Beyond Consulting

4: From Consulting to Digital Healthcare Design


On this week’s episode of Beyond Consulting, Ken welcomes Matt Cybulsky, PhD., the founder and Principal of IONIA, a specialized healthcare consulting firm focused on strategic, operational and innovative projects.


The Beyond Consulting Podcast is hosted by Ken Kanara.



Ken Kanara: Hello, and welcome to Beyond Consulting brought to you by ECA Partners, the only podcast dedicated to helping our listeners navigate the wide variety of options they have after a career in consulting. I’m Ken Kanara, host of Beyond Consulting and CEO of ECA Partners, a specialized project staffing and executive search firm, focused on former management consultants and private equity.

Each week, I host guests that have spent time in consulting and made some   a pivot or career change. The goal is to help our audience understand all the options they have available to them. And ideally learn from our guests, both in terms of what they did right and things they wished they would have done differently today. Today we welcome Matt Cybulsky to the studio.

Matt is the Founder and Principal of IONIA, a specialized healthcare consulting firm focused on strategic, operational and innovative projects. He has not one, but three degrees, including an MBA and a PhD. Matt is also the founder and host of The Digital Health Roundtable and The Voice of Healthcare, a podcast that examines the intersection of the healthcare industry, digital health, artificial intelligence, and a growing number of groundbreaking innovations. Prior to founding IONIA, Matt was a consultant at Deloitte and a Professor for the University of Alabama in the Healthcare Administration Department. Matt, thanks so much for joining us. You have quite a unique background.


Matt Cybulsky: Thanks, Ken. That introduction was very   you. I went to school forever and I always had this idea that I want to have an interesting,   extraordinary experience in my professional life, and I think I’m finally getting there after all that education.


Ken Kanara: Well, that is really quite the path to get there. Diving right in Matt, we’re hoping to cover a couple things. So one, we’d love to talk about IONIA and your firm and what it is you guys do. Then for the second part, and I think this is the thing that our listeners will find most interesting, is independent consulting in general and how you’ve built an entire brand around what you do. Then maybe we can dive into what you did before, in terms of your time at Deloitte, as well as when you were professor? Then we can wrap things up. Does that work in terms of some topics for today?


Matt Cybulsky: Perfect. Wonderful. Happy to share. I’m glad to be in conversation with you, Ken.


Ken Kanara: Excellent. Well, thanks so much. Tell me about IONIA. First of all, am I pronouncing it correctly?


Matt Cybulsky: Yes. IONIA is interesting. It’s the former Greek warrior state before it became known as Greece and what they’re famous for is this thing called the Ionian Revolution, which was the idea of synthesizing two ideas into one, which the Greeks were known for, right? The history of philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, the dialogues. The schools of thinking from that world dominate mine. The reason I named the firm IONIA Healthcare Consulting is because when I was an undergrad, I was in an honors program where we studied this idea of great works and how to have great discourse, oration and writing. We read a book there written by a former graduate of Alabama who went on to get a PhD at Harvard, and then also a Nobel prize. His name is E.O. Wilson. He was known as the “father of sociobiology” group think, and he wrote a book called “Consilience” and it’s him   dialoguing the Ionian revolution through modern scientific examples. I thought that was a great name for a company, if I ever were to start one, because I take psychology and I take business and I take tech and I put them in a cioppino and I sell that as a relationship to people, and hopefully they   what we put together. It is taking ideas that don’t normally go together and putting them together to get outcomes that have value beyond just the balance sheet.


Ken Kanara: That’s a really cool name and we’ll get into it in a little bit, but I think that just goes into one of the things I wanted to talk to you about too, about how you have this unique ability to be relatable. I’ll be curious to hear about how your studies in psychology, as well as healthcare have helped form that. But tell me about some of the projects and stuff and the clients that you’re working on with IONIA.


