“Time for self-reflection.” With Charlie Katz & Carolyn Morgan
First published on Thrive Global.
As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carolyn Morgan.
Carolyn is the President of PRECISIONeffect, the nation’s only advertising agency working with innovative healthcare companies to change the standards of care. In addition to her role at Precision effect, Morgan also oversees the HCP, patient, and consumer service offerings for Precision Value & Health. An experienced veteran when it comes to creating and manifesting a work-life balance for her employees, Carolyn is currently raising four children — two sets of twins.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I graduated from Bentley University in 1998 during the dot-com boom. My agency life started in public relations and I thrived in the frenetic pace, creativity and intense demands of this world. After I witnessed a childhood friend pass away, healthcare became my personal focus and my passion, so I made the jump to an agency that specialized in patient recruitment for clinical trials.
Based in science, this new type of role came naturally to me and I was in heaven — learning mechanism of actions, dissecting protocols and uncovering the drivers and nuances of why people participate in trials was a lot of fun. However, I missed the commercial side of the business and sought to join the only agency in Boston that was solely focused on healthcare at the time. Luckily, I landed a job as an Account Director, and 15 years later, I am now the President, overseeing two business in four locations. My trajectory has exceeded my wildest dreams, and I still love the energetic pace of agency life and the constant intellectual challenge of the healthcare space.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Not sure it is a funny “ha-ha” moment, but I think people would be surprised to hear that I was fired from my first job. While it was the single most humiliating moment of my adult life, it completely rewrote my story. That experience instantly taught me that hard work was the only way forward, and I have not taken my foot off the gas pedal since.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
One of the reasons I love the agency life is that you are always a student — you have to be constantly learning a new therapeutic category or new communications medium. There is no time in which you can be completely on top of your game and know everything — there is always more to learn and consume.
To stay informed, I am usually reading at least one book for professional growth and one for pleasure. Podcasts are my driving companion (well, when I drove to work!) as my Boston commute can be upwards of 1.5 hours. One of my favorites is ‘How I Built This’ By Guy Raz. In the podcast, he interviews entrepreneurs from top brands on how they got their start, built their vision and became leaders of significant and influential brands. Whether it is an interesting fact, analogue or a new concept to apply to the business, I learn something in every episode.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I could not agree with this notion more. When everyone believes in your company mission and knows your North Star, you win. Our mission is to work with innovative companies in the healthcare space that are rewriting the rules of medicine — companies who are bringing industry firsts into the market that change patient’s lives for the better. Everyone who works at Precision effect embraces this singular focus, which makes us a cohesive unit moving towards the same outcome to change the standard of care.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I have taken this Maya Angelou quote to heart. I often share it with managers, my children and more importantly, I personally try to practice this notion every day. I want my team members to feel supported by me at all times, especially if we are in a tough moment or conversation. To me, that is a key ingredient of leadership — can my colleagues feel that I care for them and that I have their back? I strive for a positive response to this question every day.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I have two sets of twins that are 9-years old and 7-years old — 4th and 1st grade. Three of the four are dyslexic. Teaching them at home has been an enormous challenge that has really tested my patience and my abilities. My husband teaches the 4th graders and I teach the 1st graders. It took me a few weeks to get into a rhythm, but now I create a syllabus on Sunday that helps us get through their work every day before 10 am. I have learned that my type A personality and need to get through lists doesn’t exactly jive with 7-year old, or their specific learning needs. If it becomes a fight, or if they are a little less than focused on any given day, I let it slide — I mean, I am not teaching them quantum physics, am I? They will be OK — and I am learning to accept that and let go of what I can’t control.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Work has been fascinating. We have always been team-based and recently introduced new online software to enable work share between teams and offices. Combine that with our cameras-on culture and our teams went home on Monday, March 8th and came online seamlessly on Tuesday, March 9th.
We are in the pharma/biotech/device/diagnostics space, so we haven’t seen a disruption in business; if anything, we have been responding with more urgency as our clients need to communicate with healthcare professionals and patients more urgently during this unprecedented time. While the work remains steady and the team collaborates well, I angst about Zoom time, the creep into personal space and am hyper aware of everyone’s mental burnout. To combat the “always-on” pressure people are feeling, we have tried to shorten meetings, put breaks on calendars, encourage people to work out in the middle of the day and claim back their “me-time” to take care of themselves.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Early on, I was watching the news all the time and it was definitely increasing my anxiety. Now, I only allow myself to look at the news once a day and I encourage everyone around me to do the same.
For me, electronic devices in general increase my anxiety, so my family limits our time on them. I also encourage the same for my workmates — we put breaks on the calendar, and I send videos to the team so they can see that I am also taking breaks and getting in the “me-time” we all need right now. Sometimes, this requires our teams to break up the monotony of Zoom calls. For example, a few weeks ago, I had a one on one call with a colleague, so we both threw on sneakers and walked and talked for an hour versus sitting in front of our computers on another Zoom meeting. It was a nice and welcome change.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
For employees, a post-COVID world will provide more flexibility in where and when they work. For agencies, we will see a more dramatic shift to non-man powered initiatives and mediums. For our healthcare clients, we will see an uptick in more data focused, targeted campaigns that rely on digital means. Finally, for the healthcare environment, we will see more innovation within digital therapeutics to track individual health, more virtual doctor’s meetings and an overall trend towards better health.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
This has been the great pause of our lives. I think it has changed so much — more than we can quantify at the moment. As a society, before the pandemic, we became too fast paced, too screen based, too focused on what is next instead of living in the moment. This global pause gave everyone the opportunity to step back and say, “what do I want to allow back into my life when things return to ‘normal’, how do I want to spend my time and what works for me personally?” For a lot of business employees, these questions may lead to working from home to avoid long commute times or extended time on airplanes, resulting in more time spent with family and friends. Before the pandemic, our work life had creeped so far into our personal lives that may we will now see a re-balancing of what matters.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We haven’t seen a slowdown given that we are in the healthcare sector. However, there are still a lot of adjustments to be made — how do we enable employees to safely return to the office? How do we create a team-based environment that is unaffected as to where the employee is located without losing creativity and productivity? These are questions and challenges we need to answer and navigate, but they are also opportunities — can we broaden our teams and geographic footprint simultaneously? If we pay less for bricks and mortar, can we do more for our employees, advance our offerings and build more proprietary products for our clients? It is our goal to find solutions and opportunities in the face of these challenges and changes.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I do think this is a time for self-reflection and I encourage people to take it. Don’t return to unhappiness, fight for what makes you smile. In the coming months, anyone can rewrite their future, so I encourage people to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. Define for yourself if you want more time at home with your family, more time exercising, more time traveling or more time learning. Now is the moment to figure out how you integrate work back into your life, not how you integrate life back into your work. What a blessing.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Winston Churchill said, “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else,” and I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I think my British heritage and American upbringing blend together nicely — I have a stiff upper lip and “get on with it” mentality, but it all comes from a place of optimism and positivity.
Optimism fuels me. When I was younger, people thought the positive lens I was taking was just being naive or an excuse to ignore a problem. That was not and is still not the case. I am fine with challenges and obstacles, and I always have been — I just do not let them get in my way. I solve, I move on and I try to have as much fun as possible along the way.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Follow me or shoot me a note on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolyn-morgan-42a0623
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!