Improving Collaboration in a Virtual World with Joe Blewitt at Epion Health

In a typical work environment, we are challenged to improve collaboration. With today’s shelter in place and working from home, the need to improve collaboration is more critical than ever. If you want to improve collaboration, most leaders think about the technology and tools that make it all work. However, the real issue is what you do daily to improve collaboration. My guest today is Joe Blewitt, CEO of Epion Health. His company was ranked #276 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Joe shares his rituals that improve collaboration. We look at all aspects of collaboration, so make sure you check out this episode.

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Joe Blewitt: The Transcript

Target Audience: Joe Blewitt is the CEO of Epion Health demonstrating the Smart Screen Health Tablet at Health Tech: Next Generation in San Francisco, CA. Epion Health offers a cloud-based, software as a service patient engagement solution at the point of care – beginning with the patient check-in process. Epion provides a variety of mobile health applications and content.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Joe Blewitt
In order to get things done, you almost you’re forced to collaborate otherwise it doesn’t work. And I think we were a small company for we’re still a small company, but we were a less than 20 person company, for probably the first three or four years of our existence. And over the last, you know, two to three years, we’ve grown nearly got two or three times that. So we’re, you know, we’ve kind of morphed into that, but that culture because it was there in the beginning, and it went on for a few years, it just absolutely transitioned into as we become a little bit bigger. The flexing doesn’t happen on a daily basis like it probably used to, but it certainly is a core part of our culture. And I probably the thing I’m most proud of our company,

Intro  [0:43]  
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett  [1:00]  
When you think about collaborating with your team, what is that vision you have, with your people using the tools as they’re meant to be, where every project has input from other team members that everyone’s playing at their highest game? They’re contributing to the work in new ways. Collaboration is powerful. And it takes a team spirit to make that happen. What we’re going to talk about today is how do you increase your capacity for collaboration? How do you as a leader lead your team to put collaboration front and center with this whole COVID-19 thing going on right now really is something that a lot of teams are thinking about? How do we collaborate in a virtual world, we can no longer drop by someone’s desk, or see him in a conference room or just talk to them as we’re having coffee about certain projects. So you have to be much more intentional about collaboration. Today we have a special guest. He is the founder of Epion Health. He or Blewitt, Joe grew this company really fast. He’s got over 47 employees, they were number 276 on the Inc list out of 5000. They grew at almost 16,000%. over three years. I share this with you because the one thing Joe said that contributed to that success is collaboration. So today we talk about some of the steps he sees that you could take some of the rituals they have that you can actually model that and reinforce that and operationalize the idea of collaboration across the company.

Commercial  [2:33]  
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank really excited about sharing this with you. And before you run. I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks. I have such an exciting time to share with you that those interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast-growth companies. So all you have to do to get that is go to genehammett.com/worksheet. So you can get the 12 principles and I’ve been able to go there and find which episodes will align with each individual episode. When you subscribe to Grow Think Tank, you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward. And many of them haven’t been published yet depending on when you’re hearing this, but you can tune in to the date that means the most to you. So here’s the interview with Joe.

Gene Hammett  [3:18]  
Joe, how are you?

Joe Blewitt  [3:20]  
I’m great Gene. How are you today?

Gene Hammett  [3:22]  
Fantastic. We are coming to you from Growth Think Tank to have a conversation with Joe Blewitt. He is the founder of Epion Health. Tell us a little bit about what Epion Health does.

Joe Blewitt  [3:36]  
Sure, Gene. We’re in the healthcare IT world providing software for provider organizations, healthcare provider organizations, to basically prepare patients for their medical appointments. we digitize all of the paperwork that’s typically involved in an appointment that you know someone might a patient would have with their healthcare provider. All the consent forms a collection of data around demographic data and medical data that would be appropriate to gather ahead of an appointment as well as present information to patients appropriately. It’s very much a rules-based engine, smart algorithms that kind of put in front of the patient, exactly what should be put in front of them to support that specific appointment. So basically, we’re taking all the paperwork away from, you know, the whole process there and really driving efficiencies in the healthcare environment, as well as actually gathering a significant amount of more health care or health-related data, medical data, that sometimes just doesn’t get captured because people get really busy. So it’s kind of a play that is an efficiency play, but it’s also you know, really driving you to know, better outcomes in healthcare because we have a really smart interview that gets the patient for but also when the provider and the patient sit down and the weight in the exam room, they’ve had to really the providers now supply with the, you know, kind of really strong background about that patient.

