Yuriy holds a degree in finance and economics, and an MBA in management from the University of St. Thomas. His entrepreneurial spirit, combined with a strong background in management, operations, business development and finance, are instrumental in ensuring consistent and rapid growth for Elite Medical Scribes. Seeing many challenges that the healthcare industry was facing, Yuriy Vasylenko, MBA, Marcin J. Kubiak, MBA, and Cody W. Wendlandt, MD decided to bring their knowledge, skills, and expertise together to lead change and provide the necessary support to clinicians and their patients. Today, Yuriy’s meticulous attention to detail and commitment to excellence have led to Elite’s significant growth and status as a preeminent medical scribe company, operating across 30+ states with 1,000+ employees, serving some of the most-renowned health systems in the world.
Elite Medical Scribes has been recognized by Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States, and by Twin Cities Business magazine as one of the leading small businesses. Yuriy enjoys traveling and loves attending Formula One Grand Prix events around the world. He resides in Minneapolis with his wife and daughter.
Tell me about your early career.
Entrepreneurship excited me from an early age. In college, I ran a small, international trade business-shipping electronics, clothing, closeout goods and heavy machinery between the U.S., Europe and Asia. While it wasn’t anything enormous in size, the experience I gained in management, negotiation, marketing, financial projections, and various regulations was priceless. Right after college, I started an MBA program and got going with Elite Medical Scribes shortly after evaluating a few other industries and potential opportunities.
How did the concept for Elite Medical Scribes come about?
My two partners and I met in college. One of them was a scribe at one of the original, home-grown programs. He saw plenty of challenges the scribe program was going through – related to recruiting, training, and quality assurance – and he believed there was a better way to deliver higher-quality service. My second partner and I brought the entrepreneurial spirit, and together, we designed a turn-key offering with a high emphasis on specialty-specific training, as well as robust quality assurance. While our vision proved to be highly successful over the long-run, gaining traction in the early days was quite difficult, to say the least.
How was the first year in business?
Very challenging. Countless hours going into service development and sales with very little results early on. It took us almost two years to secure the first long-term contract. While we got excited hoping this would help us take off, it took us well over another year before things started clicking. Those initial three years were the most difficult, filled with plenty of questions about our ability to succeed. Tenacity, belief in ourselves, and a commitment to never giving up, carried us through this very challenging time.
What was your marketing strategy?
We focused on building a clear differentiator between Elite and other companies in the space from day one: specialty-specific, medical scribe training. As most of the players focused on emergency medicine space early on, we went aggressively after primary care and specialties. While the strategy took many years to play out, it proved to be a major success.
As for getting the word out and generating leads, we focused on trade shows, outbound sales, and later on, SEO.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Very slow growth in the first three years, essentially barely surviving. Early on in year four, we signed several strong contracts and grew by 1,780% between 2012 and 2016.
How do you define success?
Ability to deliver on our organization’s guiding principles, while running a profitable business, and knowing that those we touch are better off due to our existence.
What is the key to success?
Tenacity, adaptability, strong team dynamics, resourcefulness, and a continuous pursuit of excellence.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Building a strong team capable of scaling the organization successfully is by far the most challenging task, at least for me. While I didn’t think it would be easy, it ended up being a lot more challenging than I could have imagined. From persuading the first few people to join us when we couldn’t offer much other than the vision of making a difference and building something special, to getting the individuals selected to function as one cohesive unit, to finding ways to build on the strengths of current employees in a rapidly-growing organization with different demands than at the beginning, to making difficult decisions when the fit wasn’t there, to establishing a cultural alignment between those who have been with the company since the early days and those joining more recently to bring additional experience, expertise and skill sets. It’s a highly-demanding area that requires daily focus, ongoing tweaking, and creativity. With this being the most challenging aspect over the years, it’s also most enjoyable and rewarding to see the organization go from just a handful of employees to a thousand. What initially started as just a group of individuals has now become a true team, forming one cohesive unit, collaborating, and making the organization stronger each and every day.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – Ernst F. Schumacher
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford
What are some of your favorite books?
Good to Great by Jim Collins, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, Scaling up Excellence by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao, Traction by Gino Wickman, and The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Difficult to pinpoint one, as there have been plenty of defining moments and days. Major disappointment in a trusted employee, loss of a large client, or overall market dynamics at one point presenting heavy challenges outside of our company’s control, are just some examples. While all were extremely difficult to deal with, embracing the adversity and using the setbacks as opportunities to refine certain skills, strengthen internal processes, and enhance the overall strategy allowed me to become a more effective leader, and helped the organization as a whole to emerge more united, stronger, and resilient.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The desire to leave a strong legacy, make the greatest amount of positive difference possible, and simply, the desire to win.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Find something to learn from every setback, loss or difficult relationship. Then, apply the takeaways quickly and begin the next day with the belief that you are stronger than before and that nothing can faze you.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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