Kirk Loevner has carved out quite the niche for himself, growing Epocrates Inc. by leaps and bounds. Epocrates, which he joined as CEO in 2004, makes mobile devices that physicians use to access drug, disease and diagnostic information at the point of care, or anywhere else, for that matter.
Doctors are very mobile professionals, he says, and he saw a market for bringing the information they need to where they need it most: the operating room.
Loevner, a Northern California 2006 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year finalist, has been growing Epocrates’ revenue by 50 percent a year.
Smart Business spoke with Loevner on how to create an upbeat, high-energy culture.
Q: How would you describe your management style?
Certainly setting direction is key and becoming a champion for that direction, being relentless about making sure our folks and resources are focused on our key priorities. Communication is a key part of leadership. You need to make sure everyone hears the message; everyone is on board and understands what we’re trying to do.
The CEO needs to remove roadblocks and impediments to the company to make sure we can achieve our goals. An important element is making sure the company stays innovative, maintains entrepreneurial attitude and approach. Our company is small and growing really fast, but we still need to innovate and find new ways to do things and satisfy the customer.
As CEO, a big part of my job is maintaining and evolving the culture. It’s a very upbeat and high-energy culture.
Q: How do you keep the energy up?
You challenge the employees. We celebrate success; we reward great performance. We have a very passionate group of advocates who are physicians that we cultivate and we use them to tell our story to the world. That helps energize us.
Q: How do you set the company’s direction?
You just have a few goals. There may be lots of good opportunities out there, but if you attack five or 10 of them, you’ll find you achieve none of them.
It’s important to focus on a few strategic priorities. In terms of the how, my style is a collaborative process. I always tell my staff it may be consensus-driven, but it’s not a democracy. We collect info from many different sources, pushing and pulling and striving for clarity. We build a couple key directions from that process.
Also, you need to make sure you’re looking at new products and coming out with new, innovative services. Also make sure you’re reviewing your priorities. Sometimes we have to abandon things we’ve been working on because market conditions have changed.
Q: What do you look for in new hires?
You look for what have they accomplished in life and business. Beyond that, there are a few key things. Leadership is a very important part of looking at people. Were they driving programs and projects, or were they just along for the ride?
Attitude is really key. Is the person upbeat? Do they always get the job done, no matter what?
Also, thinking skills are important. Can the person think out of the box? Can the person think conceptually? Do they think about ideas and concepts and not just at a technical level?
Q: How do you communicate your message to the staff?
We have staff meetings, company meetings and walk the halls, but as a CEO, you need to constantly reinforce those messages and themes until they sink in. People need to hear it more than once.
And that constant reinforcement of the key themes is what constantly keeps the company moving in the right direction.
Q: How do you know what to focus on?
It’s important to look at the company’s DNA, the roots, to really understand what the company’s about. A lot of companies try to go into new business ventures and really get outside of their element.
There are times when you want to do that. Most of the time, you want to expand in areas where you have core competencies.
Q: How do you know when it’s time to grow?
You always want to grow and expand. When there’s a strategic imperative, like moving into a new business area, then you want to go there. But mostly, for us, it’s always best to grow organically.
You have a set of existing customers you are selling to what other products would you want to sell to those customers? How can you extend and enhance those services you provide to them?
Yeah, there might be one new initiative you need to move into for strategic reasons, but if all your new projects and product initiatives are outside your core business, that’s problematic.
HOW TO REACH: Epocrates Inc., (650) 227-1700 or www.epocrates.com