 Matt Cybulsky: We focus on digital health and what’s interesting about digital health is it’s what e-commerce was before; we’ve just rolled it into the day-to-day. Meaning, it was a unique and different way of getting stuff to you, in this case, healthcare. Then this was turned it into how you just get stuff. It went from e-commerce to just commerce. Healthcare is going from healthcare delivery to delivery at your doorstep, and that’s where I focused. So, if there’s a device that’s mailed to a patient, we work with how we make sure those patients open it, activate it, and interact with it.  If it’s a software or digital pay system and you need various insights, statistically, about how people use it so you can optimize that use, which benefits the patient, right? They can avoid going into debt. They can avoid it going to a credit status. They can keep their homes and cars that way. There’s a good will component, but you can also help the client figure out a way to optimize that use so it’s not ignored, it’s not fatigued. There are many, many where’s to what I do. The reductive nature of what I do with clients is looking at the product service or device and considering the human component of the user. We don’t look at users in a neo-classical sense of all-knowing, we look at them as   panicky, lazy, ill-informed animals, which we all are, who react with emotions.

Now, beyond that insight, that offer, there’s a lot of strategy involved with that. If you take that reductiveness of, “humans are fallible” and “humans react in emotional ways, but sometimes predictable ways.” From that base, up to strategy, to competition, to development, to differentiated models of delivery, all of those sorts of consultative support I’ve had experience in, and that’s where my lens comes from, including how is another enterprise going to look at your product service or device? Or, “Client leader, we need you to soften your message a little,” or “Client leader, we need you to emerge from the bushes here. We need you to lead.” Those are really important insights in the relationships I’ve made because I am a psychologist first and I’m a businessman second.


Ken Kanara: That’s interesting. The thing that I wonder is how you get people like myself around the idea that this connection needs to be made, because it’s so easy for a lot of business leaders to be super pragmatic and not make that connection from strategy to the softer human element.


Matt Cybulsky: I think it’s about presenting this idea. Taking people off stage. Pulling back the curtain and showing them Oz. There is marketing for a reason. There are social and cultural norms of being in a corporate office or a startup or a small business. None of those things preclude us from thinking about a relationship. Relationship to the product, relationship to your employees, relationship to your peers. That never ends. Once I pull back that curtain a little and open it up and say, “Can we think about this in terms of the human component? I recognize there’s a balance sheet need. That’s why you’ve hired me, but let’s talk about the human component of whatever this is.” If you’re a consulting firm and we’re working on strategy, let’s talk about the relationships with the clients. If you’re a product firm and we’re talking about people not using the product that shows up at their doorstep, let’s talk about the relationship we have with customers or how we’ve considered it. You would be surprised, Ken, how often that’s forgotten, even though the bodies and minds having these conversations are also human.


Ken Kanara: That makes a lot of sense. I’m actually not surprised to hear that. We have a talent management software that we used for overseeing our permanent search business, and if I just think about version zero, it was good: it did all the things that the current version does, but we took absolutely zero investment on design. Again, it worked, all the data was displayed correctly. There was nothing wrong. It wasn’t buggy at all, but we just did not take into account the human element that people actually have to use this. They have to enjoy the experience. What happens when they get frustrated because they can’t figure something out? It was really eye-opening for me and we ended up paying a designer a decent fee to get things done, but it’s made all the difference in the world.


Matt Cybulsky: Yes. That’s a really important factor to think about. I usually operate off of sort of four main principles. One is that humans are sort of inherently lazy. We prefer to do nothing than anything, right? I mean, the office space sort of dialogue comes to mind here. For example, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” “Nothing, man, I wouldn’t do anything and I’d I love it.” That is humor. It’s satire, but humans are like that. The second part about that is that humans find reciprocity irresistible. If I put my hand out to shake your hand, you’re going to put your hand up. If I smile at you, you’re normally going to smile back. If I say “Thank you,” you’re going to say, “You’re welcome.” The third part about that is that humans tend to do what other humans like them do. If I walk down the subway station and I’d never been to New York, and I don’t know if I’m in the right subway station or not, and a hundred people are on the right side of the tracks and only one person’s on the left side, I’m going to go stand with the people on the right side. I’m going to mirror my behavior. The last thing that I operate on, which becomes quite useful, and I’m giving away my trade secrets here, is that there is a pathway to habituation of human behavior. I can create a product to get people to use it twice a day, call it toothpaste. Brush your teeth. Use it twice a day. At some point, you don’t think about the brand anymore. You’re walking through the grocery and you just grab it, you know? Sleep, exercise, healthcare focus behaviors, hygiene, the people we spend time with, the emotions we tend to go with. These are habituation of behavior. If you can think about how humans and consumers can habituate, and you think about your product, your service or your device, that changes everything. So those are the four principles I tend to work off.


