Aaron Kull is an experienced and entrepreneurial leader with a successful track record of building and growing businesses. He has expertise in healthcare and a demonstrated ability to initiate strategic growth in both start-up environments and global public companies.
Aaron focuses on outcomes and results and is passionate about driving change through innovation and disruption. He also prioritizes building a trusting and transparent environment, growing teams, and developing future leaders.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
To me, mornings and evenings are very important bookends to the day. Waking up and appreciating the light, setting intentions for the day, and trying to really train a focus for the day vs. letting the overwhelming weight of the metaphorical “tomorrow” distract me is really important. I also take a few moments to think about 3 things I am grateful for. Gratitude helps ground me for the challenges of the day ahead.
Picking off a few easy tasks (work-related or not) as I make coffee and prepare for the day really helps boost my motivation to get going. This also helps craft my to-do list, which I refresh at night, and add to/maintain as my day forms and progresses.
I once heard someone describe a time-hacking method where they think of their day as almost 3 separate days, 6a-12p,12p-6p,6p-12a. While those aren’t exactly my hours, I have found it valuable to think about the day in chunks of 2 or 3. That helps me in creating a balance between work and other dimensions of my life and also helps create smaller segments of the day where I can accomplish focused things. (ie, in the morning I am going to work out and do these 2 tasks, in the afternoon I’m going to finish this deliverable, set up these meetings, and take this call while I take the dog to the dog park, this evening I’m going to send a few emails, make dinner and spend quality time with family.)
As referenced earlier, my nighttime routine always includes starting a to-do list for tomorrow. I also reflect on the day and take an inventory of things I found particularly moving or that I wish I had done differently/better. This allows me to empty my head for a peaceful night’s rest.
In my day to day, I find and encourage being authentic to oneself as being key to being effective. Be who you are, behave according to your core values, wear what you feel comfortable in, speak how you would naturally, and listen to your body, if you need to rest then rest, if you work better standing, then stand. Being in touch with yourself helps you show up better for others, so listen to yourself and show up for yourself first.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, an idea needs a name. Without a name, it does not exist.
Second, an idea must have a reason behind it, clearly identifying the why and the market need/fit is a critical first step in understanding the decision to bring an idea to life.
Third, an idea must have a force behind it. This force can be a market need or it can be a strong intrinsic drive from the founder, a high-performing team, an unending funding source, a legislative drive or government funding, etc. This force is important to ensure the business continues to move forward and has consideration for adoption.
Fourth is getting things on paper. If you don’t write it down, it does not exist. Write long-form, draw pictures, make slide decks, and do whatever you need to do to be able to conceptualize and describe your idea to others in little or great detail.
Fifth, Create and describe a clear vision that anyone can understand. Create clear goals and communicate transparently with the team to achieve those goals.
Finally, execute, iterate, and don’t stop until you reach your destination.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Real tech. After what feels like a bit of a lull in innovation for the past decade, (now the iPhone has 3 cameras! Yay!) we are making advancements in technology right now that seem on par with Moore’s Law. The sudden release of programs like chatGPT, the deployment of robotics to real-life environments, and the advancements in nanotechnology, 4G, 5G, and 10G. Missions to the moon, mars, private space travel, biomarker identification. Things are starting to happen again at a pace that I think we all envisioned in the 21st century.
I’m excited to see this applied to healthcare as well. We are starting to see incredible advancements in the ability of AI to not only predict medical outcomes but to prevent, protect and perform services of care as well. At 20% of our GDP healthcare has always been an enticing and exciting sector to be in. Since the birth of the EMR, healthcare has been pouring money into figuring out what the next big adoption story will be and placing bets on companies and ideas that have fizzled out or seen relatively low levels of adoption.
The resetting of the markets in the past year has actually been a very healthy thing for healthcare innovation. Being the biggest sector of the technology vertical, healthcare was drawing significant investments with companies’ valuations exceeding anyone’s wildest dreams. The market became inflated and ultimately collapsed. The inflation of the market and the wild investment in the health-tech sector almost did the industry a disservice. It inspired ideation over delivery, vision over reality, and promise over proof. As the industry resets and re-investments begin again, the focus will be on real tech, real outcomes, and real success.
I’m excited to enter an age where positive outcomes for the health of our population become more important than the next fundraising announcement, and where we see real tech solve real problems.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
My favorite habit is actually a new one that I picked up in the past year which has made a huge difference for me. It is maintaining an active vision board. This is important for me because it allows me to anchor to what I want, and what I have going on that is helping me to achieve my vision. Currently, my vision horizons are set to 1 and 3 years and my vision is segmented into different categories of my life (family, home, financials, job opportunities, newco funding/progress, etc). Reflecting on this vision board and making a habit out of tying my actions back to achieving the vision has made a profound impact on my personal life and in my professional life.
