Being flexible: things can change daily or even multiple times a day and you need to not only be able to move with those changes but also be ok with not having things go exactly as you planned. I have had to make changes to features and functions and roles in companies on the fly and it never gets easier but learning to roll with those changes has gotten easier.
Asa part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Paul, MD. Andrea, a physician and serial entrepreneur with previous companies on the Inc. 500 and successful exits. Her current company, Health Media Experts, helps healthcare companies grow by leveraging top-notch content and digital marketing strategies. Andrea is also a venture partner at SpringTide Capital and a mentor and advisor to several healthcare startups.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ihave actually been doing entrepreneurial things since I was a child, I collected lost golf balls at the local country club and sold them back to the golfers when I was 10, leased and ran a retail store in a local mall when I was 14, and had both non-profit and for-profit businesses throughout college and even medical school. It was really during my residency that the itch to get back to being an entrepreneur overtook my path toward becoming a practicing clinician. I joined a healthcare-focused business accelerator in New York with my first venture-backed startup and have been a full-time entrepreneur ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Probably the most interesting or exciting thing was applying to and making the Inc. 500 with my previous company, we came in at #251 and got to attend the awards gala and it was the first time I really let it sink in that all the hard work and sacrifice had paid off.
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?
So many mistakes! As a person who had no formal business training, I feel like most of the things I did early on were done probably differently than a formally trained corporate executive would. Probably the funniest was with BoardVitals, my last company, feeling like I had to pretend to be a larger operation than I was early on and answering the phone as different people and “departments” to make it seem more legitimate. It became cumbersome and confusing and we soon hired real people after we raised funding but we still referred to “Amanda” quite frequently. What I learned from that experience was that it’s more important how a business is run and what results you get than how big you are.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Of course, there have been many hard times with every business, the ups and downs are very steep and frequent. Fundraising is hard, and trying to balance running a business with raising funding is even harder. There definitely have been days when I wonder if it’s worth it, but those are usually short-lived and are followed by something positive that reminds me why we are doing what we do.
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 about that?
I’m grateful for so many partners and mentors who have been there along the way. My family has been incredibly supportive, particularly my husband who always jumps in to bear the household and childcare as needed. My first co-founder Dan Lambert, who is now the founder of PathologyWatch, was an absolute and unwavering support and remains so in my life. Springboard Enterprises has been a great resource of female mentors, founders and investors. We also had many amazing healthcare entrepreneur mentors over the years who have been incredibly supportive and helpful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are so many quotes that I repeat to myself and others regularly. One favorite is “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.- Arthur Ashe” To mean this means that everyone has within them what they need to succeed and it’s just harnessing and nurturing it and working hard that leads to success. That and believing you can.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
At Health Media Experts, we help healthcare businesses grow and succeed. Whether it’s through mentorship, content, media, social media, business development, or lead generation, we work with the companies to identify and tackle areas that their team doesn’t have the capacity or bandwidth to go after internally.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a team of female entrepreneurs, marketing pros, and healthcare professionals. No other marketing and media consultancy in the healthcare industry has the experience, expertise, and network that we do. We have helped grow several healthcare websites traffic by 175x or more in just a few weeks.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are always bringing on new and exciting clients who are doing amazing things in healthcare and wellness. Each company we help in turn helps countless people with their healthcare and wellness solutions so it feels great to be able to do that while also helping founders succeed.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in Tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
I am not, satisfied with the current status of women in tech. Progress has definitely been made even since I started, but there is a lot of room for improvement still. I am a mentor in a women’s tech accelerator and I hope that more of them pop up across the country. I also hope to see more done to encourage our girls to pursue careers in technology. I judged a NASA-sponsored demo day a few months back and was disappointed to see that not one of the founders pitching at the event was a woman.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
Being outnumbered is a challenge in and of itself. Minorities and women in technology face numerous challenges, some of which are institutional and others are problems with our culture in which inter course is still very alive in many facets of society.
What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
Seek help! If you are in this position reach out to someone like us at Health Media Experts, or a group dedicated to tech founders who can provide a deep analysis of opportunities and a hit-list of ways to tackle new channels and ideas.
Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
There is more to a sales team than just hiring experienced salespeople, the product itself needs to be fantastic and sellable and the creative and messaging around the product including the website, sales materials, and social media channels needs to be cohesive and clear. Once you have those things, it becomes much easier for a great salesperson to do their job. Also, never forget product-market fit. So many companies create a fantastic and beautiful product but forget to create it with the market/user in mind.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
In healthcare, there are very specific places that the customers live and very specific ways to approach sales. Creating a marketing and sales strategy that not only identifies the correct customer, but also where to find them and how to talk to them is the key.
Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
Listening is #1, you need to really hear them to be able to understand their needs. 2- Provide the type of service and experience you would want to receive. 3- Get as much information as you can upfront, setting expectations on both sides makes things so much easier.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
Our #1 priority is our existing customers, we would rather focus on doing a great job for them than focus an acquiring new customers too quickly and not give the existing clients the best possible service.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Being flexible: things can change daily or even multiple times a day and you need to not only be able to move with those changes but also be ok with not having things go exactly as you planned. I have had to make changes to features and functions and roles in companies on the fly and it never gets easier but learning to roll with those changes has gotten easier.
2. Hire a great team: there might not be anything more important than who you hire. Taking the time to properly vet applications, whether it’s a hire, a contractor, or an agency choosing the right person/team will impact your company so do your diligence and take the time to make the best decision you can.
3. Make sure you have good product-market fit- I have seen startups focus on perfecting a product and after months (or years) and a lot of capital funding they have a beautiful product but nobody wants or needs it!
4. It’s ok to pivot- It’s hard to change direction, especially after you have invested time and capital into your current product and direction. I have seen companies pivot several times before finding a direction that led to incredible success.
5. Have a diverse team- Diversity in terms of backgrounds, education, training, ethnicity, gender, inter course orientation and more lead to a product that is better. Creating a company with a singular point of view will never address the needs of a diverse world.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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 would inspire a movement to encourage those underrepresented in tech to be exposed to opportunities in tech. Girls, minorities, and underrepresented socioeconomic groups getting an equal chance to pursue tech would be amazing!
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Probably Ursula Burns, her story is so inspiring and I would love to hear her advice about how to help inspire more girls to do things that they may not think they can do.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!