Every CEO understands the battles of managing priorities. Discover the power of focus and how it is applied to company growth. Today’s guest is Jon Elwell, CEO at Kno2. Inc Magazine ranked his company #1544 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Kno2 is empowering healthcare technology vendors to finally realize the potential of true interoperability by unleashing connectivity everywhere, bringing patients and caregivers together. Jon reveals his thoughts on the power of focus. We discuss the challenges of distraction so that you can understand what gets in the way of your focus.
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Jon Elwell: The Transcript
About: Jon Elwell is Chief Executive Officer at Kno2. He leads the company in its mission to solve connectivity and interoperability for the healthcare industry, and truly transform the way patient information is communicated and exchanged. Elwell initially focused on charting a course for post-acute – LTCH, skilled nursing, assisted living, behavioral health, therapies and others – where proper connectivity was lacking. Now that 80% of the technology vendors who support that market are largely integrated to Kno2, Jon is currently driving the Kno2 Network to become the largest healthcare network enabling the secure, effortless, and maximized exchange of patient information that spans the entire healthcare ecosystem of patients, providers, payers and IT vendors.
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.
Jon Elwell: [00:00:00] The focus on the ultimate goal. Like I always say to the team, Peter, the over years of growth that we will tackle on the way, but the point on the horizon, what we, what we’re attempting to accomplish remains the same, right? So that people are able to focus on the endpoint as we, you know, as I use the sailing analogy that you may have to tackle along the way to get to that endpoint. But as long as we maintain clear communication, clear focus, reinforcement of what we are attempting to do, and ensuring that everybody sees consistency in that message in that goal that allows everybody in the operating environment in which they can stay focused,
Intro: 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: We all know that focus is a very important aspect of getting work done in the immediate moment, right? Sitting down at your desk, [00:01:00] focusing on the spreadsheet in front of you or any other tasks that you have to get done, you want to increase that level of focus. But what about at a company level? How do you get focused in alignment and consistency from a team of 50 people? Well, that’s exactly the topic today. The power of focus to drive growth with John Elwell. He’s the CEO of Kno2 their healthcare it provider. They’re focused on the health, and healthcare market. The irony of this, we talked about focus and leadership, and culture. What really takes. For you to create the kind of focus that you need to drive a company forward with a small team that has big goals, all unpacked. In today’s episode, you may be thinking to yourself, how do you become a better leader? Do you want to be a better leader? Do you feel like leadership would make a difference in your company? At some point in time, your focus goes away from the immediate projects and even revenue to how do I lead? How do I align people? How to increase focus. How do I develop the people around me, whether my executive team or the [00:02:00] middle managers and people in the front lines, how do we get tribal knowledge to flow throughout the organization?
All of these challenges happen with better leadership. And if you want to be a powerful leader, I want to figure out what’s getting in your way. Now I say that because it’s, it really is. There’s always something you’ve got to let go of. You’ve got to shift from one level to the next. What is that? How do you put words to it? This has been the core focus of what I do with leaders for the last decade. I want to help founders’ CEOs and their teams be better leaders, be more powerful leaders and create a sense of ownership. If you want to have a chat with me about what’s going on in your business, just go to Genehammett.com and schedule your call. We can talk about what’s really going on. Get to the heart of it. I promise not to sell you anything. This is a hundred percent my way of giving to you because you’re an audience member here. Now I make myself available to one or two of these. Every week, just so I can connect with my audience and really tune in to what’s going on. I’d love to help you. We’ll help you develop a plan. We’ll help you really zero in on how to move forward and all of that. Absolutely no cost. Just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule a call. Now let’s jump into the [00:03:00] interview with John.
Gene Hammett: Hey, John how are you?
Jon Elwell: Good. How are you, Gene?
