Volume 43 | Number 2 | Spring 2013

Trounson is a pilot and has been featured in "Flying" magazine.

ISU Photographic Services/Susan Duncan

Profitably Blurring the Lines Between Work and Play

Spring 2013 Issue | By Andrew Taylor

Before an early morning business meeting this CEO might be casting dry flies to native cutthroat trout in the middle of the largest wilderness area in the continental United States, rather than commuting through traffic in a busy city.

The company's only office space, besides an airplane and airplane hanger, is 220-square feet above a coffee shop in downtown Boise.

The CEO's secretary, who the CEO has never met in person, lives in India, and the company's informational technology hub is in Alaska.

In its unorthodox and profitable manner MedMan, led by Idaho State University alum and supporter Jim Trounson, expanded when many other companies contracted.

"We're doing great," said Trounson, a fourth generation Idahoan from Wendell who graduated from ISU with a business degree in 1969. "We decided not to participate in the recession and that has been a good tactic. During a recession is the best time to increase market share and get new business that other people are nervous about."

He said in recent years he hired better people (MedMan, by the way, likely hires more ISU Division of Health Sciences health care administration program graduates than any other entity) and bought a better airplane for the company.

MedMan, an abbreviation for the Boise-based Medical Management, Inc., has steadily expanded since its founding in 1977. The company specializes in operating medical groups and clinics by providing on-site medical managers. It offers 35 years of expertise over the network it serves. MedMan had about $4 million in revenues in 2012.

Although the company has managed medical groups as far away as Guam, Singapore and on the U.S. East Coast, its focus now is the Pacific Northwest where MedMan manages dozens of medical facilities and works with hundreds of physicians, primarily in Idaho, Washington, Alaska and Nevada.

I live by the 'balance is bunk' theory. To have a work life separate from a play life, for me, is crazy-making. If you are a knowledge worker, it is tough to have a hard edge between your personal and professional life. I gave up on it. I created a life that I don't care whether what I'm doing is work or play. Both are enjoyable.

— Jim Trounson

"Being in a smaller echo chamber (the Pacific Northwest) we have grown faster and delivered a better product to hospitals and cooperatives," Trounson said.

In 1999, the company rid itself of most of its office space and became a less conventional business entity. Since then it has relied on video and Internet conferencing, electronic libraries, phone calls and airplane travel to work with clients and to communicate between company employees.

"By cutting down on overhead we can be more cost-effective to our clients," Trounson said. "It is a good time to be in this business because of all the ways technology can add value to our service. By utilizing it we can be with our clients more. Ironically, I started this business from a spare bedroom in my house, and that is where I spend a lot of time working again."

When Trounson attended ISU he was in the ROTC program and worked at a variety of jobs to put himself through school, including working at a Simplot mine, fighting fires during the summer and playing piano, "popular music, honky-tonk and sing-alongs," at a Shakey's Pizza restaurant and at the Bannock Hotel.

The Bannock Hotel, noted Trounson, was where another famous ISU alumnus, Roger Williams, also started out. Trounson said he was thrilled when he met the late Roger Williams, the greatest selling piano artist of all time, at an ISU Homecoming celebration. "It was great meeting Roger Williams," Trounson said. "My main claim to fame is that I started out in the same bar he did."

After graduating from Idaho State University, Trounson spent four years in the Army as a health care administrator and traveled through most of Europe and a lot of Asia. The experience in the military, from which he earned a Bronze Star, prepared him well for his first post-University civilian jobs, two years as CEO at Steele Memorial Hospital in Salmon, and two years as administrative director for Family Medicine Residency of Idaho in Boise before founding MedMan.

His life and work philosophies have changed as his career has progressed.

"I live by the 'balance is bunk' theory," Trounson said. "To have a work life separate from a play life, for me, is crazy-making. If you are a knowledgeable worker it is tough to have a hard edge between your personal and professional life. I gave up on it. I created a life that I don't care whether what I'm doing is work or play. Both are enjoyable."

Part of his work and play life he much enjoys is the company airplane and air travel. Trounson is a pilot (who was once featured in Flying Magazine) and the company also has another pilot. The company's new plane is set up for high-tech business correspondence including video conference calls and it allows for frequent business travel, allowing more face-to-face interaction between Trounson, his employees, and the company's clients.

It also allows unique business experiences for both company employees and clients. For example, Trounson has been known to pick up and fly clients into a private lodge inside the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness area to have a business meeting.

"I can go fly-fishing in the Middle Fork of the Salmon River before work," Trounson said, "and I can take potential clients into the backcountry for a unique kind of power breakfast."

His personal life, arguably, is as interesting as his business life. As a pilot with commercial and instrument ratings, Trounson completed an England to Australia World Vintage Air Rally in 1990 and flew to the Arctic Circle and back in 1993. In his 50s, while living in Ketchum near the Sun Valley Ski Resort, he skied one million vertical feet in a season.

Trounson, honored as a Distinguished Alumni in 1991 by the ISU College of Business, and his wife, Julie, are generous supporters of Idaho State University. Jim has served on the ISU Foundation Board and the Advisory Board of the former ISU Kasiska College of Health Professions. He and Julie also fund the ongoing accreditation for the ISU health care administration program.

"ISU has been such an important and positive factor in my life and continues to be," Jim said. "And I like hanging around here when I can."

He also said he continues to keep working.

"Really, perfect jobs are created, not found," Trounson said. "I have the perfect job, I feel, and I am lucky doing this. I am 65 years old, but I don't see a reason to ever totally retire. I hope to continue to do this at some level as long as I have my wits about me."

Trounson was able to take the step of eliminating most of the business office space.