Josh Blair is proof that working in different areas of an organization is invaluable.
“I started as an engineer and ended up shifting into more of the service development and marketing side of the company—that was where I got my first leadership role,” Blair says. Although he obtained his degree in engineering, Blair found he possessed an innate ability for leadership and was fascinated with the service aspect of the workplace.
“I was interested in what engineering could do from a societal perspective,” Blair says. “I was probably one of the very few engineers who enjoyed the non-engineer courses.” With that drive for the human aspect of processes, he earned his executive business degree at the Queen’s School of Business. Concurrently, Blair took a role as president of a startup that was incubated from within TELUS, where he remained for two years before he orchestrated the sale of the company to a U.S. telecom solutions firm.
“I partner with people who are smarter than me and are experts in their domain.”
“That experience very much turned me on to the end-to-end aspect of leading a business,” Blair says. “That startup experience of being president really struck that flame inside me.” After rejoining TELUS, Blair’s responsibilities grew significantly. Today, he is executive vice president of not only TELUS Health and TELUS International as well as president of TELUS Business Solutions West. Here, Blair shares with Advantage the important lessons he’s learned in each role.
As a leading solutions provider for the health industry, Blair was tasked with helping to improve business growth. “The year-over-year growth was not where we wanted it,” he says. “It was about getting in and studying the business intensely in a short amount of time.” Along with his team, Blair focused on building TELUS’s reach across the healthcare industry.
Creating technology on various levels, TELUS Health provides collaboration from patients to providers. “We’re building a platform so that the consumer can be in the center of the health system versus someone who has to navigate it,” Blair says.
Today, Blair’s team is working on a new online benefits check service, which is looking to revolutionize the patient experience. “Thirty percent of prescriptions in Canada today never get filled,” Blair says. “Our online benefits check solution enables doctors to view a patient’s benefits coverage quickly and easily so they can prescribe suitable medication that is covered by the patient’s insurance provider. That means the patient won’t suffer sticker shock or embarrassment at the pharmacy and will more likely fill the prescription.”
The TELUS Health team is also taking part in a major initiative with the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN). Using TELUS’ home health monitoring solution, OTN is helping 2,500 patients manage chronic conditions, including congestive heart failure and pulmonary disease, from the comfort of their own home.
This means they get the care they need without having to travel to visit their care providers. It also means their doctors can identify health issues before they become life-threatening events. As a result of the partnership, hospital readmissions for participants have been reduced by 70 percent and ER visits are down by 76 percent. Trials are also underway in British Columbia with similarly encouraging results.
“We’re not only providing a better health outcome for the individual, but also a better outcome for the healthcare system,” Blair says. Aligning the company goals with its client goals helped position the TELUS Health team in the right direction. “We needed to crystalize a compelling strategy with a purposeful focus that could drive our 1,700 TELUS Health team members in a common direction with passion and enthusiasm. That’s what made the difference.”
Primarily known for its call centre services, Blair was tasked to help take TELUS International to the next level. “TELUS International has 20,000 people who provide call centre, back office and IT services to major companies around the world,” Blair says. “We effectively are the customer-service arm or the IT arm for these organizations.”
“The success behind TELUS International is our value proposition in learning the different cultures of our clients and putting an emphasis on customer service that we’ve honed over many years and applying it to the many large firms we work with at TELUS,” Blair says. “We’re a mix of providing a lower cost of outsourcing and also bringing a strong customer service approach that provides a huge benefit to their customers.”
TELUS International not only benchmarks its clients’ satisfaction, but also the satisfaction of its clients’ customers. “We know we’re successful when the customers of our clients are happy and satisfied with TELUS International,” Blair says.
Josh also oversees TELUS Ventures, a team that invests in promising technology start-ups that can advance TELUS’s strategy,” Blair says. Keeping up with technological advancements has proven important in the TELUS strategy as it allows the organization to be at the forefront of new developments. “It’s helping our partner companies to grow and develop their products and create a product that is going to help TELUS be successful in the marketplace.”
It’s clear that Josh Blair has a lot on his plate these days and juggling these different roles is not for the faint of heart. “One of the things that I find successful is to find the key areas to focus on within a business rather than trying to do everything well—which inevitably leads to doing nothing well,” Blair says. In addition to honing in on key business endeavors, Blair credits his team and their ability to work well that allows him to navigate his many duties.
“The first thing is to surround yourself with team members who are incredibly capable,” he says. “I partner with people who are smarter than me and are experts in their domains. The senior leaders who are in charge of these various businesses are highly skilled, dedicated and experienced.”
With a 20-year career at TELUS, Josh has worn many hats while making contributions that readied him for his C-suite role. In addition to his impressive work ethic, Blair credits the mentoring and leadership he received through the years.
“Being willing to learn from the experiences of others is hugely valuable as it helps fast track your development,” Blair says. “You can learn from others’ mistakes as opposed to making more on your own, but it’s still just as important to take risks and learn from mistakes you may make.”