As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Morgan.
Jen joined SENTA in July 2021 as CFO. Jen oversees the Corporate Accounting, Financial Reporting, Treasury, Tax, Revenue Cycle Management, and Financial Planning & Analytics at SENTA Partners.
Jen comes to SENTA from Eyecare Partners, where she served as Vice President, FP&A and Business Analytics and previously Vice President, Finance & Treasury. Prior to Eyecare Partners, Jen was a Senior Director, Finance, at Express Scripts where she led the SEC reporting, Technical Accounting and Financial Compliance functions. Jen also has 11 years of experience in public accounting with the audit practice at Ernst & Young.
Jen has over 20 years of experience in business finance, accounting and auditing specialized in the health care industry; including health insurance, prescription benefit management, bio-pharmaceutical, hospital and provider care practices.
Jen holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from University of Missouri in St. Louis and obtained her CPA in Missouri.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always had a passion for healthcare and when I was younger thought, I wanted to be a doctor. However, I found myself being pulled to the business and administrative side of healthcare. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with companies in every aspect of healthcare, from private practice, large hospital systems, health insurance carriers and prescription benefit management organizations. I realized that I was drawn to making things better in the health care industry from the back office to front office operations and improving financial results and have had amazing leaders, mentors and opportunities that have allowed me to follow this path.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
As a bit of background, I recently joined Southern Ear, Nose, Throat, and Allergy Physicians (SENTA). SENTA is physician-led and patient-focused, providing the highest quality allergy, asthma, immunology, and otolaryngology care leading to better patient outcomes.
At SENTA, we have a relatively new senior leadership team as it was formed over the past year. Our CEO, Adam Low, invested in our leadership team by having an offsite gathering over the course of a few days so we could get to know each other and learn more about one another. What I found out was our team is comprised of five people that are hard-working, fun to be with and just as passionate about building this company and improving the overall health services for our patients as I am. It was so motivating to know that I have supportive colleagues and when I do have failures, they will be behind me as a team to get back up and get it right.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I spent the first 11 years of my career with Ernst & Young in the audit practice. I know I made mistakes, although I wouldn’t call them funny. One of the worst mistakes was working on an IPO client where I took it upon myself to figure out some complex equity instruments. Turns out I didn’t get it right and it resulted in us restating the financials. Talk about a mistake, it was awful, but I learned a good life lesson about knowing when to ask for help and admit when you don’t know the answer. It would have saved my team time and embarrassment. I don’t know what I don’t know but now know to ask for help.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve had several great mentors in my career that helped me along the way, and I’ve taken every chance I get to keep in touch with them, thank them for what they did or the feedback they gave. But the one person who has helped me achieve success is my career is my father. He left public accounting when I was young to pursue his passion of running his own business. He started an air tool manufacturing company. I remember being in my teens standing in his warehouse in an assembly line with my three brothers building boxes and packing air tools for shipment. Standing shoulder to shoulder, we each were paid $0.10 per box. He taught us that success doesn’t come without hard work, even if it means building boxes! To this day my dad is my biggest support and continues to challenge me.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I’ve learned to not sweat the little things and focus on the key message and end goal. You can have an amazing powerpoint with impressive charts, tables, and bullet points, but if you can’t pull it all together and summarize the “so what” of it all, then you just wasted a lot of time and lost your audience.
When I struggle with the “so what” of it all, I go for a long walk or run to clear my mind and it helps me just have uninterrupted time to think about how my audience would view and interpret my message and what types of questions I can anticipate. Then I come back to my final edits on my presentation and make sure I can address those to bring it all together. Being active helps keep my stress down and gives me the focus time I need away from the laptop.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I’m going to be honest here, I don’t hire based on race or with an intent of hitting a diversity benchmark. I hire for work ethic, integrity, character, and skillset. I have found over the years I have ended up with very diverse teams simply because I look for the person that I think will work hard, support their teammates, bring technical skillsets or experiences to the team that will help us be stronger and reach our goals. I provide opportunities to those that didn’t necessarily go to the best schools or have the perfect resume but can showcase passion to support the team and organization. I think if we give more people like this the opportunity to shine, diverse teams will naturally happen.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
Along the lines of the last response, when you see someone on your team going above and beyond and demonstrating company values, it is our responsibility as leaders to help open doors for them that they may not realize are there. I’ve worked with several women in my career who told me they didn’t pursue a promotion because they felt the job was too demanding and would take time away from their role as mothers. I take that opportunity to help coach them on how they can do both and try to lead by example in balancing both career and family. I understand it is not always easy especially in a PE-backed environment, but there are opportunities to grow to the next level and not settle for less.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
A chief executive can make decisions based on their experiences and reliance of the experts on their team around them and be confident in their ability to lead by example. As CFO, I realize that the failures and successes of my team is based on trust and respect that I must earn from my team. I continually look for opportunities to coach and develop those around me and acknowledge I too am still learning and don’t know every answer.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
There is a myth that a CFO’s job is to only focus on the numbers. Today’s CFO has to be a profit driver and understand all aspects of the business from operations to back-office functions. The CFO should be an advisor to their peer leaders to help make data-driven decisions.
