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Leadership Columbus: Kurt G. Ellis

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Kurt G. Ellis

Place of birth: Indianapolis.

Date of birth: Aug. 24, 1955.

Has lived in Columbus since: 2008.

Title: Vice president of business development and outpatient services at Columbus Regional Hospital.

Duties include: Overseeing laboratory services, radiology, lung institute, cancer center, breast health center, bariatric center, mental health and rehabilitation services and looking at the feasibility of new health services, such as the recently added da Vinci Surgical System.

Education: Bachelor’s degrees in business and biology from Ball State University, received an executive master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan.

Family: Rebecca, a professor of nursing at IUPUC; three adult sons, an 11-year-old daughter and four grandchildren.

Hobbies: Colts and Bengals football, spending time with family, water sports, especially boating.

Q: What was your first job?

A: At age 12, I was a bus boy at a restaurant in South Bend.

Q: What was the main lesson you learned from that job?

A: If you work hard, you get better tips. Waitresses shared their tips with bus boys — but only if they did their job quickly and efficiently.

Q: What do you like best about your current job?

A: It’s important work. We work hard to provide the best care, so we have a very personalized impact on the community and its families. I also like the variety. Health care is ever changing, so there’s never a dull moment.

Q: What do you like least?

A: There is a lot of government regulation. Some is well-intentioned, but parts aren’t exactly logical and provide a hindrance to providing care. That gets frustrating at times.

Q: What primary challenges did you face when you first took a leadership role?

A: As director of business development, I had to report to the executive team. And when I became vice president, I was on equal footing, and at first you might be a little more hesitant than you should in terms of your willingness to share your ideas.

Q: What major lessons have you learned since you’ve taken a leadership role?

A: Listen carefully to your customers, staff and employees. You also have to learn how to properly prioritize — and say no to some things, because you have to focus on doing the right work, and that means you can’t do everything.

Q: How are you different as a leader today than you were when you first took on leadership responsibilities?

A: I’m probably a lot more patient than I used to be. In business development, you’re a planner, so you establish targets for getting things done. Early on, everything seemed to take much longer than I originally thought. I had a lunch one day in the early 1990s with J. Irwin Miller at the Left Bank restaurant, and he laughed about that and said he had had the same experience. He said he had learned to take his best guess for how long something might take to implement — and double it. It was a great life lesson.

Q: What’s the No. 1 thing you expect from your employees?

A: No surprises. We expect a lot of communication back and forth and we expect employees to give us lots of updates.

Q: What advice do you have for people who are just now entering the business world?

A: Find something you’re passionate about. It doesn’t mean that you have to find your calling right away, because you can change as you mature. But find something that you’re interested in and put all your energies into it.

Q: What’s your favorite city and why?

A: Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The citizens of Jamaica are extremely friendly and outgoing. They live life well. I’ve visited there about a handful of times.

Leadership Columbus is a twice monthly Q&A with Columbus’ business leaders. If you know someone we should talk to, contact Boris Ladwig at 379-5712 or

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