“Write Your Own Obituary & See If The Time You’re Spending Is Going Towards The Things You Want To Be Remembered For”
5 Leadership Lessons With Bruce Johnson CEO of Global Healthcare Exchange
I had the pleasure to interview Bruce Johnson. Bruce is the CEO of Global Healthcare Exchange, a leader in empowering healthcare organizations to enable better patient care and maximize industry savings using its world class cloud-based supply chain technology exchange platform, solutions, analytics and services. In addition to Johnson’s corporate responsibilities he has a strong sense of giving back to the community. In addition to sitting on the advisory boards of several local Denver-area nonprofits, Johnson personally champions internal fundraisers at his company to benefit local charities in all the communities across the country Global Healthcare Exchange has offices as well as contributed to major disaster relief efforts.
What is your “backstory”?
I grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska — it’s central to who I am. I grew up in the real world of life and death, we raised and worked with animals on the family farm. In that environment there were expectations on me and my siblings that we would serve others, it’s what our family did. These were formative experiences and helped me learn personal responsibility. My parents raised us with a strong sense of community and we reached out to those who needed a helping hand. Another part of my story that also goes back to my youth, is an ability to read a crowd. I have always hoped that this makes me more sensitive to spotting those in need. In a practical way, I helped myself. And I actually used those skills as a stand-up comic to help pay my way through college (University of Nebraska). Whether cheered or jeered, and I’ve received a healthy dose of both, I learned to not take myself too seriously and to get back up when others were disapproving. I love that these experiences are actually helping me as I invest in organizations that come alongside kids in Colorado.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
When GHX was formed back in 2000 by the five founding members, I was one of two GE executives on the initial leadership team (CEO Mike Mahoney was the other). Back then, GHX was a risky venture compared to the scope and scale of GE. I liked the idea of being able to start something from scratch during a very dynamic time when the internet was going to solve world hunger — so it was very exciting and prestigious to be picked to be on this leadership team. Five years later we were acquiring our largest competitor, we were working with GE on financing. It was during a discussion with then GE CEO Jeff Immelt that he shared something quite surprising (to me!). He said he never thought we would make it! Obviously, it worked out great but at the time I felt like it was a “take the hill” opportunity and we signed up for it. I just didn’t know enough back then to ask what they thought the chances were to, successfully, take the hill.
Are you working on any meaningful non-profit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am currently on the Board of Trustees for A Precious Child, an organization that assists children and families facing difficult challenges such as abuse, neglect, crisis situations, and poverty. One in six children in Colorado are below the poverty line. The organization serves eight counties in the Denver Metro Area and was able to impact over 33,000 youth last year. Right now, we are about to kick off a capital campaign to help fund the expansion of services beyond the current single warehouse they currently operate out of. The goal is to get the services they provide and support items closer to the areas of need in the greater community. I am personally focusing my time and donations on this campaign and leading GHX to do likewise. Our employees have really gotten involved in making a difference by donating loaded backpacks. Two years ago, I suggested to A Precious Child Founder Carina Martin that we start a corporate competition to load backpacks. In the inaugural year of the challenge it was GHX versus Medtronic, a medical devices company and customer. I’m a competitive person and was thrilled when employees got very involved and brought home the win for GHX, but more importantly, for the kids. Based on the initial success, we significantly expanded the program this year to include over a dozen companies. Not only was it a great way to ensure that youth were identified as being in need by A Precious Child’s 300-agency partners, but because of all the backpacks donated these kids now had the tools they needed to confidently go to school and focus on learning. And at GHX, I loved seeing the friendly (but serious!) competition between teams internally and ultimately against the other organization. We brought home a huge win for GHX, and I am proud to say that A Precious Child was an even bigger winner. They helped thousands of children this past school year. This annual program is great for morale and very consistent with our GHX culture and values. We can’t wait to see if we can extend our winning streak to three in 2018.
Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
Anahi Rodriquez is a 16-year-old junior in high school. When she was 13 years old, she and her family were homeless. Her father had saved enough money to buy a small rundown RV for them to live in. That RV didn’t have any running water or even a bathroom. Furthermore, the place they parked the RV was in a part of town with a lot of crime and drugs. Her parents barely had the resources to keep the family fed and warm. Both parents worked and did what they could to provide the basic needs for Anahi and her brother and sister. Anahi’s mother was referred to A Precious Child where they were able to provide essentials for Anahi’s family and siblings. Anahi shared her story at a recent A Precious Child event. She was embarrassed by having the same ripped clothes and sneakers with taped-on soles to wear to school. Now she is able to have the school supplies, new backpack and “new” clothes to wear to school. A Precious Child didn’t stop there with support and essentials. They also provided a scientific calculator for her Algebra 2 and AP Biology class and a scholarship to pay for her registration fees and soccer equipment. Anahi is a bright kid who has benefited tremendously from A Precious Child’s support and is now one of 11 kids nationally selected by the Obama administration to be a “kid science advisor.” She is a remarkable, empowered teenager and she credits A Precious Child for helping her and her family through a very difficult time.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
· “You don’t need to have everything for your career all figured out. Dream bigger than just the opportunities within your current world.” I tended to look at everything just through the lens of my current employer; I wasn’t pushing myself to dream bigger or educating myself on what else was out there in the business world. Fortunately, I was able to get a unique opportunity while at GE, but frankly there was a lot of luck in that too.
· “Don’t be afraid to fail.” Because of the ultra-competitive nature of the early career team I was on, I didn’t know how beneficial learning from failure could be. When I started my career in sales, I wish I had taken more risks and explored a bit more, trying different things while also growing my network by leveraging the knowledge of my first territory team.
· “Write your own obituary and see if the time you’re spending is going towards those things you want to be remembered for.” I wish I had done this sooner. It’s one of the things that has been so meaningful and valuable in helping me realize those times when I was out of balance in my work/family/life balance. It is also very affirming when I was getting it right.
· “Push yourself every day to go outside your comfort zone — meet new people, try new things.” I was shy and didn’t always thrive in an environment where networking and talking to new people was involved. Over the years I have gotten better at this, but I still wish I would have made that a bigger part of my early career. Meeting new people means you are learning about new things, having new experiences, and often, getting new opportunities.
· “Don’t worry about what others think — focus on execution, follow up and learning.” In my 20’s, I placed too much value on how much I was making, stock options, the “scoreboard” for my competitive group of friends and co-workers. While that was helpful to a point because I was highly motivated, I didn’t maximize my learning and potential by taking on as many extra tasks that would have helped me learn more and become more valuable later in my career.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
I would love to have lunch with Warren Buffet. Through his foundation, he paid for my college tuition. I wrote him a big thank you letter when I graduated, but would love to buy his lunch to thank him in person. He has set such a great example to me — he’s such a successful person yet he has been very humble and grateful for that success, always giving back.