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Epic's Founder Judy Faulkner Speaks on Culture, Business Beliefs, and Recruiting: WTN Exclusive Coverage

Fitchburg, Wis. - Judy Faulkner, founder and CEO of Epic Systems, made a rare public appearance at Accelerate Madison’s monthly meeting held at the Promega BTC Center. The audience heard the CEO's perspective on on the history and operations of this unique, and successful company.

For over twenty years, Judy Faulkner had never participated in public speaking at association events. She does not participate on outside company boards or committees. The crowd was eager to learn more about Faulkner, her philosophies, how Epic was founded, its culture and recruiting practices.

Epic was founded with a $6000 initial investment by Faulkner and a total start-up investment by five others of $70,000. Today, the company remains employee-owned, has never sought outside investments and has no plans to go public. Epic has 800 employees, $103 million in sales, and zero debt, and it is growing 30 percent per year. Epic has just six salespeople, who are not allowed to sell the company’s products and services until they have completed 1 1/2 years on software installations at customer sites. They are not permitted to wine and dine their customers.

Epic has a clear mission statement that's a part of its culture and everyday business: "Do good, have fun, and make money," said Faulkner. They have one major guiding principle: “focus on customer satisfaction and build great products.”

According to Faulkner, her company is successful because they are extremely focused on “powering patient centric solutions.” Her motto is " You have to focus, know what your business is and stick to it."
The company's culture begins at the top. Ms. Faulkner, despite her desire for expensive toys, believes that the CEO needs to set a great example for employees. If she purchased a Mercedes it would make others think that she is getting rich as a result of the her employees' hard work.

Culture is such a major aspect in this company, Faulkner actually leads "Zen-like", corporate philosophy courses that employees are required to attend.

Staff meetings take place in movie theaters where all employees are treated to popcorn and soda. "Somehow if a meeting is in a movie theater, people think they are having fun," said Faulkner. Titles are not important. There are no titles on staff lists or on people's doors. "As the company has grown we have a hard time figuring out what people do when we meet them," she said. She believes in "hiring slow and firing fast."

All potential employees go through a rigorous screening process. HR is responsible for all hiring decisions. There are no job descriptions. The employees in the workgroup have no input. Faulkner believes, "teams hire people they like ... this eventually breeds bad attitudes and ego-protection" Faulkner tries to take personality out the decision process and hire on skills.

"Beware of the articulate incompetent ... a bad weed is a flower in another garden," according to Faulkner. She believes it takes three years for a person out of college to become an "Epic Person," and six years for those hired from the outside.

Faulkner does not believe in marketing. Epic has not run a press release for 18 years. In fact, the only advertising the company has sponsored was a billboard with the slogan, "Marketing Sucks...Epic Systems." She practices what she refers to as "Mikoshi Marketing," a series of Japanese-inspired principles that is focused in insuring the customer’s success. Epic relies on building the industries best software, having all its employees meet their customers. Epic practices a rare process in the software industry that requires all programmers to visit and meet with customers "face-to-face."

Epic has recently purchased 340 acres in Verona and is building a radical style corporate campus. The company has no long-term plans to consider mergers and acquisitions and does not write 3-5 business plans. Epic is unique. Judy Faulkner is a new age CEO. Sort of a Phil Jackson of the LA Lakers, "Zen-like approach" meets Bill Gates drive for market dominance.
See related article Customers Rate Epic as Best Overall Vendor in Healthcare for Seventh Consecutive Time


Katrina responded 8 years ago: #1

Ms. Faulkner is a brave, dynamic poineer who is not afraid to go against the grain, and her practices would be called unusual by corporate standards, but has worked for her for 20 plus years. Now that "Girl Power!" I am truly impressed and would love to become a member of her team/family. Thank you for opening my eyes!

Philip Thompson responded 7 years ago: #2

Start up time too difficult for its cost

dave responded 6 years ago: #3

age discrimination?

Daniel Benwell responded 5 years ago: #4

I am a recent HIT graduate preparing to take the registration test. I also retired with full retirement from 30 years of teaching middle school.I was intrigued when I read about Judy Faulkner history briefly during a research project. Does she do any public presentation. I am a 50s/60s child. Her story looks interesting. We travel around the Janesville area frequently and occasionally are in Madison. I'm curious about her philosohpy concerning healthcare..

