This is the first installment in Protocol's new Calendar Series, where we take you inside a day in the lives of the world’s biggest tech execs: the meetings on their agenda, how they manage their time, their best productivity hacks and what they prioritize in a busy day.
Doug Hirsch is the co-CEO of health care company GoodRx alongside business partner Trevor Bezdek. He characterizes himself as a “product entrepreneur,” and he and Bezdek split CEO duties, with Hirsch acting as more of the company’s “public face” and Bezdek responsible for more of the business development. Before co-founding the health care company with Bezdek and Scott Marlette in 2011, Hirsch was the VP of Product at Facebook, where he helped create Facebook Photos.
The Santa Monica-based company’s been busy. Just this month, it acquired vitaCare Prescription Services for $150 million in an effort to grow its pharma manufacturer solutions business.
Hirsch and I got together last week on Zoom to talk about what’s on his calendar today, March 22.
His schedule has been edited for brevity and clarity.
8-8:45 a.m. | Peloton
I’m celebrating my 500th ride tomorrow, so I’m very excited. I’m an Emma Lovewell fan. I do some athletic activity every morning before I get going. Sometimes I’ll do a pretty long morning walk, weightlifting, something every day so that I’m not sitting at the computer eating.
10-10:30 a.m. | Interns: Cecily and Cassie
I usually meet with all the interns at some point, either when they start or toward the end of their tenure at the company. On this particular day, I’m sitting down with some interns to talk about how to work in tech and health care, welcome them to the company and hopefully encourage them to continue to keep up the good work. This particular internship program is meant to prepare women and gender-expansive adults to be software developers. We’re really trying to build diversity in our workforce, especially in software development.
10:30-11:30 a.m. | Strategy check-in
We have two different executive check-ins. One’s a smaller group of about five people, and one’s about 20 people. We do a biweekly check-in to make sure we’re on the same page. It’s pretty fast and doesn’t always go the full hour, because why take up the time if we don’t need it?
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. | Doug’s thinking time
I really need to book out time, because otherwise my entire schedule gets filled. As much as I love interacting with folks, I do need to actually do what I like to do best and think I’m best at, which is building great products and thinking about the future of the company. I have six hours a week where no meetings get scheduled, where I need to just go deep, do some writing and use a whiteboard. I would love to tell you that nobody disturbs me, and it’s perfect. In practice, especially as a public company, I’m not going to say that I get a full six hours of that quality time.
One example of something I used this time for was in December of 2020. My son wanted a new PlayStation for Christmas, and I went on the internet and searched “PlayStation” and quickly found out that there were no PlayStations anywhere to be had unless you scalped one from StockX for like a billion dollars. And then I thought to myself — and remember, this is the end of 2020 right at the cusp of FDA approval for the vaccines — “Wait a second, this exact problem that I’m dealing with to get a PlayStation is going to happen across America and the world as everyone frantically tries to find these vaccines.” So it was during one of these times where I thought, “What if we built a vaccine finder? The data is out there, but people don’t know where to look.” I think in the span of two hours, I thought about it, actually called the guy who owns the data who worked for the government and basically kickstarted that project. And we launched it about three months later.
2-2:30 p.m. | Iced tea walk with Kraig A.
Kraig is a GoodRx employee. I try to walk with every employee, and I do this two or three times a week. It’s funny because sometimes people will show up at my office, and they have a PowerPoint ready, and I’m like, “No, we’re going for an iced tea walk.” We’re walking to the nearest coffee shop down the street, about 10 minutes away. When you’re sitting in a conference room or if they come into my office, it’s like, “I’m in the boss’s office, so I must behave accordingly.” And the relationship between the two of us is clear: boss here, and employee here. Those are two words I hate, by the way. But the minute we get on the street, we’re just two people going to get a drink together.
I think they’re kind of shocked. Because then I ask them, “What do you do for fun? You got any kids?” and that kind of stuff. And all they want to do is talk work. But I think the way to ultimately have a tighter working relationship is to start by just getting to know each other. It’s also a way to impart our values. I spent a few hours this morning working on our values. And at the end of the day, if I send you a PowerPoint with values on it, you put it in your trash, right? I think you got to eat, sleep and breathe it. And that’s kind of what the iced tea walk is about.
