As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Weiner.
Josh is the CEO of Solutionreach. He joined Solutionreach from Summit Partners, a leading global growth equity firm. Through his work with Summit Partners, Josh served three years on the Solutionreach board of directors. Prior to Summit Partners, he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company. Josh is a graduate of Stanford University and resides in Salt Lake City with his wife, daughter, and golden retriever Willow. (Willow often made cameos at the Solutionreach office. Now that the company is operating virtually, she often can be seen on video conferences.) Josh and his family spend as much time as possible exploring the natural wonders of Utah’s mountains and deserts. Connect with him on LinkedIn @joshfweiner.
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?
I began my career as an analyst at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. I can’t think of a better training ground for solving business problems and guiding change at some of the world’s most influential organizations. After my stint at McKinsey, I put those skills to the test at a venture-backed startup in Central America. Our mission was to reinvent the chocolate supply chain. There, I learned a lot about managing in a chaotic and unpredictable environment. My career progression led me to Summit Partners, one of the early pioneers in growth equity. At Summit, in addition to making wonderful interpersonal connections, I learned from the best how to build great companies. I have been fortunate to have such humbling and meaningful career experiences that have informed my approach to leadership today and driven my passion for greater change within my community.
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?
Mistakes rarely seem funny in the moment, but I always laugh when I look back at the very first performance review of my career. It was the worst one I’ve ever received! I had just graduated from Stanford and was beginning my work at McKinsey & Co. with a lot of confidence in my capabilities. So much confidence that I thought under-communicating was better than over communicating with my team. I thought I could figure it all out on my own, which resulted in a very “constructive” 6-month review. I received the worst performance rating possible for an analyst. I was coached on how to involve team members proactively, and to communicate and leverage teammates’ strengths. I learned about real teamwork. I was lucky to be a part of a firm that placed such an emphasis on professional development. This trainwreck performance review was a pivotal point for me, fueling and accelerating my growth.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
NPR’s “How I Built This” is one of my favorite podcasts because it highlights the point that anyone can become an innovator or entrepreneur. At the end of each episode, the host, Guy Raz, asks his guests some version of the following question: “Were you lucky or were you good?”
This question elicits a variety of responses that sheds light on different successful business leaders’ viewpoints. Some offer a candid response about how they got where they are. Some give themselves too much credit, while others give themselves too little credit for how strategic they’ve been or how hard they’ve worked. Listening to their responses reminds me how unique everyone’s journey is. These stories of entrepreneurship have inspired me to think creatively and to trust wonderful teammates.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My time in the private equity and venture capital world had a very clear purpose: drive financial returns. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating economic value. In fact, it is vital. I wanted to join a mission-driven organization as my next step. That’s what led me to Solutionreach, a company focused on improving communications between patients and doctors. I was fortunate enough to be recruited by Solutionreach’s founder, Jim Higgins, a mentor of mine. Our vision is to make sure healthcare tomorrow is better than healthcare today. As a company that touches more than a quarter of the U.S. population, there is consistent motivation to continue to make a difference at scale.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, our purpose has new meaning. There is so much information flying around, it is tough to separate fact from fiction. We connect patients with the most trusted source of information possible: their healthcare provider. By finding ways to simplify communication and build lasting patient-provider relationships, we work towards improving healthcare every day.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Our number one guiding principle at Solutionreach is “Team Members First.” When making decisions, we first consider how it will impact our team members. This is because we care about each person’s well-being, career, and long-term success. We solve problems and celebrate our wins together. With this as our guiding principle, we’ve found that our focus on supporting each other as teammates translates into business results, whether that is delivering better customer service, product development or anything else we do.
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?
The world is in the middle of a metamorphosis where a lot of our behaviors have to change, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose our relationships in the process. I’ve been challenged with finding a balance in protecting the most vulnerable around us without losing a larger sense of community.
My aunt became infected with COVID-19 in early March, just as many of us were figuring out what the virus was and the severity of it. Her condition was serious, and she is recovering. Having the virus touch close to home, I realized how difficult it is not to be close to family and friends to comfort and support one another. So, we are finding ways to continue staying close even without the ability to physically connect. The best way I can explain how is by sharing a glance at a few weekly routines we have established:
- On Wednesdays: Virtual happy hour with childhood friends who are spread out across the country.
- On Fridays: My wife, daughter and I do a Zoom candle lighting with my parents for Shabbat.
- Weekends: FaceTime with all the parents/grandparents.
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?
Going back to our number one principle, “Team Members First,” we were nervous like many companies to evolve to a virtual office. We weren’t sure how that would impact our teams. As a software company, the process was smooth. The challenge has been finding the balance between work and home now that the line has blurred. I like to tell my team that working during this crisis is like being in the playoffs: the stakes are higher and sacrifices are needed, but you have to stay charged to stay focused. Get enough sleep, eat well, take care of yourself, mind and body. These are necessities when you switch to a mode of sustainable, high-intensity work.
