A Discussion With Hootan Melamed on Balancing His Career and the Importance of Empathy in the Workplace

Hootan Melamed learned to care for others from a very young age. Growing up watching his mother as a pharmacist and his father as a physician, it’s no surprise that he would naturally gravitate to a similar career. When his family moved to the United States in 1986 from Iran, his parents were thrust into a different culture and worked hard to become successful in a new country.

Hootan saw this hard work and empathetic nature as a perfect foundation for his own life. After receiving his pharmacy degree, he began working alongside his mother, but soon learned he wanted a little more. He wanted to make life easier for people, whether through enhancing existing products to make them more effective or creating his own.

Tell us a little about your industry and why you chose to be an entrepreneur?

I didn’t like to work for other people. I don’t enjoy office politics or the hierarchy that comes with larger companies. The higher-ups were not even pharmacists, yet they were in control of how the pharmacy would be run. I worked with a few of the larger chains and, as much as I enjoyed helping people, I found it a bit taxing to have those without a full understanding of what happens on the ground floor making the decisions that affected us.

What do you love most about being in healthcare and running your own company in that field?

I love the interactions I have daily with customers. I enjoy working with my employees. With larger chains, it’s all about the bottom line. If you don’t meet their quota, maybe you don’t get a bonus. When you work for yourself, it’s not about a financial quota. It’s about customer service and actually making a difference for the people you work with. It’s about creating a family. Your employees become your extended family.

How do you stay motivated?

I always felt that I had to prove to everyone that we are the complete package. To my customers, I wanted to be someone they could rely on. For my employees, I want them to know they are working with a good company. Even with my own family, I am a role model for my children and I wanted to show them how important it is to always do your best. I always included them in any victories or milestones we achieve.

How do you motivate others?

We worked together toward a common goal. Employees are just as important in a company as an owner, no matter what role they have. The success of the company is their success, just as much as it is mine. I have never been one for titles, the janitor is just as important as the CEO and everyone within the company should work for its success. If they didn’t, then they weren’t the right fit.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from my children. I have always believed in helping others and I have tried to impress this on my children, as well. They have worked by my side as I’ve done charity work and they have seen the difference they’ve made in the lives of others. Leaving that legacy with them keeps me moving forward. I want them to know that they can make a difference in this world. Interacting with people from all walks of life is one of the best ways to teach young people to be kind and understanding of others.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting in your industry?

Always be willing to learn and open your mind to new things. Keep reading and stay on top of things, not just in pharmaceuticals, but in healthcare itself. It’s important to be as educated as you can be so that you know you’re giving the best help to your customers. Healthcare is always changing, moving forward. You have to keep up with it and evolve

What defines you as a person?

I think my empathy is my greatest strength. The ability to connect with people, no matter their background, has afforded me such great relationships in business and in life. I love learning from reading and from meeting people from many different backgrounds. My ability to really listen to people, to understand where they are coming from has helped me be a better person.

How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?

It is not easy to do that. At times, I was working ten hours a day. It had caused problems in my personal life. It’s not easy to maintain a good balance between the two and it is something I will likely keep struggling with. Bringing my kids to work was helpful. They would dress and attend meetings. They began to have a better understanding of why I was gone so much and how hard I worked.

What traits do you possess that make you a successful leader?

My ability to learn is one of my greatest traits. I think every situation is a learning opportunity. I have learned the importance of being a good listener and a good communicator. Being straightforward, while being empathetic, is an important tool for any entrepreneur.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My role models are my parents. They migrated to a country where they didn’t know the language or the culture and they have been successful. Success was not measured by money in our household but how we treated and supported one another. Through watching their dedication and hard work and love they have for their children, I learned to be the same. I learned what it takes to not only be a good businessman but a good person and a good parent.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

It’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you get up, even on your darkest days. I have kept that advice in mind for years to remind myself that even when things seem insurmountable, you can find a way. You have to be ready and willing to put in the work.

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