If you ask Kent Gale what he thought KLAS would look like in 2016, he envisioned a room with 10 people “high-fiving each other after we got some great information.” What he never imagined was having the CEOs of the top health IT companies flying into town in corporate jets for a summit, or lawyers threatening to shut down his shop. No doubt it’s been quite a ride for the founder of KLAS, has has become an industry presence that is looked upon to rate the best vendors. In this interview, Gale talks about how KLAS was conceptualized, the early tweaks that ended up being game-changers, and how he leveraged his relationships to get providers talking. He also discusses his passion for interoperability, what he loves most about his job, and the role that mission work plays in his life.
- The best part of his job
- Adam’s evolution from rebel to leader
- Mission in Portugal to teach “self-worth”
- Doing “hands-on” work in Brazil with his wife
- Commandment #1: “Remember what we’re here for.”
- KLAS University
- Interoperability blog series – “It was therapeutic.”
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He’s had the reins at KLAS for about seven years now. And it’s been a great blessing. He’s got great integrity, he loves people and there’s not a better person than Adam, so it’s great to be a father and to have a son that’s done this.
I can’t think of anything that’s more rewarding than that — not having to worry about money or trying to figure out how you’re going to make a living. All you do is figure out how to help other people.
I still have a great passion for what KLAS does. I’m still an owner of KLAS, and whatever role I take will be one that would add value and wouldn’t get in the way of the great work that KLAS is doing.
I get nervous when I think we’re too casual, we don’t ask deep enough questions, we don’t understand what’s going on well enough. So we do huge amounts of training.
Gale: I’ll tell you what’s been the most exciting is to sit inside these hospitals with the executives and watch them describe to us what worked or didn’t work for them. I remember being in Pittsburgh once in a room with a CEO and a bunch of the doctors and the whole executive team on the seventh floor of this hospital, and having them tell us what it was like working with their vendors. And there was no buffering — this was the real world, and the docs were telling us and the CFO was talking to us, and it was just great to sit in the room and listen to them tell us what it was like working for the vendors that they had and knowing that this was so valuable to share anonymously with others as to what was working.
Gamble: That is amazing. And as far as working with your son, I can imagine that that’s an interesting dynamic. I don’t know if you foresaw him being involved for as long as he has, but has that been something where it was an adjustment to have a professional relationship?
Gale: Wow, if a father could have this with their children, it would be the world’s greatest blessing. When Adam was younger and he was in his teenage years, he had a curfew of midnight, and I just remember initially, the clock went past midnight, he hadn’t come in, and we were thinking the worst — had he been in an accident, is he out doing something he shouldn’t be. And then finally about quarter to one, he comes wheeling in the driveway, and of course we’re lying in bed wide-awake, frustrated and thinking about what we were going to do. My wife was going to go chat with him, and I knew that was not a good idea based on the emotions she had. So I went in his bedroom with him and I put a little poster up, and I put three squares on it. I put an X in one of them and I said, ‘So, you can be late three times. The third time we’re selling the car.’ And I think Adam knew that was real when I said it that way. A week later, he got another X, but he never got the third. He was always pushing the limits as a teenager. He was exciting, fun, and smart, but he always liked to push and see how far he could go. I was always biting my tongue and I thought, when he graduates and goes off to college, that’s going to be a great day.
Now I’m glad to be around him. He’s just awesome. He has matured, and he is much smarter and more congenial than I am, and he’s had the reins at KLAS in terms of operationally running the company for about seven years now. And it’s been a great blessing. He’s got great integrity, he loves people and there’s not a better person than Adam, so it’s great to be a father and have a son that’s done this. I have six children and I have to say if I’d had this experience with the other five, it would have also been a great experience.
Gamble: Obviously there’s a huge amount of trust in handing over those reins, and something that I’m sure he’s earned over the years.
Gale: Yes, and I think the people who work with him can speak to that much better than I can because as a dad I’m going to be incredibly biased. But I left to go to Portugal five years ago, and I was gone for a year and he ran the company while I was gone. When I came back, it was healthy, it was doing well, and he invited me back into the circle. He didn’t have to. I could have forced myself in, but the last four and a half years since I’ve been back from Portugal have just been a great experience. I’m going to leave next week for another year, and so hopefully it’s right.
Gamble: Can you just talk a little bit about the work you’re going to do and the role that plays in your life?
