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7 Questions with Burgess Harrison
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7 Questions with Burgess Harrison
Name: Burgess Harrison
Current title: Executive Director
Current organisation: National Minority Health Association
Burgess Harrison., MBA Burgess brings a wide breadth of expertise to the National Minority Health Association. He comes with more than 25 years of home health, homecare, electronic visit verification, and telehealth technology experience. He is a pioneer in electronic visit verification and possesses a unique understanding of the market and issues patients and providers face. Burgess is an educator, former adjunct professor, marketing executive, and software business founder who happens to be a unique perspective to minority health. As an Albino with low vision from two black parents, Burgess leads the association with a unique personal healthcare journey and understands the impact of the lack of access as a child, as well as being an experiment or “lab project” for healthcare professionals.
He is the co-founder of Statchek, Inc.a pioneer in electronic visit verification in-home care (acquired by Wipro NYSE: WIT) and Ankota LLC, a SaaS home care technology company.
Having a family that has received home care and assisted living as well as elderly relatives afflicted with PICKs and dementia, Burgess is acutely aware of the issues that face minority and disadvantaged Americans when they need simple and complex medical services.
Burgess has developed innovative and forward-thinking programs to non-profits as he served on the boards of the American Red Cross of South Central Connecticut and Shoreline Foundation (S.A.R.A.H.). This is Burgess’s passion. He developed the concept for Operation Healthy You and after a year of development, Dr. Dalton saw the potential and joined forces to bring it to life in the NMHA. To borrow a phrase from his good friend and mentor John Hope Bryant, let’s go!
1. What have you found most challenging as a board member?
Keeping a keen focus strategic mid and long-term mission and brand while balancing pressing immediate issues
2. How did you become a board member? Can you please briefly tell the story?
On one board I was sought out due to my business and marketing experience and to serve as an outside independent director. Regarding my non profit board, I was introduced to the board chair and we shared a common vision for the mission of health equity.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I try to not let the urgent get in the way of what's important. I am far from perfect and recognize that I do the best I can. Because I have contacts and business in all US time zones, I have to keep that in mind. I have moved to 30-minute meetings. I start out with something for breakfast, so I have fuel for the day. I check for anything critical, confirm my meetings for the day. Check headlines to see that the world didn't end overnight and ideas or inspiration. I try to do one big task that moves the mission forward, drives revenue, membership/sponsorship or grants. I can't let being too tactical get in the way of strategic plans.
I try to do one thing good for someone, my wife and for myself. An introduction/referral between contacts for example. Maybe an email or call to a long-lost friend or contact just to say hi. I am on dinner duty during the week, so I try to put something nice on the table each night. I grill year-round. Evenings I spend time on Linkedin following up, creating or maintaining connections. I usually spend a few minutes checking up on Maui, our Zen-place and our vacation rental condo.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
With all the talk about COVID and how it has created a new normal--my feeling is one of, we need to be thinking as if something as impactful as COVID was hitting us every day. I try not to react to life but have a flexible philosophy and attitude that is adaptable to the environment. Assume there will be disasters, pandemics, cyber-attacks, electric grid blackouts, etc. I heard a government official say that it’s not when you will be hacked—every business probably has been hacked already you just don’t know it. Of course, I do not wish for these things but sadly, they are a fact of life. That's our new normal: employees, members, customers, shareholders, etc. expect leaders to be ready for anything, anytime and anywhere.
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a organisation?
Be aware and bounce everything off the best practice. Also look at every action as if an outsider was looking at your decision 5 years from now. Would it stand up under the test of time, outside scrutiny and best practices?
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a organisation?
The CEO works for the shareholder/members and they (shareholders) put the board in place to be a support to the CEO, guide him/her and provide a check and balance to management. The board sets broad policy and guidance and management runs the company/organization.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member so far?
Peace of mind in knowing that management is in place that was able to address the total shut down of our economy. More importantly that they had run the company in a manner where they were able to weather the storm. Management leadership shown through as store managers continued to meet weekly for months during the crisis. The story here is that good management that has an open dialog with the board creates a calm environment for an organization to operate successfully regardless of the situation.