Michele Perry: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

Look at this time at home as a gift. You are now granted more time than before to spend with the loved ones you live with, and for the family and friends you aren’t able to see in person, you still have much more time to connect with over the phone or virtually. I have […]

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Look at this time at home as a gift. You are now granted more time than before to spend with the loved ones you live with, and for the family and friends you aren’t able to see in person, you still have much more time to connect with over the phone or virtually. I have spent every evening in the past week chatting with loved ones, from my siblings to dear friends from high school. My mom turned 85 recently, and in lieu of the big birthday plans that had to be canceled, our family threw a surprise party over Zoom where we all ate cake and celebrated my mom. None of us expected life to look like this now, but we are making it work and cherishing the things that matter most.


As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Perry, CEO of Relatient.

Michele Perry is the CEO of Relatient, a SaaS-based patient-centered engagement company that utilizes a modern and mobile-first approach to improve patient and provider communication. To date, Relatient customers have sent over 6 million messages to patients regarding COVID-19. Michele Perry has more than 27 years of experience in software and health technology, an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

The focus in my career is on high-growth companies, and I am a SaaS-based software solutions veteran with almost 30 years of experience. I knew early on I wanted to be a CEO, and SaaS-based companies in their early growth stages gave me the opportunity to invest in entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities — that’s really important to me because so many people have invested in me throughout my career.

Before I accepted the position of CEO of Relatient in 2017 (headquartered in Tennessee), I lived in Maryland for 20 years. Positions I’ve previously held include serving as the CMO for Sourcefire and COO of GetWellNetwork, to name a few. I am an operating advisor at Elsewhere Partners and a Board Director for BurstIQ, and I served as board director for ThreatConnect and Unanet, and on advisory boards for several firms.

Throughout my career, I have spent time in New York, California and Virginia, but I am originally from Massachusetts. I attended Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania for my undergrad, and received my Master’s of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One book that has had a significant impact on me is Adam Grant’s “Give and Take.” I’m a firm believer in leading by lifting others, and this book takes a look at how supporting your employees and helping your neighbors ultimately contributes to your own success. Grant examines that one of the forces that drives successful leadership is taking a “win-win” approach. It is possible to benefit all parties involved, and he explains the reasoning behind this through rigorous studies and moving stories. Ultimately, the leader who is generous and gives most reaps the rewards of personal success, a loyal team, robust network and close family.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Through this global crisis, one silver lining is that we are granted the opportunity to cut the tape and digitally streamline processes we thought we couldn’t accomplish before. An example of this is the adoption of Telehealth, as well as implementation of automated patient engagement for more compliant, and ultimately healthier patient populations. Before the COVID-19 outbreak and initiative to stay home, some providers and patients did not feel inclined to adopt digital solutions like Patient Self-Scheduling — but they are doing it now. Our current state has relaxed regulations and given many organizations the financial incentive they needed to make a positive shift.
  2. Our sense of community has strengthened immensely — as a team at Relatient, and as neighbors; regionally, nationally and on a global scale. While everyone is affected by this pandemic differently, we are all experiencing this era together. I have seen so many people show up for one another, expressing acts of compassion, grace and humanity.
  3. Incredibly difficult times show us how resilient we truly are. This crisis has forced some of us to pivot our plans, and whether that be professionally, personally or both, we are proving to ourselves and one another that the human spirit can weather storms we once did not know was possible.
  4. Barriers are coming down because they have to. Doctors who weren’t before, are now seeing patients online and getting paid accordingly. Individuals are now able to attend AA or other support group meetings virtually, so they can maintain their progress and seek support from their groups. Patients have increased access to a plethora of options to care for their mental health online.
  5. Furthering our progress to unlock Healthcare’s Digital Front Door. Patients want to take an active role in managing their own health, desiring the ability to take ownership and have accessibility to information like they do in other areas of their lives.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  1. Give and Take,” the book I previously mentioned, is very relevant for these times. I recommend it as a read for anyone feeling anxious right now. Doing good for others not only makes a positive external impact, but benefits the giver in return. Here’s an example of some of those givers. Our company has a large office in Cookeville, TN, a town that was severely impacted by a tornado that tore through the town at the beginning of March, right before the COVID-19 crisis hit. One of our employees lost everything, and his family of five was fortunate to survive. His eleven-year-old son is our superhero and the entire company has banded together to cheer on that young boy through his surgeries this past month. The company rallied around this team member to cover for his responsibilities at work, and collectively donated 22K+ dollars within a few days plus clothing, computers, two cars and one of Relatient’s investors donated the entirety of furniture from their storage.
  2. Over-communicate with the people in your life. With your team, your loved ones and your community. During this time, people are trying to balance fear of the future, worries of health and job security, working from home and caring for their kids and ensuring they have normalcy as we move through uncharted territory. People are able to step in where needed if you communicate that you can use some extra support.
  3. For the organization executives and leaders reading this, be as flexible as possible with your team. I’ve communicated with my employees that, if needed, they can adjust their schedule to work better for their families. Our daily lives look different than they used to, so individuals need to adjust and adapt their calendars to best work for them.
  4. Look at this time at home as a gift. You are now granted more time than before to spend with the loved ones you live with, and for the family and friends you aren’t able to see in person, you still have much more time to connect with over the phone or virtually. I have spent every evening in the past week chatting with loved ones, from my siblings to dear friends from high school. My mom turned 85 recently, and in lieu of the big birthday plans that had to be canceled, our family threw a surprise party over Zoom where we all ate cake and celebrated my mom. None of us expected life to look like this now, but we are making it work and cherishing the things that matter most.
  5. Volunteer. Find a cause that you’re passionate about and contribute your time to help others.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

