As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Mastromonaco of QMAP.
Dan is a serial entrepreneur with significant experience and relationships in the medical device industry. He is currently the owner of QMAP, a nationwide asset tracking and mapping solution for medical equipment distributors and manufacturers. Throughout his career, Dan has built a terrific reputation and solid track record successfully founding, running and exiting numerous technology-based businesses.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been developing web-based data tracking systems for nearly a decade now. Every company I’ve built has gotten its start because of the discovery of a real need in the market and the realization that I could meet that need. In 2013, my brother brought me an idea to modernize the way surgical equipment was tracked through healthcare facilities after witnessing poor practices in the industry. After launching that company, it was a natural fit to start QMAP, which offers similar tracking services to third party vendors for their equipment.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
One of the first companies I started was a cycling studio with an online reservation system. I had hired a web development company to build the booking platform, but things were running behind schedule and I ended up having to fire them only a week before our grand opening. With very little development experience at the time, I decided to take over the project myself to try to salvage the situation.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
With all of my ventures, I’ve followed the W.I.N. principle: What’s Important Next? For the cycling studio, it was either figure out how to write the code to build the system I needed to make the business work, or waste all of the time and resources I had put in and watch the whole thing fail spectacularly.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
It paid off. Not only was the cycling studio a success, but the reservation and live data tracking system I built was split off and also used by other group fitness facilities around the country. I ended up exiting both businesses and moving into the medical data field, and one of the resulting companies has also been acquired. I’m now involved in my fifth company, QMAP, which does asset tracking for medical device distributors.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
QMAP is a multi-platform system, and I realized early on that I needed development help. I met a local Android developer and hired him on a contract basis without any due diligence; to make matters worse, I paid him a hefty down payment. He skipped town and I never saw him or the funds again.
After the sting subsided, I got to work researching all of the actions I could have taken that would have perhaps avoided this outcome. I learned a number of lessons during this time:
Get a real background check.
It wasn’t enough to take the candidate at his word. Background checks are a cheap way to ensure what your contractors are telling you is true. A background check might not tell you the whole story, but it’s a great start.
Dig deeper than just requesting a portfolio.
The candidate provided some previous work, which I reviewed. What I didn’t do was call some of the companies he purportedly worked for to see if they had any thoughts on the man. Sure, references can be faked, but one little slip during a conversation can reveal a lot about a candidate.
Verify contact information.
If I had looked up the address the candidate gave me, I would have seen it was an apartment, which could have led me to calling his landlord, which would have alerted me to the fact that he was behind on his payments and hadn’t been seen in a while. He also had an unreliable email address and phone number, which contributed to the communication breakdown.
Check social media.
It may seem like a no-brainer these days, but I failed to check to see if the candidate was using social media at all, let alone check his profiles and social interactions. Turns out he doesn’t have any online presence, which would have been a red flag for me and ended up greatly helping him to avoid collection.
Down payments aren’t the only way to do business.
I let my excitement over the prospect of the completed project get in the way when I agreed to such a large down payment. Though it is still pretty standard to have some sort of up-front payment for software development work, it isn’t the only option. I could have offered a smaller down payment and/or broken up the structure into milestone payments.
Set shorter schedules, or look into monitoring/tracking software.
I signed the agreement and let the candidate do his thing… which resulted in nothing but emailed promises for three full weeks. Breaking work up into shorter goals has worked much better in keeping larger projects on pace. If that’s not your style, there is also software available to not only track hours, but also remotely monitor work in real time. Try a few of these methods and see what works best for you.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Most larger, complex systems out there are just that: large and complex. QMAP was created to be a flexible solution that delivers real-world results for medical distributors. During our initial research, we spoke with some of our potential competitors and quickly realized it would take us only days to implement features they were anticipating would take months to roll out. By keeping our team intimate and focused, we’ve been able to deliver higher quality service than some of the bigger players.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that everyone’s looking for a deal. My first priority is service, so especially in the beginning, I was quick to discount my prices for clients. This is fine as long as the resulting revenues are worth your time. I would recommend to my colleagues to consider what their time is worth, and have honest conversations with clients who may be taking advantage of their time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My brother has been instrumental in helping me grow as an entrepreneur. He’s been a valued partner for multiple ventures and has always provided sound strategic advice. Just recently his guidance on how to structure a client contract saved one of my companies tens of thousands of dollars a year. His contributions have been far more than financial in nature; in many ways I feel I wouldn’t be the man I am today without him.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My sincere hope is that my success has and will continue to inspire other entrepreneurs in my community and around the world. More immediately, it has enabled my wife to choose to leave her job and bring two beautiful children into the world. I also currently sit on the board of a local nonprofit that connects budding entrepreneurs with resources and funding.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why.
- Time means different things to different people
I’ve had the opportunity to build businesses in multiple industries now, and it’s alarming how differently people view the concept of time. When dealing with a hospital system, for example, it’s completely normal not to hear back from someone for months at a time.
2. Not everyone is going to think your idea is best… and that’s a good thing
For most of my career, I haven’t been much of a team player. I used to think I was supposed to be the one who came up with everything, executed, and reaped the rewards. Once I started hiring others, however, I quickly learned that other people have ideas that are just as good (and often better) than those I came up with myself.
3. Everything takes more time than you think
I’ve always prided myself on doing things quickly, but there comes a time when you realize you’re overloaded and finally have to break a promise somewhere. To avoid this unpleasant situation, I’ve gotten into the habit of always giving myself an extra 20% buffer when quoting timelines with customers.
4. “Working hours” has no meaning when you’re an entrepreneur
If you’re working for the weekend, or trying to stick to the 9–5, starting your own business might not be the best idea. I first learned this the hard way after signing up a client in Hawaii, several hours behind my time zone. It was bittersweet; sure, I was a nationwide company, but now a call at 10:00 PM was still technically during business hours.
5. Expect things to change quickly
When I got started in the medical industry, there were zero competitors for my niche. The whole market was ripe for the taking… until I went to my first national trade show and met four other companies that had just gotten started and were thinking the same thing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve always tried to conduct my interactions with people with a baseline of respect. Though I don’t consider myself the type to start a movement, if I had to choose, I would center it around the idea that every human being deserves that baseline of respect. There’s absolutely no reason to approach someone with hostility, fear, or arrogance simply because of a first impression. My hope would be that it would spread as such a standard rule for humanity that it could overcome even cultural norms and predispositions.
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