Ken Kanara: That makes a lot of sense. Okay, here’s a question. How do you juxtapose that with not being manipulative? I’ll give you an example. For example, two of those four principals, I was familiar with not all four, but I always wrestle in my own head with “Am I being genuine?” And part two of that question, Matt, is, does that come up in your work?


Matt Cybulsky: So good question. Manipulation is not telling the truth while trying to get someone to do something. Coercion is me putting a gun to your head  and saying, “You are going to do this.” Influence and persuasion have to be rooted in honesty, truth, and transparency. That’s a relationship quotient and humans are really good at rooting out honesty and dishonesty. If we get fooled for a little bit, the person being dishonest ends up falling back quite a bit because they’re cheating. Cheating eventually helps you get ahead, but most importantly, the universe bends back when it’s found out and you lose some steps. The difference between those concepts have to do with the honesty, truth-telling and transparency of what your goals are. You know, it’s okay to tell a patient, “Hey, I’m designing this so that you use it more.” It would be not okay to tell a patient, “If you don’t use this, you will die.” That’s not fair. That’s manipulation.


Ken Kanara: Okay. All right. No, that makes a lot of sense. It’s like, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” The work that you do directly impacts patient experience, which is a big deal, right? People can be in a very vulnerable spot at that particular point in their life, right?


Matt Cybulsky: But patient experience is the wonder drug of the century. If you can build people’s confidence, their trust, if you can integrate them with a tool or just thinking about how to take care of themselves in a way that almost becomes invisible, there’s not a drug that can beat that. That’s really human will. Over the millennia, we’ve shown that humans have great will and persistence and if they choose to achieve it, it’s there. But believing in it, is part of that quotient as well. Granted, it’s not always, you know, really heavy, dramatic things. It’s pre-diabetes and, “You want to lose some weight.” It’s, “Your hypertension’s a little bit out of control. There’s a few things you have to do to be responsible for that.” How do I make it easy and visible and optimize your nature as a human to achieve a baseline that keeps you alive, healthy and happy? Good question, Ken.


Ken Kanara: Yes, thanks for the examples too, because the one thing that I’ve found in the world that we operate in is, terms and words are thrown around all the time. I hear “digital health and design” and I’ll repeat them, but, you know, on some level I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t really know what that means.” That really helps to paint a picture. When you think about merging    psychology as well as business, as well as healthcare, did you always have an idea that that’s where you wanted to go with your career? I’m curious to hear a bit about that.


Matt Cybulsky: You know, I get asked this question a lot and I’ve thought about it, and I don’t know if anyone…not many of us have said, “Where I ended up was the course I charted,” you know? I tend to be somewhat of a probabilistic decision maker, and what do I mean by that? There are limits to cognitive psych. There are limits to the cognitive capacity of the tissue between your ears. One thing that we do know about the way the mind thinks is we’re terrible at future prediction for ourselves, as far as how we think we’re going to feel when X or Y or Z occurs. If that’s the case, then most of us have doors in front of us. What ends up happening is those decisions of those possibilities we make in that present moment. Maybe you had two job offers or you had one job offer, it’s to keep the job you have, or take this other job. It’s a probabilistic decision. Where do I think this other job is going to take me? Or where do I think my current job is going to take me, and you choose. You do that over and over and over again, professionally. You do it personally. You do it with your family. You do it geographically, about where you choose to live. You do it in your community. What communities are you going to be a part of? Some of those probabilities win in your favor, some of them don’t, but every time you make a choice, there’s a bevy of choices thereafter that do the same thing.

To me, the goal is keeping my probabilities in check and trying to make the best decision in the moment that I have, with the data I’ve got in front of me. The biggest decisions in our lives and our careers are made with the least amount of data. That is the reality. An employer hires someone after three dates, basically. That’d be like me marrying someone after like two or three times and seeing a portfolio of their life and saying, “You’re the one.” I mean, it might be a winner and that’s a great story. Sometimes it is for a little and then it ends. So the question is a good one, but  no, I did not chart this course.

