“Design with your end user in mind” — when you’re deep into a concept, it becomes very easy to lose sight of your audience. Could you hand a product to someone using it for the first time and they understand it? Can you explain a concept to someone with little to no background and help them to understand? No matter how you design your work product, you need to keep that consumer in mind. The more that you drive development towards ease of use and understanding, the more powerful and impactful the experience is overall.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Ogurchak.
He is the CEO and Co-Founder of STACK, a curated software platform designed to help organizations drive compliance with deliverables, particularly in the healthcare sector. As a pharmacist and educator, he teaches at multiple universities on both clinical and operational areas surrounding specialty pharmacy and serves as an educational consultant for a variety of stakeholders. His expertise helped to grow and own specialty pharmacies and now he’s poised to upset the healthcare industry with some innovative solutions that align many of the disjointed facets of patient care.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’m a pharmacist by training and have spent a majority of my career in the “specialty” pharmacy sector — focusing on high touch, very complex medications for some life-changing diseases. I served in management roles with one of the country’s largest corporately owned specialty pharmacies and used some available technology (like spreadsheets and macros) to automate operational processes to improve the experience for patients. I left there to help start an independently owned specialty pharmacy and grew the operations from a few of us in a garage to a national player, developing some innovative technology solutions along the way. I’ve always been technologically inclined and have seen technology as a way to improve the typical ways of doing things. It was a logical next step after I left my role at the independent pharmacy to get back into the technology sector, relying on that pharmacist training. Today, we’ve built STACK to meet the needs of pharmacies of every sort that struggle to manage their day-to-day processes and tackling all of the complexities associated with staying on top of compliance through software.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
In the healthcare industry, there are so many software solutions that come to market that might be technologically sound, but they lack the understanding of how to work within a healthcare organization. With STACK, we bring both to the table and look to integrate multiple required areas “outside of the dispense” that pharmacies need to accomplish (or run the risk of non-compliance). Areas like licensure, third-party accreditation, contracting with insurance companies and drug manufacturers, and ongoing trainings need to happen — and often are managed by multiple employees who could take another job and walk out the door on a moment’s notice. There aren’t any true solutions available for pharmacies today that bring management of all of these shared areas into one location and automate the ongoing maintenance to ensure that issues don’t arise that jeopardize the ability to take care of patients and grow their revenues. Our solution truly disrupts because it brings subject matter expertise in the form of curated content into the platform. We know what it takes to run a successful pharmacy, and we curate that framework into the core product.
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?
In the early days when we were still conceptualizing STACK, my co-founder and I would fly to different airports and spend a working day in the surrounding area, then head back home that evening. We didn’t have a headquarters, so we’d see where the least expensive city was at the time and fly there. One trip took us to Dallas, Texas — and we coordinated a visit with a colleague in the area for lunch while we were together. When we called the Uber to head back to the airport to work before our flights home, I inadvertently picked the wrong Dallas airport, and didn’t realize until we were moments away from the incorrect terminal. We had the driver correct course and double-back to the correct airport (which would have been about 5 minutes away in the first place). It really forced me to address how I approach making deliberate decisions when the excitement of growing the business competes for attention. Had we not been so deep in discussion building a component of our patent application, we would have picked the right destination — and not spent too much on the Uber fare. Ever since, I keep the screenshot of the map from that crazy ride printed out in my office to remind me of that ridiculous scenario and what happens when you lose sight of what’s important in the moment.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
My biggest support system throughout this whole process have been my wife. She supported me in my decision to leave a full-time, ownership position in a successful organization to not only spend more time with the family (since I was missing out on a lot), but also supporting me to chase this idea of bringing meaningful technology solutions into the healthcare sector. She’s been my rock helping to keep the family moving forward (helping our 3 kids to thrive in school and activities) and supporting me through all of the ups and downs in starting a new business.
