Unlocking Innovators and Breaking The Mold with Tony Michuda

Skot Waldron:

Unlocked is brought to you by Invincible, a program designed to unlock the potential of people and teams inside your organization. Join companies like Pfizer, Delta, the CDC, Google, and Chick-fil-A, and others in over 116 countries that are currently using this program to increase productivity and develop healthy cultures. Access hundreds of hours of content that is accessible anytime, anywhere. And finally, use real-time data to understand the health of every team inside your organization, which teams are performing, which ones aren't, then understand the why behind that performance. Get free access to Invincible for 30 days by visiting www.giant.tv/30days.

How do you start a company without having a ton of experience and do it in a way during COVID that is still successful? Well, you do it by getting the right people behind you, the right people onboard, having a good vision, a mission, and values that people can believe in, and having them also be something that's really important. Tony expresses what that is in this interview. And I think it's really, really, really important. I don't think enough people allow their employees to be this thing. And that's what's so, so important. Tony talks a lot about different ways to break the mold. And that's what's really important to understand when building a company, when growing a company, or when being part of a company is that you can't always do everything the same way over and over, and over again and expect different results. We've got to think of ways to do things differently that allow us to grow and allow us to be who we're designed to be. So, in this next interview, that's what I want you to listen to. I hope you enjoy this, and let's get going.

Welcome to another episode of Unlocked. This is the Unlocked COVID edition, where your host, Skot, has some COVID recovery going on. So, I'm going to go ahead and excuse myself, my voice, and maybe some clearing of the throat while we do this interview. But Tony Michuda is with us today, and he is a young, thriving entrepreneur in the world of health care. And maybe it's timely that we're talking right now because you're on the front lines of COVID and doing the things that you're doing right now. So, give us a queek... A queek. Give us a quick intro about what you're doing in the world of COVID right now.

Tony Michuda:

Awesome. Thanks for having me, first of all, Skot. I appreciate it. And props to you for powering through today on the COVID front. Glad to hear you're feeling better. Yeah, it is timely because our company, InHealth Management Group and InHealth Life Sciences are an innovative healthcare delivery method through all things laboratory and healthcare. We originally started in our industry to be able to help tackle the opiate crisis through our high-complexity toxicology. And this was a way to just help patients and physicians really drive value closer and closer to the actual encounter versus traditional methods where they're outsourcing to a third-party laboratory. And this really helped us enable this approach in healthcare towards more of a value-based strategy of really centralizing healthcare towards what they're focused.

Then all of a sudden, COVID hit, and like pretty much every business in the world, I think, we had to adapt, and we had to adjust. And fortunately for us, Dr. Deborah Kyle, who is our laboratory director, she's a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant scientist who help develop some of these technologies, and approaches, and methods in saliva-based COVID testing. And through our partnerships, we've been able to develop this method we call SalivirDetect, which is a saliva-based COVID test, still through the PCR traditional method. So, instead of a nasal pharyngeal swab that you're used to seeing, we do that through a saliva-based test. This enabled us to do a couple of things. We could save a tremendous amount of PPE for providers and physicians, creating an ability for them to interact with the patients safely and be able to hand a patient a test tube they can self-administer.

Our laboratory turnaround times are as good, if not better, than most of what you're experiencing around the country. And then, mostly, just improving the process because our laboratory test is actually a non-reagent-based test. So, it's been enabling providers, healthcare systems, medical groups, and even employers. We've been working with churches, doing a lot with the drive-through clinics. So, we've had quite a lot of different things that we've had to adapt to in our industry. And as COVID goes, it's been just every day is a new day, and we're trying to just do the best we can to provide the best care.


You're a young guy that has brought on the help of some experienced professionals in your world. Your business model's a little bit different too. Instead of working from the bottom up, just plow on through doing the kind of grunt work that it's going to take to get into these big hospital systems or to talk to these other individuals about what they need to do to give you a chance, right? Why should anybody give you a chance? Tell me about your approach to this whole getting into business, and also, how do you shape what you're currently doing in order to make sure that people do give you the chance?


Well, I think the biggest thing is, is when you're in healthcare as a young entrepreneur like myself, fortunately, we have the experienced people to really help us deliver the high-complexity science, but it's really getting that message across to big systems to enact big change. If you're going to change healthcare for the better, you have to do it in scale. It's very difficult to try to do it on a one-to-one basis across the country. So, for us, our biggest credit, I think, to our success is really driving the why message behind what we do.

