Jordan Dolin – Founder, Emmi Solutions

Jordan Dolin
Jordan Dolin is the Founder of Emmi Solutions, a Chicago based healthcare information technology company. The Company creates interactive patient engagement programs that are used at leading hospitals and healthcare organizations nationwide. Through patient engagement, the programs created by Emmi Solutions address the serious issues facing the US healthcare system; increasing financial pressures coupled with a growing lack of resources. The company has proven the ability to reduce costs while increasing the reach and efficacy of caregivers.

Emmi® programs engage patients and enable them to take a more active role in their own care. As a result, patients are more satisfied, more compliant with physicians’ instructions, demonstrably safer and less likely to file a malpractice claim. Representative clients include the Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Health System, Stanford University Medical System, Kaiser Permanente and many others.

More than 6 million patients have been prescribed an Emmi program and over a dozen outcome studies have been conducted to quantify the clinical and economic benefits of the product. The company continues to be the market leader in patient engagement solutions and grown steadily since its inception. In each of the last 2 years, Emmi Solutions has been included on the INC5000 list of the fastest growing American companies.

Jordan is a frequent speaker and author on the topics of patient education and healthcare communications. He is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 24 years experience starting and running companies. Jordan’s work has been featured in many publications including the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune. He is also an active member of the Chicago entrepreneurial community and serves as an adjunct professor at University of Chicago’s Booth Graduate Business School.

Before founding Emmi Solutions, Jordan spent 3 years serving on the Executive Team of an early stage artificial intelligence software company. Prior to that he was the Chief Executive Officer of The Psychographic Design Group from 1986-19999. Jordan holds a BA in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Masters Degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism’s Integrated Marketing and Communications program. Jordan is also a member of the Economic Club of Chicago.

He and his wife, Jenny, have 3 sons, Henry, Charlie and Cooper.

1. How do you define success?
In my mind, there are a number of ways to answer this question. I guess that success can be defined from within or by looking at criteria that others have set. For example, achieving what you set out to accomplish certainly would be an acceptable definition in my book. However, when I founded Emmi Solutions and raised money from investors, their definition was primarily tied to economic measures. When it comes to the business world, I would always advise to sort these things out up front so there is no debate down the road. Also, I think it’s worth noting that it can be a moving target and likely to evolve over time. I know that my answer today is vastly different than it would have been 10 years ago.

2. What is the key to success?
To me, there is no single key to success (with the exception of pure luck), but rather a list of common attributes that tend to be shared amongst successful people. A few that come to mind are:

1) Tenacity and the ability to remain committed to an idea regardless of the circumstances. When you look to introduce a new idea, product or process you are going to encounter significant challenges. People are reluctant to change and regardless of the endeavor or inherent value of a new idea, there will be those who fight to protect the status quo.

2) Honesty and integrity. Mean what you say and say what you mean.

3) Intelligence. There is a certain level or form of intellect required to see an opportunity to either create something or make something better. It’s not measured in IQ, it’s more a way of looking at the world. The other and even more critical is being smart enough to understand the things you aren’t very good at and having the courage to do something about it.

4) The willingness to fail. There is a great excerpt from the famous Teddy Roosevelt speech titled ”Citizenship In a Republic” that sums it up far better than I ever could: ”It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

3. Did you always know you would be successful?
No, not at all. In truth, I don’t really consider myself successful. I certainly feel fortunate, lucky and even a bit proud on some levels. However, there is an almost endless list of things I want to change or improve upon. I think I always knew I would get by somehow but that hardly qualifies.

4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
A combination of hubris and stupidity is probably the most honest answer. If you look at my responses to the 2nd question above, it will add some more color. For better or worse, these are all attributes/beliefs that I embrace and try to adhere to, sometimes to a fault.

5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Do your homework and take the time to make decisions in a careful and reasoned manner. Emotion clouds your judgment and can lead you to make poor choices. The most important time to apply this is when it comes to people. I have been burned more times than I can count, or care to admit, because of this. Entrepreneurs tend to rely heavily on their instincts which has positive and negative connotations. I truly believe that people by and large don’t change when it comes to ethics and honesty. Check references and don’t be rushed into making decisions when it comes to these issues.

6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I have three great kids and a loving and supportive wife, and spending time as a family is a high priority. My hobbies are food and music so when time permits I really enjoy cooking and playing guitar. On the business front, I spend a lot of time mentoring and coaching start-ups. I believe that entrepreneurs drive innovation and job creation. If I can share what I’ve learned along the way and help someone avoid the mistakes I’ve made or help to expedite their success, than I’m always happy to do so.

7. What makes a great leader?
I really wish I knew the answer to that! Leadership is an odd thing because the requisite attributes are often in conflict with one another. The people who have the courage to blaze a new path or question the status quo, often make terrible managers. Look at someone like Steve Jobs, he is an inspiration to millions of people and was a great leader at Apple. However, he was fired as CEO and evidently a nightmare to work for. He cried (literally) when he didn’t get his way and would crush the spirits of those closest to him in pursuit of what he felt was right.

I think there are people who make great leaders but since I’m not one of them all I can do is guess. I know that in order for people to achieve their best they have to be managed in a style that is most suited to their needs. As such, I would think a great leader would be able to pick up on this and bring the best out in people. I also think that really successful organizations are the result of teams of people, not the contribution of any one person. An individual can serve as a catalyst or inspiration to start the process, but business success is a team effort and therefore I would consider a great leader to be more of a coach than the star player. A great example would be the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan years. He was always a superstar but the team didn’t start to win championships until Phil Jackson helped all those great players perform as a cohesive unit.

8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Focus on doing something you love. People come out of college and need to get a job so they can feed themselves and move out of their parents house. I totally understand that and am not saying that you can have your dream job before the ink dries on your diploma. Be thoughtful in your choices and don’t just think about the money, unless that is your only motivation.

This may sound strange but it doesn’t take very much money to have all the money you need. Not to confuse all you ”need” with all you ”want.” When I say all the money you need, I’m referring to making enough to support yourself and your wife with basic needs such as food, shelter and some entertainment. Once you are past the euphoria of having your first job and being able to actually support yourself, you will begin to think about what you are actually doing for a living.

Over the course of your career, you are going to spend a awful lot of time working. If it’s not something you believe in or are passionate about, that’s going to make for a long, painful slog. I recently turned 50, so I’m neither old nor young and I don’t have a single friend whose ”in it for the money.” Of course, you must support your family but the question posed to me was about college students so I’m assuming they are all able to be gainfully employed in some capacity. There is that old saying that if you do something you love than you will never have to work a day in your life. These are words to live by and I encourage my kids to take them to heart.

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