Krista Endsley, CEO of Cantata Health, said that at the age of 12, she told her mother she wanted to become a CEO.
“I don’t know what I thought it entailed,” Endsley said of her childhood vision for her dream job.
Unlike most children, Endsley held onto that vision. She became a vice president in her early 30s and a CEO in her 40s. She’s been in the software IT for 25 years and at one point, thought about concentrating on the technology side.
“I had an amazing propensity for technology,” Endsley said. “I almost went down that path.”
But Endsley knew she was too much of an extrovert to stay behind the scenes. She is now president and CEO of Cantata Health, a healthcare IT company that works with over 250 acute care hospitals as well as long-term care and skilled nursing facilities on revenue cycle and EHR software solutions.
As in most successful endeavors, the road has been challenging. She’s been helped by mentors, a supportive husband and her own drive.
Her drive around setting and achieving goals has meant moving, both out of her home state of Ohio, and from a position of comfort, or in one instance, discomfort, from a job.
Her first job out of college was as a receptionist for a construction company.
It was “one of the turning points,” she said. “I literally was more scared to stay in that job than to not have a job.”
It wasn’t because she felt harassed or intimidated working primarily with men.
“I was scared to stay on that path,” Endsley said. “I walked in one day to the president’s office, and said, ‘ I quit.’ I jumped off of a cliff. Another lesson: I think you always need to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
The economy can change, such as when the dot-com bubble went bust in 2001, and expectations are always a moving target.
“Expectations always grow. I don’t think I realized the incredible hard work it takes to be a CEO,” Endlsey said adding, “I love being a CEO.”
'Back it up with something solid'
Historically the manufacturing and distribution software field has been dominated by men.
“Being a young woman in IT and technology, you get noted and (get) attention,” Endsley said, “but unless you can back it up with something solid, you’ve lost your credibility.”
When asked for advice, Endsley tells women to always ask for what they want. Early on, as a product manager, she insisted that she have the same vice president title and pay as others when she took over a division of a company.
This required a $50,000 pay raise, which she got.
Secondly, if you feel like you’re being taken for granted or taken advantage of, it is because you’re letting it happen, she said. Don’t ever put this power in someone else’s hands.
“The best lesson, I tell every woman to ask for what you deserve,” Endsley said. “Those conversations are super scary, whether you’re a man or a woman. For me it’s all about letting people know what you want. You can’t assume someone else wants to take care of you.”
While raising her daughters, now ages 18 and 21, Endsley worked part-time at home.
“They really inspired me every day,” she said. “They’re both into science: one wants to become a doctor and the other an environmental scientist.”
'That little bit of angst'
Endsley grew up on a horse farm in the Midwest, where her mother ran a boarding stable of about 30 horses and Endsley showed horses in Columbus, Ohio.
In the back of her mind was “always that little bit of angst,” she said, about “that generation having the feeling they had no choices as women.”
Endsley worked four jobs to put herself through Ohio State University, where she graduated in 1992 with degrees in finance and operations management. In 2001, she earned her MBA from Otterbein University in Ohio.
From her first job out of school as a construction company receptionist, Endsley said she went to work in the mid 1990s for a company in Atlanta, Georgia, training Fortune 500 companies on the use of Windows software.
She then moved her family to Florida, where she worked for Sage, an end-to-end financial accounting and software firm whose parent company was based in the U.K. At Sage she landed good mentors and a boss who gave her a portfolio of companies to run.
“I cut my teeth for 12 years at Sage,” Endsley said.
During her time there, Sage went from a $12 million to a billion dollar company. Endsley rose from product manager to general manager, before being promoted to senior vice president running a nonprofit division of Sage in Austin, Texas.
More than half
Five years later, the company divested, and Endsley was named CEO of Abila, a large provider of software to nonprofits and associations. Under Endsley’s leadership, the company’s revenue and earnings tripled, she said.
“I am looking forward to doing the same things at Cantata Health,” Endsley said.
More than half of the Abila’s employees, 58 percent, were women, she said. And 50% of the executive team was female.
“We did not set out just to hire women,” she said. “I feel that I was gender blind.”
In 2017, the company was bought by Community Brands.
Endsley said she took a regenerative year off before being approached by Cantana Heath. She came aboard as a consultant, then president and CEO.
“I think there’s a change coming in the industry for efficiency, technology, to bring people to value-based care,” she said. “Next, we’re rolling out new strategy to enable organizations around financials to the next level. For me I want to see this through. I would like to continue to expand that and enable other people.”