Imagine launching your business at the start of 2020 only to be assaulted by the fears and perils presented by COVID-19? Needless to say, businesses large and small have had a multitude of issues to deal with, but how can a start-up survive in this calamitous climate?
When we launched Adviise.com, the first HIPAA-compliant, fully integrated medical services platform, all indications were that the time was right. After working as a healthcare technology consultant and seeing firsthand the shortcomings of current platforms like ZocDoc and Healthgrades, I put my background in policy, regulation and technology to work to create the Adviise online platform. Our goal: to increase patients’ access to affordable medical care and to help providers reduce their administrative costs, while improving acquisition and retention of patients.
When we launched in January, we never imagined what the state of healthcare and the state of the world would be in the coming months. By March, much of the country was in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare workers were focused on COVID-19; all elective medical visits and surgeries were cancelled.
While it is rare to launch a business without surprises and setbacks, the pandemic revealed how quickly a business environment can be uprooted. No matter how well you plan, in the end it is how you pivot. Here are the some of the lessons learned as we launched Adviise during the coronavirus lockdown.
- Embrace the change; reassess priorities. Acknowledging and accepting reality is key. Once you do that, it is easier to embrace change and make a plan to move forward with what may be a different set of priorities. For example, when COVID-19 hit, we quickly saw that this was not a time that providers would buy into our platform. While it may be a great time to begin a subscription business for home workouts or online retail products, the initial Adviise model was not conducive to the Stay at Home directive. Rather, we took the time to prepare, to be ready when the situation improves. Even if you can’t move forward with your business strategy as planned, ask yourself what you can do now to lay the foundation for future success.
- Look for opportunities; pivot to where the market is going. As you reassess your plans, take the time to look at the big picture. Are there changes in the marketplace? Try to identify new opportunities. For Adviise, with all in-person, non-emergency medical appointments cancelled early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw that telemedicine was becoming essential for doctors to treat their patients, and telehealth policies were rapidly changing. Adviise had originally planned to launch our telemedicine portal in June 2021. Instead, we accelerated that plan by a over a year to offer telemedicine services beginning on May 1, 2020 to capture the growing market.
- Define the “new normal” and where your business fits. Speculation abounds about what business and life will be like in the future, once the coronavirus has passed. Will remote working become the norm? Will sports be played without live audiences? Will travel be limited? The only thing that seems certain is that there will indeed be change. In healthcare, I believe we will see a more prominent but more heavily regulated telemedicine market. In that scenario, Adviise’s HIPAA-compliant service will be well-positioned for growth. I also anticipate providers will need to cut costs when we come out of the pandemic, so a service that helps providers streamline their overhead expenses, like Adviise, will be vital. No one can predict the future, but look for opportunities based on your best understanding of the market now and in the future.
- Demonstrate agility and adaptability to investors. A crisis is sure to disrupt your fundraising plans and prospects. Take the time to strengthen your value proposition, and demonstrate how you are responding, whether with new products/services, procedures or strategies. For example, COVID-19 put a spotlight on the need for more virtual healthcare tools. Adviise will demonstrate to investors the increasing importance of our HIPAA-compliant online appointment booking, payment, and review services, as well as our accelerated telemedicine offerings. If you can, focus investors on aspects of your business that may be even more commercially viable in the new market environment.
- Recognize your strengths. Be resilient. Think about how you got where you are. Your success didn’t happen by accident. You need to be adaptable and keep going. Believe in yourself and your product enough that you drown out the naysayers. Celebrate every small success.
When launching a start-up, the path is never straight. Think on your feet, trust your instincts, and always be ready to pivot to get to where you want to be.