I ended up working in Hilton Head after an acquisition of a few hospitals with a Fortune 500 firm. I was working in rev cycle, and we were doing a financial software transformation from one system to another with three different hospitals. I was a liaison to the CFOs and to the patients and to the parent companies of both the IT firms and the hospital entity corporation. We were spending all this money: process, people, software. I was a young guy and I remember meeting lots of people in the area and a lot of retirees. A hobby of mine is cooking. So I spent a lot of time in the grocery store. Plus I didn’t make a lot of money, so eating in was what was happening. Those people recognize me as the guy that handled billing and claims and revenue at the hospital. And when things started going awry, when I was at the grocery store pulling produce, people came and tapped me on the shoulder, “I don’t understand the statement. Why do I have a credit on this? Why didn’t my insurance cover this?” I was not at the office, Ken. SoI started thinking to myself, “Why are these people who have, somehow, achieved retirement, they had to be smart, had to be an achieved person to reach retirement, confused about this thing?” I have a career in it and I can’t explain it well.

I started doing some digging, because I’m a curious guy and I came across this tool, behavioral economics, this academic sort of faculty, which came into decision-making and people’s perception and understanding. Then I went to one of the leaders of the firm and I said, “You know, I think if we focused a little bit on how people read their bills or how we sent them, or maybe the perception and framing of this, we might get some really interesting results outside of spending all the money on the hardware and the process. Let’s look at the people.” So it was really a nudge from the internet and popular culture like Richard Thaler and Kahneman and Tversky, and Thinking, Fast and Slow, and all these cool books that were coming out, and Dan Ariely’s, Predictably Irrational, and flow and all these concepts. It was a nudge from pop culture, basically, and I took it to my leadership and said, “Could we do something like this?” He said, “Sure, how do you propose it?” Then I said, “Oh, send me to get a PhD. Let me use your data to finish fast, and when I come back, I can be a PhD on staff and I’ll be this data guy.” And I did that, and of course, life changed and things changed. The next thing I know, I’m a medical school professor, I am consulting with Deloitte and then I started my own company and I never really looked back.


Ken Kanara: That’s interesting, especially your point on pop culture. We know about these concepts and ideas now because they’ve worked their way into pop culture. But yet, it’s funny because even though we’re well aware of that, it’s the very ideas and concepts that they’re talking about that still limits us. Your analogy about probabilities and choices—there’s a good book, I think it’s called Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert, and he basically says, the analogy is you’re on a boat and you can go left or right. Ultimately, happiness comes down to, “Do I have the ability to make the decision to go left or right?” We’re going to end up living with our choices regardless, no matter how ridiculous they are.


Matt Cybulsky: Yes, and you live with the choices you didn’t make, too.


Ken Kanara: Yes. I spent too much time on those. That’s really helpful. I love the example on the billing, because instantly, in my mind, I’m envisioning an envelope and I’m also going through this really terrible time in my life and now I’m getting this horrible bill in the mail and gee whiz, what a terrible experience, right? That’s really cool that you were able to connect those dots.

On that same line of thinking, I would love to hear about how you’ve built IONIA and specifically, have you used some of these concepts to build your own brand? You’re one of the very few, highly, highly successful boutique consulting firms that I know of that has really built a brand.


Matt Cybulsky: Yes, so that was part necessity—to get business, and it was also part accident, I think, although some people who know me are like, “That’s no accident from you.” I do think it had to do with three things: persistence, insecurity, and the sense that I wanted to have an extraordinary career. I wanted to do something unique and different.

Persistence was in this thing where, I had four graduate degrees, and had done all this work. Then I was  like, “Well, shouldn’t there be like an apple pie at the end of this yellow brick road? Where’s my big job? Where’s all this stuff? Where’s my boat?,” kind of attitude, right? Which was a young, unrealistic, a little immature, but I sat back and said, “Well, I guess it was just a good start. So I have all these tools and I’ve got to build with them now.” That’s what someone doesn’t tell you when to get a PhD. And I’m sure they don’t tell you when to have an MD. And I’m sure they don’t tell you that when you get a rabbinical sort of status or you finished seminary school. There was an entire thing you have to build now. After all that hard work, the burden is, you’ve got tools that other people don’t and now you have to use those. So it’s another place to go.

