Bhavdeep Singh is currently a Managing Partner at Whitehawk Associates LLC, an independent business management consultancy specializing in Retail, Human Resources, Leadership Development, and Healthcare. He is also Chairman and co-founder of HealthQuarters, a new destination for curated and clinically-backed health and wellness services in downtown New York City. Singh and the HealthQuarters team recently partnered with the Mount Sinai Health System and they are now looking at an aggressive rollout plan to launch up to 100 locations in the next 3 to 5 years.
Over his 30+ year career, Bhavdeep Singh has experience in a senior management role at several multi-billion-dollar companies which saw overseeing tremendous growth under his leadership. But in 2021, he transitioned from “employee” to entrepreneur with the creation of Whitehawk Associates, an advisory/consulting firm with clients in the healthcare, retail, and supply chain industries.
Prior to joining Whitehawk Associates and launching Healthquarters, Bhavdeep Singh gained an international reputation as a forward-thinking business leader serving as Head of US Operations for Ahold, a $26 billion business, where he had complete P&L oversight for 800 stores and 110,000 employees. Following that experience, he was the Chief Executive Officer of Fortis Healthcare, where he led one of the largest private health systems in the world and helped manage a network of more than 30 private hospitals across India.
We were fortunate enough to recently connect with Bhavdeep Singh, who shared valuable insights into his professional journey.
How did you get started?
I have always been interested in business, and my career started as a part-time employee in a small grocery store in my hometown of White Plains, NY. In those early days, my job was to clean the bathrooms, sweep floors, unload trucks and do anything needed. Over the years, I started to grow and was trusted to take on more responsibilities. Additionally, my professional growth was supported by many great leaders and coaches who took the time to teach and mentor me. Much to my surprise, I eventually, became the President of the company.
Reflecting on that journey has made it clear that, while I worked hard, my success was a function of that hard work but also due to some great teams, role models, and pure luck. I don’t often see people talk about luck when they reflect on their success, but believe me when I tell you, I’m the guy who just got lucky and happened to be in the right place at the right time.
In addition, as referenced above, I was extremely fortunate that I had some amazing mentors who believed in me before I believed in myself, which made all the difference in the world. I did not necessarily do very well in school (academically), but my mother would tell me that I was quite smart, and that is when I knew I had to start. I’m not sure if she was right or my school teachers were, but the faith my mother had in me got things started.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Growing up as a minority figure in a competitive environment, where “might was often right,” my mother instilled the idea of hard work into me. She made sure that I understood at an early age how unfair life was. She told me that if I merely worked as hard as everyone else, I would lose for sure. So, to win or even be “in the game,” I would have to be the hardest working person in the room every day, every time, and at every opportunity.
Now, while she was busy drilling the idea of “hard work” and passion, she also had her eyes set on ensuring I played fairly and honestly. I can remember the countless numbers of times she told me not to lie – it was a game when she would ask me if I could go an entire week without lying – not even a playful lie. And as we all know, it can be often be challenging to go a full day without lying, but, as always, my mother set the bar high.
As you might have guessed, my mother had a non-compromising view on honesty. She believed working hard and being honest would be the key to success. And as I reflect on the question, it is clear that whatever success I have had is a function of hard work, integrity and a whole lot of luck. If you combine that with subject matter expertise and the ability to work with people, the outcome will generally be good.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
By virtue of the great people I have worked with, I have been blessed with many satisfying moments in my career. However, as I reflect on this a bit, I believe in the early days of anyone’s career, the only thing we think about is external validation – someone to tell us how great we are or some commentary around our accomplishments.
However, as we get older and a bit more secure, the most important and best kind of satisfaction stems from building value in some way or another. And in my case, I think a couple of things stand out around successfully navigating between geographies and careers.
To clarify, I have worked for a fairly lengthy period in the United States, but it’s worth mentioning that I have also worked in Asia for 10-plus years. Similarly, as industries and roles go, I have gone from retail to healthcare, operations to HR, a multi-billion dollar company to a start-up with 20 employees, and finally, from a career employee to an entrepreneur.
What is one failure you had, and how did you overcome it?
I have failed many times in the past, and I have no doubt there will be more failures ahead. Even when I put a great deal of thought and care into something, I have ended up failing.
One specific time took place many years back when I hired an administrative assistant who was going to handle some confidential matters. Over time, as this individual became more proficient with the role, I started trusting him more and gave him access to the organization’s dashboards and some confidential information. In any event, as you can probably guess, about six months after hiring him, it turned out that he was abusing his access and was taking advantage of the organization.
While I immediately severed his employment, it was a humbling experience and one that taught me about practicing great care and diligence when hiring new team members for confidential roles. Having said that, while this was not a good experience, I also cautioned myself not to lose faith in people – the old “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” analogy comes to mind.
What is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I have found that as we get older, our essential human nature traits take over, and we start to assume that we have everything figured out. However, I have found that rereading books I had read many years back is a great exercise, and it’s wonderful to see how our understanding of those same pages evolves.
I recommend you educate yourself, and when you’re done, educate yourself again. And when you’re done, start the process again.