Understanding the Culture and Core of Health Catalyst: One Man's Perspective
Editor’s Note: Because potential employees, investors, and others often ask about Health Catalyst’s founding principles, we wanted to share one person’s perspective to shed more light on our culture.
There are few things more exhilarating in building new business ventures than when capital comes alongside talented entrepreneurial teams to take risk and create value together. These marriages are how visions are enabled, innovation is accelerated, customer needs are met, markets are both disrupted and developed, and jobs are created — indeed a cause for celebration.
The corporate equivalent to returning home from one’s honeymoon is the board meeting. Yes, the board meeting, the one immediately after a large financing event. This is the meeting after the honeymoon and the inspiring courtship between return driven capital and aspiring entrepreneurs is complete. This is the meeting where reality sets in: Who will cook (roles and responsibilities)? What is our budget (what is the operating plan — really)? How are we going to manage our new extended families, in-laws included (how will our new team of investors and management work together and integrate)? This is a meeting where the focus becomes enhanced on the financial and operating realities now facing the business.
These are the thoughts that were going through my mind as I was sitting in a Health Catalyst conference room. The view was fantastic: I could see the sun greet the snow-covered surface of the Wasatch Mountain range. But view aside, I was settling in for the kind of board meeting one regularly sits in on when you’re in my situation as an investor.
I was the Managing Director of CHV Capital, the strategic investment arm that I co-founded for Indiana University Health. I already knew about Health Catalyst, and I was a believer in what the company was doing. So I pretty much thought I knew the plan for this meeting. Like all the other investors present, I had read the board packet provided to us in advance and was armed with questions — operating and execution questions. It was all standard meeting procedure, or at least, that’s what I was expecting.
But on this rare occasion, the “meeting” became something different, and something unexpected happened.
When the Unexpected Happened
The Health Catalyst management team addressed the 128-page thick board packet we had before us. The packet included 126 pages of information about the company’s plans, but the team’s intent was to present two primary slides. Two slides? The two slides highlighted:
- Cultural Attributes
- Operating Principles
Apparently, I had missed those two slides as I jumped to the sales plan, gross margin assumptions, and the product roadmap, all of which I had questions on. But cultural attributes and operating principles? That wasn’t how these meetings normally went, especially not this meeting.
As the management team addressed the board and described how the company was going to use investor capital to scale the business, I started to listen. I stopped thinking about my questions.
How was Health Catalyst going to behave with the investors’ money in order to scale? They were going to hire people who were smart, hardworking, and humble. This was of the utmost importance to Health Catalyst because it will be these attributes that form the foundation of its culture, and would serve as the basis for hiring decisions and professional advancement. The company would scale on the backs of these behaviors.
How was Health Catalyst going to make decisions and prioritize the allocation of resources? The management team described the operating principles that would guide how all Health Catalyst team member decisions will be made: by prioritizing customer success, ownership, pragmatic innovation, and transparency.
As I listened, I realized that in the long run, my questions about gross margin and sales force productivity were really secondary to the company’s operating principles and far reaching vision. What the Health Catalyst team had just described was the true path to transforming healthcare, becoming a recognized leader in data warehousing, analytics, and outcomes improvement, and in building a great firm. One thing was clear to me at that moment: this was going to be an endearing company whose values would serve as its foundation to create value.
It was then and there that I decided I wanted to do more than just invest capital. I wanted to be more deeply invested in this endeavor — and that meant my time. I wanted a full Health Catalyst team uniform.
Business Development at Health Catalyst
Almost a year later, I am so grateful to now serve Health Catalyst as the senior vice president of business development. As we approach new business partners and corporate development initiatives, Health Catalyst’s cultural attributes and operating principles will always serve as our standard, and we will seek and apply this standard to our partners and partnerships.
We will ask every day: are our behaviors, and those of our partners and potential partners, consistent with living the attributes of being smart, hardworking, and humble?
We will strive to be smart enough to know what we are good at, master new skills, fail fast, and quickly discover new solutions. We will strive to be humble enough to know we don’t know everything, to assume positive intent, to celebrate others, to be secure in our own abilities but to improve myself first before improving others, to constantly get better, to never stop learning, to listen, and to lead through acts of service. We will be hardworking in our pursuit of mission, to stick to the task until it is complete, to make continuous improvement each and every day, to work tirelessly to contribute more than our fair share, and to ensure the success of every customer we serve and partnership we enter.
How Health Catalyst Measures the Value of its Values
We believe that value in our business development activities will be evidenced through behaving in a manner consistent with our cultural attributes, and then making decisions based on our operating principles of customer success, ownership, pragmatic innovation, and transparency. These operating principles will serve as our decision-making framework, our investment thesis for the allocation of resources, and the basis on which we will choose to align ourselves in partnership.
What I love about Health Catalyst is that we first measure the value of every partnership by how it enables our customers’ successes. This is our guiding light. We will strive to act as if we, too, are owners of each and every partner and partnership — not just of Health Catalyst. We will put ourselves in the “shoes” of our partners. We will innovate only to meet the pragmatic needs of the market, not in pursuit of intellectually appealing ideas without application. And we will always entrust our partners with the same information we use to make decisions in an open and transparent manner. We will expect the same from our partners.
Why do we use this approach for our partnerships? Because the goal of transforming U.S. healthcare requires it. I suspect it is also the right way to manage our closest relationships, including relationships with those most dear to us.
I couldn’t be more thrilled to take part in such a noble journey.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you worked at a company like Health Catalyst that shares similar values? How have similar vales helped create value for your organization?