And this really goes parallel to our organization for our people as well in their day-to-day lives and in trying to serve the communities that we serve. We're a national company, so we're spread and coast to coast. And I think that the thing that's been incredible for us is just our mission to improve access, availability, and affordability of healthcare has really helped us motivate a lot of large decision-makers in healthcare to move forward with some things that are a little bit outside their comfort zone. Because something like healthcare that's so big in our country, it's hard to motivate people to change.

But I think when you focus on the why versus the what, it's been a big message. And that goes all the way back to my days at university. I was fortunate to work under some mentors that were saying, "Here's the way that business is, and how do we really motivate people to change?" And that's really through, what are we doing and how do we live our lives on mission? And then, how does the business encompass that? So, for us, it's been a true testament to the lifeblood of who we are in motivating people and especially within our organization, but then, bringing that out into the communities we serve.


You spoke about your purpose, your why, your vision, mission values. Tell me about those and why they are so central to what you're doing right now.


Well, I think what's really important is as a young company, we can't go out, and break the bank, and bringing people under our wing. And so, you really have to find people that believe what you believe. And I'm a big supporter of, I'm sure you've heard of Simon Sinek, Start With Why. And that really hit me in one of my classes in business class, in college, when I was at Notre Dame. One of my business classes introduced that concept and had us study the methods behind Simon's approach. And then, as I started reading about organizations and diving into what they do, I realized the ones that do enact the biggest change probably are because they're motivating people under the same mission, vision, values. And when people believe what you believe, it's really important, as an organization, to be able to let people have the method to their own madness, not micromanage, but then, be able to drive that mission forward.

So, for us, I always pose the question to our people every single day of, who are you and who do you want to become? And I think that's really important for people to understand in their organization because there's a way to conduct business every single day that's parallel to what you believe. And a lot of our people in our organization are very, very, very dedicated to improving healthcare because they want to see healthcare become something that's available to everyone. And that's not something that you can govern. We really believe that that's something you can innovate and you can inspire. And so, that's how we've had the biggest impact for a lot of people through our organization, especially during a crisis of COVID. There's just so much chaos every single day, and to try to manage every single one of our people in our organization every single day, is that would be a task in and of itself.

And as things are constantly adapting and changing, we have to rely on our people to make some authoritative decisions in their own marketplaces. And I think it's really important that as long as people are on that brand and on that mission and understanding what our end goal is as an organization to improve healthcare for all of us, it's amazing to see how well a young organization can thrive in something as chaotic and complex as healthcare. And then, you throw COVID into the mix, and it's been pretty incredible to watch. I'm really proud of our people.


Because you talk about not being a babysitter.




Right? You mentioned that in our little pre-call here. And what is interesting is when you mentioned you're a young guy. You don't have 30 years of managerial experience behind you with coming in to manage a company, and manage a team, and to manage people, let alone a startup, right? This is not something where it's like, "Hey, it's already rolling. It's already got its thing going. And now, you just have to be the people manager." This is something where you're building things on all fronts and really trying to understand what to do to get people behind you to move forward because you don't have time to mess around with a lot of the day-to-day people stuff. Right? So, the overarching strategy is get people that believe what you believe, and they will follow. And they will blaze their own trails that are in line with the trails that you're blazing yourself as a company to make sure you're also achieving the same goal. Right?


Absolutely. I think since graduating college and getting into the working world and trying to find my own career path, I wasn't somebody who wanted to jump into healthcare. I just knew I wanted to make the world a better place. I think as individuals, we're always trying to find who we are and what we believe. And I think that that's so paramount to just business in general, nowadays, especially my generation. I think everybody's looking for something that supports what they believe, and that's becoming more and more important than versus compensation packages because I think that's what really motivates people and gets them out of bed every day. I think that throughout my life and my professional career, I found a lot of success in... They talk about thinking outside the box. In my life, there is no box. It's really thinking about how do we enact the biggest change? And not being afraid of change and embracing it.

I think that that's a lot of who we are as a healthcare organization. We've seen the success as individuals, myself and my business partners included, but then, from our day-to-day operations type people, our people in the lab, they're not afraid to embrace change. And I think during COVID, that is why we just hit the ground running, when we realized that we had opportunities to contribute to this fight, to be on the front lines running testing across the country, and be able to really serve. And I think that service is a huge part of who we are. I think when everybody's under that banner, they're not worried about how many hours they're putting in, how much they're being paid because that stuff will come. But when you're motivated and you believe what you're doing, the rest of the trivial stuff doesn't matter so much. And I've really seen our team come together through that.


You talk about every person that comes to work with you is an innovator and that mindset of what that takes. Why is that so important?