Joan responded 5 years ago: #5

Epic will not hire anyone over 40 unless they personally know Faulkner, ( for example, the former Mayor of Madison, a friend of Faulkner's, worked there briefly). They barely hire anyone over 30 for that matter. Epic gets away with this blatant age discrimination because Faulkner is politically connected to the Leftist political alliance which runs Madison and Dane County. As Dane County's largest private employer, it is also the county's largest practitioner of age discrimination. Epic makes no bones about it and is really quite proud of the fact that they only hire recent college grads. It is way past time for the State or, better still, the Federal government to step in and seek to remedy this situation.

C L responded 5 years ago: #6

Reading these other comments has opened my eyes to why I have applied over and over again and haven't ever so much as had a call for an interview. I have also heard that they don't treat employees with equal respect and concern.
Someone needs to escellate the age discrimination to the higher authorities if they know this to be true.

TL responded 5 years ago: #7

I do not know about the accusations, yet I am 40+ and EPIC HR responded to my application. With 20+ years of clinical experience, and a recent college degree...who knows? They might want people who can be forward thinking in being a partner in making health services safer? As stated in the article, it is very clear the interview process is to find the skill set and mind frame to move that value forward. Gosh, that is a refreshing thought to me...

MT responded 5 years ago: #8

I applied to Epic when I was 40 and they hired me. There were two people in training with me who were clearly older than I was, and none of the three of us had any inside connections.

nl responded 5 years ago: #9

I just submitted my second application to Epic. I am in my early thirties and am relocating back to the Madison area; if I can get a job. I have been a nurse for 8 years, many of those years as a travel RN, I feel I have the skills epic is looking for so what else can I do to get noticed by HR?

Bill responded 5 years ago: #10

I was recently contacted by Epic requesting that I apply as a travel specialist since I have several years of travel experience. I read the numerous complaints about the age discrimination, but looked forward to the phone interview they set up, assuming the complainers were just people who didn't get jobs. Well, when the phone interview came the first question was what years did I go to college, clearly an attempt to calculate my age. I answered honestly and the only other questions I was asked was my GPA and my SAT score. There were no questions about my experience int he travel industry, or anything else. At 47 years old, I am at the point where I no longer make my SAT score a selling point. Epic clearly was trying to get my age before going any further with the interview process. I got an email a few days later that they were pursuing other candidates, despite the fact that they contacted me initially and must have seen something on my resume that caught their interest.

Farky responded 5 years ago: #11

Sounds kinda freaky to me, if you really must know. Almost cult-like.

Brett responded 5 years ago: #12

Epic is awesome. They are successful because of the phenomenal people they hire. They do not discriminate on age; they merely hire the people they believe will give them the best opportunity to be successful. Clearly to them that means people from a younger generation. You can't argue that their methods haven't made them successful.

earl responded 4 years ago: #13

I'm over 30, with a degree far outside healthcare and software, and I got hired. They are a private company, and with over 100,000 applicants last year, they have to be selective. There are a lot of very smart, talented people who don't get hired there.

Salad responded 4 years ago: #14

Epic does practice age discrimination. This is a known fact. If you are over 30 and got hired, count yourselves lucky. Epic clearly needed someone that could do the job you applied for and had no other younger alternative. Trust me on this. I have the proof, but not sure when or how to release it. Epic is not an innovative company, other Healthcare IT Companies, McKessen HBOC, Meditech, IDX-GE Healthcare, etc..have been trying for years to create the same software and the only one that achieved success before Epic was IDX (Phamis)-which, amazingly enough, Epic software Logic resembles. Hmmmm. I wonder why. Now, Epic is going around replacing IDX's systems as the "newer version" of it probably. hahahaha. I am sure this house of cards will fall.

Mary Karelsmar responded 4 years ago: #15

My son has worked for your company the past almost 7 years. I visited once and will be again this week, as I live alittle ways away. I was totally impressed with everything I had seen.You have also purchased art from some of my friends back where I live in Minnesota.My son of course realy enjoys his work there, and will never move. He is one that always liked a challenge since the day he was born and usually succeeds-- I think he is very gifted as you must since he's been there 7 years! Anyway thanks for giving my son Dustin Karels a chance to prove himself! He is definately a smart,talented, young man and enjoys your company very much! Mary Karels

Outsider responded 4 years ago: #16

A bunch of hot air to cover up the 70 hour work weeks, a massive turnover rate, and an outdated system designed for Windows 98. Choose Epic - because you don't know any better.

