When Brad Townsend 92MBA had the opportunity to be a judge for Goizueta’s IMPACT360 Showcase Day in 2019, there was no question he wanted his own company, Azalea Health, to be involved the following year.
As chief financial officer at Azalea, Townsend saw firsthand the benefit of having students get involved in solving real problems at a variety of companies.
“By actually having a project for them, I already had my expectations,” Townsend said. “I told my boss that this is a phenomenal program, and I can honestly say that they surpassed what I expected.”
Azalea Health delivers a modern, scalable electronic health record platform based on open APIs and configurable core EHR functionality. Azalea currently operates nationwide in 200–250 bed facilities, but the company was looking to make a strategic change by possibly expanding into the behavioral health sector. Before making the move, however, the company needed to determine why there was no prominent EHR system for behavioral health currently and the total market opportunity.
Azalea posed the question to students, “Should Azalea Health market its cloud-based EHR system to mental health providers and/or mental health outpatient facilities?”
“It was a very involved program,” Townsend said. “The company had to continue to stay engaged, and because we had a preset group of ideas, we had to make sure they sat on the back burner while the students did their research. We didn’t want to influence the outcome of the project.”
The IMPACT team consisted of first-year MBAs In Jun Baek 21MBA, Qui Burris 21MBA, Seunghune Cho 21MBA, Steven Couche 21MBA and Partha Reddy 21MBA, with Sean Kenney 20MBA as second-year coaching fellow and Steven Culler, affiliated associate professor of finance at Goizueta, as faculty advisor. When the team presented their final results to the company this past May, Townsend was completely blown away.
“It was probably the most professional presentation out of my 30 years, including the last 13 years being the CFO in technology,” Townsend said.
The students presented the best opportunity for Azalea Health to expand into the private, for-profit psychiatric hospital segment. Additionally, the team provided a pricing strategy, predicated on a flat fee structure and tiered based on bed size.
“Normally, when you have a strategy of expanding into a new market, it takes about a year,” Townsend said. “This has cut the time in half, and we’re that much more confident about what we want to do to make the company better.”
Azalea’s project proposal went so well that Townsend is already planning to submit a project for next year’s showcase.
While he wishes he had had the opportunity to work with technology companies, city governments and Fortune 500 companies when he was a student, Townsend is thrilled he can participate now to help the university and students as well as improve his own company’s initiatives.
“My advice to anyone else, if you’ve got a major strategic initiative, is to always get a third-party view,” Townsend said. “While these are graduate students, they’re very well educated, and they’re going to take this on as professionally as would any consulting firm. At the end of the day, Azalea walked away not only with good information that we are going to implement but with a playbook that the Emory program handed to us.”