Gene Hammett  [5:12]
So, Joe, we’re just kind of joking our hair’s getting a little bit longer. You said four weeks since you’ve had a haircut. You’ve been on working virtually for how many weeks now?

Joe Blewitt  [5:25]
So our company’s in our fifth week of the COVID work from home kind of mandate.

Gene Hammett  [5:32]  
I don’t know the background of this because this is the first time we’ve actually talked you talked with my team Sarah, on setting up this interview, but we’re you have virtual before completely virtual give us kind of the mixture there.

Joe Blewitt  [5:49]  
Yeah, we’re definitely a mixed virtual in office company. We have an office in Hoboken, New Jersey and another one in just north of Boston. But we have a distributed team actually around the country and in a few countries outside of the US, so very much a virtual atmosphere there already. The transition to full, full remote work is actually very simple for us. Almost everyone actually in the company works remotely at some point. And we actually have a remote. just coincidentally, we have a remote Friday that we do all year round. So we don’t go into our offices on Fridays, typically, unless there’s a special occasion to do so. So we do that for different reasons. And part of is around the culture and you know, kind of giving people a little bit of a break from the commute in the Boston and New York, New Jersey area. But because of that, we had all the tools in place it was it was you know, nothing that that was not part of our, you know, a major transition except the fact that it’s going on now every day for over a month but another net, you know, we were we’re ready to do this form of thing.

Gene Hammett  [7:00]  
Well, I wanted us all to get some context around how you’ve been working together. And I know that your company grew really fast. You were number 276 on the Inc list, which was about, you know, almost 16,000% over a three year period. One of the things that you had said was the key to getting there was collaboration. Why has collaboration been so important for your company to grow fast?

Joe Blewitt  [7:27]  
Yeah, I think when you have a small company, especially, I think collaboration is incredibly important. Because you just don’t have someone that you can you know it for everything that needs to get done that you can say, okay, you own this, this, or this department owns this or this small team owns this because you don’t have enough of those to go around.

Joe Blewitt  [7:53]  
So what happens is work flexes right and important, the importance of projects, flex, and Certainly company initiatives come up that you might not have like, for example, when we bring on a large health group in a large organization with, you know, several hundred providers at a time or even bigger, we might not have an implementation or an account management team that’s big enough to handle that. That initial implementation, so we borrow from other parts of the company, including our development team early on, just to be able to support something like that. So and that goes across, you know, sometimes, you know, the sales team needs help, because there’s a big event coming up or a marketing campaign or otherwise.

Joe Blewitt  [8:38]  
So I think the work flexes and because of that, if, in order to get things done, you almost you’re forced to collaborate otherwise, it doesn’t work. And I think we are a small company for we’re still a small company, but we were a less than 20 person company, for probably the first three or four years of our existence. And over the last, you know, two to three years, we’ve grown You know, nearly got two or three times that. So we’re, you know, we’ve kind of morphed into that, but that culture because it was there in the beginning and then went on for a few years, it just absolutely transitioned into as we, you know, become a little bit bigger. The flexing doesn’t happen, you know, on a daily basis, like it probably used to, but it certainly is a core part of our culture. And I, as part of the thing I’m most proud about our company, whenever anyone needs help with something, they can literally just ask, and, and because they’ve been helped in the past, they typically will, you know, it’s just a normal part of what we do. So I think when you help someone else, and then you ask them for help, then you’re going to get it just because that’s just what they’re used to. That’s it’s not like Oh, why why are they asking me for help? I don’t do that.

Joe Blewitt  [9:50]  
My job description doesn’t have that. So I think it’s just it’s an in the beginning. It’s kind of like you know when you buy an old used car, you have To figure out how to keep it running, right, so in our case, you’re starting out with a small company with a small team, you got a lot of things to do. You kind of got to do you got to.

Gene Hammett  [10:08]
I know that a lot of companies think about the tools that enable collaboration. I’m sure you’ve got some tools that you use. Off the top of your mind. What are the top tools that you guys use?