Nonsense responded 4 years ago: #17

It's intriguing to read all the commentary on this article over the years. Are Judy's methods successful at growing her company? Yes, however, at the expense of many freedoms for Epic's employees and especially at the expense of organizations that choose not to "partner" with Epic. Judy is unabashedly a "control freak" and everything is her way or the highway. Epic quite frankly engages in unethical business practices as evidenced by the results of numerous confrontations (kept as quiet as possible) with organizations and individuals that don't see eye-to-eye with Judy: the long arm of Epic's legal team is unleashed upon the world and Epic even goes so far as to hush its employees telling them not to work with certain "black listed" entities.
This article is telling and it looks like some commentors haven't quite understood the big picture even though it's written in black and white. Judy doesn't want to hire someone with 10 years experience because she wants folks that are malleable so she can turn them into Epic zombies. As excerpted from above, "She [Judy] believes it takes three years for a person out of college to become an "Epic Person," and six years for those hired from the outside." Epic hires fresh college grads because Judy believes these people will drink her cool-aid and in large part they do.
Many of the most successful folks at Epic have left to pursue their dreams (many of those dreams have nothing to do with healthcare IT). Kids (that's what many in the industry call them) working at Epic out of college think they've made a gangbusters move, but they've been duped. If you're reading this article and considering a career in the EMR industry, start out working for a hospital or clinic system and get to know software that way. After two or three years, you can move out into consulting if that's your bag or you can move on to whatever you'd like without Epic attempting to force you to live life on Judy's terms.

suspicious reader responded 3 years ago: #18

Too bad there's age discrimination at EPIC. Asking one at an interview when your college days were shouldn't matter. They are clearly trying to separate hirees by age. What a shame Ms. Faulkner that you allow this or encourage it. A professional woman of your age should know better and treat American workers better than that.

Theresa responded 3 years ago: #19

Agree on age discrimanation. I applied for a cook chief job. I have over 30 years experience including owning my own business. Can run the pants off these younger kids today and cook from scratch like they supposely do. And yet could not even get an interview. You would think a person her age would welcome older people. Plus go back to real interviews and not all on the computer. Pretty sad!

Libby responded 3 years ago: #20

As an EPIC trainer, I can tell you this company absolutely babysits their employees. The training script is, just that, a script, designed to put words into the mouths of people with no training experience.

It works..for now. The EMR agenda will end in 2015. If Epic ends up on the next Good To Great list..I will be surprised. Pretty sure this is a cult of's not sustainable and highly unethical.

Fishman responded 3 years ago: #21

Age discrimination is alive and well at Epic. I live in Verona and can see the lights of her growing campus from my back door. Yet, I can count the number of people I know who are actually employed by Epic on one hand. Everyone in our community is very aware of their hiring practices, their culture, and how they treat their employees. They hire a fresh batch of eager kids just out of college and then proceed to work them to death. Once they are burned out and decide to reclaim their lives and move on, Epic simply goes out and hires a new lot of fresh meat. And the earlier statements concerning age discrimination are dead on. Regardless of experience, GPA, etc. you will absolutely not get a job at Epic if you are older than 40. I sincerely hope that Ms Faulker changes her hiring practices. If not, I sincerely hope a major lawsuit will change it for her.

Kundo responded 3 years ago: #22

I'm a 56 year old IT professional who just landed a job with Epic. I'm impressed so far with the people, the culture, the products, and the emphasis on customer support. I'll report back.

Ted responded 3 years ago: #23

I being a business owner am fascinated by this company's success. This lady is a legend , you can not argue with success, she did it her way and it worked and how. This lady is a maverick, legend just like steve jobs. keep up the good work we will learn from you.

John Adams responded 3 years ago: #24

It is ironic how this interesting corporate philosophy sucks big time when it comes to practical implementation. Maybe Epic employees are required to meet their customers but apparently they don't meet their end users and the end users in Chicago's Resurrection Health Care are not too happy about their product.

