Thank you, Neal
My childhood wasn’t what you would call average. For all intents & purposes I grew up at what is now one of the largest employers in Kansas City, Cerner. Of course, at the time it wasn’t that. When my mom started working there in 1988, I was three, it was small enough to fit on one and a half floors in one building of what is now the World Headquarters of a company that employs 20,000 people globally. I spent Saturday mornings watching cartoons on a small black and white tv in a conference room my mom worked. I was introduced to the art of sales with my Girl Scout Cookie route around the building. I learned Excel and how to Mail Merge during my order deliveries. My old cookie office is now home to co-Founder, Cliff Illig; I’m sure he’s taking good care of it. I still run into people who remember me napping under my mom’s desk during late nights. I grew up around the Founders and Executives of a company determined to transform health care. The nice thing about growing up that way is that few people intimidate me.
When I graduated high school I received a scholarship from Cerner, they provided me with the opportunity to work while I was in school, hired me fresh out of college. But like every child, I hit a rebellious phase. I decided I needed to go out and see the world, work somewhere new, experience a different type of corporate environment. However, my upbringing both personal and professional is pure Cerner, and so firmly ingrained in me, I missed it. This past Sunday, one of the founders, Neal Patterson passed. Upon seeing the news I began to reflect on the influence he, and his associates, had on my life. The culture that Neal and Cliff created colors how I look at the world:
Never underestimate the power of a Magic Moment - Borrowed from another great Kansas Citian, Walt Disney, this is one of the parts of my job I’m most passionate about. Taking time to do something big, or small, that changes someone’s experience is always worth it. I make it a point to understand people enough that I can grab them their favorite coffee at the drop of a hat, just in case they’re having a bad day.
Dream Big - In 3rd grade we were given an assignment to create the city of the future. I lost points because I made the hospital too small. I argued that in the future we would be able to call our doctors through our computers and better manage health so hospitals wouldn’t need to be as big. I lost the argument but I had spent hours looking at Cerner presentations in slide machines, I saw it, I believed it was true. No matter how implausible something seems, if you can make it happen...do it. Also, I still want those points back because Neal was right, and so was I.
Build your team - The vision is one thing, being able to carry it out is another. It’s imperative to know your strengths then build a team that complements them. It’s rare to find a person who can do it all themselves, but when you find people who have the same vision and the different skillsets needed to build it, you have a good chance of realizing that vision.
If you’re going to oppose, you have to propose - You can hate someone else’s idea or think it won’t work but if you’re going to object, you better have a different plan. Otherwise you’re just making noise.
“That’s the way we’ve always done it” isn’t a viable reason for anything. Ever. - Same thing goes with “that’s not my job.” Reactivity isn’t productive, stagnation is toxic, neither of these methods are how you innovate.They aren’t worthwhile. If there’s a problem, figure it out. Even if it isn’t your job. Make things happen. Be bold, be helpful, drive forward.
Devil is in the details - Blinds not being open at the same level or cans not being label out drives me nutty from years of leveling and straightening every conference room. Pay attention to the little things, they build the complete picture. And if you can’t manage the little details, how can you be expected to manage the big things?
Ask people what they’re working on - Neal Patterson was well known for his elevator rides. Should you happen to be on the elevator with him he would ask you what you were working on. I make it a point to ask people what they’re doing. People won’t lead with the mundane, tactical things, they’ll tell you what they’re passionate about. They’ll tell you what they love doing. It reveals more about them than you think.
I wrote this while seated at a table in Loose Park, where they sketched out the idea that would change the lives of so many. It’s eighteen days shy of the one year anniversary of a meeting I had like theirs. Where I sat at a table, knowing that an industry I’m passionate about has room to change, believing I could be part of the solution. I never would have believed Mind + Matter was possible without them, I wouldn’t have cultivated the skills I have now without them. How they approach business has shaped how I approach the world.
Working toward the vision Neal and Cliff created lit a fire in me, I just didn’t know it would lead me down a path like theirs. That I would one day be an entrepreneur. I’m thankful their lives, mission, and vision crossed paths with and influenced mine. I’m deeply indebted to so many people at Cerner for so many reasons but chiefly two of the men who sat down and decided to turn their vision into a reality. I’m saddened it took Neal’s passing for me to realize how much of an impact he had in my life, but I’m eternally grateful to him, and Cliff, for the path their vision created for me.