Terry Rowinski: “Fighting for a better way”

I know that people keep repeating the same things; be selfish and take time for yourself, say “no”, always leverage to others, etc. I personally hold the belief that true leaders thrive and enjoy the controlled chaos of being a leader by investing in those around you to help them achieve higher heights in their […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

I know that people keep repeating the same things; be selfish and take time for yourself, say “no”, always leverage to others, etc. I personally hold the belief that true leaders thrive and enjoy the controlled chaos of being a leader by investing in those around you to help them achieve higher heights in their work content, quality and quantity. In this, become a teacher-coach and not just a boss. The reciprocal adrenaline rush of truly helping others and helping the tide to rise in a company is a motivator to keep going. Last, do not undersell the time to exercise. I’m a huge brand advocate for a maturing cardiovascular bike and treadmill company that has digital content that I can use at any time to decompress and/or have someone challenge me to do something greater with what I have control of my body and mind.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of Health Payment Systems (HPS), Terry Rowinski. Terry entered the workforce with a degree in finance and management computer systems and was quickly recognized for his exceptional operations insight as well as team and project leadership. Since 1990, Terry has been instrumental in organizational turning points which include leading the successful relaunch of Kohls.com. And as the CEO of HPS, Terry has yielded 80%+ employee engagement, earned the title, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Best Places to Work, 2017–2018 and been awarded the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Ethical Behavior in 2018.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Terry! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I am the President of Health Payment Systems, Inc., a Milwaukee, WI based firm committed to enhancing the consumer’s health care payment experience via proprietary technology and business processes anchored in our product, the SuperEOB(r), which is presently experienced in Wisconsin’s largest independent provider healthcare (“HPS”) network for use by self and level-funded employers.

Our team fights for a better way to reduce the cost of healthcare for the consumer and the employer, while increasing provider reimbursement rates by engaging each party in making the consumer experience easy to understand and use.

Over the past 30 years of my career, I’ve been a part of organizations “fighting for a better way” in the business segment that they owned or participated in. From my own personal beginning, while earning my undergraduate degree as a finance and management computer system major, I started my career as a software engineer implementing custom electronic solutions for the supply chain logistics industry being on the leading edge of robotics and materials management. Doing this for 12+ years gave me a foundation in both technology and business process management. My various professional and philanthropic roles have taught both sides of my brain to use hard data and facts combined with learned emotional intelligence and finesse in both how to listen and learn, and lead — whether it be retail, e-tail, process manufacturing or other business industries, the application of working with and leading teams to achieve and solve significant business issues by finding and “fighting for” a better way is what has personally motivated me.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I pride myself on staying connected and abreast of trends and innovation going on in the healthcare space. I try to convey that in everything that I do.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

As a leader in other companies prior to joining HPS, I understood the impact of healthcare expenses to my company’s bottom line and also, health and wellness activities to create countermeasures to social determinants of health. What I had not understood until joining and leading HPS is just how “broken” the American healthcare ecosystem is in terms of the numerous conflicts created around both principals, financial and health and wellness, amongst those charged with keeping us from becoming ill or caring for us once ill.

When I define brokenness in healthcare finances, you have at least four major parties all appearing to operate in conflict of the patient and its best results; providers of medical services who are either employed by health care systems or practice independent medicine, the insurance entities (companies, brokers, etc.) who create the health plan, employers who are charged with a fiduciary duty to give their employees the best benefit plan possible while not breaking their own company budget, and then the ultimate consumer/responsible party for payment of healthcare. In very few instances do all of these parties share risk or work towards the proverbial win-win financial and health outcome. In Wisconsin, this is even more exaggerated as our state shows itself to be consistently among the top 5 on a cost per capita ranking with great quality. How to push/pull levers to reduce cost while maintaining or increasing quality is the holy grail.

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?

There is one specific instance that really helped mold me into the individual that I am today. In one of my former roles, I was very directive, and I didn’t realize how directive I was in terms of running the company. It was to the point where I was taking decision-making away from folks.

One day I was walking to my office and passed part of our finance team. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a “WWTD” sticker and looked closely to see it said, “What Would Terry Do?”

