As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing David Kopp.
David Kopp is the CEO of Healthline Media and has overseen and directed the growth of the company since 2010. Prior to his time at Healthline, David led North American ad product marketing for Yahoo!, as well as marketing for a division of Disney, and held leadership roles in several internet advertising and technology startups. In addition, he founded and sold Winfire, a consumer search business. David believes that together we can create a stronger, healthier world — and that it starts with each of us owning our own health with the support of our doctors, therapists, friends, and Healthline.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My parents were entrepreneurs. I learned a lot at the dinner table and then had the benefit of a number of fantastic business mentors — from Clorox-trained brand managers at Disney to serially-successful tech entrepreneurs in several different tech startups. I’ve been at Healthline for 10 years, though it was only after the previous 15 years of work that I realized the benefits of working in a purpose-driven business. It is so rewarding to know that our success is predicated on helping people on their individual journeys to health and well-being.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The first time I had to do budgeting, I made a $17,000 mistake — about 5% of our total budget. I went to my boss and explained my error and she thanked me and asked how I was going to make up for it. I told her there was no way to make up for it. She kind of chuckled and said that I had to figure it out. At the time, it wasn’t at all funny to me, but I learned a lot about how important it is to be thorough in budgeting…and, more importantly, that budgets are guidelines. And the most important guideline is to just make sure you beat the bottom line.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I’ve read so many great business books, but Jim Collins’ Good to Great and his recent Great by Choice are two of my favorites. Collins’ blend of disciplined, data-driven analysis and powerful illustrative anecdotes helped me learn how to create and maintain momentum in a business — the “flywheel,” as he terms it. I’ve used that principle and many of his other principles throughout my career. But I’ve learned that momentum of all types, including cultural, leadership and market, when patiently and properly harnessed, can power a company through almost every seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Healthline is committed to building a stronger, healthier world by being an ally to our readers in their journeys to health and well-being. Our vision then and today is of a healthcare reality which is less opaque and confusing, with individuals who can find clarity in their health journeys — whether they are seeking preventative health, diagnosis or treatment for acute or chronic conditions.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
People create value. I’ve had the good fortune to work in a number of businesses, but in all of them, people were the creators of value — whether through innovation, writing code, journalism, design, selling advertising, or selling products. Never losing sight of the fact that the people create the value in businesses keeps you focused on making the work itself rewarding and purposeful. People are also the key to the teamwork which creates growth and market momentum.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Personally, I found that my energy really flagged in the early days of the quarantine. At first, I thought it was the lack of routine, so I really focused on establishing a new routine and building in self-care — such as daily meditation and exercise. Then I read a Healthline article about how low stimulation can negatively affect our energy level. If we sit in a small office and stare at a screen for 8–10 hours, it’s more exhausting than a similar amount of time broken up with in-person meetings or a commute, for example. That prompted me to intentionally add additional stimuli to my day: a favorite trick is to have meetings where I could walk around my neighborhood on a call or even take a video call from a different room or from a table right outside my office.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Change is hard — but what I think makes it particularly hard is that it affects people differently and is much harder for some than it is for others. Similarly, the quarantine has created situations that are not equally difficult. While almost everyone has some difficulty with being quarantined, some have almost insurmountable challenges, such as working parents with a small house, toddlers and still only 24 hours each day to work, parent and sleep. All of this means there is no one-size-fits-all solution to leadership, communication, performance management and the other jobs of a leader. We have increased our communication, emphasized the importance of empathy, expressed more confidence, and placed more responsibility on the judgement of our leaders.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
We’ve surveyed both a representative sample of Americans and Healthline readers and found that there is a marked increase in stress, anxiety and depression in both audiences. In response, we’ve created a hub for quarantine-related mental wellness content which is full of good ideas. A few of the ones that have worked for me: (1) One of our medical reviewers talks about taking your daily MEDS: mindfulness, exercise, diet and sleep. I’ve found putting all four together is a magical cocktail. (2) In one of your early questions I talked about how low physical stimulation can sap your energy but so can high emotional stimulation. Simply limiting your news surfing can make a real difference: set a specific amount of time but no more than 30 minutes or subscribe to a single newsletter. Healthline and Medical News Today both are good ones in that everything is fact-checked and medically-reviewed. (3) Invest in self-care as part of your “new normal.” Whether it is MEDS or simply indulging a guilty pleasure as a way to create something to look forward to in your new routine, it’s critical that you take care of yourself.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I believe we can and must make healthcare more accessible. We’ve already seen a massive movement toward virtual doctor visits and an embracing of digital health programs for exercise, diet and mindfulness. We’ve massively lowered barriers to this kind of physical and mental healthcare with these changes, and I believe this will be a boon to both consumers of these services and to the healthcare industry.
The need for increased mental healthcare services is acute. More than half of Americans say coronavirus-related stress has harmed their mental health and well-being. The share of frontline healthcare workers and people who have lost jobs reporting mental-health challenges is even higher — nearly two-thirds. These levels of emotional stress are unprecedented. Policymakers, private insurers, employers, and providers must come together to make access to therapy and counseling, including remote access, ubiquitous.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I believe that at least for the near future we’ll see some fairly big changes in restaurants, hotels and travel more generally. There will be more at-home dining, more close-to-home travel, more car trips, and fewer plane flights. I think we’ll see a huge cut in business travel — in part because of short-term, pre-vaccine travel limitations but longer term because we’ve realized how effective virtual video meetings can be. I also think that we’ll see some movement out of crowded urban areas into suburbia — both because of health concerns but more permanently because we’ve learned how effective remote working can be in so many jobs and industries.
We’ll also likely see some permanence to many of the quarantine-driven virtual changes in healthcare and education.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
COVID has really just sharpened our focus, as it really reinforces the importance of our purpose as well as our business model. Our audience of over a quarter billion monthly global visitors wants and needs the content, tools and services that we offer. And with the economy faltering, it is critical that everyone has access to the best medically authoritative, fact-checked health content free-of-charge — which is a huge endorsement of our ad-supported business model.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Every situation is different, but I strongly believe that focusing on the needs of your customers and making sure that you really deliver for them is a key part of any successful business endeavor.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is too short.” There are a myriad of potential meanings to this four-word quotation. What gives meaning to my life is the idea that I can leave the world better than I’ve found it and life is consequently too precious and short to waste on certain things: win-lose (vs. win-win) situations, negativity or work that doesn’t inspire you.
How can our readers further follow your work?