If an employee expresses his or her anxieties to me, I encourage them to utilize their resources, like our employee assistance program. I also would advise the employee to spend time connecting with his or her manager to ensure there is clear communication and see if there are any adjustments that need to be made with their workload or schedule. Especially during this difficult time, I want to make sure that professional life is not one of the causes of their anxiety.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

On my wall, I have a painting of the quote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I’ve always loved this saying, because I strongly believe in making the most of every situation. Every hardship in life holds a lesson and an opportunity for growth. We are a resilient country, and we will come out of this crisis eventually. I encourage all to focus on what you can control, and try not to worry about the rest.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

While I am flattered by this, I’d rather call out a few of the actions that others have already started. I am on the board of a Denver-based company called BurstIQ with a blockchain-based data solution. BurstIQ just launched ResearchFoundry to help people collaborate on research to tackle COVID-19 and other global health crises. The coalition brings together Fortune 100 enterprises, industry associations, public agencies and entrepreneurs to collaboratively solve global health challenges by securely sharing data to accelerate discovery and solution development.

On a smaller scale, you are seeing all kinds of informal efforts to make a difference and be givers. I love John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” YouTube series and the attention he’s bringing to some of these amazing stories including giving away future great Red Sox seats to Boston nurses this past week. I also see so many of these efforts on my own Facebook feed from my large extended family and friends.

Across our country, people are rallying to support the healthcare workers on the frontlines with meal deliveries, personal protective equipment donations and even creating face shields with 3D printers. Various communities have folks shopping for the elderly and those with auto-immune diseases to minimize their risks. Individuals making masks for farmer’s markets like Relatient’s Director of Customer Success who made over 100. My sister, Mary-Kate Perry and her friend Andrea Castinetti at the Kindness Coalition rallied friends and family in Worcester, MA to raise more than 30K dollars and make arrangements to get supplies to healthcare workers not just in hospitals, but also for those who work in nursing homes and at-home healthcare. There are teachers making house calls by driving by students’ homes to teach them lessons outside their window or just to say hello and brighten their day.

Some of the initiatives I mentioned are small, but they give people a chance to make a mighty difference.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Visit our website at http://www.relatient.net.

Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter @Relatient or like us on Facebook.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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