CEO Insight: 11 Questions With Rick Kimball

After 26 years as a banker at Morgan Stanley and then Goldman Sachs, Richard (Rick) Kimball decided to switch gears and enter Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute, a yearlong executive education program. From his experience, Kimball launched HEXL, an innovative healthcare company that aims to transform primary care physician practices both clinically and financially. A member of Young Presidents’ Organization since 2010, he shares leadership insight about trends and challenges in the industry, the best advice he has received, and more.

What was your first job or business?
Being an analyst at Morgan Stanley.

What is one must-read book for business leaders?
“Our Iceberg is Melting” by John Kotter. John Kotter has thoughtfully and cleverly explained his model for effecting major and sustainable organizational change through a compelling and accessible parable. He tells the story of a young penguin who believes that the penguin clan’s iceberg is melting and it will collapse with the penguins inside. The young penguin masterfully builds support to move to another iceberg and cleverly executes Kotter’s eight step change management strategy. As I work on systemic change to the broken US healthcare system, I found this book to be instructive and engaging.

Complete the sentence: “If I wasn’t a business leader, I would be…”
If I wasn’t a business leader, I would be an engineer because I love designing and building things.

What is the most difficult leadership lesson you’ve learned?
That the fastest road to success isn’t about assembling smart people and working hard but rather engaging people in a bigger ideal then themselves and positively engaging people to work as a team.

Who are your business role models?
Dick Fisher, former CEO of Morgan Stanley; Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks; and Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.

What is the best piece of leadership advice you have received?
Don’t let the momentum of a certain situation carry you into a bad decision. Be prepared to make midcourse corrections even if that is disruptive and unpopular.

What is a top trend you’re seeing now in your industry?
The massive shift of the healthcare system from fee for service to value based reimbursement.

What is the top challenge for business leaders today?
To transcend the short term and selfish aspects of money and the ego to discover ethical, win-win, long term solutions for the all stakeholders including our entire society and global population.

What is one thing on your bucket list?
To go an African safari (I can’t believe I haven’t been yet!).

What are the Top 3 insights you’d like to share?

1. The dysfunctional healthcare industry in the U.S. creates long term risks to our society as costs remain out of control and the health of the population deteriorates. The entrenched interests of the hospitals and insurance companies have resisted change. The change will need to come from doctors and patients wanting to align interests to drive better outcomes, lower costs and better accessibility of care.

2. Sugar is the silent killer in this country. The packaged foods industry responded to the anti-fat crusade by replacing fat with sugar in foods. Food packaging doesn’t show the U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sugar on food packaging. My son recently showed me his can of root beer that has 72 grams of sugar in one can despite the U.S. RDA of approximately 20 grams of sugar per day.

3. We seem to have lost our moral compass in so many industries in the U.S. Having spent 26 years in investment banking, I witnessed many examples of misaligned interests that is causing perverse behavior and disrupting the creation of efficient markets.

How has being in YPO positively affected your business or leadership?

YPO has connected me with so many dynamic business leaders in a deep and profound way. It has offered a chance as reflection and shared experiences which is invaluable to professional and personal growth.

(The author of this article is Jovie Baclayon, YPO Director of Social Media)
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