Daniel Umfleet is the founder and CEO of Kindbridge, the world’s first teletherapy company with a focus on the successful treatment of Gambling and Gaming addictions. As CEO, Daniel oversees the Kindbridge executive team with a specific focus on the go-to-market operations of Kindbridge, including health system partnerships, technology partnerships, addiction research partnerships, and go-to-market strategy.
Daniel is a hands-on executive leader with a fourteen-year track record in business transformation and digital initiatives with multinational enterprises, focusing on Oil, Gas, Petrochemicals, Manufacturing, Casino and Online Gambling, and Healthcare.
Experience runs the full value stream: strategy, technology, revenue enhancement, cost management, productivity, efficiency, reliability, & health & safety. From Organization Design, Blueprint Development, Process Mapping, Process Deployment, Measures, Metrics, KPIs, Standard Work, Supervision, Work Assignment, Execution Efficiency, Management Systems, and Floor Coaching. Focused on holistic, people-centric, sustainable improvement underpinned with emerging technology.
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We’re happy that you could join us today! Please introduce yourself to our readers. What’s your story?
Daniel Umfleet: I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri where I lived until I was 18. At that point I moved southwest to pursue my academic studies and begin my journey on a better understanding of how the world works. I graduated and went to work for a management consulting firm that really helped satiate my desire to travel to far to reach, never before heard of places, for a midwesterner who had only left the country once during his Uni years. I travelled to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Vietnam, Turkey, and various states around the US helping large corporations better understand how to embrace digital transformations, introduce operational efficiencies, and execute long-term strategic plans.
I met my wife while travelling abroad, and she happens to be from the UK, where we spend most of our time with our two young children these days. We typically spend a couple of months a year in the US, Covid depending, of course, and when there we tend to stay around the Nashville, TN area, where part of my family has relocated to.
CEOs and leaders usually have different motives and aspirations when getting started. Let’s go straight to the beginning. What was your primary goal for starting your business? Was it wealth, respect, or to offer a service that would help improve lives?
Daniel Umfleet: I had spent a portion of my career in health care and became very familiar with the inefficiencies that are alive and well across the industry. Everything from care delivery models, to payment systems, to access to care issues. I had worked several large health systems that gave me a good awakening into both how amazing and scary health care can be at the same time. Later in my career I dove into technologies that regulators could deploy to enforce and monitor compliance standards. Which led me into the very interesting space of the Casino world. Casino is in a boom phase, with legislations particularly in the US allowing for a legal, scaleable framework to be put around sports betting across over half the states in the country. While access to gambling products is safe for the mass majority of those who participate, for what is roughly estimated as 3% of total participants, or 10m people, gambling can become a serious hazard to one’s mental and physical health.
When Covid hit, I watched the telehealth laws begin to rapidly adapt across the country and compared it to the amount of money being pumped into telehealth through VC and Private Equity, and knew that now was the time to build a national safety net for gamblers in trouble that need access to mental health resources. The way that the treatment infrastructure for individuals suffering from this particular disease is set up is beyond unsatisfactory from every angle. There is no organized national approach to helping this group and the charitable organizations that try to do so are traditionally dangerously underfunded and under-resourced.
When I saw that money that would create a point of no return was being pushed into telehealth, I knew the US was on course to alter the way care would be delivered forever moving forward. So we started Kindbridge. A national network of treatment professionals that leverage telehealth technology to deliver care to those in need, specially trained in gambling and gaming disorders, with the ability to take health insurance. Sounds easy. I assure, it was not!
Tell us about 2 things that you like and two things that you dislike about your industry. Share what you’d like to see change and why.
Daniel Umfleet: Technically, I am a care delivery system, so health care is my industry. But, I work with casinos to make all of this possible, so I see both industries.
I really like that the telehealth laws appear to be settling in in a favorable fashion where companies like Kindbridge will be able to continue their work far and wide and deep into the rural parts on the US, where traditionally care is non-existent. I also like that access to care is an issue that is being addressed front and center on the health care landscape. There are more clever models that make it easier for people to access better care solutions, at more affordable costs, than ever before because of tele and a shift in attitude across the industry and the country on alternative therapeutics from the traditional models.
