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12 Years in the Making: An Interview with the Founders of Onyx M.D.

CEO Dr. Robert Moghim, a Board Certified Anesthesiologist, founded Onyx M.D. back in 2005 with Jim Chandler, President & CFO. From start-up to Top 13 largest locum tenens firms, learn how they managed to grow the company organically through hard work, persistence, and A LOT of experience!


Tell us your favorite memory during those first few days of starting the company…


Our first office was a very small commercial space with a small basement.  Jim’s office was in a confined space in the basement which could only hold a desk, a chair, and a few filing cabinets.  So we couldn’t see him, but we could hear him!  I would hear things like …”Oh MAN!!!”… ”WHAT THE HECK!”….”COME ON MAN!”  He was literally yelling at his computer. I don’t think he knew we could hear him. LOL


I was excited to be in healthcare and in an environment where we started from literally NOTHING!  Our first office was a converted house.  I think it is now a clothing boutique.  My “space” was a room in the basement. The door to get there was actually part of the floor and, unless you knew that, no one would ever know I was there!  It was like I was in a dungeon of a castle…albeit a small castle. 

When starting a business, you are forced to wear many hats.  I think the most satisfying memory from that time was when I locked down our first large contract. The hospital client lost their anesthesia group and we were successful in establishing a lasting relationship, staffing multiple anesthesiologists during our first year. It put us on the map!   



What is the biggest accomplishment Onyx M.D. has achieved since inception?


 A majority of our competitors are backed by private equity firms or strategic partners with access to easier forms of capital and/or public funds etc. We are likely one of the ONLY companies in our industry that started and grew the organization organically. For example, if the company needed more capital I would just take more call shifts or work holidays (as a provider). Meaning, we didn’t raise capital, acquire debt, or bring in more partners.  We made it happen by using the old school methodology of hard work, reinvest, more hard work, reinvest…and that cycle still continues to this day. This has allowed us to remain extremely flexible in our strategy and approach to growing the business.

Breaking into Top 13 Largest Locum Tenens Firms (based on revenue) 





What is your approach to leadership?


By example.  I’ll clean the floors and vacuum the office if required. Nothing is beneath any of the leaders in the company.  In addition, we are true believers of empowering team members and allowing them to shine. This approach allows leaders to speak up and challenge the status quo without repercussions. 



Simple…surround myself with GREAT people who are motivated, team players and possess a high moral compass.  I strive to find individuals with positive attitudes and a high aptitude (and desire) to learn. If you have that, you can teach them the skills to do the job.  Remove obstacles, provide the necessary resources, and offer guidance/support, so that individuals can move towards their professional goals AND meet company goals, at the same time.  



What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome as a leader?


  The biggest obstacle is clearly being able to remove my own personal views so that the best decisions for the company can be made based on objectivity (not unproven beliefs). I had to really learn this skill and it took some time to make it part of my everyday thought process. 



Patience and delegation.  When I started my career, I thought I could do everything… literally.  I quickly learned that is impossible.  I had a tendency to over-commit.  In leadership, it is important that you are constantly evaluating individual growth and delegating duties to those with appropriate skill sets.



Who is the most effective leader you have ever known personally, and why?


I would have to include both Sara Rogers and Jim Chandler.  Sure, there are many leaders out there that have proven track records but the one(s) I know best are right here at Onyx M.D.  Both individuals have shown incredible patience and perseverance no matter the circumstances.  They also lead by example and work harder than a majority of the people I know in similar positions.  I have rarely seen individuals with such drive and commitment to their work and teammates.  Their integrity and ethical approach to solving problems is something to emulate.  Most people in the company know exactly what I’m talking about when they read this.  I can’t say enough about how enthusiastic I am for the future of the company under their leadership!   


My father-in-law.  He recently retired from the grocery business after 45 years.  He literally built his first grocery store in the early 1970s…yes, with a hammer and nails!  He was also elected to the MN state legislature for 3 consecutive terms and was responsible for bringing opposing parties together and introducing lasting legislation that benefitted all Minnesotans.   I have been around him long enough to know that being an effective leader requires discipline, taking risks, and making difficult decisions. It also means that he cares about others and is selfless in his approach to growing people and businesses.  He gave me great advice a long time ago when he told me that I will make mistakes.  All leaders do and if you ever heard one say they haven’t, they are LYING!  It is how you respond to those mistakes that will ultimately define you and your legacy.  