John Crofford responded 3 years ago: #25

Nobody would hire me until Epic did. I was too young. I hadn't gotten certified in umpteen billion technologies. I was just a National Merit Scholar, NASA intern and published researcher in Computer Science. Age discrimination goes both ways and so there are a disproportionate number of young and unemployed geniuses out there that Epic can (and does) hire.

Anonymous responded 3 years ago: #26

I have applied at Epic at least 8 times and always get rejected. The first time I applied I was surprised that I got rejected. At least Human Resources emails me a rejection email every time I apply. I don’t know my SAT scores anymore and don’t see how this would have much to do with the receptionist job that I applied for. I live close by and would be an excellent employee but they won’t hire me, but they will pay for relocation expenses for younger people. I do hope that someday someone brings a lawsuit against them for age discrimination. Why does it matter what year I graduated from high school? All that matters is that I DID graduate. Epic asks for lots of dates to figure out how old you are. I am struggling to find work and don’t want my home to go into foreclosure. One time I applied for a greeter position and purposely put the lowest salary possible on the application, and yes, they contacted me to take a “personality test.” After I took the test, I didn’t hear back from them. What I am disappointed in is even though the billionaire owner, Judy, is 69-years-old now, she has disregard for people who are over 40 and looking for jobs. She is a billionaire and doesn’t care about us older people looking for jobs. We people over 40 have a lot to offer: intelligence, life experience and maturity. I would be happy to go through all the training they have to offer so I can work there. She is not setting a good example for people her age who need jobs; we are getting retribution by Epic/Judy for being older. What if she was in our shoes, but she never has to be, so she doesn’t care and does things her way. Just because she is a billionaire doesn’t mean she is above the law. Discrimination! Judy, have some compassion! Times are tough.

Bill responded 3 years ago: #27

I work in the industry and have heard enough first hand accounts of the arrogance and rudeness of Judy to know they will eventually have a fall from grace.

Zinger zzz responded 3 years ago: #28

I have no experiences with Epic or any feelings about it. What I want to know is, how old is that photo of Judy Faulkner that was in Forbes? When was it taken? 30 years ago maybe? No one can tell me that good, healthy living and all the anti-oxidant supplementation in the world can produce results like that. Not even plastic surgery can accomplish those results, but PhotoShop can. Maybe JF likes to hire young people not just to produce Epicbots (or zombies, as someone else said), but because she fears her own mortality, since (shame that it is), no amount of money will keep anyone alive, or even fresh and vibrant in appearance, forever.

ThinkAndRethink responded 3 years ago: #29

Get over it people. Hiring young, brilliant folks right out of college who have no family demands is not a unique practice. Google does the same thing. Microsoft did it in the past. I love the comment by the kid who interned at NASA... gosh, why did he get the job and not the guy that needs 175% of his salary with two kids that won't work on Christmas Eve? Look for Steve McConnell's talk about World Class Software Organizations. Note what he says about the average age of the staff at those organizations. Even he sadly admits what it takes, or seems to take, to stay on top.

22 years ago, I was one of those kids. Now, I'm trying my darn'dest to stay like them, but it's clear that they will always have the appeal of being cheap labor, while I will not. Tech is a young person's trade. Tech is at the same time exactly like fashion and exactly opposite to it. Today's hottest technology is often snuffed out or reviled in a matter of months. If you aren't willing to re-learn everything you know every year or two, it is not the place for you. I've forgotten more API's than most people ever learn. I've tilled under more tool frameworks and languages than I care to remember. Most programmers my age have done the same. Is this experience ever valued by managers or HR? I think it is appreciated much less than you think. When is the last time you wore wing-tip shoes or that really skinny tie? What's new is sexy. What's new matters. Everything else is secondary. It's a shame but I believe that companies do indeed suck the life out of their employees and subsequently lay them off at a convenient time if they fail to keep pace. Little if anything is done by employers to nurture their experienced staff. If corporate America could figure out how to do that, it would be a saner world. I don't envision that happening soon. If they can't find sufficient numbers of new graduates, they can always turn to India.