Joe Blewitt  [10:24]  
Yeah, you know, I’m going to answer I’m going to give you one last point on the last. Okay, great. I should just real quick because I think it’s super important. The other thing that we do in our company is we celebrate the collaboration. And we reward collaboration, and we make it you know, we bring people and we congratulate people and make them feel good about their collaboration. And I think that’s a really important part of it.

Joe Blewitt  [10:47]  
In terms of the tools that we use, you know, it’s. I’ll just tell you, we could not have done this as easily, you know, even five years ago because the tools just weren’t there. And especially if remotely and distributed team, you know, the all the, like slack as an example, I say slack as a core tool of our company, as well as all the Google products in terms of file sharing and things like that. We use, you know, several, a couple of different video platforms, in addition to slack, depending on the size of the audience in the team, for example, you know, when we, when we get the whole team together, we’ll use a different video sharing product. So I think, you know, GitHub from a developer standpoint and things like that. The tools, you know, are have matured, fortunately for us, because I think, at a time, where, you know, we were trying to grow a technology company, that technology, you know, was in place the infrastructure to, to certainly be open to, to support those kinds of collaborative methods.

Joe Blewitt  [11:51]  
And then inside the office, there are different tools that we use in terms of how we share information, and it’s also around meetings and meeting cadence and And things like that it’s not all technology, I think a lot of it actually has to do with organizational structure. In just a, basically, a sharing between departments that happens on a very regular basis, whether it’s through technology or face to face.

Commercial  [12:16]  
Hold on for a second, Joe just talked about the need to celebrate and reward values. In this case, he was talking about collaboration. But no matter what your values are, you want to create a place where you can celebrate and reward those individuals that are demonstrating it every day. I see this happening when in companies that really do believe values are important to their growth. They want everyone to demonstrate them every day, not just sometimes they create a rhythm to celebrate and reward those people that are operating by those values. It really is important if you want people to repeat those behaviors. Back to Joe.

Joe Blewitt  [12:51]  
Well, I know a lot of people want to figure out the tools that make it work but I always say it’s not just the tools it’s about the values of the company. No values are pretty important to you when you thought about making collaboration, a central point within how you operate, how you guys communicate and how you actually create a team. go a little bit further into the values of collaboration,

Joe Blewitt  [13:16]  
I think, you know, has to start at, you know, at the leadership level, right. So I certainly, you know, I come from a military background, I was in the Air Force for, you know, 20 plus years. And I was, I was a pilot as well. So, you know, like, you’d have to collaborate as a team, I was on a crew, I ran a cruise line either transfer planes around the world or, for about 17 years, I flew a plane called the KC 10. extender, which is an Air Refueling platform.

Joe Blewitt  [13:47]  
There are four or five people on the crew at all times as a minimum. And you just have to collaborate a tool to get as a team to get the job done. So it’s something that’s literally core to me for many, many years. And I think, you know, sports background as well. So you’ll see I think is a common thread, actually in businesses to find that, you know, it’s a pretty common thing to hire leaders that come from both military and or a sports background.

Joe Blewitt  [14:14]  
So I think that background for me, anyhow, it’s just kind of how it’s part of my DNA, or became part of my DNA, if that’s possible, over the years, so I think and then we hire people around you kind of as you set values, people become I think, attracted to that and that type of culture. So I certainly have tried my best to, to lead in that in that sense, and again, from my background, and then you put people around you that that typically is going to be at least have those kinds of similar values. You don’t always want to surround yourself with exact clones of yourself or anything, but I think there is a there’s an attractiveness to a culture that people feel like that they want to be a part of.

Joe Blewitt  [14:57]  
So it needs to be you know, certainly Get the lead. But as you hire people, they kind of I think to get in a lot of times become enamored by that and will either I think embrace it or some people might leave. We certainly have had people that have come to our company that did were not collaborative, and honestly, they are not here anymore. And that’s a pretty rare thing because I think we try to communicate that upfront. But I will tell you that the few and it’s very few people that that either I’ve had, I’ve had to let go or just they’ve left for reasons that it just wasn’t working out. Maybe their decision or our decision nearly to the person that is because they were not really a collaborative person. And, again, when you have a really big company, and you need somebody just run a tap, you know, a spreadsheet, you own that thing. That’s what you do every day. You can probably get away with having some of those folks on the team and you need them. In our case, we don’t have any single one job that somebody can Just shut the door and get it done. That is going to be a full-time job. So I think we just need to have clarity on the team.