Gale: Certainly. It’s different than it was last time. When I went to Portugal, my sweetheart, Eileen and I knew our assignment was to work with the unemployed Portuguese people. A big part of that would be immigrants from Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome, Cabo Verde, places like that, so you had a real mix of people who were in the country that didn’t have employment, and our goal was to teach them about their own personal self-worth. It is a very religious-based calling that we have to go out and help people have real values, and it’s based on Jesus Christ and his commitment that we should love one another. And so, going there and trying to help people gain personal skills, gain employment and create stability in their life was great for a year.
As we go to Brazil, it will be somewhat different. We will be supporting about 200 other young missionaries and helping them get apartments set up, and as they do their service projects and other things, they’ll have a home base to come back to. And so we’ll be helping more on the physical aspects of keeping the apartments and the physical things together for the missionaries that are in that part of the country. So it’ll be more hands-on from that aspect.
During the week, we will also have an opportunity to go out and work with people and help them understand how important it is to love one another. And so, that’ll be what we’ll be doing for the next year in Recife, Brazil. It’s about 7 degrees from the equator, and so it’s up by the Amazon jungle. It will be hot, humid and a few places will have air conditioning, but most don’t.
Gamble: And I’m sure just by talking to you, it’s an experience that can be incredibly fulfilling.
Gale: It is. You give up all of the luxuries we have in our own homes. We’ll live in an apartment that’s pretty sterile, pretty simplistic. We’ll take everything we’re going to live with for the next year in two suitcases each. You don’t go on vacation while you’re there. You spend pretty much all your time doing good and helping, and it’s incredibly rewarding. I can’t think of anything that’s more rewarding than that — not having to worry about money or trying to figure out how you’re going to make a living. All you do is figure out how to help other people. It’s really a cool thing.
Gamble: Yeah, I’m sure it brings a great perspective. And now as far as after that, do you know yet what your plans are or is it something where we’ll kind of wait and see over the next year?
Gale: Well, certainly there are implications that come from just becoming older. Those physical things get in the way. But when I come home, I still have a great passion for what KLAS does, and I’m still an owner of KLAS, and whatever role I take will be one that would add value and wouldn’t get in the way of the great work that KLAS is doing.
Gamble: As you said before, the company’s in good hands, so that probably puts your mind at ease when going away.
Gale: It is. We have wonderful, wonderful people that have great integrity, great passion, a sense of urgency to get the job done right, and hopefully we maintain an open dialogue within the walls of the company so that we work well together. That’s going to be Adam’s role, to make sure that everybody works well and is highly productive and enjoys what they’re doing.
Gamble: Well, KLAS has really certainly done some interesting work, and as the industry continues to face challenges, it’s the hope of everyone that people keep talking. So we want to recognize the work KLAS has done in getting that conversation moving along, especially with things like interoperability and security.
Gale: Yes, that’s true. I get nervous sometimes when I think that we get too casual about the quality inside KLAS. We have our number one commandment that everything we do has to benefit the provider. We’ve got 10 commandments, and the number one is let’s remember what we’re here for. We’re here to help the provider organization deliver the care that they need to deliver with the technology and consulting services that are out there.
That being the case, I get nervous when I think we’re too casual, we don’t ask deep enough questions, we don’t understand what’s going on well enough. So we do huge amounts of training. We have KLAS University inside the walls here where all of the people who come in have to graduate and get certificates to validate that they can do what they’re doing. We want to keep that level as high as it is or make it even stronger and better as we go along.
We have probably the world’s best with Jenifer Gordon in making sure the quality in this company stays at a high level. She is amazing. It’s almost like you run into certain people that genetically should have done this from birth. She just keeps us on the right track.
Gamble: Right. It’s been really interesting to hear about your journey from the beginning, and I think that this is really interesting. Hopefully, the readers will agree too, but I wanted to thank you so much for your time.
Gale: You’re welcome. And Kate, what you’ve done in helping with the 10 or 12 blogs that I just did was fun for me. It was kind of like a therapeutic element because I love doing interop. I loved helping capture the research and I really enjoyed getting to break it into pieces as you’ve allowed us to do with the blogs.
Gamble: Sure. We were happy to publish it and be part of it, because there’s a reason that it’s a topic that’s so big right now. There’s a lot to be explored, and so we definitely appreciated being part of that.
Gale: Well, thank you, it’s been good on our end too.
Gamble: All right. Thanks so much, and best of luck with the mission. It sounds like incredible work, and I’m sure it’ll be a great experience for you guys.
Gale: Sure. And I hope to have a little blog myself — a little link that I’ll send out periodically. Maybe I’ll send a clip once in a while and you can see what it looks like in Recife, Brazil.
Gamble: Definitely, I’d like that.
Gale: Okay, thanks, Kate. This has been awesome.
Gamble: Thank you, and best of luck.