Director rescues agency from disaster Posko leads DSG's dramatic turnaround

July 08, 1992|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,Staff Writer

Henry Posko didn't start out to be an administrator. He "sort of fell into it," as he recalls.

But he turned out to be so good at it that he rescued from the brink of disaster a tiny agency that provides vocational rehabilitation services to brain-injury victims, and won himself a United Way Management Distinction Award that carries a $3,500 prize.

Mr. Posko, who grew up in Pasadena and lives in Annapolis, took over Developmental Services Group Inc. late in 1981 when it couldn't meet an annual budget of $250,000, its payroll of six or seven employees, or pay the rent on its office space, and was $85,000 in the red.

After a decade in which money for social service agencies all but dried up, DSG's budget expanded to nearly $2 million and its payroll increased to some 70 employees. The company even moved to its own building in an industrial park in Columbia.

"Henry is just a good, solid administrator," raved Judy Pittman of the United Way. "He's done significant things with a limited budget. He has a real grasp of corporate operations."

"I have a real creative and energetic staff," Mr. Posko demurred. "And a dedicated board of directors. And we had no way to go but up."

Mr. Posko, who has a master's degree in psychology from Loyola College in Baltimore, first joined Developmental Services as a vocational evaluator in the late 1970s. He left to take jobs at Spring Grove Hospital and in Anne Arundel County, but eventually returned to DSG.

He became executive director in late 1981 and immediately faced the prospect of closing the doors.

"Most boards of directors meet monthly, but we were in such trouble, ours was meeting weekly," he recounted. "I said at one of our first meetings that we should close the door if we couldn't come up with $6,000 to $7,000 to meet that week's payroll."

Board members pulled out their own checkbooks to make up the shortfall with loans and outright gifts. While Mr. Posko began writing grants, the board and staff helped stage fund-raisers to keep the company afloat.

Meanwhile, Mr. Posko increased the company's sources of funds more than tenfold and added programs for different groups of disabled people.

When Mr. Posko took over, DSG had three funding sources -- United Way, the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and some subcontracting work. Now, it taps 30 different agencies for money.

The programs serve not only those with brain injuries, but also the deaf, retarded persons, those with psychiatric problems, and those with diagnoses of more than one mental problem.

The new funding sources helped beef up existing programs and provide the basis for the expansion. And the additional programs enabled DSG to tap into new funding sources, he said.

He lobbied the General Assembly for laws that gave agencies such as his a head start on state contracts, then started a microfilm service. Now, DSG has an exclusive microfilm contract with the Motor Vehicle Association.

"We got a copy of the state procurement list and asked what can we do and we noticed no one else was doing microfilming, so we got into that," Mr. Posko explained.

While he was scrambling for money, he also installed a team management concept to boost morale on his staff. Each program division operates as a team, and each team member learns the others jobs to allow flexibility.

"It also promotes information sharing," he explained. "And that helps build morale, too."

Now, the team at Developmental Services is planning expansion.

"We have to decide as a team how we're going to monitor our growth and how do we want to expand," Mr. Posko said.

"We have to know what the trends are going to be, what population needs to be served and know where the money's going to be."

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