Well, because I think innovation isn't just... I think people think about innovators, and they think of an Elon Musk, or a Steve Jobs, or Mark Cuban, or Richard Branson. You don't have to go to the moon to be an innovator. You don't have to try to change every car on the road to be an innovator. You can be an innovator in your small day-to-day approaches to things. We've had tremendous people in our laboratory that have just said, "Hey, in order to process more samples, I think we can do this better by using robotics." Or, "I think we can do this better by monitoring those robotics through a camera technology that's using AI to find how we can improve our process flow." And stuff like that in the day-to-day then really trickles down into our ability to serve more patients, which during our fight with COVID, has been just so important with... There's been more stories than I can count of people telling me they've been turned away because there's not enough testing, or they've been turned away because they can't handle the volume and the demand for testing.

So, you think about one instance where one individual steps outside of their comfort zone because they believe in innovation, they believe in what we believe is always challenging that status quo, and that trickles down into our ability to maybe test two times more than we could the day before. Or we could get an extra run in to be able to test COVID, and that might be 96 more tests that get done that day that could avoid the next day results where a person might test positive, and you're avoiding an encounter with a family member, a loved one, a friend, a relative. So, I think that that's where innovation, in and of itself, then all of a sudden, it snowballs into this bigger impact down the road. So, it could be stuff as simple as thinking outside the box of where we want to go for our COVID testing.

Yes, we're in healthcare. Yes, we work with big systems. But working with different church groups and saying, "Hey, how do we help people when they're trying to bring employees back?" Churches have big parking lots. One of our team members was like, "Hey, why can't we use that to serve the community? Because they're not going to church in some communities right now because of social distancing and different requirements through the phases of COVID, and why don't we utilize that resource?" And I saw that immediately snowball into a meeting, which led to the possibility for us to test thousands of people a week. So, it's that culture of, as the leader in our organization, myself and my business partner, we've got a lot of great ideas, but we also have a lot of responsibilities to keep moving the business forward and making sure that we have cashflow to increase our throughput if we need more equipment, working on the day-to-day with large health systems and strategize how we can make the biggest change.

So, having people in our organization that embrace that innovative side of who they are in our culture, our mission, our vision, our value creates little moments like that, that snowball into big impact. That's why I just continually drive that message forward because I've seen it reap the rewards time and time again. And it's really exciting to watch. And it's great to see someone's small idea turn into a big impact because that's really what makes a company like ours so successful.


What's the biggest problem that current leadership in any industry, you would feel, has right now when it comes to leading younger individuals? Anybody in that place, whether they're just coming out of college, maybe they're around your age, around 30 years old or so, and coming into the workspace, or being part of something. What's the biggest problem that you see in the world of leadership right now?


It goes back to what I said, just being afraid of change. I think that organizations across all fronts, and I'll use healthcare for example. You have these big bureaucratic systems that have a lot of decision-makers that need to weigh in. And sometimes, you need... We'll have 10, 20 people in a room, and they need to make sure everybody's in the room, make sure everybody hears what's going on, and then, they meet. And before you know it, it's six months to a year goes by before any decision actually is made. I'm not saying that you need to recklessly jump into opportunities that are trying to move an industry forward. But I think you need to have a lot of faith in people to be able to have a little bit more autonomy over what they're doing.

I've seen it time and time again with different friends and different organizations where these are brilliant people, and they've got great ideas, and they try to bring those ideas to the decision makers, and it either falls on deaf ears, or it gets lost in the shuffle. And I think that creating mechanisms that really cultures and support just really radical, new ideas that want to change industries for the better is really where industries need to go. Our organization is trying to be a testament to that exact belief that, let everyone be innovators. Let everyone realize that no idea too big or too small is not worth the discussion. With that comes the responsibility of being able to understand what's worth the squeeze, what juice is worth the squeeze because sometimes, companies will have a million great ideas, but nothing ever gets accomplished.

So, I think there's a bit of balance that you have to find, and I think that's a cool character trait of our organization, as well, is we've got 30, 40-year healthcare leaders who know the big industries. They know some of the pitfalls of trying to get certain things done. So, they're able to take our really innovative people and find that middle ground because you don't want to bite off more than you can chew or you don't want to run head-first into a great idea before you run through beta testing and really make sure that these ideas are something that are practical. Because I think that's the hard part is really finding that balance. So, it's how do you motivate, how do you communicate? But then, also, how do you prioritize what makes the biggest impact for the organization, and what's even possible at the time?