Commercial  [16:08]  
Hold on, Joe just said every day in relation to celebrating the values, it’s not something they do occasionally, every day. This is a concept of operationalizing the values, I mentioned it earlier, but I’m going to mention it again, operational value is a missing step, then with most companies, they think having the values is enough. operationalizing the values is something where they’re repeated every day, I have a very special way to describe this to clients. One of them is what you can do at the beginning of meetings. And when everyone’s sitting around and gathering just before the core meeting starts, you take three or four minutes to honor the core values. That moment is for people to share stories about a specific core value or any core value they want. letting people know that these things are happening on a daily basis. challenging to come up with something that happened today or yesterday, or this week, whatever they want to share, but you want to make sure that you are encouraging the values every day. Back to Joe.

Gene Hammett  [17:12]
I know you mentioned about recognizing people and rewarding people for demonstrating collaboration. Do you do that at certain times, like inside certain meetings or every quarter every once a year? What is the cadence of that?

Joe Blewitt  [17:28]  
Yeah, I’ll just give an example. It’s actually literally every, every day in some cases, and every day or every month, there’s some incentive programs that we’ve built around collaboration. And for example, we have teams that are in you know, monetarily incentivized to work together.

Joe Blewitt  [17:45]  
For example, our customer success team, and account management implementations specifically, are incentivized around revenue growth. And therefore they’re kind of forced to work really not forced, but their incentive to work closely with the sales team to make sure that the revenue that they bring in, and we’re a SaaS-based company. So it’s software as a service. As they signed deals, the team is incentivized actually to collaborate with the sales team, make sure the paperwork is all correct. The sales team is obviously kind of incentivized to work closely with the implementation account management team because their Commission’s are associated with success. We don’t pay everybody, you know, just upfront for signing a contract.

Joe Blewitt  [18:28]  
That contract has to result in a successful onboarding and a SaaS-based service model. So there are some things you just build in like that. We also have, you know, bonuses, company bonuses that are associated with how the whole company does across departments. And I think there are certain we have reward awards that are actually given out, you know, the top team player, for example, every year we have somebody designated that that award and throughout the year, we have spontaneous awards. We had a word. About a year ago for one of our support, folks literally got a trip of a full-paid trip to a tropical, tropical place. I won’t name that just for being a great team person. So and that was spontaneous, literally. So we do that kind of thing all the time.

Gene Hammett  [19:27]  
I want to ask you to maybe project a little bit if you were sitting down with a leader of a company that wanted to have a higher degree of collaboration.

Joe Blewitt  [19:35]  
Yeah.

Gene Hammett  [19:36]  
What are the core elements and we may have to go back over some of the things you’ve already mentioned? But, you know, if you broke it down into three, four parts, what would you say those parts are?

Joe Blewitt  [19:45]  
Again, there’s, again, you’re going to we’re going to rewind here a little bit, so just want to it’s okay to rewind right now, but I’d say the number one is you have to set the tone for the work. This is how we operate and that has to come from the top I’ll also say that, you know, we’ve hired you I’m a little bit older, certainly in my 50s. You know, as I hired into the younger generation, which is, which is a lot of the certainly a lot of the initial hires, software developers and young you know, younger folks just kind of the way our hiring happened earlier on.

Joe Blewitt  [20:19]  
They came in with a lot of like, they’re, they’re, they’re connected and talking to each other all the time on using technology. And I actually learned a lot from that. It was a that that generation and the tools that they brought to the table, I was like, I kind of like my PC, and I like my, what I do with my and I was like, now we’re going to the cloud. So I think a lot of it came from people that we hired, they brought it with them, which was really, really cool. But I think again, back to your question, what would I tell somebody I’d say, you know, set the standard expectations. If someone comes on a team that is not collaborative type, and you find that out later, if it’s a core part, this is like any core value of your company.

Joe Blewitt  [20:58]  
If someone is on your team that does not uphold the core values. And for us, this is definitely one of them is literally our number one core value, actually, I would say that you need to need to get bit not get rid of sorry not to be harsh, they should not be on your team. If there’s any single employee that does not embrace all of your core values, then they should not be on the team, no matter how good they are otherwise, because your core values will fall apart. If in fact, you allow your team to have, you know, folks that don’t abide by them.

