Epic Systems Should be WMC's Biggest Fan
By George Lightbourn
In an otherwise slow news period, last week Epic Systems, the medical software company, announced that they would no longer do business with companies associated with WMC (Wisconsin’s business organization). It seems that the medical software company didn’t cotton to WMC orchestrating the election of Michael Gableman to the State Supreme Court.
For months Paul Soglin and a few others have been looking for companies to break ranks with WMC. Epic is their poster child. It must have been an easy sale given that Soglin is a former Epic employee.
Still, there is an element of chutzpah in Epic’s move that some WMC members couldn’t help but savor. Here was this esoteric software company flexing its economic muscle, just as companies have done through history.
Epic has always marched to its own beat. Founded and led by Judy Faulkner, the company has blossomed into one of the top five providers of automated medical record systems in the nation. Providing a key information system to the lucrative medical industry has yielded Faulkner’s company wealth well beyond what any forecast could have predicted. She likes telling people that the company is growing 30% annually and has zero debt.
Make no mistake, Epic is Judy Faulkner’s company. While on paper she has a number of advisory groups, no company decision of any consequence is made without her. Epic is Judy Faulkner and Judy Faulkner is one feisty ball of independence.
For example, she decided to relocate her company from Madison to farmland south of Verona, eschewing the remonstrance of the anti-sprawl crowd. She located her “Intergalactic Headquarters” on “Milky Way,” hardly the signature of staid tradition. Nor is the tree house anchoring the sprawling headquarters, or the refusal to advertise or market, or the decision to shun traditional business planning.
The personal side of Judy Faulkner is decidedly left leaning, meaning that her company also leans that way. She and her husband fully participate in the political process by donating as much as they can to Democratic candidates and liberal causes. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that, this is America. What is a bit peculiar is that she has willingly let her personal beliefs slop over into her business decisions.
But she can do that because it is her company. She has no board of directors to answer to, no proxy votes to worry about and no annual shareholder meetings where she has to explain herself. In fact, the reclusive Ms. Faulkner feels little need to explain herself about anything.
Ms. Faulkner will likely not appreciate my observation that she and her company are huge beneficiaries of WMC’s work. The independence that marks every decision she has ever made is exactly what WMC is working to protect. At its core, WMC is vigilant to ensure that Wisconsin businesses will enjoy as light a touch from government as possible. Over the years, WMC has consistently fought for a light touch in both taxes and regulation. In addition, WMC wants to reform the legal system which includes ensuring a less activist-oriented judiciary. Early on in the most recent Supreme Court race, WMC put Justice Louis Butler in its sights simply because he had demonstrated a taste for judicial activism, particularly aimed at the business liability.
So Judy Faulkner has made her statement. Perhaps one day she will see that her big, successful company has already benefitted from WMC as they have continued to champion business independence from government. She might also look back a few years from now to see that Justice Gableman has been unwilling to hamstring Wisconsin businesses from his perch on the Supreme Court. Whether she knows it or not – I suspect she does – WMC has helped assure that she can run her company as she sees fit. Judy Faulkner should be one of WMC’s biggest fans. However I don’t think Jim Haney needs to wait by the mailbox for a thank you from Judy.
-July 1, 2008