Service Disabled Veteran Makes it His Duty to Change Healthcare for His Fellow Servicemen and Women
CW Financial & Management Group, in Decatur IL is proudly owned and operated by Craig Williams. CW Financial is a fairly newer business which got up and running on July 12, 2019. Starting with only himself, Williams has been able to expand to 5 employees, but that’s no shortcomings because he enjoys being a small, close-knit firm since small businesses are really the heart of our country and our economy. In the future, he sees himself helping other small businesses really hit the ground running and which would further the economic growth and development of our country the way our founders intended it to be.
With being a new business, they signed their first large and most significant contract in February of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic definitely took a toll on CW financially, according to Williams “it was hard to even keep the doors open in a time where the entire country was on lock down”. They had to do an onsite cost benefit analysis in the state of New York and three employee assistance program projects that were scheduled, and when the pandemic hit, they had to be put on hold.
In the face of the pandemic, Craig Williams did not let that shut down his business, instead he saw the adversity as an opportunity. He steered his business forward in a different direction than he had originally pictured for his business. Williams says he “steered into the skid, he started thinking ‘how can I capitalize on this pandemic from a business standpoint?’ So, I started looking for Covid related contracts”. From that he ended up signing a significant contract with the State of Illinois which was actually the firm’s largest contract to date. The detail of that contract was stated by Williams as “the State of Illinois opened a COVD-19 alternate care facility in an abandoned hospital on the south side of Cook County. We were awarded a contract to serve as the office of the CFO for the COVID-19 Alternate Care Facility”. Williams went on to say that “Yes there is a crisis, but as a business, how can we survive this crisis and get opportunities within that crisis?”
In addition, the story of CW financial really starts with who Craig Williams is. Williams is a Veteran who studied Economics at Illinois State University as well as health care management at Cornell University. Williams' backstory has been a driving force for his cause and mission which has inspired him to get his business started in the first place. CW Financial offers management consulting and provides services in the areas of contracts, finance, budget, procurement, and healthcare change management. They also administer employee assistance programs for several large hospitals throughout the country, which might be a little unconventional for a financial management company.
Personally, Williams used his experience being the CFO for the State of Illinois’ mental health care system for twenty years; he let it shape his passion and influence his vision for his company. And being a service-disabled Veteran himself, he saw first-hand that there was a major gap in health care coverage for our veterans, especially in mental health care and women’s health care. Williams went on to explain their purpose as “helping with the paradigm shift that needs to happen in health care”. They currently provide services to approximately 9,000 VA Employees of the VA health care systems, where they provide mental health counseling, financial advising, legal referrals, and other referrals related to work life home life balance.
One of their main clientele is The Department of Veteran Affairs, where one area they are trying to help the VA be on the forefront of is women’s health care. Williams went on to say that there is a stigma behind the VA, being that men are the ones who utilize those resources the most because their health care is more standardized. Overall there is lack of trust in the quality the VA can provide to women who may be pregnant or have specialized conditions. CW financial is taking it to the heart and making it their purpose to create satellite facilities that are completely separate from the VA and are specifically for women’s health care to remove that stigma and help women feel comfortable enough to access the resources they need and are rightfully earned through their service.
Another area where Williams sees a need for their assistance is mental health care coverage for our Veterans. They want to be the rift that causes the paradigm shift that is necessary to get the funding and understanding to get our Veterans the support they need and that was earned by them through their valiant service.
CW Financial has also done work with the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology to assist them with being more inclusive with their contracting. They worked directly with small businesses owned by minorities, women, persons with disabilities to assist them with being procurement ready. Directly helping them get registered in the necessary systems, understand what and where to look, and how to build partners through the process. Again, Craig has applied his previous experience as a state employee to fully understand “the hurdles that small business owners would go through, because it's such a complex and counter intuitive system”. Williams described being able to provide guidance to other small businesses and help them find their way as rewarding and it is something that they look forward to doing more of in the future.
William’s says “The Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at Bradley University and especially Keli Krueger-Huhra (Director), has been phenomenal from day one when I first called her. She has provided me guidance and gives me insight, when I was a one-man show in the beginning.” When Williams had sent in a proposal for her to review on a Friday he was astonished by her willingness to review it over the weekend which led to her timely response and greatly appreciated her highly technical and helpful comments throughout a very long twenty-page proposal. He went on to say “that’s just the type of person Keli is, to go above and beyond, and help small businesses like myself who had no one else to be the editor for my work”. Keli uses her past experiences to give different perspectives to look for better opportunities. Williams even went on to joke “I’d hate to politicize how she’s so phenomenal in that arena because then that means everyone is going to call her, but she really has been phenomenal to me”.