treatment that’s in the early stages of happening and is an essential part of treatment.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people planned to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Ramin Baschshi: Reiterating what was said in an earlier question, business leaders need to prioritize the well-being of their employees. All companies are run by people and if they are not taken care of, they will leave. Changes should be specific to the organization.
I encourage leaders to actively listen to their workforce and see what is really needed to set them up for success. If these changes in policy can be made without negatively affecting the business, then make them. Show your team that they are valued and that you are listening.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Ramin Baschshi: This is very practical, but branding, marketing and PR would be my superpower. If I was a master at those things, people would recognize UP and partake in our organization without question.
What does “success” in the year to come mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Ramin Baschshi: Success means going to sleep at night knowing that I helped people and then waking up in the morning knowing I have to do it all again. Although net income, fundraising, and innovation are all great measurements of success, nothing compares to the feeling of helping people, even if you accomplished the smallest thing.
Success to me is knowing that I’ve given something to someone that made a difference, whether it’s for the organization or my own children.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ramin Baschshi for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ramin Baschshi or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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