Where does your interest in healthcare come from?
I thought I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger. I was pre-Med in college and had a real affinity for medicine. I’ve been mission-driven my whole life, and after college, I moved to New York and answered an ad in the New York Times for a sales rep position for a lab called MetPath (now Quest Diagnostics). That was in 1985, and after that experience, I was hooked on healthcare
At what point did you decide to go to business school?
Eventually, I got bored in sales and wanted something more intellectually stimulating, and Quest was willing to support me in going to business school. Going to CBS was eye-opening because I learned, “there’s a model for that!” I learned analytical approaches for how to think about competition, economics and market dynamics and game theory. It was transformative. Importantly to my career, CBS gave me a new credibility inside Quest and outside in the business world.
What were some of your favorite business school classes?
Bruce Greenwald’s Economics of Strategic Behavior – It changed my life. That framework for analyzing markets and businesses was inspiring and empowering. I also took Negotiations, and even though I was known to be a good negotiator, the class expanded my thinking and took me to the next level. I know I wouldn’t be sitting here were it not for business school.
Were there any other CBS experiences/memories that stand out?
My Learning Team was the only one that stayed together throughout our entire course of study!
Oh, and one more - one student threw a graduation party where I met his wife, who has now been my best friend for 20 years!
What did you do after acquiring these new analytical and leadership skills in business school?
After business school, I left Quest and went to Oxford Health Plans, which was the most high-flying managed care company at the time. After a couple of years there, “it was time to “come home.” I saw the opportunity to go back to Quest and have a real ability to make change. Ken Freeman [ex-CEO of Quest Diagnostics and former CBS Exec in Residence] is the single best leader I’ve ever encountered, and I wanted to work in the company he led. I went back and had roles in corporate identity, marketing, supply chain, payer contracting… Over time, I had these experiences where I got to sit on every side of the table.
When Ken left the company, it was time for me to go. I went to Abbott, one of our biggest suppliers. My goal had always been to run a business, but I was always told I didn’t have something. After Abbott, I decided I’m not taking a job unless it’s to run something. I went to Ipsogen to build and run their US business, and it became 70% of corporate revenues. We sold that company 3.5 years later for $110MM.
What was next for you – where do you go from building, growing, and selling a business?
At this point, I had become a board member, ran a business, sold a business, and I was hooked! Building a team and culture, executing on, strategy and driving performance excited me, so I accepted a CEO role at Boston Heart Diagnostics, a start-up backed by Bain Capital Ventures. It was a very powerful experience. I didn’t want to run the company as a traditional diagnostics business, instead I wanted to focus on personalized medicine and prevention. We grew it from $2M to $100M in revenue in less than 5 years. We went from 35 to 500 employees, and we got to build the culture and leadership. We sold the business and I stayed on for another 20 months. It was a home run.
Wow, so you had great success building and selling two companies – what were you looking for in your next gig?
I wanted to take some time off and think about my next step after going non-stop for many years. I had a list of requirements for my next role: 1) It had to be an area of medicine I was interested in (ex- Women’s Health), 2) It had to be early stage enough where I could make an impact personally, and a transformational opportunity to do something big, 3) I needed to work with people I respected.
How and when did you end up at Prelude?
I got a call from a headhunter about Prelude, but I wanted more time off. The headhunter told me the role wouldn’t last a few months, so I took a look at the description. After reading the first paragraph, before I knew it, I was on the fourth page. I called my former CFO and said, I think I’ve found my next job…
Prelude fit all the criteria. There had been breakthroughs in fertility science which created new options for fertility preservation, namely egg freezing. With infertility rates on the increase and people having babies later in life, I saw an incredible opportunity to make a transformational difference. Building a family is after all the single most important decision we make in life. I liked the idea of fertility preservation like an insurance policy – not a guarantee but a great hedge for the future. Three months later, I walked into the door as CEO.
How have you made your mark on Prelude?
When I started, we owned an Atlanta reproductive health center, and since I’ve been on board we bought Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco, the Vivere Network of nine clinics around the country, Advanced Fertility Center in Chicago and … next week we’re announcing New York! In less than two years after I started, we are now the largest owned network of fertility clinics in the US. The opportunity to share best practices under one umbrella across clinics is big. We can benefit from economies of scale, learnings in science and patient experience, EMR deployment, and all the advantages of network effects.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities of running a fertility business?
There is an opportunity to educate patients about their different journeys. From couples conceiving for the first time, those facing secondary infertility, single women looking for preventative measures, gay couples – each needs care and compassion and the journeys are quite different. I feel so fortunate and humbled to be given the opportunity to make these fertility journeys and outcomes better than I found it.
What are some of your goals for building Prelude and your team there? What do you look for in leadership?
I want to build a company with a great mission driven culture. One that you want to be part of, contribute to and always find your way back to. I want to build a company that I feel proud of, not just life-changing care for patients, but also for the people who work there. I value diversity and different perspectives. I look for people who can help me understand what’s around the corner, connect the dots… tell me what’s not on paper. It means bringing in people who haven’t all grown up in women’s health. I’m also more interested in people with different experiences within the industry as opposed to straight-lined one-dimensional paths. Most executives on my team take projects they didn’t think they would. I truly believe the more you’ve had to work with different types of people and understand the effect of your decisions on other functional areas, the more effective leader you’ll be.
I also look for shared values like compassion, creating joy, doing the right thing, acting with integrity and accountability. These things should speak to and resonate with people that work at Prelude. We are so mission-driven, having this alignment really matters.
Having run companies of different sizes and across different stages of growth, how does your leadership team change as your company evolves?
As the company grows, you fundamentally become a different company as you hit different sizes and stages. People you start with may not be the people you end with, and that can be one of the hardest things about being CEO. Different kinds of talent are attracted to different phases of company growth. There are always hard assessments. I’ve switched out and moved around people on my executive team over the years.
How do you think Prelude’s approach is different from your competitors?
We need to educate people so we can make informed decisions about building a family. I’m passionate about that. I don’t believe in fear-based marketing, I want empowerment. I’ve seen some companies promote egg-freezing cocktail parties – let’s not make it a frivolous cocktail party. This is serious! Let’s tell people the truth and give them the right information and provide the best quality services. I believe they will choose Prelude when we do that.
What has your relationship with your investors, both Private Equity and Venture Capital, been like?
People have different relationships with investors. I’ve viewed them as super smart people with deep industry learning, great contacts, and aligned interests. I use them as a sounding board and have never kept them at bay. Bain Capital Ventures was provided that sounding board and access to contacts and understood that you have to give management room to make decisions.
[Lee Equity Partners] has been instrumental in the hiring process. On the M&A side, we couldn’t have achieved what we have without them. They’ve provided so much analytical support and negotiation support. They’ve been great partners and also have a deep knowledge of the business.
What advice do you have for students at CBS who are thinking about career transitions and mapping out their next steps?
Think about your criteria for your next jobs – what is important to you? What kind of people do you like to work with, and what kind of experience do you want to have? Make a list and let that help guide your decisions!