So we go back to this concept of habituation. You’ve habituated this pattern of achievement of high things. So that’s just not going to stop. You’ve got to keep going, and that was sort of a wake up thing for me. Let’s go back to persistence and security and extraordinary. That persistence came with, “Okay, I’ve achieved all these things, so why wouldn’t I be able to achieve having a consulting business that’s successful?” I started looking into how you do that. I didn’t find anything terribly useful. I’ve found a lot of things about selling. I found a lot of things about pricing. I found a lot of things about contract structure, but there was not a lot about how to build this. So I lean on what I knew. I was a psychologist—what do I know about humans and achievement? That community is success, so I have to make relationships. So I started a podcast, similar to what guys in the 80’s did when they were bored, which was, “Hey man, you want to start a band?” I started a podcast because I thought, “It gives me a platform. It gives me the proverbial microphone.” You put it in my hands and now you’ve got to listen to me. The vantage that I came to was this community building part. I wanted to continue this momentum I had of all this achievement with degrees, and then it became like, “Well, now I want to build a business.”

So if I can build a community and be persistent in building that business, I can use a podcast to have conversations with people I have no business knocking on their door, who normally would ignore me. So I looked upon the horizon, what’s coming—digital health, voice first tools, AI, and start a podcast on that. Literally, that was how it went. I’m just going to start a podcast. I’m just a nobody, but at least I can knock on doors and say, “Hey, Mr. Ken, who owns company, you’re a CEO. I started a podcast. Will you talk to me?” I’ve only had one person in four years tell me “No.” And I’ve had Eric Topol on the show. I’ve had the former R&D of Disney on the show. I’ve had guys from Apple, Chief Medical Officer of Teladoc, the former CIO of IBM. I just have been emboldened over time. But it allowed me to have conversations and it gave me a stage. Then, at the end of every one of those conversations I had, like you’re having with me, I said, “What can I do for you? When the mic stopped recording, “What can I do for you? How can we help each other?” It’s exploded my network, which probabilistically, if we go back to things, open opportunities to make revenue and work on projects that mattered or were hard or with good people. So that’s the persistence part.

The insecurity part was I always thought I could fail. It was never…I mean, and I got close. I had cashflow months that were, for people of our world, which we’re very privileged and lucky, would have frightened people, you know? $5,000 left in my account. What am I going to do? I need a client, you know? So I always had that insecurity when I was in school, too. Four graduate degrees, 15 years of graduate school education. This PhD might fail. My projects may fail. My dissertation committee might dissolve and leave and then I can’t finish this degree, where I’ve spent time and lost money and basically opportunity costs to grow a skillset. That was motivating. Now a lot of people are like, “Man, that’s like terror management theory.” If you threatened someone with falling off a cliff, of course they’re going to dance, you know? But it worked for me. It also allowed me to be in meetings with people who were impressive. I didn’t show up in there and beat my chest and leave thinking that I mattered because I had a phone call with someone who wrote big checks or had achieved big things, too. It kept me in check and kept me motivated. That insecurity, I think people can feel, it’s authentic. You know, “This guy is genuinely curious. He genuinely wants to succeed.” There’s a trustworthiness to that. There’s a genuineness to that. I only found out later that actually helped in selling, when people feel your honesty and your genuineness and your eagerness and your earnest nature. because I think successful people can relate to that, unless you’re doing business with someone who’s disordered or has some sort of abnormal psychological sort of thing happening, it typically works in your favor.


The last part is extraordinary. Healthcare had gone through many extraordinary epics. I wasn’t a part of it. The growth of imaging, the growth of antibiotics. Now we’re in a phase of getting care in your home, on your wrist, in your pocket with your cell phone through a video call and we’re just beginning. I thought to myself, “God, it’d be really great with all these tools on my chest and this network that I’m building to be a part of something that changes everything.” That’s a little bit dreamy. It’s a little bit risky, but it also is a motivator. It also kept things interesting and continues to keep things interesting to me and for me personally, and we’re talking about me here, I can’t stand to be a part of things that bore me or that aren’t unique. I’ve got to stay interested. Maybe it’s a little bit an attention thing, you know, maybe it’s a little bit of a narcissistic trait? I don’t know, but I wanted my life to matter. I think being a part of something where I can help build it with other really intentional, intelligent, good-meaning people in a diverse status of that to democratize healthcare and change accessibility and just watch these brilliant human beings serve other human beings and create value and, what I would consider, a really organic reciprocal, to go back to our other word, way.

