April 17, 2015

Dorman’s drive keeps treatment center in harmony

2015 Women of Distinction - Nonprofit, Human Services

Dorothy “Dot” Dorman follows three primary directives to keep Colorado’s longest-standing residential treatment center for the diseases of alcohol and drug addiction successful: Hire the best people, balance clinical focus with business focus and measure your margins.

As chief executive of Harmony Foundation, Dorman provides leadership, direction and strategic planning to a staff of more than 120.

“It’s important to surround yourself with very smart, motivated people. Buy-in and communication are key,” she said. “It’s easy here because we’re so mission-driven, and people are drawn to this field by altruistic reasons.”

Dorman makes sure the business-side of Harmony Foundation stays in front of all staffers to make sure their best efforts can continue. The practice includes holding managers to a tight budget and making sure results are measured.

“Data is important to me,” she said. “We can bring people in the door, but if we can’t prove it helps, we’re just taking their money.”

Looking at how the organization is doing with maintaining its operating margin as well as with meeting its mission is the balance Dorman works to keep everyone tuned in to. A performance-improvement committee meets monthly to review the number of people who came into the program, the number that left and the number of people whose progress was followed-up on.

“We need to run this like a business or we won’t be sustainable,” she said. “I tell people that if there’s no margin, there’s no mission.

“I’ve seen nonprofits come and go and know that including the business sense that’s needed in focus makes the difference.”

In addition to leading Harmony Foundation in her role as CEO, Dorman works with clients in a number of ways. Those include teaching tai chi, making Christmas wreaths and giving educational talks.

She recognizes that it takes a village to meet the Harmony Foundation mission. To support that village, Dorman works closely with the board of directors, medical staff, counselors, administration, kitchen, housekeeping and maintenance workers.

Through all of Dorman’s tasks, she continues to be motivated by the organization’s mission.  “It’s easy to be passionate – we’re helping people rebuild their lives and their families,” she said. “It’s very easy to be inspired.

“What I’m most passionate about is watching the transformation and seeing a client 30 days or one year later,” she added. “Some stay in touch over the course of their lives.”

Dorman started her 30-year career at Harmony Foundation by answering a blind ad for an accounting manager.

“I was raised in an alcoholic home and don’t tend to think it’s an accident that I’m here,” she said.

Dorman’s current focus includes building a team of young, motivated leaders who can convey the mission of Harmony Foundation into the future. That torch includes continuing to fight the stigma of addiction by teaching people about the brain science involved in it.

“I expect to retire in three years,” she said, “and my goal is to spend my last year pulling the history together and turning Harmony over to good people.”

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