Joe Blewitt  [21:33]  
So I’d be super, super careful in the hiring process, that you actually match people up. If they don’t actually seem to fit in with your core values. I wouldn’t hire him to begin with. If you find out later, I would make decisions early on, on transitioning those folks out. And then finally, I think you have to make sure that the systems are in place. And that folks, you know know how to use the system. And actually, you know, take advantage of the collaborative tools that you have employees are available to them.

Gene Hammett  [22:06]  
Well, I appreciate you going through that. I want to put just a spotlight on one last thing before we wrap this up, Joe is really hiring the right people. Is there any specific question or something you’re looking for when you’re looking for someone that’s already got, you know, a tendency naturally toward collaboration?

Joe Blewitt  [22:30]  
Yeah. That’s an interesting question. I’m pondering that a little bit just because I think there’s an I think there are a few ways you can find this out. The way I find it out, I hope in my part of my interview, and I tried to share some techniques with the rest of the team but you know, I actually talked to people about what their kind of poor upbringing I buy time somebody over there and is probably gonna tip people off It might interview with me in the future, but I don’t mind.

Joe Blewitt  [23:03]  
I want to know what you were like as a, you know, a teenager, what your high school experience was, like, what your college experience was, like? I do ask, you know, about, you know, were you on the band? Or did you play, you know, team sports or, you know, just kind of like, kind of understand where they came from. And, and not necessarily that’s gonna always predict what they’re doing today or even know, in the near future. But it certainly gives me a nice baseline of is that type of have they put themselves in those environments early in their lives?

Joe Blewitt  [23:35]  
And have they continue that on? And we do a really deep dive into every single job someone’s had not just the last job or two. And I think that gives us a big picture of a really clear picture of, you know, kind of the person that we’re looking to bring on our team. And I think a lot of folks just talk about their last job or two and, and it doesn’t have to be in our industry. I still want to know No, you know, where they came from. And I think that typically will tell the line doesn’t change very much, you know, if you have a trajectory, it’s very, it’s not often that you’re going to completely change. So you can kind of back into, is this person on a general trajectory of what we want in our company? Or? Or is it just a short term, you know, thing or, you know, otherwise?

Joe Blewitt  [24:23]  
So, and I’ll tell you that sometimes, you know, older people, you know, that I might interview are really surprised that I care about what high school sports team, they’re on. I learned a lot from those conversations. So that’s probably where I get I get to that. I’m trying to understand who the person is not necessarily, you know, how much growth that they delivered in their last sales job. That’s important as well. But if they don’t have the core DNA, the core background, then what they did in their last job is it might be just a fluke, right? I think the core DNA is what you’re really looking for.

Gene Hammett  [25:00]  
Where you’ll find Joe, if you listen to too many of the interviews here, one of the most important things is to really be clear about what the values of the company are. And to hire people by that, and there are many different kinds of episodes. I’ve gone into the details of that, but I was kind of curious where you were. And I really appreciate you sharing how you go into the background. I will say that if someone took the time to listen to this if they’re not a collaborator, they’re probably not going to continue forward with you, which is fine. But if they are, it’s okay, because they’ve taken some time to get to know you and the company and done some research. So I’d love to hear back from you if they actually do listen to the interview.

Joe Blewitt  [25:35]  
Yeah, that’d be pretty fun to find out down the road.

Gene Hammett  [25:40]  
So Joe, thanks for being on the show.

Joe Blewitt  [25:40]
Yeah, thanks for having me on. And I really like what you’re doing here. Thank you.

Gene Hammett  [25:47]  
What a great interview. I love this concept of collaboration. It doesn’t just stop with tools. It actually has to be baked into how you work, how you hire, onboard, develop, and how you Exit people through the company. When you think about collaboration, if you want to embrace that to a higher level, it starts with you. Joe said it, you have to embrace it. First, you have to make it a central part of how the team is going to operate. And you have to reinforce it or operationalize it across the company. When you think about collaboration, you think about your own need to change. And think about me, the defining moments of your leadership are exactly what I help you do. If you are struggling in some way that you want to get something into a business that you don’t have to make sure you reach out to me I’d love to get to know you. I spent the last 10 years dedicated to serving individuals like yourself founder CEOs, to be better leaders to go beyond the success they have to really create something that they’re proud of to be the leader that their team is great. If you have any questions make sure to reach out to me gene@genehammett.com. As always, lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

 

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