Executive Profile: Kathryn Gillette, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg

Posted On 06/12/2017 by St. Pete Chamber

By Shawn Rhodes

Most businesses use a simple formula for success: Find customers, provide excellent service and earn repeat business.

One of the largest organizations in St. Petersburg has an entirely different model:

Keep people from ever walking through their doors.

“At Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, we are called upon to have people in ou​r community stay healthy,” said Kathryn Gillette, CEO of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

Gillette took the helm of the 111 year-old organization four years ago after it had transitioned from being a non-profit hospital to a for-profit organization. To say she took command of a leaky ship would be an understatement.

“The hospital was failing financially and going to close,” Gillette said. “It was losing $1 million dollars each month. The new board saw that couldn’t happen in this city, not with the wonderful medical care it provided to the community.”

She added that it was definitely a turnaround and everything in a hospital she wanted. When Gillette took over the failing organization, she applied these strategies recommended to any businessperson:

“When turning an organization around, first be open to doing things differently. I’ve found it helpful to ask for a lot of thoughts from your people,” she said. Gillette explained, “Engage with others and ask for their opinions.”

Creating open communication is critical, but to ensure its effect Gillette backed that up with two values she believes businesspeople should practice.

“It’s essential to have integrity and be honest,” Gillette said. “That means not trying to hide things from your staff.”

Gillette learned that lesson over a career in healthcare administration that taught her actions speak louder than words:

“At my last hospital, there was a public relations nightmare that was devastating for the hospital because the public lost trust in us,” she said. “We got through it by talking to people and demonstrating through actions that the event was isolated.”

Today, her organization creates a financial impact of over $200 million dollars in St. Petersburg,  with a team of 2,200 healthcare professionals regularly differentiating themselves from their competition.

“In this community, there are systems of hospitals and I’m one of them,” Gillette said. “Differentiating ours from the pack is one of my ongoing efforts. We have great healthcare providers in this community, but don’t have many specialized providers like we do at Bayfront Health.”

Like many businesses, Gillette deals with constantly-changing regulations that affect everything from finances to her staff. To survive and succeed, she recommends businesses embrace the one thing they can’t avoid – change.

“Have a willingness to understand change is inevitable; Digging your heels in is not an option,” she said.

When it comes to doing business in St. Petersburg, Gillette sees her healthcare system as inextricably linked to the local community.

“We, as a community, have created a livable city in St. Petersburg,” she said. “Having good health is how you enjoy all of that because health is an asset when you live in this city.”

For Gillette, her organization’s success means success for everyone in her community.

“Healthcare providers have a role to play in making people healthier so they can enjoy more of what St. Petersburg has to offer,” she said.

To ensure Bayfront Health St. Petersburg succeeds into the future, Gillette ensures her organization and the community continuously move forward together:

“For us, health translates to success.”

Kathryn Gillette, CEO of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, recommends organizations focus on two things to succeed in St. Petersburg: Communication and networking at the Chamber of Commerce.

She had this to say about each of them:
-As a leader, surround yourself with very good people and communicate with your staff frequently so they know what you’re thinking.

– If your business isn’t relevant to the lifestyle of St. Petersburg, you’ll have trouble being successful. Being part of the chamber helps us ensure we’re being relevant to our community and its unique lifestyle.

Shawn Rhodes, a member of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, is an international expert in improving organizational performance. He is author of the new book “Pivot Point: Turn On A Dime Without Sacrificing Results,” and you can reach him at 813-833-5059 or shoshinconsulting.com. Catch a clip from his latest TEDx talk at http://bit.ly/ShawnTEDx.