Q: Tell us when you first had a calling to start your own business? How did you make the transition that so many just dream about?
A: I discovered that what motivated me at Cigna and other organizations was building something that wasn’t already there, figuring out how the harvest the knowledge that was there.
My thrill was not to climb the ladder, but to get significant things done (vs. being in an office of significance).
How do you take what you’ve achieved and refine that? If I’m able to do this for another company I can do it for myself.
Q: You knew something intuitively, and you know the right time to make the move.
A: It can be comfortable in these organizations, but you need to look deep inside yourself and know there is a lot more you can do for yourself and others.
Q: When you feel that calling, that calling propels you to make it happen. The idea takes a hold of you. Did this happen to you?
A: Sometimes you feel it’s a blessing, other times like it’s a curse that haunts you. You want to fall back into the things you know. But the major learning since 2008 is that life is not predictable. You don’t know what’s happening in the higher structures that can affect you. How do you survive in an unpredictable world, and be true to yourself?
Q: You mentioned you believe companies can do well by doing good. Can you explain what this means to you in relation to the corporate environment?
A: VitaLincs is based on the notion that the more that people are economically vital, the better off we all are. Businesses have a big opportunity to address the vitality of the markets they serve, which makes them more vital to the market place. Period.
I was involved at Cigna with a couple projects that produced great economic value:
- Time Warner sponsorship (The Power of Caring) which aligned the company with major celebrities and their causes.
- Dow Jones through Wall Street Journal: Focused on major health issues and conditions which were attacking the health of both individuals and companies (like heart disease, infant prematurity…) and were driving the costs of health up.
Our brand scores actually grew when we developed thought leadership in these areas, and alignment with organizations like MIT and Women Heart, and The Partnership for a Drug Free America. I looked at the process that got us there, and realized we were spending a lot less money than we’d need to spend on conventional advertising to get this level of brand recognition. This was resonating with the heart and soul of individuals both on a business and a consumer level.
My discovery: If you do things as a company that tie into your business what’s vital for the ongoing vitality of the markets you serve you’re going to have a win-win situation. Rather than buying advertising, you end up having a real relationship with the heart and soul of the people you serve. Stop thinking of yourself as selling something, but instead as serving people.
I liken it to personal relationships in my marketing courses. If you want to get married, you don’t go up to a stranger to make the sell. You do things that build your character up in the mind of the other.
A Gallup survey posted in The Wall Street Journal reports 70% of all employees are disengaged from their companies. How do you motivate people? People want to believe in some greater mission in life. If you’re not being treated well it’s going to reflect on how you treat your customers. Your greatest opportunities are with your human capital.
Costco has great accolades for treating their employees well, and are a top performing company.
Q: Describe how 2 initiatives you’re working with tie in with the VitaLincs network.
- You Ought to Know: Women’s initiative focusing on women’s health and financial well-being. Health and finance are the core fundamentals of a secure life. This features real stories showing real situations of how people are dealing with life.
- Good For You Network: Helps people become the CEO of their own health and well-being.
Another lesson, You can’t do it all by yourself. Are you with people who share you philosophy and compliment your skills.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who are undecided about what to do with their careers? What would you recommend they do to bring meaning into their day-to-day-work?
A: My children are an inspiration to me. They have perseverance. My youngest daughter wanted to work with non-profits, graduating during the economic downturn, and began by volunteering. My oldest daughter rode horses, was knocked off, but kept getting up again. My son is out in the West Coast had the attitude, “I will serve these people coffee if I just have an opportunity to work with them.” Do whatever it takes to be connected with the right people and demonstrate your value.
To get this done in corporations, know that the door is always open to pursue your idea until somebody literally says “no you aren’t allowed to do this”. Be smart about it. Be determining, “What’s the business value for the company and for the people involved?” I pursued my project at Cigna even when there were those who were saying, “This won’t work”.
Don’t listen to the nay-sayers.