How has your view of leadership changed in the last 12 years? 


For one, nothing beats experience.  Reading and studying the topic of leadership cannot touch actual experience.  Leaders bear the enormous responsibility and commitment to a cause.  I’ve learned that a title that implies a leadership designation means very little in the world of true leadership.  A real leader doesn’t need to be told what to do.  They just do it.  They also are fully committed to the cause as priority number one and are relentless in achieving the end goal.  They remove the “noise” that is associated in our present day era of information overload and focus on the information that is meaningful, a skill that is often overlooked.  It took me a while to realize that what I thought of leadership is COMPLETELY different than how I view it today.  That would not have happened if it weren’t for the time spent at Onyx M.D. over the last decade.    


Never assume people know what or how you are thinking. OVER-communication is key. 





Describe the best day you've had at Onyx M.D....


I’ve had many great days at Onyx M.D.  It has and continues to be an amazing journey.  It has made me a much better person and more astute in the world of business.  If I had to highlight one day, I would have to say the day Jim became President.  I don’t think most realize this but Jim is the most loyal, committed and hardest working person I’ve ever met.  We are lucky to have him leading the team! 


When Bobby asked me to start this journey with him  






If you could rewind the clock to June 6th, 2005 what advice would you give yourself?


I wouldn’t change a thing since our path and journey has defined us as a company.  However, I would likely have created an Advisory Team much earlier with experienced members to help guide us during the early years.  Again, nothing replaces experience! 



Never become complacent.  Relying on cruise control will inevitably make you and/or the company irrelevant and the competition will pass us by.  Lasting success is a constant work in progress because people, the marketplace, etc. are always evolving. 



What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring leader within the company?


The most respected leaders are those that do not waiver and remain committed to the values of the organization, no matter the circumstances.  More often than not, when things don’t happen as expected, there tends to be finger-pointing.  Real leaders never point fingers at others but only at themselves.  You can’t be a leader without people to lead.  People follow those that lead by example and remain committed even during the most challenging times.  


Keep it simple, do not overcomplicate, and stay focused.   Pay attention to the facts, not emotions, when evaluating the business, people, etc.  Be clear when explaining the reasons and expectations behind decisions and/or addressing individual performance and reiterate that you CARE about their growth and success.  Again, clear messaging, over-communicating, and reminders are key!   Make yourself AVAILABLE but also pay attention to those who WALK their TALK.  Action and behavior is what leads to individual and company growth.  Okay, that was not one piece of advice but felt I should share all of it! :)


What gets you excited about the future of Onyx M.D.?


Onyx M.D. is a resilient company with great employees who really care about their jobs and fellow team members.  I have a lot of respect for our current leaders.  I have never been more confident in the future of Onyx M.D. than I am now.  We have better tools and more focus than ever.  With that said, we will always make it a priority to continue to make improvements to the company. The Onyx M.D. leaders are better equipped to make informed decisions in an industry that continues to boom.  It’s a great time to be part of Onyx M.D. and we are not looking to slow down anytime soon!  


Our PEOPLE.  As long as we continue to invest in their growth, I KNOW we will be a MAJOR player in this industry.  Healthcare is approximately 1/7th of the US economy.  It is in the $Trillions!!!  Like food, everyone needs it. As things seem to constantly change in healthcare, providers and clients make changes as well.  This “movement” means demand for staffing will continue to rise.  Companies like ours are positioned perfectly to capitalize on this opportunity.  This is the reason why we have seen double-digit growth in our industry over the past 5 years!  Great Industry + Great People = GREAT COMPANY.  We have reached levels that MANY companies only dream of.  It is simply a matter of time before we surpass our own expectations.


Tell us something about Jim that people might not know…


Jim’s wife has the same first and middle name as my wife.   Another interesting fact is that the first time I ever saw Jim stretching his legs was right before he hit the dance floor.  Jim can do some heavy fist pumping and he makes a pretty good attempt at cutting the rug.  You guys have to see it to believe it!!!!   



Tell us something about Bobby that people might not know...


He has a SERIOUS passion for music and the bass guitar. He is also the best soccer player I have ever played with although it was not at Duke University, it was in our Over-30 Rec league of which we have now both retired from!  



Interview Date: 6/6/17


Robert Moghim, M.D. - View Bio

Jim Chandler, CFA - View Bio