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