Persistence, insecurity, and thinking of myself to be extraordinary has kept me just having conversations. The podcast led to conferences—we’ve got our fourth one at Harvard this Fall. The conversations has led to business for me. The sense of insecurity has kept me moving and I think, allowed me to have real relationships with clients and other peers that believe in me and encourage me because I am human, and I have my own feelings of fear, of failure, just like anybody else. Then the work has stayed interesting and I hope it continues to. I do panels now on Twitter spaces, live audio. We’ve been four years into this. I started a new podcast, Digital Healthcare Roundtable. I just got back from Manhattan and, in a curious way, met with an investment bank and they’ve agreed to do dinners with me across the country, meeting with people doing extraordinary things so that we can learn from them and create a network with them, just because there’s a mission. That’s going to be a really interesting venture.

None of that would have started if I didn’t start trying to promote myself only through the connection of other people. I really honestly believe that if you go out there, trying to be on stage just to be on stage, and you think it’s going to get somewhere for you. You’re just going to surround yourself with other empty people that want to be known. There’s gotta be some reason you’re doing it beyond, “Look at me, in the marquee.” People can get drunk on that. I know why, and I know how, but the goal for me has been to create business, and now I’ve got a community and a momentum and I’m hoping I can keep that going. I really do. I really am hopeful.


Ken Kanara: Well, thanks for sharing that. And also, on the side, you’ve given me some advice, too. The biggest surprise to me, Matt, on probably your podcast as well as mine, is that there’s this happy accident where I’m realizing I’m learning a lot from the people that I’m talking to. And I’ll give an example. I interviewed my best friend on the show. Okay? I’ve known the guy for 15 years, probably. Yeah, 15 years. I learned more in that hour about what he is doing now, than we’ve ever really talked about, and it’s probably just because there’s a forcing function, right, of being fully immersed in a conversation, right? There’s zero distractions. It’s helped me be a better listener. Again, not by design, but it’s been a really nice outcome of this.


Matt Cybulsky: Yes. It’ll teach you how to be a good listener. It’ll teach you how to ask the right questions. I feel like I’ve gotten this education from people. Degrees are great, but I mean a real education. Then you start hearing patterns. What’s on people’s minds in this space you exist in? You start hearing what’s popular. What’s interesting to people. What they’re questioning. There’s a concept that I like to tell students and other folks that I’ve worked with, which is “Stay on the expanding edge of the circle of knowledge.” What’s inside of that circle is what your industry or your silo already knows. That expanding edge is what differentiates you. These conversations allow you to find that because you’re crowdsourcing what’s happening.  The things you talk to people about, you remember more, in my opinion, and you remember more of an interaction like this than you do from a book or a lecture. Your mind is made to emotionally integrate with other walking and breathing human beings. If you can do that with these conversations through a podcast, you’re just downloading information like the matrix, because the big part of your back brain is so effective of storing a one-to-one human interaction over a movie, a book or music.


Ken Kanara: I absolutely understand what you’re saying. Getting back to the boutique consulting brand, Matt. Not everybody is going to be as nuts as we are and want to put themselves out there, want to create a podcast. What are some other pieces of advice you have for folks that maybe want to leave a firm like Deloitte and want to start their own independent consulting gig?


Matt Cybulsky: The harsh reality of the modern era of professionals, and, Ken, you might disagree with me and that’s okay. Whether you’re a consultant or whether you’re working in a corporation as a leader, your identity exists in the ethereal web.


Ken Kanara: Okay. I don’t know. I don’t know what ethereal means, so you’ll have to help me out, I think. I’m not that smart.


Matt Cybulsky: Let me see if I got the right word. Right, so ethereal: extremely delicate and light, in a way that seems too perfect for this world.


Ken Kanara: Okay. Now, I—


Matt Cybulsky: Exquisite, elegant, graceful.


Ken Kanara: Okay so not me.


Matt Cybulsky: I mean, I don’t know you in person. Maybe you’re the guy that wears a monocle and knows how to use a salad fork. I don’t know.


Ken Kanara: And an Ascot, yes.


