Joe Caruncho, co-founder and former CEO of Preferred Care Partners, on spotting high potential executives.

?If I?m about to mess up, I expect my team to tell me.?


Joe Carucho?Joe Caruncho, Co-founder and former CEO of Preferred Care Partners.

Joseph ?Joe? Caruncho learned the importance of surrounding himself with others who also have strong leadership skills. After co-founding Preferred Care Partners in 1996, Mr. Caruncho grew his company to be the largest privately held Medicare Advantage plan in Florida. His success culminated in having the company bought by United Healthcare in 2013.

?No doubt about it: I couldn?t have achieved the level of growth and success that Preferred Care Partners achieved without having a terrific leadership team to help me,? says Caruncho, who was a corporate healthcare attorney for 13 years prior to founding Preferred Care Partners. ?If I walk into a meeting with a plan and am about to mess up, I expect my team to tell me. That?s the kind of people I surround myself with.?

Mr. Caruncho selected people not only for his senior management team but other levels within the organization. What did he look for?

?People who are smart, energetic and with a real passion for their work, have the potential for being leaders,? he says. ?I want people who can see what I see, but have ideas for making that vision even better.?

According to Mr. Caruncho, high potential leaders make themselves known to you. He finds they have a ?Put me in, Coach!? attitude. ?But often those who have a potential for leadership need to have their skills developed,? he says. ?You can have all the excitement and potential in the world but if you don?t have the right leadership skills ? which can be learned — you can?t be as effective. A smart organization? he adds, ?will offer opportunities for leadership development in order to strengthen the team from inside the company.?

When forming the leadership team for his organization, Mr. Caruncho was criticized for not selecting experienced leaders from within the healthcare management field. ?Seventy percent of our leadership was homegrown, people who were with us from the beginning of our idea for creating Preferred Care Partners,? he reports. ?If you?re trying to do something out of the box, the old guards aren?t the people to take you to your goals.?

Mr. Caruncho certainly reached his goals and became one of Florida?s biggest success stories, including being selected as the 2005 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the State of Florida. That same year he was named as South Florida Business Journal?s CEO of the Year.Hispanic Business Magazine listed Mr. Caruncho in its Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States.

Mr. Caruncho has strong ties to Florida International University (FIU) where he earned his bachelor?s degree in Business Administration in 1981. He was inducted in 2004 into FIU?s College of Business Hall of Fame and in 2009 received the Alumni Association Torch Award for Distinguished Alumni. He has played leadership role at the university, including having served on the Board of Trustees and as a member of the FIU Foundation Board of Directors, including as Chairperson. Most recently, Mr. Caruncho was appointed to the State University System of Florida?s Board of Governors. He is a Founder of the FIU College of Medicine and currently serves on the Board of Advisors for FIU?s Center for Leadership, which was recently ranked #1 for its executive leadership programs by HR.com.

Every day, be willing to give up who you are for who you can become.
?Companies which haven?t succeeded are often those with leaders who have an inability to face facts and change course,? shares Mr. Caruncho. ?That can be the death of a company.?

?A good leader questions every day, ?Are we relevant ?? and ?Will we be relevant in 3-5 years??? he continues. ?This is especially true in a quickly changing industry such as healthcare and for a company like ours which was growing rapidly. Every day, you should be willing to give up who you are for who you can become.?

His business plan for Preferred Care Partners included three success factors. He wanted to create an organization that 1) had a good relationship with doctors, 2) retained members, and 3) after 1 and 2 were in place, focused resources on improving the health of its members.

?I never deviated from those three success factors. In the wake of a changing regulatory and competitive landscape my leadership team and I constantly analyzed how we would achieve those factors, both now and in the future,? Mr. Caruncho reports. ?We had to look at new ways of achieving our success factors and be willing to change everything–without comprising your values.?

He also shares why boldness and courage is part of his leadership style. Mr. Caruncho admits his team would laugh when he would say ?Hokaheh,? a phrase that means ?It?s a good day to die,? often attributed to the battle cry of Sioux chief Crazy Horse. But they got the point.

?When launching a bold initiative, we can?t go in half-way,? he says emphatically. ?You have to be willing to leave it all on the field.?

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