What advice would you give your younger self?
-Take more chances earlier on. Compounding anything (effort, interest, etc) over time makes a huge difference in the long run.
-Always act with intention. Develop a vision for yourself and your life and try to ensure every next decision helps to achieve that.
-Trust your gut and don’t second guess your decisions
-Be present and live in the moment, for it is gone all too quickly.
-Live abroad/travel/learn more languages.
-Try harder and do better, there’s always an opportunity to do/be so.
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you on?
I’ll choose a funny adage for this since it’s a slightly bizarre question. There is a common phrase that you hear often that goes “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
First of all, sure there is. A friend could cover lunch, someone could make lunch and give it to you, you could earn rewards and use those to buy a free lunch, shoot even some organizations even have a day where they give out a free lunch (ie free chicken sandwich day at chic-fil-a. I comically digress.
Back to the topic, as an executive, you will create many relationships and you will be approached by a number of potential partners or vendors that will try to create a business relationship with you. This may be done over lunch, dinner, or drinks, often at the expense of the person trying to secure the business. These relationships will be very important as you operate your organization and leveraging them appropriately will be key to success. However, no relationship can replace a product or service that isn’t working for the customer. There will be many free lunches and do not shy away from taking them, but don’t let a free lunch and a relationship outweigh the needs of the organization.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
Constantly test my idea with others, take feedback from all, and get a variety of opinions from a variety of cohorts. Bake in feedback, iterate, and listen. The people that are relevant to your business will give you a natural sense of potential PMF before you invest or before you launch to ensure maximum adoption. Don’t be shy, don’t worry about NDAs, test the concept as far and wide as possible, and actually listen to feedback. It is not criticism, it is real-time help in achieving PMF.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
Understanding the relationship between sales, marketing, and product, and respecting the power of a strong marketing machine, but also grasping the requisite balance between the 3 required to make an organization successful.
A strong marketing team, a strong brand, a visible, visionary leader, focus on market share, share of voice, earned and unearned traffic, etc. These items are huge as you think about attracting a customer base, especially in a B2C environment.
Investing specifically in brand and marketing, alongside sales, existing customer development, and growth has shown to be game changers in the market positioning and overall success and trajectory of an organization.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think there is immense opportunity to improve the experience that people have with elements of our physical infrastructure. Specifically, I think about how antiquated the toll process is for toll roads. There should be no booths, no cash exchange, and not even the requirement for a pre-purchased pass (ie I-Pass, Ez-Pass, etc). We have the technology for real time license plate identification, which can easily be linked to personal information databases. We also have the ability to detect phones, and users of phones as they travel (ie how Google traffic works). There should be an upgrade to the existing tolling system to automatically send a text message to the owner of the vehicle or other occupants of the vehicle, notifying them of their toll due in real-time, and offering the ability to pay in real-time. The same goes for parking, speeding, and other traffic violations, especially as we start to see more automated control mechanisms to protect against these violations like speed cameras, red light cameras, etc. Currently, you wait months to get a bill or never get a bill at all only to find you owe significant sums related to unpaid tolls or tickets. This can be solved with technology and can create a much more seamless travel experience.
This area is not a passion of mine or I would have explored it directly. Huge opportunity for scale and forced adoption if government backing is involved.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
To be frank, although I am an innovator and driver of change and adoption, I would actually place myself late in the adoption curve. Somewhere between mass adopters and laggards. New technology can be a great enabler but can also serve as a big distraction as time is spent trying to determine the best tool, tech, etc. I rely on trusted tools that I’ve used for a long time, Google suite, Microsoft suite, etc.
I currently operate on a Mac and use the Google platform for all my services. I am a long-time iPhone user, so I hate to say this, but I admittedly despise the Mac + Google OS. I will likely be purchasing a PC in the near future and moving back to my old trusty Microsoft 365/windows operating system.
I’m not very active on social media, I follow and occasionally post on LinkedIn, but maintain a relatively small digital footprint compared to others. I’m a big fan of the experience that I get through Amazon, where I purchase a lot of products, and find the user experience in my common travel apps (Marriott, Delta, etc.) and my banking apps (Chase, E*trade, etc.) to be quite useful and enjoyable.
From a cloud/business standpoint, I’ve used both AWS and Azure and find them to be comparable in their ability to provide a suite of ready-to-use tools that can help launch and manage a technical product, even for someone who is less technically savvy. AWS is often a favorite among start-ups, but there is a significant amount of Azure use in the healthcare space so it is important to understand the customer stack with which you will be integrating.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast you’ve gotten a ton of value from and why?
‘Sapiens’ – It really helps explain who we are as a people, as a species, how we think, how we behave, how we act, why, etc. It really helps you understand everything that we have manipulated to create the world we live in, how it came to be, but also how fragile it is as well. Fantastic book.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.