Matt Cybulsky: What I’m trying to get at here is, your identity exists online. If someone doesn’t know Ken, they look Ken up. If someone doesn’t know Matt…people are going to listen to this and be like, “Who is this, yahoo?” They’re going to type in Matt Cybulsky, probably misspell it, and try it again. Then they’re going to find pictures, audio, websites, papers. When you are an independent consultant, or if you’re a professional, you have to be quite aware of the perception the public has of you and the perception the public has of you is the footprint and the fingerprints you leave behind digitally. It is. So, if it isn’t a podcast, it’s a blog, it’s interviews that you might have with your friend, Ken, who publishes it and connects you. It’s a personal website. I think everyone needs to have a personal website. If you don’t have a buttress LinkedIn where you don’t pay for the professional LinkedIn, I recommend you do it. It’s some of the best search engine optimization tool in the world right now. You can design what keywords and what words are connected to you based on who you follow, what you post and who you connect with. That’s Twitter, that’s LinkedIn. It may be TikTok and Instagram and Facebook for some of you listening, depending on what your business is. But you can craft and curate the perception the public has of you, based on what you’re putting out there and you can’t escape that.

If you’re getting started in a independent consulting, what’s your footprint? So that when you reach out to ask a Ken to have a conversation or a Satya Nadella from Microsoft, they can look you up and say, “Oh, there’s legitimacy here.” That translates to big firms who might hire you, partners who want to sell with you, or if you’re independent, clients who want to trust you, believe in you and need you. It also helps you figure out what’s needed out in the market so you can craft that.


Ken Kanara: I 100% agree with that. In fact, Matt, you just touched on something big in, call it  like, the recruiting world that people don’t talk about. When someone asks me, “How do I find a job? Or how do I find a consulting project?” I always say, “Let’s break it down in the most simple terms: inbound and outbound.” You’d be surprised how many folks are just found on LinkedIn or found because of their personal website, but yet how little investment is done at very senior levels of career. I don’t know if it’s because of ego, I don’t know if it’s because of a lack of knowledge, but most folks aren’t willing to, I would say, put the time in to that. It’s such an easy, quick win. The other thing that you’re touching on Matt is the outbound component. Yes, do we have a very extensive database of candidates? Absolutely. Is that how we staff a lot of our full-time and project gigs? Yes. But do I remember Matt? 100,000%. Do I talk about Matt with my colleagues? Yes. Now I can’t say the same about every single person that I interact with, but I think that’s something unique to you and the impression, not only the digital footprint that you’ve put on in my mind, but also just the psychological footprint or fingerprint that you’ve   put on our firm, which is really impressive. I haven’t broken it down like that before, until you answered the question, but that was super helpful. I think our audience will really appreciate that. It makes a lot of sense.


Matt Cybulsky: Yes, it’s got to stay in the conversation. The reality is people are dispersed everywhere. Podcasts, websites, LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever the next thing is, it’s about staying in the conversation. It’s basically a perpetual conference. You want to stay in the game and that’s how you get business. That’s how you get opportunities. At the stage that I’m at, it’s all about the relationship I create. Even me and you, we’ve been in a relationship for years and I’ve watched your career grow and your company grow, and you’ve watched me transition from here or there, or grow the podcast or the conferences. And being in touch together creates things down the line. I’m hoping that over the next 20, 30 years, we have a lot more of these conversations and we are enjoying seeing each other succeed. That’s another part about this. This is not zero sum. There is so much to create in a world of intangible assets. Create it, succeed, root people on when they do too. Do not look at what you don’t have, do not think that you wish you had what they had. Just focus on you and create with them. People will root for you. They will help you.


Ken Kanara: Comparison is the thief of joy.


Matt Cybulsky: That is true.


Ken Kanara: Someone once told me that I couldn’t agree more. That’s part of the reason I asked you early on about how do you do these things and not feel like you’re manipulative or anything like that? To me, these things have to be very genuine and real or it quickly destroys all the value that it was intended to start. I’ve found that, I don’t know, I’m curious to hear your thoughts, but just approaching it from a place of humility and genuine interest has been the best thing that’s helped me.