3-3:30 p.m. | GoodRx provider deep dive
One of the things that’s most important to GoodRx is people think of us as the place that consumers come to find information savings for prescriptions. But actually a huge part of our operations here is working with providers, health care professionals, and looking at ways to improve their experience. And if we can give them the tools, they can help more people in a more efficient way. Because there’s a lot of doctors out there that are like, “I’d love to sit down with someone and talk for 20 minutes about the price of the drug you’re trying to get at 19 different pharmacies.” Some folks may have the time to do that, and other folks are just like, “I want to be able to move on to the next patient but know that my patient got the best price.” So that’s what the deep dive is about.
4-4:30 p.m. | Research
We have a product called GoodRx Health, and we publish incredible content. Think about the vantage point we have: A significant amount of prescriptions written in this country come through direct, so we know what people are prescribing. We know when people are depressed in Minneapolis versus San Francisco or whatever. So this is actually me working with Thomas Goetz, our chief of research and chief communications officer, to look at trends to understand what content we can write that’s better than the normal garbage that you get on the internet if you look up any condition, drug or side effect. We work on providing best-in-class content, often written by doctors and health care professionals.
4:30-5 p.m. | Trevor
Trevor is my co-founder, the guy I keep talking about. Trevor and I, surprisingly, even though we share an office, you’d be surprised how rarely we actually get to talk. He’s on the phone, I can hear him on the phone right now. So we try to set aside some time to catch up and make sure we’re in sync on the company and our priorities.
We usually schedule two walks on our calendars a week. We never get both. We usually put an hour, and it usually ends up being a half hour. But the point of that is, again, for us to get out of the chaos. Otherwise, we’re in our office, someone’s banging on the door, Slack’s going off. To be really able to talk about the future of the company in an uninterrupted setting often just means a walk around the block. I’m a big fan of getting outside. We talk about both hiring and HR and business development issues, M&A, to “Where’s health care heading in this country?”
Rapid-fire with Doug Hirsch
Outlook or Gmail?
Definitely Gmail. I do have a lot of issues with Gmail, which I was about to rant about on Twitter. When I mark something as spam, why does Gmail still let it through? It’s like the button when you cross the street that doesn’t actually do anything.
Phone calls or Zoom?
Phone calls for sure. In fact, I have started going old school and conferencing people on my iPhone. There’s all sorts of research that Zoom is stressful. By the way, plastic surgeons are making a ton of money off of it, because people look at themselves and go, “Oh, I’ve got to fix that.” I’m fine with Zoom for three-plus people, but when it’s one on one, getting on Zoom is a major pet peeve.
Optimal meeting length?
Depends. If it’s a check-in meeting, it should be 25 minutes. If it’s a real brainstorm, I’ll go for days.
Do you ever do focus days with no meetings?
I do them a lot, actually. I’m ultimately a product entrepreneur. I don’t think of myself as a CEO of a company. And my job is to stay in touch with the pain points that American consumers are experiencing. So I will spend time hanging out in pharmacies. I was at the doctor’s this morning, and I spent an extra hour after I left my appointment just interviewing the front desk about what’s going on. So, no meetings except for interacting with actual people with actual health care problems, if that makes sense.
Do you keep a separate calendar for your personal life?
I keep a separate one, but it’s visible so people know if I’m busy.
Is there anything you will make time for no matter what?
My son’s on the tennis team right now, and I will not miss one of his matches. I’m lucky that they tend to start at 4:30 or 5 [p.m.], so I just leave a half hour earlier. I’m not going to sacrifice my brief time with my kids for work.
Your favorite productivity hack?
I know this sounds so old school, but nothing beats a whiteboard and small group of people, as in less than six, preferably less than four, just hashing out a problem. Get a bunch of people in a room and not leave until we solve it. I know we live in a distributed Zoom world, but there is a chemistry that comes from being able to work in a room together and design products together. The perfect mode is: Everyone’s in the room together. The second option is to do another Zoom.