Redefine” nice.” My Midwestern roots nag me that if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all. Through my career, I’ve learned that it isn’t mean to give someone tough feedback. Constructive advice helps all parties involved.
I had the pleasure to interview Kristyn Reed-Salow, the CFO at Kit Check.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I spent my first six years out of college working at Ernst & Young as both an auditor and a consultant. I was passionate about my job, but after a few years I felt like my learning curve was flattening. Feeling unsatisfied with my professional life and yearning to do something that truly mattered, I decided to get my master’s in social sciences at the University of Chicago, where I focused on economic development in emerging economies.
While writing my thesis, I was connected to an entrepreneur who was creating an interesting Internet business with an e-commerce, content, and advertising model. He asked me to build a financial model to help him raise capital and merge three fledgling businesses that would together have a much bigger mission. It was through that experience that I grasped my passion for entrepreneurial ventures. It wasn’t easy and wasn’t always successful, but I quickly realized it was my calling.
Since then, I have been a part of management teams who seek to build something that matters in their requisite industries, specifically for technology companies. Now, as Kit Check’s CFO, I am helping the company scale into something more meaningful in our space.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
During the technology boom, I was hired as the CFO for a tech start-up in San Francisco. At the time, we had raised way too much money for our own good and had a smart Chief Strategy Officer who wanted to use some of our millions to buy a few ‘tuck-in’ acquisitions. He was new to the business, so he didn’t think to involve me in the process.
One morning, I asked him how it was all going, and he said, “Great. We are closing tomorrow on one of the companies.” I panicked, wondering what it would cost and how we were paying for it, as most of our funds were tied up in investments and to liquidate them was going to be tough and very expensive. After an excessively embarrassing call to my Northern Trust relationship manager, we freed up the funds and closed the next day and it all worked out, but this experience was a huge learning experience for me. It was in that moment I realized you can’t sit in the back seat if it’s your job to be in the front. I learned I couldn’t be intimidated by people who I thought were smarter or had a more impressive pedigree — I learned from to play my role more confidently and unapologetically.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Kit Check’s mission is to help hospitals improve their day-to-day operational efficiency, see where their medications are going, and focus on patient safety. We create solutions that allow hospital staff — from pharmacy to anesthesia to compliance — to get out from under mountains of paperwork and time-consuming manual processes so they can focus on why they got into healthcare in the first place: helping patients get better.
From regulatory compliance and increased efficiency to financial savings and preventing drug diversion, Kit Check has helped more than 450 hospitals better align their resources toward the things that really matter.
For example, in 2012, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) came to Kit Check seeking a better and safer way to restock pharmacy kits, decrease errors, and track expiration dates. After implementing Kit Check, UMMC went from 250 errors per 5,000 trays to zero — a significant patient safety win! And UMMC continues to work with Kit Check to this day.
For the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Virginia, preventing drug diversion was a high priority, but trying to identify potential incidents by sorting through reams of data was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Bluesight for Controlled Substances helped CHKD pinpoint possible outliers, getting ahead of potential issues before they happened.
Beyond the significant problems that Kit Check is working to solve, the company culture is unlike any I’ve experienced before. With a small yet motivated team, we work collaboratively and value each other’s opinions to get the task at hand accomplished.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We always have exciting projects in the queue. Our product teams are currently working on solutions to solve the problem of drug diversion in hospitals. Bluesight for Controlled Substances helps to identify diversion which in turn enhances patient safety and pinpoints provider abuse in hospitals. In doing this, we look beyond the process and cost factors and consider the human element of drug diversion: The clinician who becomes an abuser is a colleague, friend, member of the community. The patient who often receives a diminished dose — or none — of the prescribed pain medication suffers unnecessarily. The entire staff’s reputations can be tarnished, not to mention the damage to the character of the institution itself when diversion occurs. These are the issues that are at the heart of why we built Bluesight for Controlled Substances and it’s exciting to see our results so far.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
My best advice I can offer other female leaders is to be a master at your business — your skills will be that much more valuable if you really understand what drives the business, your industry, your customers, and your employees. Beyond owning your craft, don’t sell yourself short or apologize too much — as women, we often tend to want to please, but we need to also focus on empowering ourselves to achieve, instead of constantly making everyone else a higher priority.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I’ve learned through the years that effective leaders need to actively listen. Many people in lead roles think their main responsibility is to do just that — lead. However, some of the best leaders are those who truly listen and observe those around them. Beyond listening, realizing others’ talents and investing in people are both keys to success. I don’t view this as leadership advice for just women, though — all leaders should surround themselves with the very best people they can, then challenge and empower them. When managing a large group, it’s important to find daily ways to grow and invest in yourself while you invest in your team, too.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Although there are many people who have positively impacted and shaped me into the successful CFO I am, Scott Shaw, CEO of a marketing software company has been the most positive influence on my career, both professionally and personally. In the five years I was his CFO, Scott relied on the strategic part of my role and trusted me as a confidante. His entrepreneurial mind and penchant for making partnerships work was refreshing. His ‘benefit of the doubt’ mentality helped give me perspective when there were times that I could’ve executed better. Not only did I learn from Scott as a leader and as a CEO; he also made me a better CFO by teaching me his tricks of the trade.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am incredibly proud of the people and the companies I have had the opportunity to work with. I’ve had the opportunity to lead teams that have displayed award-winning cultures. I’m proud to have led teams that solve big problems for the industries they serve.
As a CFO, my job is to maximize revenue and manage costs, but I am also constantly looking at how to fund investments both in the business and in our people’s satisfaction and careers. Kit Check’s investment in the development of Bluesight for Controlled Substances represents a huge leap forward for hospital pharmacies in combating the opioid crisis currently affecting providers, patients, and communities at large. Our products help clinicians automate their processes, gain efficiencies, improve quality, and reduce risk, so they can focus on patient care as well as other strategic initiatives. Our team’s passion for solving our problems with technology, automation, and analytics is evident daily.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Experience” and why.
- Be grateful — not just for the amazing mentors and opportunities but for all of it. Where you end up is the sum of all your life experiences and all the people who helped you — and sometimes hindered you — along the way. I still thank a CEO I once worked for who encouraged me to own my path. Even though it was one of the toughest roles I had been in, I learned more from him than anyone else about my own capabilities.
- Play the part. Remember that others are looking to you as a leader even when you don’t feel you are leading. Although you may feel like an ordinary member of a team, others view you as a leader and feed off that energy. Being comfortable and fitting in does not guarantee an easy road to success; it’s about your colleagues looking to you for motivation, inspiration, or guidance.
- Don’t be afraid to be at the top of an organization chart. When I became a CFO, I didn’t want to publish an organization chart. It made me uncomfortable to see who me was visually ‘below’ me. Be strong, confident, and accepting of your role. If you don’t have confidence in yourself and your role, what kind of energy will you give off to your fellow employees?
- Redefine” nice.” My Midwestern roots nag me that if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all. Through my career, I’ve learned that it isn’t mean to give someone tough feedback. Constructive advice helps all parties involved.
- Embrace rejection or at least learn how to handle it. Being told “no” doesn’t mean you can’t follow your passion or a dream. Entrepreneurs are constantly faced with rejection and skepticism, but that doesn’t stop them. I admire this tenacity.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If I were to inspire a movement or be part of one, it would be helping to empower women globally to chart their own life courses and to overcome the hurdles they will inevitably face.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. — Tom Brokaw
Many people earn financial success — and that can feel great. Through my professional career, I’ve come to find that success feels that much sweeter when it is in support of something that you and others feel was significant and truly mattered. Keeping the focus on making positive differences, in big and small ways will result in greater satisfaction.