Matt Cybulsky: Yes, of course. I can’t imagine  like forcing myself to  like something I don’t, you know? If people were honest with themselves about that, it makes life better and easier. Now, on the contrary, let’s not be unrealistic. Laughter and love never put food on your table. Right? You’ve got to figure out a way to make some revenues and incomes for yourself. That is undeniable. There are incremental changes you can make towards getting to places that you enjoy the work more. You know, I tell myself and I tell students, and maybe some of my peers, this sort of takeaway, which is, there’s good problems to solve. There’s good people to work with, and there’s good jobs to be had. That’s three things you can think about. Is it the job that I want? Is it the kind of people that I want to work with and is it a problem that I am interested in solving? Those are three things that you can do. Two out of those? Really good.


Ken Kanara: I think you’re absolutely right. To me, all this stuff, yes, you’re working hard, but it should energize you. You shouldn’t feel like you’re putting energy into the system, is how I think about it.


Matt Cybulsky: I also think work-life balance is vulgar. It’s just your life.


Ken Kanara: Yes.


Matt Cybulsky: Stop talking about work-life. It’s just your life. I’m 40, 50, 60 hours in some cases in a job. That’s my life. Don’t tell me about balance. It’s my life. And why wouldn’t work be part of that? Even if we didn’t have a modern economy, I’m still working to collect berries and go hunt or find a cave to live in or make a shelter for myself. You’re always doing as a human. The number one quest for life and success with humans is moving. So you’re always moving. You’re always doing. So don’t think about it as a balance. Think about it as just your life.


Ken Kanara: I think work-life balance is one of these things that it’s become such a really silly concept and it was always the number one question you would ask in a consulting interview like, “Oh, well what’s the work-life balance like?,” to sound intelligent, like you know what you were talking about…but to me…


Matt Cybulsky: The secret there is that there is no balance. You’re going to be working all the time, buddy.


Ken Kanara: I’m embarrassed to say how many hours I spend on YouTube, watching stupid golf videos, you know? I probably spend more time doing that than my actual job, but it’s because I really love it and I’m striving to get better, but anyway. Matt, I wanted to wrap up today with two things. One, we try to, I know we actually talked about some books today, but we ask everybody that’s on the show what book recommendations they have, and then we put them on our site. We’d love to get any book recommendations that you have. Then if someone wants to get in touch with you, Matt, or listen to your podcasts, you know, how would they do that?


Matt Cybulsky: Great. So as far as books are concerned, my book comes out next month, The Voices of Healthcare: The Digital Acceleration. I would recommend that one and then otherwise, make sure you’re reading. There were a lot of executives and people that I’ve met with, who don’t read, and reading doesn’t have to be just a physical book. It can be a digest of a nonfiction book. It could be a podcast. It could be a lecture series. Find a way to learn in an entertainment capacity. I don’t know if you can really be successful without it, because you’ve got to be exposed to the new idea or just a good idea. Humans that read a lot…I mean, there’s a lot of indexes towards success there. So be reading or be listening or be curious. The last question you asked me was, I forgot which one?


Ken Kanara: If we want to learn more about IONIA or we want to listen to your podcast, tell us how to do so.


Matt Cybulsky: So you can find me on Spotify, The Digital Health Roundtable. Just look me up, Matt Cybulsky.


Ken Kanara: You’re going to have to spell that for our listeners.


Matt Cybulsky: Cybulsky, C-Y-B-U-L-S-K-Y, but just look up The Digital Health Roundtable and you’ll find me, Matt Cybulsky. The other way to do it is to go to my website, One word. You can also go to or You can also just look me up on Twitter and all my profile info and links are there as well. @cybulsky is my handle on Twitter. It’s C-Y-B-U-L-S-K-Y.


Ken Kanara: Okay, great. Thanks, Matt. We’ll put all that information in the descriptions as well, just for our listeners.


Matt Cybulsky: Great.


Matt Cybulsky: Yes, and thanks so much, Matt. This has been, seriously, really enjoyable, I think for our audience, as well as for me, personally. I really appreciate you joining today.


Matt Cybulsky: I’m flattered you had me. I’m honored Ken. It’s good to be working with you and I’m wishing you great and big success, as always.


Ken Kanara: Thank you so much. For our listeners, thanks again for tuning in. If you want to tune in each week and get alerted of new episodes, check out Beyond Consulting on either Spotify or Apple. If you want to learn more, check out our website as well as Thanks so much. Until next week, we’ll see you then.




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