Because we've got a lot of great ideas, but when something like COVID hits the global healthcare market, we need to reshuffle our priorities and figure out, okay, well, how do we take some of those ideas and apply them? And how do we make sure that we don't forget about good ideas? And then, once things... I don't think we're ever going back to normal, so to speak, but I think how do we eventually then bring those back into our core competencies? So, I think it's just this constant evolution, this constant change, I think you have to embrace it. It's not something to fear, but it's also not something to follow blindly. So, I think that's really important.


That's really smart. Let your people be innovators. Let them have a voice because there's gold in there, but also, balance it out with reality, balance it out with the experience of the people that have been there that have the knowledge of what's there to marry the two and create practical solutions that are also trying to break the mold.


Absolutely. I think part of it is having that diversity in your organization is so important because it gives you diverse perspectives, but then, also gives you diverse experience because I think my generation was sort of the start of it. We had dial-up still, and I can't wait to explain that to our future generations that are coming in out of college. Because they probably have never experienced something like a flip phone or the three-button texting. But the instant gratification generation is coming, and they've got a lot of great ideas, but we also need to marry that with practicality, and we also need to understand that it takes time and patience. Our business took years to get our first win. We had a lot of great ideas, and we were really disruptive, but the patience part, I am extremely grateful for some of my more experienced colleagues and co-founder for saying, "Hey, Tony, we got great ideas, but we got to just let this thing fall into its own."

Because I was very impatient. I'm like, "We got all these great ideas. I want to get moving. I want to change the world." But it's like, hey, there's steps to this process. And I think that all those unique perspectives, it's really helped me grow as a leader. I'm not perfect. I've got a lot of great ideas, and I've got a lot of methods to my madness. I've always marched to the beat of my own drum, but with that comes the ability to listen, and I think that's important as well. You need to embrace that culture of change. You need to embrace that culture of speaking up. But then, as leaders, it's our responsibility to listen, but also, to encourage our teams to listen to each other. Because I think that that's where these ideas start to really form. And then, you can figure out what really is applicable and what's practical.


Right on, Tony. Good stuff, man. What can people do to find out more about you, about more what's going on here? Is there some contact info you like to put out there that's easy for people?


Yeah. I'm on LinkedIn, so I'm always open to interacting and discussing with people. I think with COVID, unfortunately, a lot of people have rushed into LinkedIn. And so, I'm sure all of us have experienced that our inboxes have been flooded with people who have ideas and opportunities. So, I'm trying to keep up with that as best as I can. So, if you want to reach out to me through LinkedIn, I promise I'll get back to you. But also, just our website and just understanding more of who we are and what we do. And then, also, just reaching out to me directly through... You can go to our website and reach out to our inquiry portal. We have an 800 number that goes to one of my inboxes that I can answer.

Obviously, you don't want to give out cell phones to the general public, and then, have phones ringing off the hook. But there's more than a million ways to reach out to us. And obviously, through you, as people want to talk more. We're so dedicated to inspiring change in healthcare, but just also in our world because I think that we all want to live this life in good health, AKA InHealth. Any change that we can inspire is for the better, and we just want to live our lives on mission with other great-minded people that are just really dedicated to bringing unity and making the world a better place.


Good words to end this thing. I really appreciate you, Tony, and good luck on everything you're doing. COVID stuff is not going away, as you can see. I'm evidence number one that we've got more of this coming. So, I hope you guys are able to make a real impact and change people's lives for the better. As you can tell, Tony has a lot of wisdom within that young mind of his. There's a lot that goes into listening to people, a lot that goes into trusting people, a lot that goes into marrying that innovation, that we're a new startup, we're doing our thing, and also, the wisdom of the experience and the people that have been there for a long time and letting them do their jobs. There's a lot that goes into starting this company. And he is so excited and passionate about having a vision, and a mission, and values that people can get behind, and letting them do their jobs, letting them be innovators, letting them push the mold, and break it, and do the things that are going to allow their company to excel.

He understands he's got good ideas, right? He's been there. He's built this company. But it's also about letting other people be the innovators that they are designed to be. I'm super grateful for Tony, wish him the best of luck in everything he's doing. If you want to find out more, you can go to my website at skotwaldron.com. There's another interviews are there. I've got some freebies for you at that website as well. You can go to my YouTube channel. Please subscribe, like, share this with other people, and let's get the word out about these great people doing great stuff. Okay. Well, I hope you have an awesome day, and I will talk to you next time.


Want to make your culture and team invincible?

You can create a culture of empowerment and liberation through better communication and alignment. We call these invincible teams. Make your team invincible through a data-driven approach that is used by Google, the CDC, the Air Force, Pfizer, and Chick-fil-A. Click here or the image below to learn more.

Create an invincible team