Mike Williams '93
By Stephanie D. Overton
“You can’t be successful without seeing and knowing where you’re going,” said Mike Williams ’93, CEO and co-founder of English Meadows Senior Living.
Williams has had an entrepreneurial spirit from day one of his career and has always been self-employed. He and his wife, Patti, were in the restaurant business and owned and operated a Radford-based restaurant before purchasing the first English Meadows facility in 2008. Today, the company owns and operates 16 senior living communities in Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and South Carolina and will manage an independent living community in Christiansburg, Virginia.
“Vision is the most crucial aspect,” Williams shared as he reflected on the growth of his business. “I have been successful because I’ve been able to see what’s going to happen down the road … and being somewhat accurate at it is important. I trust my intuition, but we do the research, and I believe in our vision and can see what things can be.”
For Williams and the English Meadows team, service is in every second of the work they do taking care of their residents.
“We’re all driven by service. We are blessed that we get to interact with the lives of so many residents who have amazing stories. Serving others is in my nature and what I enjoy. I feel blessed to be a part of their lives,” Williams said.
He feels the same about his leadership team and employees. Williams says that in his business, it really is a family atmosphere.
“We have more than 50 people on our senior management team, people who have grown and been elevated within the company. For me, it’s not about putting the dollar first. We’re in the wrong industry for that mindset,” he said.
Williams speaks fondly of the mentors he has had and how they have impacted his career. His goal is to be that same type of influence, and he measures his success by how successful and happy the individuals around him are in their work.
“When I started, I was a micromanager. Being self-employed, it took a while to step back and trust people to do their jobs. At the beginning of COVID, I did a lot of soul-searching, looked at how I was working and considered ‘should I be doing this or someone else?’” Williams said. “I went all-in seven days a week to work through the changes that impacted our business during COVID. Now, I’m trying to be more of a coach to those who report directly to me and let them run with the work they do. If I can come up with an idea and others have already thought of it, then I feel like I’m doing my job without being the one who is steering the ship 24/7.”
While his business has branched beyond the New River Valley, Williams remains grounded in his local community and connected to his beginnings, especially Radford University. It is easy to understand why he is dedicated to supporting his alma mater when he shares his personal connection and why service extends to his community.
“A third of my life has taken place in Radford – school, business, events. Radford University is an important part of our lives. We have a vested interest in seeing it grow and do amazing things,” says Williams. “From the beginning, Radford gave me what I was looking for as a student – smaller classes, interaction with professors and the support I needed when focusing on my first career goals. Support from Radford University also helped my restaurant business. Ninety percent of my customer base was from the University.”
Williams has a vision to expand English Meadows beyond the communities it currently serves but without sacrificing the values and philosophy the business has been built on. He often thinks of a quote from the character Shoeless Joe Jackson in the movie “Field of Dreams” and says when making decisions about the business, “we’re going to do what’s right.”
“When it’s all said and done, I want someone to say to me, ‘Hey rookie, you were good!’” Williams said.