Tim Aligheri | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND

Following the Leader

By Karen Rosen, Atlanta Trend

As soon as Tim Aligheri told his team at a previous job that he was leaving the company, two people followed him into his office. “They said, ‘We want to go with you,’” he says. “That’s really the biggest compliment that you can have.”

Folks from three of Aligheri’s earlier companies now work with him at Jackson Healthcare, where he is Chief Technology Officer. Of the 43 people who report to him, no one has more than one or two “degrees of separation” from Aligheri, meaning he or someone else on the team had worked with them before.
Aligheri was recently nominated in the Outstanding Leadership Category for the 2010 Spirit of Endeavor Awards, which are given annually in the technology industry by Tech America Georgia. He was one of 19 nominees.

“I think people enjoy my leadership style,” says Aligheri, who is approachable and personable. “I don’t micromanage. I let them grow within their role and responsibilities. I’m there more as a mentor than a manager.”

He first learned the value of a mentor as a teenager in Greenville, S.C. Aligheri attended Wade Hampton High School as integration was being introduced in the public schools.

“It was a tough school and people just were not getting along at the time – teachers or students,” he says. “It was a very tense time and there were a lot of fights. We had a bomb threat every week. It was almost like the way you think of an inner city Chicago school, but this was Greenville, S.C.”

How did Aligheri get through it? “Have a friend who’s a senior,” he says with a laugh. He had friends who were not only seniors, but also were on the football team.

Within a year, Aligheri’s family moved to Dallas, Texas, which he says was the “happiest move I ever made.”
Aligheri returned to the Deep South to attend Georgia Southern, working full-time in real estate on the side. He found a niche renting apartments to professors and college students he knew and taking a commission, but becoming a real estate mogul like Donald Trump wasn’t Aligheri’s goal.

Making Things Happen

His real love was technology. In high school, Aligheri was the first kid to build a Heathkit computer and he had one of the first Radio Shack TRS-80 computer.

In 11th grade, Aligheri even built a robot. “It could tell the weather and barometric pressure and it could move around the room,” he says. “It was cool back then. I always enjoyed envisioning something and making it happen. So, computers were one avenue I had.”

After graduation, Aligheri went to work in 1983 for HBO & Company, now McKesson Corporation, as a developer, coding W-2s and the first UB-82.
He progressed into management and won five awards on process improvement. “It was all about increasing revenue or decreasing expense,” he says, “so HBO was a great learning ground for that.”

Aligheri worked on everything from main-frames to mini, from financials to clinical. In 1999 MedAssets approached him to build a portal that would allow customers to order online.

The Internet was still relatively new, and Aligheri’s team built a portal within six months, earning a spot on InfoWorld’s Top 100 list. He also had two software patents, one for a contract engine and the other for the methodology his team was building.

The contract engine, Aligheri says, “reduced errors in the whole process. Most systems have a three-way match; this was a four-way match.”When the “dot com bomb” hit, he moved to Cox Interactive Media, his only job that has not been in the healthcare industry. Cox needed help migrating old technology to the newer technology and Aligheri rebuilt 60 city sites.
However, Cox experienced its first reduction in force and he took a job with Per-Se Technologies, which is also now part of McKesson. Aligheri then became vice president of development at Smart Document Solutions, now HealthPort, which specializes in electronic medical records.

Three years ago, Rick Jackson brought him on board at Jackson Healthcare to build systems including a CRM (customer relationship management) system.

Saving Time and Money

When he arrived, Aligheri was given a stack of about 12 typed pages of initiatives. The common theme was the ability to manage the content of the companies’ websites. He made a strategic decision to implement a content management system for all but two of the Jackson Healthcare companies in which customers can manage press releases and announcements and change the look and feel of the website without relying on his team.

“Developers are working on pure application vs. making content changes on a website,” Aligheri says, “so it saves the company money, as well as it saves us time and effort on resources.”

Aligheri admits that when he first became a manager, he did micromanage -- almost like a cookie cutter. But he learned over time which people to supervise closely and which ones to “let them do their thing. Let them make mistakes because they grow with that.

“The nice thing about Jackson’s culture is that it’s not that you fall down; it’s how quickly you pick yourself up,” he says. “You’re not afraid to make mistakes. You just don’t want to make that same mistake again.”

Aligheri recalls a case in which he did some research on a solution and gave it to a developer. The developer said he might know a better way and wanted to do his own research. “We may still go with my solution,” Aligheri says, “but I’ll listen to them and if they sell me on it, we move forward with that. There are companies out there where it’s more dictation than collaboration.”

Jackson Healthcare does DISC assessments on prospective employees to understand them better and learn how best to work with them.  “We spend the time to determine what type of communication method you prefer,” Aligheri says. “You have to communicate differently with a developer than you do with a business analyst. I have every different flavor out there.”
He calls Rick Jackson “probably the hardest working CEO I’ve ever seen. He’s here before I am and leaves after I leave. That inspires me to do more.”

His first week on the job, Aligheri tried to be at his desk before Jackson arrived. “Somebody said, ‘What are you trying? You’re never going to beat him.’”

Culture of Respect

Aligheri went back to his usual hours and that was fine by Jackson. The company’s culture of respect has permeated down to the associates. It is considered one of Atlanta’s best places to work, finishing No. 6 this year after being No. 5 last year.

The mission of Jackson Healthcare and its 14 companies under its umbrella is to provide healthcare staffing, anesthesia management, hospital management and healthcare information technology solutions proven to improve clinical and financial outcomes, as well as increase operational efficiency..

Aligheri is responsible for the oversight of new technology developments, project management, product management and strategic vision.

Because he’s in charge of shared services -- even among competing companies like Jackson & Coker on the building’s third floor and LocumTenens.com on the fourth – he makes sure he doesn’t divulge anything he shouldn’t.

His team is now working on developing technology for the iPad, with an announcement probably coming next March. “The provider portal has a mobile aspect where doctors can either use the web or their phone to enter in their time or look at their schedule,” Aligheri says. “We’re developing technology that will utilize the real estate that the iPad has. It will allow doctors to be more effective in their viewing of patient information.”

Secrets to Success:

1. The Ronald Reagan approach.  “Surround yourself with really good people and you’ll be successful. If you see a turtle up on a fencepost, someone got that turtle up there. That’s exactly me, because I didn’t get on the fencepost by myself. There are a lot of people helping. We’re a team effort, not a Tim effort.”
2. Listen. “When I first came here, I actually interviewed all the different people in leadership to understand what their hot buttons are and how they like to communicate. Some people like to sit around and chit chat and other people want to be terse and say, ‘Here’s how we are’ and move on.”
3. Learn to have fun. “I know that seems simple. If you’re a drill sergeant to everyone, people don’t work extra on their own. They do 8 to 5 and they’re out the door. You don’t see that here. If they do leave at 5, they’re at home online. I think I get more out of people than you would normally get because of that.”

Tim Aligheri is Chief Technology Officer for Jackson Healthcare. Atlanta Trend expresses its thanks and deep appreciation to Tim Aligheri for sharing his thoughts with us.


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