From an industry perspective, the healthcare organizations we work with are getting hit hard by COVID-19. We face a daily balance between managing our own financial obligations and helping our clients through a difficult time. Every healthcare provider has been forced to change how they care for patients, with many losing revenue and staff along the way due to delayed elective care procedures and a shrinking patient base. This added to the learning curve we face about the virus have made communication indispensable, both internally and with patients. To ensure everyone has access to reliable medical information, we’ve developed a free COVID-19 communication tool for healthcare facilities to use in this critical time to augment what we do with telemedicine.
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?
The biggest challenge we face is access to good information to guide our actions. Because of this, it’s completely understandable to feel scared, anxious, or lonely.
To put it in perspective for my family, friends and team members at Solutionreach, I remind them that we’re only a few months into an unprecedented outbreak. We’re in the early stages of our understanding about the disease, its severity, and which patient populations are affected most. As we learn more about the virus, we have to draw on our strength, our patience, and our perseverance to get through the challenges that lie ahead.
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?
From a global perspective, there is an opportunity for everyone to prepare for the good, bad, or worse that could come our way. Think about the countries that have had similar outbreak experiences in the past. They’ve been able to significantly streamline their lockdowns, protocols and testing regimes compared to those countries without past experience. Now that we’re months into this outbreak, we have more knowledge than before to help us determine how to move forward.
Looking at the U.S. economy, I believe that consumer experiences will drive opportunities. For example, the demand to create touchless day-to-day payments will be a big component driving how industries will change. You will see cash and physical credit cards fade away. I also think talent pools will open up by welcoming more virtual/remote employees — a step many companies did not think they would ever be open to taking.
Within healthcare, I believe digital tools such as telehealth and patient-provider text messaging are now here to stay in healthcare. With that comes the opportunity to form a “hybrid healthcare practice.” We will always have in-person care, but now that the industry has embraced a more digitized experience, we’ll be able to accelerate more integrated virtual services. This is exciting from a patient and provider perspective, adding more flexibility and convenience for all. This is something we’ve been working on at Solutionreach for many years.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 outbreak is a defining moment in history for everyone. The experiences people have during this time will shape future decisions and behaviors much like other generational markers in history — such as the civil rights movement, the world wars and the Vietnam War. Many (not all) of those events impacted subsets of the overall population. COVID-19’s impact has been universal. All humans across the globe understand and empathize with the challenges created by COVID-19.
I think after experiencing the impact of this outbreak, everyone will understand how quickly life can be disrupted, and that we shouldn’t take the freedoms and health we have for granted. I can’t help but think of experiences I’ve put off in my life, thinking, “I can do that later.” I have some hope that we might all become a little more empathetic and present-minded.
My biggest hope is that we won’t stop exploring and won’t stop connecting with one another. COVID-19 has temporarily halted global — even local — movement, but I don’t believe that means we should turn inwards. Being there for each other is more important now than ever.
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?
There is a misconception that the healthcare industry is doing okay, but unfortunately, it isn’t. Right now, healthcare is feeling financial and operational pain like many companies across the world because of lower numbers of patients receiving non-COVID-related care. However, adversity breeds innovation. Six months ago, experts thought digital health should play only a supplemental role in patient care. Now, we recognize how central it is to providing greater access to care. Solutionreach understands this, as a nexus linking digital touchpoints throughout the patient journey (including scheduling, care management and financial communication).
As many organizations begin to resume non-COVID care, we couldn’t be more privileged to work alongside them to reshape healthcare delivery. For example, instead of touching clipboards to check-in, patients can safely and conveniently fill out mobile-friendly online forms before they arrive. There are also opportunities for Solutionreach to help organizations balance virtual care with in-person visits to keep staff and patients safe, and to increase the number of chronic care patients monitored remotely to prevent vulnerable populations from becoming infected.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I encourage business owners and entrepreneurs to think of this time as an open door, not a closed one. This is a rare opportunity to take advantage of how open-minded we all are to operating in different ways. New markets that may not have been accessible before now are available. For example, consumers willing (perhaps by necessity) to search far and wide for what they are looking for, changing their patterns indefinitely.
Lots of businesses will be thinking creatively and making bold moves at this time to help their customers. That’s great! Nobody should be intimidated. It won’t necessarily be the strongest or those with the deepest pockets that flourish. In fact, in this new world, the organizations that adapt the fastest and most intelligently to what their audiences need will be the most successful.
Specific to my colleagues in healthcare, I encourage them to think about how to change the way they operate. Focus on shifting to value-based care (a risk-based model), for example. I encourage hospitals and health systems to collaborate with health plans and share in risk models that emphasize preventive care. Similar to my thoughts for business leaders and entrepreneurs, we need to evolve healthcare to include more digital options because those who master these tools and adapt to provide the best service will drive care further ahead.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson is rooted in statistics: “n= 1.”
Statistics and trends are great for mapping the moves of large populations. But they don’t matter when it comes to you, the individual. You aren’t a statistic. For example, the overall economy is entering a recession, but that doesn’t mean your individual company can’t grow. The lifestyle you’re accustomed to may be changing because of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find joy, love and success in your life. I believe we can always defy the odds. N=1.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn @joshfweiner or visit www.solutionreach.com