I really dislike that health care has had gambling addiction right under its nose this entire time and for so long has fed into the stigmatisation that has kept those who needed help, from seeking it. There’s been a serious lack of education throughout all systems across the US around the harms related to gambling excessively, and GP’s across the country barely acknowledge it. because they just don’t know enough about it. I really dislike, on the casino side, that there isn’t a more concentrated effort going on to ensure that there is a national safety net in place for people that suffer from these problems. There is a lot of debate, a lot of talking, hypothesizing, hyperbole, and high-fiving going on for the tiniest of achievements in the Responsible Gambling efforts, but there’s just no teeth, no action, no sense of urgency to get real solutions in place with the exception of very few organizations that realize they have the ability to do better.
Companies around the world are rapidly changing their work environment and organizational culture to facilitate diversity. How do you see your organizational culture changing in the next 3 years and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Daniel Umfleet: We have a very diverse work force, but our leadership team needs work. As we grow and expand, diversity amongst the leadership group and the board are high priority for us. Our day-to-day job is to serve everyone that reaches out for help, and that is a very diverse range of people. So having a diverse leadership team driving the ship is high on our list of next steps as we grow through our next round.
According to the Michigan State University “An organization’s culture is responsible for creating the kind of environment in which the business is managed, and has a major impact on its ultimate success or failure.” What kind of culture has your organization adopted and how has it impacted your business?
Daniel Umfleet: I believe the folks at Michigan State University are 100% correct. Our culture at Kindbridge is built off of our mission, which is to provide exceptional care to a community of people that are traditionally overlooked. Early on I decided that it would be best if we had individuals with lived experience and knew firsthand what addiction felt like as part of our team. I wanted people that had tried the system, it had worked for them, but, only because they were determined to make it, not because the system was built well.
That set the tone. We were all driving the bus in the same direction. We wanted to solve a bigger problem and that has led to a culture of being able to learn from failure, adjust, and move forward. And of being open and honest about what is working and what is not. I love that I have meetings with the whole staff and I’ve managed to get them to approach me like a peer and not an iron fist. It makes collaboration much more rich and much more smooth.
Richard Branson once famously stated “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” and Stephen R. Covey admonishes to “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. What’s your take on creating a great organizational culture?
Daniel Umfleet: I agree with both statements, full-heartedly. I think the only additional context I’d like to throw into this mix is that creating a culture where every employee feels like their voice is heard and like their work has an impact, has made my life easier as a CEO. People want to do the work, and they show up even at the most unlikely times without question. It’s amazing.
The overwhelming majority of more than 9,000 workers included in a recent Accenture survey on the future of work said they felt a hybrid work model would be optimal going forward, a major reason for that being the improved work-life balance that it offers. How do you promote work-life balance at your company?
Daniel Umfleet: We are a 100% virtual company, so we have gotten pretty used to understanding what that means as an operation. We keep structured check in’s on the calendar and have daily round-up and touchpoints, but we manage the workload mostly through project management and telehealth tools. So people have the opportunity, really, to structure their day in a way that allows them to participate in their home life as they want or need to, as long as the work gets done. We are relatively unconventional in that way but in a virtual environment, we’ve found it easier to be flexible and less rigid in terms of productivity.
How would you describe your company’s overall culture? Give us examples.
Daniel Umfleet: We are a mission focused company that holds collaboration, education, and engagement on a pedestal. We work hard to hold one another accountable, educate our audience about our mission, engage with all of our staff members on a frequent basis, and collaborate with many organizations that traditional thinking would label as your competitors. Health care environments require that everyone think of creative ways to work together for better outcomes for the person seeking help. Throwing up walls and keeping people out shouldn’t be part of the industry.
It is believed that a company’s culture is rooted in a company’s values. What are your values and how do they affect daily life at the workplace?
