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China and the US: Can’t we all just get along?

May 16, 2017 - Author: admin

In a time when geopolitical relations are strained, one company out of Kansas is looking to form a collaboration between US and Chinese doctors for better healthcare services.

I’ve talked about the need for regional innovation hubs.  But sometimes, there’s a need to combine knowledge to bring about new ideas.  For example, Chinese and Western medicine.  As China’s population exploded, so did its healthcare needs.  The US is facing similar strains.  So, the question is, can companies from both countries come together for better healthcare solutions?  That’s the idea behind Kansas-based PreferUS.

I’m an investor in PreferUS and I recently went to China with them to observe first-hand how they’re joining forces with Chinese healthcare professionals and hospitals to create an entirely different approach to hospital services, management and physician training.

PreferUS has deep expertise on the Chinese healthcare market.  After spending years working in China, founder Michael Franz developed an understanding of the Chinese culture and the struggles the government faced to serve over a billion people with adequate healthcare.  As public hospitals strained under the needs of a growing population, a private healthcare market emerged.  Franz saw the opportunity to help private Chinese institutions accelerate their medical training in fields like cardiology, orthopedics, spine, total joint care and sports medicine.  In addition, as China builds more hospitals to serve its large population, experts in hospital management are also needed.

PreferUS partnered with Cedars Sinai, Oklahoma Heart Hospital, Texas Back Institute, and Kerlan-Jobe Institute to create a training program for doctors, nurses and administrators.  Chinese doctors travel to Kansas to immerse themselves in English, specifically medical terms in English for two months. Then they spend four more months training on the latest techniques in cardiology, orthopedics and sports medicine.  PreferUS’s training program is helping speed up readiness at Chinses hospitals and better serve patients.  In fact, working with Kerlan-Jobe inspired PreferUS and its partner hospital in China to open the very first comprehensive sports medicine institute in a Shanghai public hospital.  Sports medicine is in growing demand in China, so PreferUS worked with its newly trained Chinese doctors to make it a specialty of the local public hospital.

We talk about globalization, sometimes as a bad word as it can threaten jobs and wages.  But this is globalization in a good way.  If we can tap into the expertise of one group of people to make life better for another, that is a good thing.

Franz and his team are seeding the re-invention of the public and private health industry for the Chinese market, while holding true to Chinese values and cultures. Working with investors and hospital partners in China, PreferUS’s services were so well-received that they were eventually asked to manage hospitals across the region.

At the same time, US doctors get a fresh and new perspective from their Chinese colleagues and the chance to practice healthcare in a completely different environment.

The sharing economy has been linked to sharing possessions, like cars and houses.  But the sharing economy can also be about sharing knowledge that improves lives. Cooperation between businesses in various countries, even with their political counterparts have strained relations, are key to gaining understanding, innovation and dare I say, peace among nations. I look forward to my next trip to China to see what this expanding relationship between US and Chinese healthcare professionals can achieve.

For you readers, think about how you can create a collaboration with counterparts in unexpected parts of the world to better improve your services, thinking, products and customer experiences. Looking under a new rock may be the key to a competitive edge.

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What Does it Take to be a CEO?

May 9, 2017 - Author: admin

It had been 365 Days since meeting Mr. Neal Dempsey in person at Neal’s Running Start in San Francisco. And in 365 days, your life can be completely transformed. On day 1, one year ago, I was nervously arriving in San Francisco, having taken the biggest leap of my company’s life.  I had committed to spend a month in San Francisco under Neal Dempsey’s mentorship to see if I could take my company to new heights.  On that 365th day, I was standing with Neal in front of MBA students at the University of Washington Foster School of Business sharing my story on how I went from entrepreneur to a CEO of a fast-growing company with investors, Fortune 500 customers and offices in two locations. In 365 days, I went from mentee to mentor.

These students were smart, engaged, and impressively enough, some already had startups underway.  We had taken different paths to entrepreneurship.  The UW pushes its students to be founders of companies, and brings in mentors like Neal and the vast successful organizations in the Seattle area such as Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft and Starbucks. Saskatoon is a different story.  There aren’t many mentors from big tech companies waiting to offer guidance to Saskatoon entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

But whether you come from Seattle’s wealth of success or Saskatoon’s hard work, get-it-done work ethic, everyone has the same questions – what does it take to be a CEO and run a successful company? That’s why I came to help.

Below are a few questions I wanted to highlight from our almost 2 hour conversation:

What do you look for in a CEO?

  • Neal: “I look for three things in CEO. Do they have personality, passion, and perseverance? It’s always a combination of these things, never just one.”

What makes a great company?

  • Neal: “I can tell you all of my best investments have never had a clear straight path to success. In fact, some of my best investments almost didn’t make it. We asked ourselves do we invest more? Do we shut it down? See, it’s more like a rollercoaster with ups and downs.”

How would you suggest building up your leadership team?

  • Katherine: “I have always hired for our biggest pain point at the time in order to improve the team and take that next step. I have a Sales and Marketing background, my first hire was our CTO, Romeo. Genius developer.”

What do you look for in an investor?

  • Katherine: “I look for a few things, but mostly how do they treat people, and what experience do they have in our space. Money is important but both the investor and entrepreneur should walk if it’s not the right fit on other levels.”

Is it lonely being a CEO?

  • Katherine: “What a great question. Yes. Yes. It totally is. However, since the Neal’s Running Start program the four of us have been able to create honest relationships where we can go to each other and say , “Woah, I have no idea how to solve this. Do you guys?” Mentorship happens at all levels — with all people.”

What percentage of CEOs can take it all the way?

  • Neal: “You have to understand that running a business is a long and difficult marathon that can go 10 – 12 years. Some of our CEO’s just get tired, or what I call “founders fatigue” and don’t want to do it anymore. It’s hard. I would say only a small percentage of founders can take their startup to an initial liquidity event and that is if they decide they even want too.”

Do you have a number?

  • Katherine: “A phone number? Sure, I haven’t been asked for that in a while. Just kidding, I don’t have a magic number for selling. The sky’s the limit, and I will worry about it when we get there. Setting a goal can also be setting a limitation.”

Overall, my time at UW was welcoming, refreshing, and inspiring. It was so fascinating watching the students come alive on how they were turning their ideas into a reality. This is what makes the business world go round.

I mentor at the University of Washington and in Saskatoon with our burgeoning start-up community because people like Neal were kind enough to help me along the way.  I’ve come to learn the value of community, like the strong one here at the University of Washington.  Just 365 days ago, I didn’t know the names of the tech start-up founders down the hall from me in Saskatoon.  Now, we’re a thriving community, helping each other learn and grow.

Neal embodies that sense of giving back and community.  As I walked the campus, I couldn’t help but see Dempsey Hall and Dempsey Indoor. Neal is extremely modest and humble about his success, but his presence, like his name on the campus buildings, is felt and appreciated.

I’m looking forward to visiting the UW students again, and following up on their journey. Who knows how far they’ll come over the next year. 365 days can change your world.

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