Gene Hammett: Fantastic. Happy to have you here on the podcast. I’d love to get started with you telling us a little bit about the company. So what is, and who is Kno2
Jon Elwell: So Kno2 is a hundred percent healthcare IT, we don’t dabble in any other industry than healthcare completely focused in that area. And as I like to say, single-threaded meaning we have one focus and one focus only, which is this term called interoperability which in, in healthcare has been a buzzword for some time. Which at the end of the day, for all of us, that experience healthcare and go to our doctors and hospitals and labs, there’s always this computer they’re typing into a, it’s called an electronic health record. They’re entering your information into, and the unfortunate event today, our healthcare is those pure systems from provider to provider.
that don’t talk well to one another. So as we all know, we walk into a doctor’s office and they tend to ask us the same questions. I was just asked a month ago. You’re like, how do you not know that already in this day and age where transparency seems to be very easy. , so we’re focused on [00:04:00] the topic of interoperability. We saw a massive gap in the industry several years ago. And a dedicated ourselves to filling that gap with cloud-based technology to address a problem that hadn’t been meaningfully solved. , so that’s, Kno2, choose and that’s what we’re focused to.
Gene Hammett: There’s been a lot of changes in healthcare in the last couple of years with, you know, you know, doctors not even having to show up, are you going to their office? What do you see as the biggest shift in the next, maybe three to five years as it relates to healthcare technology?
Jon Elwell: I think that healthcare technology shift, I think, is an evolution of the technology that they already are. One of the interesting things about the healthcare industry is that change doesn’t happen fast. Meaning providers like the art of what they do. , they don’t want to sit in front of a computer. They don’t want to use technology. , they want to use the knowledge and all the training that they’ve gone through to be the capable doctors and providers that they are today. , so technology actually evolves very slowly in healthcare because the adoption of it is not recognized as something you need. Meaning that it’s a blessing and a curse for the [00:05:00] healthcare community, because it, it balances out the science and the art of providing healthcare. Right? Most of, providers go through their entire training residency whatever type of caregiver they are. Spending time on the technology that they’re going to use.
That’s how they’re going to care for a patient. , so we don’t see radical change, but we do see the evolution of the tools that they’re using and those continuing, hopefully, to adopt in a way that they need them. , and not being through some government regulation or some government statement, but really around what providers need to be most effective in front of the patient at the point of care. And for that to be effective, it has to be evolutionary, not revolutionary. They don’t have time to take six months off. And figure out all this new technology that they were just handed. So being able to bring technology to this space in a way that feels comfortable but effective and to create change without them having to feel like they changed, I think is going to be in, has been for some time the needed focus to bring technology into the healthcare space.
Gene Hammett: Thanks for sharing that with us, John, you know, one of the reasons why we want to have you on the podcast. Is [00:06:00] because you’ve got some interesting perspectives on what does it take to create fast-growth companies? And I say interesting that like, if someone said it takes focus, they’d say, well, of course, it does, but you, you take it to the next level. So tell us a little bit about the consistency and focus that you think really drives your company forward.
Jon Elwell: Okay. I think it’s the focus on the ultimate goal, I was saying to the team repeatedly over years of growth that we will tackle on the way, but the point on the horizon, what we, what we’re attempting to accomplish remains the same. Right? So that people are able to focus on the endpoint as we, you know, as I use the sailing analogy that you may have to tackle on the way. Is that endpoint, but as long as we maintain clear communication, clear focus reinforcement of what we are attempting to do, and ensuring that everybody sees consistency in that message in that goal then that allows everybody in the operating environment in which they can stay focused and further challenging in this environment because of the number of inputs, you know, between what’s happening. Fallen in the chat, that’s [00:07:00] popping up on there, on their screen. And, you know, just across the board focus is very difficult in the current environment for anyone in any industry, personal or professional. But at the end of the day, I think the consistency and stay in, in continuing to focus on the goal. And that goal not changing is critically important because then everybody knows what they’re operating towards, right. So that they don’t get confused and they can stay focused, on what they’re trying to accomplish.
Gene Hammett: Just curious here. And I have no idea what your answer will be. So taking him a little bit of a stab. Do you guys have company core values that, you know, kind of help you guys align around this focus?
