Meet the Collective is our series highlighting the great people who make up Collective Health. Today, we’re sitting down with Kim Shepard, Senior Vice President of Client Success.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. (I will try not to say y’all too much!) I spent most of my life in Texas, but I also lived in Colorado for five years and I now live in Arizona, where I’ve been the last 10 years.
What happened in your career that led you to Collective Health?
I’ve been in the industry for 40 years (it hurts me to say that number!). I spent about 25 of those years on the carrier side, with both CIGNA and United Healthcare. The remaining 15 years were split between two consulting firms.
Recently, I was thinking of retiring; I had pretty much accomplished everything I set out to accomplish in my career. I was sharing with some close friends that this was my plan, including Sasha Yamaguchi [from Collective Health], and she was like, wait! We need you. And she spent a good deal of time sharing with me all there is to know about the company.
The more I learned about how Collective Health is aiming to change the member experience, the customer experience, and to make health benefits more user-friendly, the more I saw this as an opportunity to truly make a difference. Throughout my career, I’ve always wanted to have an impact; I’ve always wanted to be able to look back and say I helped. I was able to do that to some extent in my previous roles at large organizations, but here was an opportunity to do it from a very different perspective.
What excites you most about Collective Health?
Lots of people think they can fix the healthcare system. It’s not an easy thing to fix. It didn’t get this way overnight, and it’s not going to get fixed overnight. Out of all the organizations I’ve heard from that think they can do this, I really think Collective Health is the one that can get it done.
Which of your roles best prepared you for your role at Collective Health?
All of my time in client management (whether it’s been on the consulting side or carrier side) has given me a deep appreciation for our role as a service provider. We need to make sure we’re taking care of our employers and their most important assets, their employees. It’s not about us. It’s about them. It’s about listening to what they need not only today, but what they’ll need in the future. It’s about focusing our efforts to make sure we’re constantly evolving to be where they need us to be and supporting them how they need us to support them.
Throughout my career, I’ve learned to be a trusted adviser to clients. Sometimes when a client asks a question, they’re not sure what exactly they’re looking for, but they’re trying to achieve a certain goal. If a client asks for something, it’s important to give them options. What can we do that supports the end goal they’re trying to achieve? Clients really appreciate it, and I am always honest with them about the options available.
We have a great Client Success team here at Collective Health, and the more we learn about our clients, and the more we understand what their goals are, the better we will be able to serve them. And that’s going to be different for every client. My job is to help the team figure out what each client defines as success, and determine what we can do to enable that success. It’s our job to make them successful.
What’s an example from your work or personal life that really showed you that we need to think about and approach healthcare differently?
My parents weren’t in the healthcare industry–my mom was a schoolteacher, and my dad was a blue-collar worker in the chemical plant industry. They worked hard and were great at their jobs. But when it came to their healthcare, I watched as they would go to a doctor’s office and rely on whatever the healthcare professionals said. And I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t revere our health professionals! But as patients, we need to take control of our own healthcare. If healthcare consumers had more information available to them, they would know what questions to ask and how to shop for the best care for themselves.
I’ve been in the healthcare industry for 40 years, so I know what questions to ask. The general population, however, doesn’t work in this industry. That was my “aha” moment about twenty years ago. I have a duty, being in this industry, to make sure, little by little, that everyone learns how to become a better healthcare consumer by giving them the right tools and the right information to do that.
I can’t work at a chemical plant or be a schoolteacher. Everyone has their jobs and their areas of expertise. But if my knowledge can help make someone’s life better because I taught them something about healthcare, and made it a little less intimidating, that’s the impact I can make.
What do you see as the biggest opportunity for Collective Health in terms of impact?
Collective Health can remove the barriers and make healthcare simpler for people. What makes our platform different from many others is that we are putting those tools on people’s phones and putting resources at people’s fingertips. Helping people be the best that they can be helps our clients be more successful.
What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Be authentic. When you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s fine to say that you’re not sure, but you’ll check into it and get back to them, and set an expectation for a turnaround. People don’t want to work with people who they don’t think are telling them the truth or who are trying to sell them something or are unresponsive to them. When a client sends an email, it’s really important to get back to them. It’s also really important to help the client get to the right answer. It’s my mission that if I don’t know the answer to a question, I’m going to go find the answer and tell them the truth.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
When my husband and I became empty-nesters, we started scuba diving. We’ve been doing it now for about 14 years. It’s really relaxing, and it forces me to take a break from work. When you’re underwater, you can’t be reading emails or answering phone calls!
I’m also a huge NFL football fan. I’ve had the opportunity to go to seven Super Bowls. I didn’t miss a home game of the Arizona Cardinals for the last 10 years, outside of the pandemic year.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that informed what you do today?
I wanted to be a freelance journalist. I loved writing stories and entertaining people. I still enjoy the communication side of what we do, and I love the opportunity to take something very complex and boil it down so anyone can understand it.
What’s your favorite quote?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” by Albert Einstein. If you want a different result, you’ve got to do something differently. I try to live my life that way.
Any hidden talents or fun facts about yourself?
During holiday parties or team gatherings at my last workplace, we had “Karaoke with Kim” sessions. I will say it was more me singing along with the artist–you don’t want to hear just me! My favorite song is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. Every time it comes on, everyone stops and we just burst out singing. I’m not a singer, but I love singing! Music is a stress reliever for me. I have so many songs on my playlist that I love to sing.