Name: John S.
Let's set the scene: After a few years of researching, studying, and planning, you finally launch your new business on March 1, 2020. Just two weeks later a global pandemic causes you to re-evaluate your entire game plan and shut your doors before receiving your first electricity bill.
Being an entrepreneur is tough, but launching your business just before a pandemic halts life as we know is even tougher. And for this young entrepreneur, he knew he had to shift his mindset and do it FAST. Fortunately, with the support of an amazing staff and being forced to think outside the box, he was able to transition and offer services to a broader audience in need.
Check out what John has to say about the entrepreneurial itch:
Tell us a little bit about yourself...
JS: "I graduated as an Economics major from college, and a Masters of Finance degree from business school. Originally I started my career in investment banking working in mergers & acquisition as well as capital raises across a variety of industries. Spent a few years in healthcare private equity, investing in services and technology businesses across the healthcare continuum when I transitioned into entrepreneurship."
When did you start your new business? What was your initial reaction when the world went into quarantine/shelter-in-place?
JS: "We literally just opened our first counseling practice the first of March, and were trying to build our client base. Two weeks later, the virus stopped everything, and we immediately went 100% virtual - I truly believed we were going to have to close our doors. Fortunately, we had a great staff and an ability to provide teletherapy services via Zoom so remained operational. We were able to offer our services via insurance contracts, so we started experiencing tremendous demand for services as the pandemic started settling in."
At which point since the pandemic unfolded did you realize you had to take charge and reinvent yourself? What changes were you forced to make?
JS: "It probably wasn't until May that I figured this would last longer than anticipated. Telehealth has been talked about in healthcare for a long time now, but for many reasons it has failed to take off like expected. Could this be the forced catalyst that brings telehealth to the forefront of care? Potentially, but healthcare still has plenty of ways to go. before true innovation takes over; it's just too large of an industry to overhaul.
The biggest change was a higher mix in teleservices vs. in-person. I think clinical staff had to grow a bit in terms of how they really connect with a client through a screen. All in all, I would say the the change has been more difficult to for providers than it has for clients.
One thing I would 100% recommend that organizations remove from their remote workflows is Chat. Yes, the Zoom chats and Slacks of the world are great in theory... chat is always on and coworkers can quickly and easily communicate to each other... however, it really does remove the human element of communication. Chats also seem to further detrimental to employee communication through the removal of forcing people to gather thoughts, write a thoughtful email, or even make a phone call. We have tried to limit the usage of chat, and I think that has actually gone a long way in keeping our culture together."
What impact did the pandemic have on your new business?
JS: "Operationally, it became significantly more complex and added some additional operating expenses we were not anticipating. It also affected the acuity level of our clients and therefore has been more taxing on our clinical staff. Fortunately, we were able to weather the storm and keep staff employed and the business solvent over the following months. We were VERY lucky to be able to continue to provide care via tele-therapy services to those in need.
People are struggling as they grapple with this disruption and the adjusting to their 'new normal', and we are really seeing it in our client base. Our staff has been outstanding, and truly healthcare heroes by standing alongside clients in this time of need."
Was there an influx of patients seeking external support specifically in response to COVID?
JS: "Yes and no. Because we were brand new, it's hard to attribute new client growth to COVID vs. organic client growth. What we did see happen that is directly attributable to COVID is other providers referring clients to us because they could not support teletherapy services because of a lack of infrastructure in their practice."
Looking back on the past 4 months, has anything surprised you about yourself or life as you once knew it? Are you looking at your job in a different light?
JS: "I have an amazing staff, so definitely wouldn't say I'm surprised, but the deserve the praise. We have seen our staff provide some extraordinary care in these times. No one could have predicted going 100% virtual for so long, but our staff really took it in stride and focused on providing high quality care to everyone in need. I couldn't be more proud of the effort and consideration that our staff has put into their work."
From your point of view, if you had to give anyone advice to "get back in the game", what would it be?
JS: "Keep at it and breathe. This isn't going away and work will be more complex than it ever has, however, times like these force innovation. I think we will see some really cool things come out of this."
What are you most optimistic about right now?
JS: "Changes that will happen in the healthcare industry. Healthcare is difficult for a number of reasons, but as mentioned before, it's times like these that force innovation. Whether it's new technology, patient engagement tools, service modalities, etc., it'll be cool to see the industry being forced to shift and what eventually comes from it."