Jon Elwell: Yeah, that’s probably a term you’ve heard before. Big ambitions audacious goals. , and those are, have been actually established before my arrival, but when it was a very small company they had very TIG, audacious goals back even when there was a four-person company. And as people come into the organization they’re introduced to the Beehag as we communicate with. The employee calls in a virtual environment, much like this one, others continuous reflection on that. [00:08:00] So that’s kind of the guiding principles of the company so that we maintain that focus.
Gene Hammett: I’m kind of curious, what would we see across your meetings or across the way you guys share information, whether it be scorecards and metrics that allow you guys to stay focused on these goals.
Jon Elwell: So absolutely each department has their goals and their metrics that are shared. , we’re also very transparent also even with our financial results. , many I, as I expressed to the company, everybody’s a contributor to the entire PNL, right. , and at the end of the day, I’ve never understood why that’s held, you know, at a very high level and not that people experience and understand the impact that they’re having on the organization. And by the way, there are times when it’s not great. And then there are times when it’s amazing. But the willingness to share constantly and be transparent on that, I think is critically important because, at the end of the day, it’s probably the easiest scoreboard as each department has their individual goals, metrics that they’re trying to achieve, and are measured by at the end of the day, that sum total of that represents what we’re trying to achieve in the marketplace. [00:09:00] And the sharing of that I think brings a lot of comfort to the company. A lot of trusts. , the employees feel a lot of trust in them that we’re willing to expose and be as transparent as we are. , and I think that it really feeds our culture
Commentary: Hold on for a second. John’s been talking about transparency. He mentioned examples of financial transparency, but you also have to look at the other aspect of transparency. Are your people willing to share? What’s really going on when the recorder wasn’t on John, share with me a question that he asked this really powerful. What is it that’s going on in this business? That isn’t the way you expect it. And he asked this of people that have just joined the team. He wanted them to share the bad stuff, and he invited them to really talk about where we can improve. Are you having that kind of transparent conversation inside your leadership? I hope you are because transparency and financials is great transparency and in conversation. It’s even more powerful back to John.
Gene Hammett: You said something in there that I reminded me of a conversation. I had just a couple of hours earlier with a new prospect and we’re talking about transparency and they said, yeah, not really open to everything in the financials, especially if it’s bad news, you mentioned about, you [00:10:00] know, well, not every, every financial report is going to have the best seller. What happens when your team hears a little bit of it’s a little bit off, or it’s not as good as it could be? ,
Jon Elwell: I think because of the trust, the word I think is a really important word. And sometimes overuse or sometimes this applies when you think you have trust and you don’t, but I think when you have trust, it’s almost a rallying cry, meaning when things aren’t going exactly as planned and you expose it and you’ve been consistent back to my point earlier. My, experience here at Kno2 of the employees that we brought in, it creates a rallying cry. Like, well, that’s not happening again. What do we have to do to change that? You know, what contributions can I make? What are we doing wrong that didn’t allow that to happen? That it actually be turned. It becomes a very positive reinforcement. It’s not a tool I want to use all the time. I’m would prefer it to be positive all the time, but when you’re consistent and you’re in a trusting environment, it really rallies the team and they come around and say, Hey, let’s affect this in a positive way. So we don’t have that news again. ,
Gene Hammett: I’m kind of curious, John. I know all of the leadership involves us taking risks and taking challenges. What mistakes have you made that you can share with us [00:11:00] that we might learn from today?
Jon Elwell: Or we could extend this to like three or four hours. Take the,
Gene Hammett: Take the top one that comes to mind.
Jon Elwell: Yeah. So I think that in any company that starts, and we literally started from scratch. I mean, this company was started with a drawing in a notepad right. So there was no pricing. We hadn’t even named the company. There’s no pricing, there are no contracts, marketing. , what, what is the company slow? None of that existed. And so you can imagine as you go through that evolution, there are many, many mistakes that are made, I think, for this particular discussion and to kind of make it finite in the time we have together from a CEO’s perspective in a SAS company. And for those people that understand that a reoccurring business where you’re not pulling revenues upfront. How you deploy your resource and the decisions you’ve made are, are so precise. Meaning if you resource the company incorrectly because you believe, you know, things are going a certain direction, there’s not a lot, a lot of latitudes.
