John Sebastian

CEO of Health Carousel

John Sebastian is the CEO of Health Carousel, one of the nation’s fastest-growing and most respected providers of healthcare staffing and workforce solutions. Prior to his appointment as CEO, John served as President of Travel Nursing and Chief Digital Officer at Health Carousel. In this role, he led Health Carousel’s largest division and the digital strategy across the company. His passion is driving breakthrough growth and the use of technology to enhance relationships while transforming business operations.

John has been with Health Carousel for six years. His career demonstrates broad business leadership across healthcare staffing, consumer products, and industrial sales. He is an award-winning marketer and digital/e-commerce native, building successful businesses like Old Spice and Febreze. He also has significant sales experience, leading sales organizations that work with top e-retailers, distributors, and healthcare customers.

John Sebastian graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BBA in accounting and earned an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Stephan M. Ross School of Business.

Where did the idea for Health Carousel come from?

In 2004, our founders Bill DeVille, Ty Nelson & Lair Kennedy set out to address the lack of qualified healthcare professionals in the United States. Health Carousel was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio with a mission to ensure that every American has access to high-quality healthcare when and where they need it.

Health Carousel began as Global Scholarship Alliance, a company focused on responsible and ethical recruiting of foreign-educated healthcare professionals. Bringing in high-quality talent from outside the United States could ease the pressure on the existing staff, better the healthcare work environment, and solve diverse staffing issues.

To ensure this didn’t deteriorate the healthcare ecosystems of the host countries, the company created and continues to support scholarships for healthcare professionals around the world –– helping to grow the population of healthcare providers globally.

Health Carousel’s long-term pipeline would produce healthcare professionals over many years, which had the potential to eradicate the staffing problems. Overseas nurses could be placed in hospitals that often struggle to retain talents, such as those in inner cities or rural communities. With a longer contract, these nurses become a part of the community and are more incentivized to stay.

However, some organizations couldn’t wait the two or more years for the staff to start arriving. They needed nurses immediately. This led to the launch of our travel nursing solution, now known as the Health Carousel Travel Nursing, which addressed the short-term needs as we continued to lay out the long-term infrastructure.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every day is different, but I try to focus every single day on a few important things; moving the business forward, moving our company culture forward & making progress against our company mission. I wake up every day trying to think about how we can improve more lives and make healthcare work better.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We are a company of people who place people to take care of people, so the most important aspect of bringing ideas to life is that something in that idea needs to help win the hearts and minds of people within the organization and the people that we serve.

When we have an idea, it is important to start by enrolling subject matter experts or others who might advocate for the idea to help us decide if this is something that would make a difference.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend that is both exciting & very important to our work is the aging of the US population. Within 10 years, all of the nation’s 74 million baby boomers will be 65 or older and over the next 20 years, their healthcare consumption is going to increase exponentially.

In addition to this, a disproportionate number of healthcare providers are baby boomers themselves and heading toward retirement. This will only add to the chronic shortage of healthcare professionals in our country and make delivering consistent, high-quality healthcare a severe challenge. These challenges make our mission at Health Carousel even more critical, as we work to ensure every patient in the US has access to a qualified healthcare professional when and where they are needed.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m a big fan of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and especially habit #2, Begin with the End in Mind. Before I start working on something I try to invest the time with myself and others to think through what success looks like. When we are successful what will we have achieved? Clarifying the objective helps as we are taking steps along the way, to ensure that those steps are in the right direction.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I think the biggest way that I’ve grown over time is recognizing that what you achieve, you have to achieve it through the organization as a whole. Having an idea and knowing it is right is important, but that alone is not enough. I would tell my younger self that you need to enroll organization to achieve big goals.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I think that the next generation has the opportunity to consistently live well into their 100s. I believe in the power of innovation in our healthcare systems and believe in the people who work in healthcare. Take a look at the innovation in healthcare that we saw during the pandemic – that proves we can achieve great things quickly. I think we can improve lives even further beyond what many people thought was possible.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Stay connected to the organization. I make a habit of trying to take every opportunity to meet with and connect with the organization. This helps support the kind of culture we want to have at Health Carousel and it helps me stay in touch, making my ideas and decisions more informed and thus more successful.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I give most of this credit to our founders, but their strategy to invest in the business in both good times and in bad has led to incredible growth. Some of our greatest successes have been achieved when the market was less favorable for us. We doubled down on hiring talent, invested more in our healthcare providers, and invested in technology – and we’ve seen that fortitude allow us to disproportionately grow during trying times.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I think we focused almost single-mindedly on attracting and retaining healthcare providers and didn’t invest enough time with building relationships with clients. We’ve since realized the importance of building relationships with both healthcare providers and clients, creating a balance that allows us to make a bigger impact on the healthcare industry overall.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The great thing about our US healthcare system is also what makes it incredibly challenging – hospital systems can operate independently, allowing them to innovate, grow and meet the needs of their market. This creates challenges in trying to implement things nationally and finding ways to build national standards in areas like credentialing and technology platforms. There is a real opportunity for an organization to come in and solve those challenges.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We recently invested in and implemented a new recognition software called Awardco. Awardco furthers our culture of recognition and in this system, our leaders have the opportunity to recognize employees not only with great words but with money as well! In the first couple of weeks, we’ve had hundreds of kudos given to people in our organization.

Health Carousel’s approach to recognition encompasses all different parts of the employee journey and recognizes how powerful peer-to-peer recognition can be.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

One of my favorite pieces of software to boost productivity is part of Microsoft office – To-Do List. I’ve used this for a long time to not only design my day, but also my week, my month, and my year.

I use To-Do List to help me focus on the most important things for the day and hold myself accountable to things that are the most important, not necessarily the most urgent.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – I happened across this book right when I needed it as a young manager, and for me, it brought together several things that I needed to hear when I needed to hear them. It gave me tools to learn how to better manage myself and how to have a bigger impact on an organization. It helps you build your own system that works for you.

What is your favorite quote?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Einstein

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” – Mark Twain

Key Learnings:

  • Stay connected – to your organization & the people in it, as well as to the people you serve.
  • Begin With the End in Mind – Know what success looks like before you start the project.
  • Recognition is an important part of company culture.