For our second chat of the year, we were excited to spend time with Dr Kristin Kahle, Founder and CEO of NavigateHCR. Dr. K is a recognized Health Care Reform Strategist and National Speaker, with decades of healthcare, business growth and M&A experience. Kristin has built and sold companies and has grown her latest business, NavigateHCR, from a compliance service company to a major compliance technology agency in under three years. We sat down with Kristin to hear her story and words of wisdom for life and for building a successful company.
- Making the Hard Choice Can Make All The Difference: When Kristin was young, her brother needed a bone marrow transplant. The state was concerned her parents might force her into being a donor at 4 year old so they took her away from her parents. She became a ward of the state and lived with her grandparents for a year. After a year she was given the choice to save his life and made the challenging decision to undergo the excruciating donation process at the age of 5 to save her brother’s life. Her brother is alive today and she is grateful she was able to save his life. In addition, she took on the role of saver and care taker from an early age and that has made her who she is.
- Do It Anyway – Kristin’s second grade teacher said she was never going to amount to anything (they didn’t know about dyslexia then) so they put her in a special school. In high school, she also struggled with Algebra which was a prerequisite for the college track, so she had to finish high school thinking that she’d never go to college. She decided to ignore everyone and find a way. She found a college that would accept her despite her grades and went on a basketball scholarship. When she wanted to get her masters, she didn’t do well on the GMATS, so she found a school that didn’t need the GMAT.
- Hard Work Will Drive Success – Kristin always wanted to work with her father in insurance so she found an internship at John Hancock. While she was terrible at filing, she made great coffee and said yes to anything she was asked to do. She gave it her all, stayed late, worked weekends and developed a reputation as a hard worker and was asked back all 4 years of school setting the stage for her career.
- Don’t Debate, Incorporate – After college, Kristin went to work for her father (who made her interview, send a resume, and submit references like any other candidate). She moved into sales and she’d be there all night in her PJs building her business. After several years of busting her butt, her dad offered her brother the same amount of equity as her. Instead of getting upset, she decided to go off on her own and started her own business at 20 years old.
- Build a Business That Solves A Problem – Kristin started and sold several different healthcare related companies over the next few years, iterating on each business model. She decided to go back to school for her Ph.D, and wrote a 803 page paper on healthcare companies. She read then read the 3000 page affordable care act, and realized U.S. businesses wouldn’t be able to understand the healthcare system and were at great risk. She decided to come up with a solution to help companies avoid issues. She took five main points out of the ACA and built the business from there.
- Playing to Your Strengths is the Key to Success: Kristin has every employee go through the Strengths finder test to see what a good fit is. She then works with each team member to align their strengths and develops a one page business plan for them. For herself, she focuses on her own strengths and lists the activities she wants to be involved in. If the item isn’t on the list, she doesn’t do it, and she hires to fill her weaknesses.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Test and Pivot: She says she doesn’t always know what will work in her businesses but has the confidence to keep trying new things. She also gives her team the opportunity to try things and fail. In addition to her team, she was also saying yes to everything her clients asked for and one night decided she needed software to create reports and data for her clients. In doing that, she realized that in order to scale the company, she needed to go from a service company to a software company. It was a hard changeover, and reducing her team from 47+ employees to 12 was the hardest day of her life but her company is now growing quickly.
- Giving Back Is An Important Part of Giving Back: Kristin tries to always say yes because everyone always said no to her. She’s now focused on helping more female business owners scale to over $1 million. She is also working to popularize the concept of a Queenmaker. Much like the kingmaker in medieval time, women need to develop support to help them succeed (protect her, set her crown back, give her advice, etc)