It’s going to take some time. If everyone could bring a solution to market, you’d see many more entrepreneurs and far fewer employees. Even with the most aggressive development cycles, you’re still going to need time to get from nothing to something.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewingJonathan 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! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific 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 (specialty, community, and otherwise) that struggle to manage their day-to-day processes and tackling all of the complexities associated with staying on top of compliance through software. We’ve expanded our scope to recently include membership and educational management offerings for professional associations, higher education institutions and other groups, all based on this shared ecosystem that we’ve built with STACK.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I think the most interesting story is one that’s still being told, and I share with my students frequently: your career is so much more than the first job you take. There’s this notion that you’re always going to find a job that’s going to be your “place” from the time you start until the time you retire — and that’s not necessarily the case. In the time since I graduated pharmacy school, for instance, I’ve worked for 6 different organizations, with promotions and growth during tenure at each. The crazy part is that each new role lends itself to the one that may or may not follow it. Every day, you’re learning something new in both your career and your personal life that translates into how the next day will transpire. So for me, I never would have dreamed that at this point, I would have owned a pharmacy; would have owned a technology company; have served as a consultant and an author; have been married and started a beautiful family — these things continue to evolve as you grow. Personally, it excites me to see what my next steps might be, since I never envisioned this is where I’d be today!
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
With a product like STACK, we realized that users in the healthcare sector are continually burdened with managing multiple areas just to stay on top of what’s necessary — sure, there’s trainings they need for work and continuing education to maintain a professional license…but what about the other “stuff”? Let’s say you or your company is a member of a professional association. Let’s say you help to precept students as they enter their experiential curriculum. Multiple systems. Multiple logins. The burden to participate and manage your professional life often outweighs the needs to get through the day. What we’ve done with STACK is find a commonality to thread all of these areas into one ecosystem. Since they all work together, why don’t they interact together and eliminate some of that burden?
How do you think this might change the world?
The stress placed on the healthcare industry only continue to grow — you don’t often hear of less regulation or less oversight of healthcare…only more! If we’re able to serve as that connector of all things professional, and do it in an easy-to-use fashion, it helps every aspect of the industry to grow. Companies can take advantage of programs offered through association membership. Associations can further demonstrate their value to paying members. Schools can gain more meaningful experiences for their students by putting everything at the end user’s fingertips alongside the other aspects of their professional life. Eliminating the password/website/process burden will ultimately help to focus more on the patient — which is why we got into the professions we chose in the first place!
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Honestly, no — this type of technology is being used already in a number of different avenues. We’re just trying to build a better environment for all of these activities to co-exist.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
We had been building STACK for pharmacies specifically to manage compliance with licensing, accreditation, trainings, for about a year, when we started getting questions from clients related to expanded capabilities. We realized that we were better suited to partner with industry leaders and let their expertise help us to grow and evolve our product when we realized that there had to be a broader application. Similarly, at the same time we started accepting student pharmacists virtually on an experiential rotation from schools around the country — with each school came a new username, new password, new place to manage requirements. It became just as daunting to manage paperwork than it did to provide a meaningful experience for the students. Both of these events catalyzed where we are today.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
We’re starting to hit a critical mass — the more users that are on the system (and I mean both individual users as well as organizations), the more meaningful the collaboration becomes. Since we initiated this development over the last several months, we continue to draw interest and new clients, and it’s helping to truly bring the idea to life.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
Without having the luxury of in-person events over the last 10 months or so, we’ve certainly been facing some unique challenges for awareness. Our biggest resources from a marketing perspective have been through social awareness online. Our LinkedIn page has exploded over the last year, with a following that continues to grow every day. More importantly, we’re seeing that once users begin to take advantage of the platform, they recommend it to others who can benefit just as well — word of mouth has gone a long way!
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 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.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In the midst of growing companies and sharing time with my family (which was a huge reason in why I decided to go out on my own in the first place!), I like to find ways to share time and expertise as well. I frequently lecture at my alma mater to encourage student pharmacists to think of alternative pathways for career opportunities. I also serve as the President of our University’s Alumni Board of Governors, and the President-Elect of our Pharmacy School’s Alumni Association. So many people paved the way for me to be in the place I am today, so whatever way I’m able to give back, I want to find ways to do so.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s going to take some time. If everyone could bring a solution to market, you’d see many more entrepreneurs and far fewer employees. Even with the most aggressive development cycles, you’re still going to need time to get from nothing to something.
- It’s OK to adjust over time. When we started STACK, there was no real notion of the scale that we could look to capture. Now, we’re trying to find ways to stay on top of the use cases and not let any of our clients down.
- Don’t start a business in a terrible selling environment. Not that anyone could have predicted the year that 2020 evolved into, but the forward movement that we anticipated was quickly halted from a sales perspective. However,
- Use every moment you can as a positive. We were able to adapt our poor sales time into an opportunity to further build and refine the product. We had greater strides in 4 months product-wise than we did in the entire year prior thanks to this slowed period.
- Your biggest competitor will be yourself. It’s easy to overthink and worry about progress, particularly in a new organization. Your mind can do funny things as you start to worry when really, you may just be competing against yourself. Being able to center your expectations, then recenter them, and repeat that process, instead of looking at what’s going on around you — you’ll set yourself to be the most successful.
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 and some of the other projects we’re developing can help to be a catalyst of eliminating market share and barriers for healthcare stakeholders). That “rising tide raises all ships” mentality could truly help to inspire more informed, collaborative patient care.
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.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Think about how difficult it is to juggle everything that’s not only expected of you on a daily basis related to your business, but things that you want to accomplish as well? Now, imagine that you’re taking care of patients at the same time — it creates undue stress to try to not only stay on top of what you need, but find it when you need it. STACK empowers organizations, like pharmacies, trade associations, and schools, to complete their business-critical tasks, and share the visibility across one unique ecosystem. It joins the “need to do” for your entire professional life into one, easy to use and customize platform.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Personal LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanogurchak
Company LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/managewithstack
Company Facebook: www.facebook.com/managewithstack
Company Twitter: @managewithstack
Company Instagram: www.instagram.com/managewithstack
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.