This caused some dry sweats and a little bit of a heart palpitation moment. It really hit me that I was overly managing of my folks and a little bit of a helicopter leader.

From that point I really looked for additional attention from others to help me understand how to become a better leader. I reached out to to one of my past bosses / mentors at one of my past organizations and said “John, you’re never going to believe what ended up happening.” And as I told him the story he is like, “Well you know we kind of helped raise you that way but we didn’t quite polish off the rest of what you need to do to get accomplished so here’s my advice…”

And I went back to my organization after a few days and started to unwind the overall authoritarian Terry regime and management style and really start to impart that decision-making and accountability into my people.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

A thought leader, or influencer is someone who, based on their expertise and perspective in an industry, offers unique guidance, inspires innovation and influences others.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

It is important to position yourself as a leader and subject matter expert in your space. This allows for credibility and opportunity.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry.

  • Be informed.
  • Take calculated risks.
  • Showcase your areas of expertise. Learning the art of self promotion is key.
  • Connect with other thought leaders in your space to leverage each other’s ideas.
  • Never stop learning.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Kevin Mansell, the ex-CEO of Kohl’s Corporation had been a past mentor of mine while I was a GMM and Vice President of Ecommerce at Kohl’s. In working for and watching Kevin work during the time of positive operating results and major retail store (and e-commerce expansion) I saw someone who used both data and intuition to drive deep into questions that imminent as the company continued to open retail locations outside of the Midwest — how do we talk to “her” (the ultimate buyer), how to we enhance our assortment, service and convenience, how do we do all of this while driving out cost and creating proper customer, shareholder, and employee value?

Kevin approached all people equally and with the same respect (he both spent the time AND listened to them) at all levels in the company and the community. His personal support for community, philanthropy and other activities that showed that a company could be profitable while being human was key in shaping my future career aspirations and execution.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

There are so many buzzwords out there that are overused. The concept of being a thought leader is a very important one.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

I know that people keep repeating the same things; be selfish and take time for yourself, say “no”, always leverage to others, etc. I personally hold the belief that true leaders thrive and enjoy the controlled chaos of being a leader by investing in those around you to help them achieve higher heights in their work content, quality and quantity. In this, become a teacher-coach and not just a boss. The reciprocal adrenaline rush of truly helping others and helping the tide to rise in a company is a motivator to keep going. Last, do not undersell the time to exercise. I’m a huge brand advocate for a maturing cardiovascular bike and treadmill company that has digital content that I can use at any time to decompress and/or have someone challenge me to do something greater with what I have control of my body and mind.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

Invest in creating stable homes and then the education of others. I am not going to cause a political battle with this but our people will never rise above the education (school and practical work life) that they are given and before that can happen, they need to be able to rise to/above their social circumstances in their homes. If you know of an acquaintance, an employee, a friend that is not getting the support that they need, let’s find a way to do it together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Simple. “Figure it out.” This is so popular in my own home and in my business that my youngest son even put it as his quotable in his high school yearbook two years back. My grandfather who came from European ancestry fought very hard to be a part of the fabric of the US and in doing such, thought that he owed the people in his community the best that he could give through his own business, his service in the armed forces, and his religious affiliation. He always taught me to try my best first to “figure it out” and then, if in doing so I needed to involve others to do such with humility, patience and thankfulness. This is one of those repeatable yet simple life statements that can unleash a person to strive to be their best alone, as part of a team, or a part of a movement.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

This may seem very odd but I would love to meet with President of the European Commission — Jean-Claude Juncker. He has served a life of political executive branch service and one of the longest serving democratically elected officials in the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Find me at:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/terryrowinski/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/terryrowinski / @terryrowinski

Find my team at:

https://info.hps.md/blog

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/health-payment-systems-inc-

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HPSOneBill / @HPSOneBill

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Kelsey Raymond of Influence & Co: “Write and publish high-quality content”

by Ben Ari
Community//

5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry, With Rick Cottrell

by Yitzi Weiner
Community//

“5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry” With Tom DuFore of Big Sky Franchise Team

by Yitzi Weiner
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.