So resources in the company there’s been mistakes along the way, as we decided on whether it’d be the structure of [00:12:00] the organization, where we are investing our resources what we thought would have the best return. And you don’t have as much wiggle room when you’re operating in the SAS model. And for those of you that are listening to podcasts that are in that model, I’m sure they’re smiling right now saying, John. I know exactly what you mean. So the mistakes there, I would say I reflect on quite often, right? As I look back over time and say, boy, if I had those eight years back now starting back in 2014 decisions, I would’ve made differently. , but it really, it came around giving my people the best chance to be successful because at the end of the day, the resources that are brought into the organization, where are we making investments?
When we make those investments are really to empower the employees and give them the capability to form what we need to accomplish. , so if I were to focus in one area that, that for this discussion I’d say that we there’s many times where we put. That’s a mistake pivoted and said, we got that one wrong and had to come back and make adjustments. Luckily we’ve been successful in doing that. , but if I can do it all, you know, much smoother, that’s for sure.
Gene Hammett: Hindsight’s always [00:13:00] 2020 as they say. And this is a good example of that. You said empowering your employees. What have you learned over your years of being the CEO of this fast-growth company? About what real empowerment is and what it looks like.
Jon Elwell: I think it starts from the day that we engage a prospect to come in the company or recruit when we talk to anybody that’s that we’re interested in. They’re interested in coming to the organization. One of the things that I discuss with them is the importance of their fingerprints behind the company. And we have a strong desire. We don’t our ego, our leadership teams. Ego’s not tied to the number of employees we have meaning we’re trying to put systems and processes in place to be as efficient as possible. And don’t have a view to become very large from an employee count. And so part of the reward in that is that the individuals we bring in can truly see their contributions. And we established that day one as we start to recruit an individual and implore with them, how important it is, it is to us that they can see their fingerprints, their outcomes to the success and point back and tell their family or tell whoever they want to speak to at a dinner party. You know, I contributed that [00:14:00] and I can show you exactly where number one, number two.
The other thing that I say, and to anyone coming in the organization, Is that org charts are for external purposes only meaning the external world needs to understand where to go and how to navigate this company. If you’re interested, if you have an issue, you want to talk to an executive, you want to talk to sales, marketing, whatever that may be an org chart and titles are important. But inside the company, I established very early on that. If I ever hear that somebody said, well, John, I had to talk to my manager before I talked to you that this is not going to work inside the note to culture. Right? So to one, give them confidence that we want them. To be rockstars, not make the leadership team look like rock stars, and the we’re not a hierarchy-driven organization. It’s critically important externally, but that behavior can’t exist internally for the culture. We’re trying to build here now, too.
Gene Hammett: Give us an example of that, cause I want to make sure it’s clear for our audience about I had to talk to my manager before I talked to you about this.
Jon Elwell: Yeah. So there can be, I mean, when you’re fast-growing, as you mentioned earlier, as we’ve been, you’re [00:15:00] experiencing things daily, weekly things are happening in customer feedback an issue that’s arising you know, there may be a challenge in our world it’s highly technical and there may be an issue on the network or an issue with the exchange. And what you don’t want is okay, well, I’ve got to keep, and I’m not sure I want John to know about that yet. So in my manager’s on vacation and coming back tomorrow, so I’ll talk to my manager and then my manager takes it to John and have that discussion. And the manager will be upset because if they know someone wrong and they didn’t have control, it makes you look bad.