The rest of my family has been a huge area of support as well — my dad passed away from ALS the spring before some of these notions came into my mind. He always told me from the start of pharmacy school, “you’re not going to be a pharmacist.” I thought he was crazy — here I am going to pharmacy school to be a pharmacist. Was I not cut out for it? He’d clarify — “you’re going to use being a pharmacist to do something more.” As I was looking for guidance on what to do before launching this company, I started finding random pennies in my travels (and started documenting it on Instagram under #pappennies as a fun way for my kids to keep his memory alive). He always felt that when he found a penny, he knew it was someone from heaven trying to tell him something. Whenever there’s a big decision about to happen, I’ve been finding pennies — hundreds, in fact. I’ve taken it as a subtle way to keep me motivated to “do something more” and his way of still supporting me even today.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
There are different ways to approach disruption: disruption for positive forward movement, and disruption for disruption’s sake. It often makes sense to challenge the status quo to revisit the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality that many industries fall victim to. However, some processes are around because it’s the best possible way to do things. I think exploring the necessity of disruption is a valid exercise, but it’s even more valid to back down when warranted as well.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1. “Be the best garbageman you can be”: when we were kids, my brother was infatuated with garbage trucks. When it came rolling through the neighborhood on pickup day, everything stopped, and we ran to the window. For a 4-year-old, that was such a cool job to have. My dad told us both at an early age “If you’re going to be a garbageman, be the best garbageman you can be.” — what he imparted on us was that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you give it all of your heart to be the best you can possibly be. I’ve used that to center myself when I feel like I’m not giving a project or task my all — I know that the work product I’m going to produce (whether it’s software, or a class lecture, or a textbook) needs to be the best I can possibly build. However,…
2. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”: I’m a perfectionist by nature. I want everything to be right, right away. When it comes to growing a business or a product, you aren’t going to be at your final stages on day one. It’s important to recognize where meaningful inflection points exist and continue to improve from there. STACK is going to continue to get better because we’ve found ways to implement a solution today that’s far superior to any current option, even though in my mind it’s not the perfect “end” product where I see it continuing to grow.
3. “Design with your end user in mind” — when you’re deep into a concept, it becomes very easy to lose sight of your audience. Could you hand a product to someone using it for the first time and they understand it? Can you explain a concept to someone with little to no background and help them to understand? No matter how you design your work product, you need to keep that consumer in mind. The more that you drive development towards ease of use and understanding, the more powerful and impactful the experience is overall.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
STACK in pharmacy has been our first step. Initially, we planned to tackle specialty, since that was my background; however, it’s quickly expanded to support all areas of pharmacy, including community/retail, home infusion, hospital, and compounding. We’ve expanded to support telemedicine practices as the boom in that industry grew. We’re now moving into the organization management space, using the STACK infrastructure to manage membership rosters, engagement, and member benefits for some large trade organizations. We’re headed into a few other industries as well, all tailored around the concept of curated content. When we align our technology with subject matter expertise, the platform just works. It works even better when we’re able to align multiple areas of the same industry into single sign on experiences. Outside of STACK, we’re already tackling a few novel healthcare concepts that we’ll be looking to launch in the next year or so.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
I’ve read “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull, one of the co-founders of Pixar, several times now, and every time I pick up a new lesson for how to lead my business and overall vision. Looking at the process of how a strategy was developed to grow an industry disrupting company — it had to start somewhere and learning from those trials and tribulations has deeply changed how I look to approach decisions within my own business growth.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I am the one thing in life I can control” — Aaron Burr, Hamilton. You aren’t able to always control the messaging that circles around your experience. However, if you live your life with integrity, your reputation will speak for itself. Once you lose your integrity, you lose yourself and your ability to maintain meaningful relationships. I’ve found that putting my integrity first, and controlling myself, has always won out and helped me to grow both professionally and personally.
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. 🙂
Too many areas in healthcare are commoditized. Solutions that could have the most benefit to the most people — like patients — are restricted to help drive market share. For patients to experience the maximum benefit, there needs to be a more standard approach to delivery of care that takes the market share component out of it (and just maybe STACK can help to be a catalyst of eliminating market share and barriers for healthcare stakeholders.
How can our readers follow you online?
Personal LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanogurchak
Company LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/stackpharmacy
Company Facebook: www.facebook.com/stackpharmacy
Company Twitter: @stackpharmacy
Company Instagram: www.instagram.com/stackforpharmacy
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!