Another myth is being an executive means you are too busy to have time to get to know your team. I believe in taking advantage of “micro-moments” with my team. I try to block 15 min daily on my calendar to just walk out of my office (or virtually connect via Teams/Zoom) and touch base with someone on the team. I remember doing this one day and asking someone on my team how he was doing and if he had plans for the weekend with his family and in response, he let me know that it was the third anniversary of his young son’s death due to cancer and it was an emotional day for him. We talked about his son, and he shared pictures and their Facebook site he and his wife set up to support children suffering from cancer. It was a moment I will never forget that made me realize we are human and no matter what the work deadline was that week, his focus was rightfully on his family and remembering their child.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Being aggressive is sometimes viewed as a negative characteristic in women. I’ve had feedback over the course of my career to watch my tone, be less direct, try not to be so intimidating. I’ve also had feedback that my assertiveness drove a successful project, or that people trust me because they know I’m honest in my responses. It depends on the leader and how they perceive this characteristic. I do appreciate the feedback and I continue to work on my communication skills, whether through executive coaching or networking opportunities. I recently joined Chief, a private membership network focused on connecting and supporting women leaders. This network has given me the opportunity to discuss this feedback with other female executives in many industries and hear examples of how they improved their communication styles or learned that you can’t please everyone. Professional athletes are criticized all the time, publicly, they don’t stop doing what they love, they just try to be better.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Earlier in my career I thought CFOs focused only on the financial aspect of the company, reporting results, building forecasts and being at the table to “support” their colleges on the economics of a decision. In actuality, the CFO brings a lot more to the table than just the financial aspect and in fact can actually drive decisions by providing options to their colleagues along with the financial impact. I understand data hubs, billing, compliance, CMS and Medicare, there is so much more to the job than I ever realized.
Is everyone cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
When you are in management there is a level of stress and high-pressure situations that you need to approach with calm and level headedness. My last CEO told me that to be a strong CFO he looked for someone he could trust to organize the chaos, to come forward with issues but also with the solutions. Also, being able to admit when you are wrong and take responsibility for failures builds trust with your those you work with.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
In today’s virtual/hybrid/in office environment, you must take “micro-moments” with your team. Block 15 min daily on your calendar to just walk out of my office (or virtually connect via Teams/Zoom) and touch base with someone on the team. In a world where there are so many options for work opportunities, the quality of life at the workplace could make the difference between staying where are you currently are or taking the 10% wage increase across the street.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I take opportunities to mentor and coach other women to be successful in the workplace. I also participate in volunteer board positions, such as Epworth, to share my experience and skills and give back to the community. Epworth is a great organization that provides support for youth through coordinating foster care, providing housing services, mental health support and community-based outreach for families in need. If we each give a little it makes the world a lot better.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Listen first then speak.
- Not everyone along your path will appreciate who you are (so find the right organization/leader that does).
- Seek feedback constantly along the way, don’t wait until it’s past the time to help you change.
- Give yourself a break — take time for you personally to do things you enjoy and recharge.
- When you find yourself below the line remember to get yourself back above — (Read The 15 Characteristics of Conscious Leadership, by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman & Kaley Warner Klemp).
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I have often joked around with former colleagues in the healthcare sector that wouldn’t it be amazing if we could put together a brain trust of leaders across all aspects of healthcare and develop a business model that improves healthcare in the US and globally. We would rethink healthcare to insure those that are not, reduce the cost of drugs through innovation and technology, reduce hospitalizations with better preventive care, put the decisions for care back in the hands of licensed providers but use data to help direct, manage and solve.
I’ve witnessed great strides in this in my last two decades in healthcare, but it still seems siloed, and sometimes one profits at another’s cost. It’s a puzzle with so many pieces but I’ve loved to work with people across the healthcare continuum who are trying to come to the table with solutions.
HCARE SECTOR- AMAZING TO BE A BRAIN TRUST ACROSS THE US- RETHINK HCARE- LIKE THOSE NOT INSURED, REDUCE HOSPITALIZATIONS, BETTER PREVENTATIVE CARE- STILL SEEMS LIKE IT NEEDS WORK-
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There is no “I” in TEAM. No matter what it is in life, you cannot do it all on your own. Early on in life I focused on the “I” and as I matured realized I cannot do it all. Whether it’s raising my family with my husband and asking him to pick up kids or doing laundry to leading a massive ERP system implementation across a billion-dollar company, you must lean on people and know when to ask for help and input. It’s so much more rewarding accomplishing something with others rather than being on a pedestal by yourself.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Hands down, Warren Buffet. He is not afraid to share publicly his failures as a leader and businessman. He has learned from each experience in life and values people above the bottom-line profit. I think one of the reasons he has been so successful is his traditional view of business, in that it doesn’t exist without the passion and loyalty of the employees. Despite the evolution of technology and infrastructure in businesses, he has remained a relevant leader. I would love to ask him what he would have done differently and what he valued the most in his career.