So there you see the fate of those young kids... so smart, so full of energy. They will wind up in the coder's-boneyard as well.

RANDY responded 2 years ago: #30

I filed an age discrimination complaint against EPIC. They literally sent me a book on how they are equal opportunity. Hell, they are. I just wanted to transfer to Madison with my company who is contracted with EPIC. I could not go through my own company HR for a transfer. EPIC wants full control in hiring. I was 100% qualifed for this position with 32 years to prove it. EPIC rejected me immediately and blamed it in their stupid Rembrant test. You idiots in HR, I do not work for your company, so let my employer handle the transter and you guys keep your noses out of it.

dave responded 2 years ago: #31

I did some initial work with Epic a few years ago when my employer bought thier system. What i saw during training and integration people who confirmed age descrimination, as well as total burnout.

Almost every person we saw was 25-low 30's, and seemed zombiesh from the constant time on the road. I understand integration requires travel but they were doing more than one company at a time and believe me changeovers were NOT easy, and we got bad info regularly I just couldnt understand that. When I went to the campus I felt we should drink cool aid at some point, just didnt seem normal. Also didnt see anyone around that looked like employees except trainers, the one time I got a tour of the developer section was like cubicle hell people smashed together, and not having the fun and zen she talks about.
I left right before our third year of the migration, already 1.5 years behind which appers the norm, and being a developer myself the system is so large I can't see how they can keep up with changes.
Since I already knew someone at the company I applied, first question asked "when did you graduate high school..", hinting at my appx of 38 at the time, the questions turned really vague and useless, then silence....

Curious responded 2 years ago: #32

I got here in a roundabout way. I am very surprised by the number of complaints and criticisms. I worked with high school kids for 33 years. I understand what kids are like and know how very few are brilliant high achievers. Add in creativity, thinking outside the box, problem solving skills and a knowledge of technology that is akin to eating or sleeping and perhaps it makes sense as to who is being hired at Epic. I know I couldn't do it. I know people who work in places where you are constantly put down, told to do more, do it better, and they hate their job. Working together, brainstorming, and actually having fun while you work makes for better workers and yes, harder workers. The beauty of campus and buildings, art, relaxed atmosphere and fun surroundings sure is not your normal cubicle job. Kudo's to those who make it through the 4 or 5 steps to be hired. My child did and I know why. If you didn't, maybe there is a reason, and it may have nothing to do with your age.

Ditto responded 2 years ago: #33

You have to wonder about a company that appears to hire a major amount of young, inexperienced, new grads. Yes, they have exceptional grade points, SAT scores, etc., but this lack of experience is the Achilles heal for future innovation of this company. Programmers, both internally and externally, have sited numerous times how archaic the current system functions. The idea of what has worked in the past will continue to work, doesn't keep you "cutting edge" in the technology world.

I much rather work with the person that can think on their feet and problem solve, than someone that has proven to be very good at memorizing and regurgitating current facts.

Fortunately for Epic, recent grad. on the Dean's list + inexperience + boundless energy = Zombie employees(not someone that has learned the fine art of dreaming, inspiring, innovation, and yes, challenging. I get the impression Epic's founder likes the current mentality of Zombie employees rather than have true movers and shakers challenge the very foundation it's system. Oh to dream how truly great the unleashed IT future could be and how sad for the brilliant young minds that will never be allowed to question, fail, and inflame.--Just a thought

Jojo the monkey responded 1 year ago: #34

Recently toured the campus. Incredible exercise in self indulgence and financial waste. Judith is the Michael Jackson of emr-she has created her own version of Neverland. She has had enough smarts and great timing to champion a $1b plus company. If I were a customer I would be incensed to learn that my $s are going to pay for art & whimsy rather than focusing on lowering expenses. I have never met the CEO but I sensed that she is a very lonely and unhappy person. Perhaps always wanted to be someone else existing somewhere else. Money isn't everything and ultimately is really nothing but is always the measure of success and envy in the US. If you didn't get a job at epic perhaps you should be grateful. Wealth comes in many forms with family and happiness at the top.

under the ax responded 1 year ago: #35

Yikes! The system I work for is firing left and right to make enough money to pay for EPIC and my job is one of those under the gun. After reading this, however, being fired might be better than trying to work with the new programs.

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