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“A shared vision or an inspiring goal to which everyone is always working, is paramount to success.” with Alyssa Rapp and Akemi Sue Fisher

Breaking bread matters. Understanding people as people matters. Managing people to each of their strengths matters. Shoring up peoples’ weaknesses matters. Shared vision/inspiring goal to which everyone is always working is paramount to success. I had the pleasure of interviewing Alyssa Rapp, CEO of Surgical Solutions in January 2018, a health care services company owned by […]


Breaking bread matters. Understanding people as people matters. Managing people to each of their strengths matters. Shoring up peoples’ weaknesses matters. Shared vision/inspiring goal to which everyone is always working is paramount to success.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alyssa Rapp, CEO of Surgical Solutions in January 2018, a health care services company owned by private equity firm Sterling Partners. Within six months (in June 2018), she was named one of Crain’s Magazine’s “2018 Notable Women in Health Care.” Alyssa is a lecturer-in-management at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, where she teaches a strategy course annually. Alyssa served as the Managing Partner at AJR Ventures, a strategic advisory firm to $100MM+ privately-held companies and private equity firms on their digital marketing strategies. From 2005–2015, Alyssa served as the founder & CEO of Bottlenotes, Inc., during which time she was named one of Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30” coolest entrepreneurs in America (September 2008)” and one of the wine industry’s top 25 of 100 most influential people (Intowine.com). Bottlenotes also received the “Best Advertising and Marketing Company/People’s Choice Award” at the Empact 100 at the United Nations (September 2013), honoring the top 100 companies with founders under 35. Alyssa earned a B.A. in Political Science and the History of Art from Yale University (2000) and an M.B.A. from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (2005). At Yale, she received the Frank M. Patterson prize for the best essay on the American political system.


Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

In my current role as CEO of Surgical Solutions, I arrived at the end of week two at my first hospital site visit in New York City with my Chief Clinical Officer and Account Manager. I arrived in high heels, with a roller bag, off a red eye- and had to jump into scrubs and get behind the scenes with our team within an hour. My childhood best friend is a Harvard Med School trained, Stanford ENT resident, current surgeon- whom, when I sent her the photo in scrubs, thought that hell hath frozen over. Alas, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing- but it was a story of being a babe in the woods: keep your mouth shut, eyes open, watch and learn.

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?

Never show up to a hospital in high heels. Always wear sneakers. Life lesson: do your homework on what the appropriate attire is for whatever setting you are entering before you get there (!).

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have a brand new white paper out on Surgical Solutions about which we worked extremely hard- find it here. Punchline: when I showed up, everyone thought that the value proposition for the company was “economic savings.” The reality is that in a do-more-with-less health care environment, the real value proposition is increasing throughput and efficiency, in addition to economic ROI, for our customers.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have a brand new Surgical Cost Management Platform(TM) that helps us understand our own cost inputs/case that we serve in a hospital. If we can help hospitals understand why Surgeon A consumes more resources than Surgeon C, we can hopefully help drive standardization/cost savings throughout institutions and systems.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

You set the tone of the organization that you run. In terms of excellence, inclusiveness, work ethic, et al. Set the right tone. Your people are watching you.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Breaking bread matters. Understanding people as people matters. Managing people to each of their strengths matters. Shoring up peoples’ weaknesses matters. Shared vision/inspiring goal to which everyone is always working is paramount to success.

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?

My mother, former US Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin, is my greatest inspiration.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am proud to serve as a Lecturer-in-Management at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business- “giving back” to the next wave of world leaders; while also serving on the national board of directors for Spark Program (www.sparkprogram.org) and on the board of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

5 Leadership Lessons:

(1) Surround yourself with all-star board members

Whether your company has a board of directors or board of advisors or both, these industry experts/veterans have their own leadership lessons off which you can draft.

(2) Believe in Young Talent

Whenever I have had the privilege of recruiting someone to work for /with me who seems highly capable but green in his/her career, I have viewed it as an opportunity to bring someone great in and move them up the corporate ladder quickly once he/she delivers. This doesn’t happen magically; the young gun needs to be extremely hard working and capable and motivated to grow into bigger shoes…and quickly. Sometimes an outside advisor/coach is also needed for that team member to help him/her jump the learning curve more rapidly.

But each and every time I have made this bet, it has paid dividends for me and the company.

(3) Stay Sane/Workout Daily

I have written articles on this topic, but simply put, an hour to oneself to be active daily is crucial for keeping one’s mind clear, day after day.

(4) Take Breaks

In the modern world, it is almost impossible to completely unplug from one’s professional life, even if “on vacation.” Even so, taking a day or a true weekend “off” from time to time is crucial for letting the battery completely recharge, which is crucial for operating at highest levels on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

(5) Breaking Bread Matters

No matter the industry, taking time to have meals with your colleagues and customers builds stronger relationships, which increases trust and improves communications in all dealings.

Thank you so much for joining us!

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