Robert Reilly, GE Healthcare

Robert Reilly

to Wisconsin

Editors’ Note

Robert Reilly has held his current post since January 2012. He is also the United Way Campaign Chair of the United Way in Waukesha County and a Board Member of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Metro Milwaukee. Previously, he was Managing Principal-Performance Solutions, General Manager-Sales and Marketing, Services and Chief Financial Officer-Services at GE Healthcare. Before this, he was Corporate Staff Executive and Corporate Audit Staff for GE. Reilly received his Bachelors in business administration and management from the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Company Brief

GE Healthcare (gehealthcare.com) provides transformational medical technologies and services to meet the demand for increased access, enhanced quality, and more affordable health care around the world. GE works on things that matter – great people and technologies taking on tough challenges. From medical imaging, software & IT, patient monitoring, and diagnostics to drug discovery, bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing technologies, and performance improvement solutions, GE Healthcare helps medical professionals deliver great health care to their patients.

What makes GE Healthcare so special?

At our core, it’s our people. We have great leaders, we invest in ongoing leadership, and we’re a meritocracy in which our growth values and delivering business results matter infinitely more than “where one comes from.”

Most of our business results start with solving customer problems. It comes back to a culture and a leadership model that reinforces that objective.

We also have great engineering and commercial talent, which is one of the reasons we have been very successful.

In the past, our Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt has said that the great thing about GE in Wisconsin is that we get a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, which points to the work ethic in the state.

GE’s U.S. Wauwatosa Research Park

GE’s U.S. Wauwatosa Research Park front entrance

How do you maintain the culture of innovation as you grow in size and scale?

We constantly impress upon our team the importance of innovation. We have started a new process within the company called FastWorks. We’ve gone into the entrepreneur community to determine the greatest successes of start-ups and figured out how to take these insights and lessons from what drives Silicon Valley and instill them within GE to make us faster and more innovative.

We recognize that you must never rest on your laurels; every day, you have to think about better and faster ways of doing things. It helps that most businesses across GE are founded on great technology innovation.

Is there close coordination with other entities of GE?

Each GE business has its own business model and customer base, so we have to run independently to some degree. However, there is a common culture, operating system, and set of initiatives that runs across the entire company, so we’re constantly learning from each other.

We consider our R&D centers to be part of the glue that connects us and shares those best practices. For example, our locomotives business came up with software that optimizes how trains run across the country to save fuel and minimize downtime. We at GE Healthcare took some of those algorithms to help us build innovative solutions that enable us to help patients flow through hospitals better.

What does Wisconsin offer both as a business-friendly state and through its available talent?

We have been here for more than 65 years, we utilize more than 1,100 Wisconsin suppliers, and we export $1.5 billion annually from the state. In fact, we’re Wisconsin’s largest exporter.

There is great engineering talent in this state. Plus, there is a lot of research that comes out of the University of Wisconsin system, which helps fuel medical innovation. So it’s an ecosystem of superior engineering talent and research, in addition to a solid supplier base that supports us. We get good value and good quality at good prices out of the network we have built here, and our workforce is very productive.

How has the public/private partnership developed within Wisconsin?

This is a very integrated team-based world, even within our own business. Most of our innovation happens with partnerships and alliances, because it’s difficult to do it all yourself.

One area we are focusing on now is identifying and leveraging entrepreneurial start-up fuel. If we can push that element, it will be an accelerator to everything else we’re doing.

How much of a focus does GE put on community engagement?

It starts at the top with Jeff Immelt, who has said that as GE, we not only want to be a great company but a good company. This means being great citizens in the communities in which we live.

A lot of these community-focused priorities are set at the company level – in particular, health and education have been significant focus areas for GE globally.

This year, we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary of doing an annual community service day in Milwaukee. It is typically done with the Milwaukee public school system, and we draw around 2,500 GE employees locally that participate. We also recently gave a $20-million grant to the public schools in Milwaukee to improve achievement in math and science, which is good for those organizations but also is an investment in our future workforce.

Additionally, we made a $1-million grant to Greater Milwaukee Health Centers to impact community health, which corresponds to our healthymagination initiative.

Community involvement gives our employees a sense of pride because we’re an important part of this community.

How critical is the focus on STEM education to ensure the development of that next generation of talent?

It’s critical. We’re making progress, but this is not an overnight shift – it’s a five- to 15-year commitment and investment. It’s why we continue to sponsor and volunteer for “Women in Engineering” programs alongside organizations like the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the Waukesha STEM Academy.

How do you define the role of Chief Marketing Officer?

In a world that is changing so rapidly and dramatically, especially in an industry like health care, the most important thing is to look around corners. We need to understand what the world might look like five or more years from now, and start making smart bets with the investments we’re making or the strategies we’re employing now to be positioned to best serve customer needs in the future.

It’s about making calculated assumptions as to where the world is going and how you steer the ship today to ensure that you’re where you need to be in the future.•