All of that. It has to be eliminated this organization. I always say we need to make the topics, not the people, right? So this isn’t ever personal. This is just about the issue at hand that needs to be handled and we’re not judging. The individual has resolving the problem. So to allow for the company to be as agile as we are this move, as quickly as we are, you have come back to the word, you have to have that trust in the organization that I’m willing to, you know, if need, be say, Hey, John has got you on the phone, just so you know, you know, this is what’s going on. You’ve got any advice, cause I can’t get ahold of Matt and can’t get a [00:16:00] hold of Jill, right? At the end of the day, we need that permutation I think for the individual. So if your value as well as our ability to move quickly,
Commentary: John has been talking about You know, we don’t want hierarchy inside of our conversations. We don’t want to make sure that you’re going to your manager before you tell us what’s wrong. Now, this is a place where I think a lot of people need to be understood and have the confidence and the courage to lead up, and lead up is not just one level. Maybe it’s two or three levels. It’s being able to have conversations with people above you, of where people are out of alignment or something’s wrong. And having the courage to do that. Really comes from you, creating a place where people feel safe. And when you have that inside your culture, they’re willing to share with you the things that might be bad news or might be something that you need to know that you don’t know, they’re not hiding it. You want to make sure you’re having that kind of safety inside your culture because it really is important back to John.
Gene Hammett: I appreciate the detail there because that makes it much clear about what you mean about the hierarchy of the business. I’m kind of curious, John, we’ve been talking about focus and [00:17:00] consistency and that’s really a big part of what you think makes the company successful. What have we left out that you think is important?
Jon Elwell: Give me a better context. When you say left out in against what backs,
Gene Hammett: what else have we not talked about that you feel like plays a critical role in the success of your company? ,
Jon Elwell: I think that I think they both contribute to, and you’ve heard me use the word multiple times, but it’s culture, right? A true culture. It’s mentioned, it’s talked about, as you mentioned earlier, books are written on. And you can read those books. Okay. But what does it take to create a real culture? And that I would say is an area of focus that has, when you, when you create the culture, you’re looking for the true culture you want. And assuming that it’s a healthy one it’s incredibly powerful.
You know, you’re when you’re growing a company from scratch and you grow as fast as we areas. Listening to these calls companies are growing fast. There are a lot of growing pains. And as you’re doing that, having that culture that can persist through those, those difficult times as you’re growing, I just had a conversation with one of our groups earlier today. And we’re growing so fast and the systems are we’re growing faster than the [00:18:00] systems are allowing them to get through to throughput and letting them know that we understand and we trust what they’re doing and that we’re addressing it while at the same time, becauseI need you to keep doing what you’re doing in the meantime.
Right. Because we just can’t get those systems in as fast as we can and let in the culture is consistent up that they know that’s genuine. Right. I’m not just blowing smoke. I’m not just, you know, you know, some, you know, Hey rod, rod, rod, just read this book. I better get you on the phone. , it’s that consistency in the culture that I think a lot of the things we’re talking about add up into that big word. Is really something that I think is a really important foundation as you’re looking to grow a company very quickly.
Gene Hammett: I certainly agree with all that, John, I really appreciate you being here and sharing your wisdom on the podcast.
Jon Elwell: Thank you really enjoyed it.
Gene Hammett: Here’s the part where I get to reflect on what John has just shared with us. And just to help you understand how you can take it as a leader when he talks about focus, this isn’t just about your strategy. This is about focusing on the systems that you’re building and the right people for the job. He also talked about empowering people. And if you ever feel like you need to let go, [00:19:00] then the, one of the critical aspects of that is empowering those around you, because you’ve got to let go to someone that you trust. And that’s a part of your job as a leadership and building the right culture. I just don’t know. What’s more important than that because that’s what really drives strategy. That’s what drives the customer experience. That’s what drives the financial results. Is having the right people aligned together in this healthy culture that John’s been describing.
So if you’re curious about what your steps are, to be a more powerful leader, to create more alignment and ownership across projects, I invite you to reach out to me. I’d love to talk to you about what’s going on in your business. It’s to know you, you just go to Genehammett.com and schedule your call today. Absolutely free promise not to sell you. Anything really is just about connecting with you and helping you be the best leader you can be.
When you think about growth and you think about leadership think of Growth Think Tank. 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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