Daniel Umfleet: We value a growth mindset in every way. Both personally and as an organization, growth is the most commonly discussed topic around the ‘office’. How do we ensure that everyone that works for us gets what they need to operate at their most effective levels and is setting themselves up for long-term success? A question we ask at nearly every board meeting. Impact on the world is another topic of conversation. We firmly believe that we can make the world a better place for those in need. So we keep that in the forefront of every decision we make.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts.
Daniel Umfleet: There is a lot that goes on behind closed doors so to speak that you shelter your people from as long as you can or forever if you can to keep morale and motivation as high as possible at all times. But one of the particularly hard decisions that we had to make this year was more around letting go of old systems thinking as a company, and start embracing the idea of the metaverse, and NFT’s and cryptocurrency as a well and truly permanent stay in the way we do business for the coming generations.
And what these things mean for care delivery. We are an organization filled with people that have been working on the access problem for gamblers in need for a very long time. Some of our schools of thought so to speak were quite outdated and we needed to make sure that we were building for the future and not the past. It made some people’s heads spin. We lost a few very well-respected people that were desperate to cling to the old way.
An organization’s management has a deep impact on its culture. What is your management style and how well has it worked so far?
Daniel Umfleet: I don’t like dancing around bad news and I don’t like uncomfortable truths going unmentioned. I ask that everyone on my team embrace the idea that it is okay to tell me you have failed. Failure is how we learn. If we are not failing, we are not trying. Failing is the only way to push the boundaries of what’s possible. And I really try to let everyone know that is how I operate. I am also data-driven. I like to use numbers to make decisions and hold people accountable.
Throughout my career, this has worked for me as a style. People seem to respond well to an environment where they don’t have to have their guard up at all times.
Every organization suffers from internal conflicts, whether functional or dysfunctional. Our readers would love to know, how do you solve an internal conflict?
Daniel Umfleet: Gather as much info as possible on the situation, let opposing viewpoints speak, offer counter viewpoints, remind everyone of the mission, find common ground, and move everyone into a similar mindset as quickly as possible. It works a lot, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes people need to know that they’re having a negative impact on the company and if it continues, it won’t be long until a bigger conversation is had.
According to Culture AMP, Only 40% of women feel satisfied with the decision-making process at their organization (versus 70% of men), which leads to job dissatisfaction and poor employee retention. What is your organization doing to facilitate an inclusive and supportive environment for women?
Daniel Umfleet: Internally, we look to have equal representation around the table at all levels of the organization. Frankly, it makes us a more healthy company ensuring that we have a good balance of diversity and sex. Finding the right fit is an interesting journey sometimes, but it’s well worth it.
What role do your company’s culture and values play in the recruitment process and how do you ensure that it is free from bias?
Daniel Umfleet: It’s actually the topic of discussion in the very first interview, every time. We like to be upfront and transparent with people during the recruitment process about what it’s like to work on this mission and what our operating environment standards tend to be. We focus more on problem-solving skills and game theory application than on pedigree. Historical performance is reviewed to give us confidence that they are capable of doing the work but we are also looking for their ability to see through and around problems that are facing our industry now and in the future.
We’re grateful for all that you have shared so far! We would also love to know if there was one thing that you could improve about your company’s culture, what would it be?
Daniel Umfleet: Sometimes we overthink and talk too much about the next steps. More action in those situations is always appreciated.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Daniel Umfleet: Scalable technology at an enterprise level. I can’t believe how inefficient even the best solutions are. We have too many additional functions that should be automated into one solution that just are not. Which gives the organization more bloat than necessary in some respects. And makes some people’s lives more complicated than they need to be.
This has been truly insightful and we thank you for your time. Our final question, however, might be a bit of a curveball. If you had a choice to either fly or be invisible, which would you choose and why?
Daniel Umfleet: Invisible. That way I could learn way more about what people really need in their care environment when they’re not put on the spot. I could learn way more about what organizations, lawmakers, administrators, and regulators are thinking and gain an advantage to help them solve the problem.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Daniel Umfleet for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Daniel Umfleet or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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