A true entrepreneur always plans. Planning plays a very big role in becoming successful. The decision you make can either make or break you. You breathe, eat and sleep your business. This is not a 9 to 5 job that you will be told what to do. Having your own business is a 24/7 commitment. It’s always about planning for today, next day, next week, 6 months from now. It’s a never ending responsibility that is translated on how you made your plans accordingly.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Louis Yson. As the Founder and CEO of Velo, Louis is bringing digital transformation to the healthcare industry with transportation and billing technology. Yson is a passionate entrepreneur who has over 20 years of experience starting and growing businesses. He has built several startup companies across mortgage brokerage, medical billing and medical provider practice management verticals. His vast knowledge in the finance and healthcare industries along with his fascination for subscription based technology is what made him today.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I earned a degree in Economics and International Finance from Queens College in New York and have always been an entrepreneur. My first major venture was at 28 years old in mortgage. Soon after that, I created a billing system for doctor practices along with a practice management system. This is when I discovered the power of subscriptions as part of a business model.
While developing my businesses, my mother was put on dialysis and relied on private car companies to transport back and forth from appointments when my sister or I were away. This meant that she was paying for these rides out-of-pocket as opposed to having it covered by insurance. My mom came to me once and said she would never take a ride-sharing company because she was scared and did not know her driver. This resulted in difficulties keeping her appointments and had to rely on her relatives to drive her whenever they had time, which proved to be very inconsistent.
I thought about all the moms that wanted to know their driver and set out to build a company where drivers and passengers know each other. This is the origin of Velo and why we treat every trip as an opportunity to make a new friend, not just deliver a passenger to a destination.
Velo was born from compassion, so we are built to be compassionate for our driving partners and our passenger customers. Velo was born out of my want to make the ‘sharing economy’ about the relationships between people again. I believe in safety and in choices. Ride sharing should be about small moments of connectivity.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Before launching my own mortgage company, I decided to partner up with lawyers who needed my expertise in managing their own mortgage company. I worked with them for a year and after leaving, I ended up training and working with a paralegal whom I never realized would eventually become my wife. While waiting for my mortgage brokerage license, I worked for a friend who owns a mortgage bank. To this day, it still brings a smile to my face that I had to work out of my truck closing 10–15 loans a month for four months until my license got approved. I was able to rent a space in the Flatiron District where I managed both the mortgage company and the medical billing company for almost eight years before the entire operations moved to New Jersey.
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?
Never throw a Christmas party on a weekday. We just moved in to a new office in Manhattan in the beginning of December in 2004. On Christmas Eve, we planned to have a half day of work to be able to spend more time with our families, so we decided to throw the office Christmas party the day before, on the 23rd. At the end of the work day at 6pm, we got things going and brought out some drinks, food and I contributed two bottles of Dom Perignon to add to the alcohol table that I had received as a gift. After some enjoyment with the team, I left at 9pm to be back to open the office the next morning. When I arrived that next morning, I found everyone sleeping in the office. I closed the office since everyone was still drunk. Work hard, play hard right?
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We have been very socially conscious from the beginning. We took a full view of the rideshare experience for drivers and riders and sought to engineer a better system that integrates with medical billing to seamlessly facilitate Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) services.
Drivers love us because they keep far more of their fare. We charge just a small transaction fee, which will vary depending on the needs of the market, for example, we have forecasted that 2.50 dollars per ride would be a competitive starting point for a ride fee in the New York area (this figure approximates 5% share for an average ride in NY) and then the driver keeps the rest. We like to say we are the RE/MAX of ride share. We do this to attract the very best drivers, and then we further reward them by bringing them into our Velo Health service (where the payments are established by the insurance companies and, therefore, are much more competitive).
Riders love us because we never have surge pricing and they can pick their favorite drivers. Happy drivers, Happy riders. Features like the ability for females to request other females is a sign that we are deploying technology to promote safety and security for our network of users.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
First, I think that having immense passion for what you’re doing is mostly what it takes to keep going. Even with only 4 or 5 hours of sleep and taking care of my children, my drive prevents burnout. My daily routine is refined to be able to accomplish a lot and I’ve become disciplined over the years so it feels natural. Many successful, high achieving entrepreneurs claim to sleep only 4 hours and yet don’t burn out because this is the lifestyle we become accustomed to.
I do go on vacation with my family but I’m still working. The vacation is more for my family and I’m present but I’m always trying to be productive, even for just a small portion of the day. I would recommend to my colleagues that if they are experiencing “burn out”, to step back to a vacation and work in an amazing environment or even contemplate if they are truly passionate about the projects they are heavily committing themselves to.
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 father and mother were the ones who made a difference in my life since the day I was born. My father was an engineer who worked for the NYC Transit Authority where he retired after 20 years of service. My mother was a nutritionist who also worked for NYC and retired after 30 years in service. Advancing from a middle to upper-middle class family, I witnessed how hard they had to work to provide for our family. The values such as hard work, perseverance, integrity, honesty, sincerity, and humility that they had taught me translates to the way I live my life, how I give importance to my family and manage my business. It was their life lessons that set me up with the courage to accomplish my dreams.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
There are so many ways success can be measured. The value that was instilled by my parents in me was to always help people, in whatever or whichever way you can. The fact that you even try to help someone can make a difference in their lives. I’ve built giving back right into my business by donating a percentage of every ride right out of our own revenue. That, along with excellent earning rates for Velo drivers are two ways I’m using my success to uplift others.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail” — Benjamin Franklin
This is a quote I truly believe in that I preach to my kids every day. Planning even means light researching like checking if it is going to rain during the concert. If you plan, you can be prepared. While all entrepreneurs make mistakes, some mistakes can be avoided, especially the costly ones with extra due diligence and planning. I don’t like going into situations blind, so I always plan when I can. Planning is how I stay on top of my business, my family, and my personal life.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- PERSEVERANCE: Never give up on your dreams. If you fail, you need to get back up and try again. When competition got tough on the medical billing side, I kept going and gained enough experience to eventually ideate Velo.
- PATIENCE: We need patience to understand challenges, face problems, and find solutions. Patience provides us with better judgement. Be prepared to make quick decisions but always be ready to take a step back and respond or react after some thought.
- PLANNING: An integral part of my life, starting from my family obligation, to my business. I need to make sure that things run like clockwork. This is how I maintain balance and prevent burnout.
- VISION: Provides you passion and motivation which leads to your dedication and determination to complete the journey to your vision. Having a clear vision developed that passion I needed to drive me through the entrepreneurial cycle.
- FOCUS: Avoid the negative noise. There will be more detractors and envious people than supporters at the beginning of your journey. Stay on course and don’t let the negativity get to you.
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. 🙂
Medicare should offer more transportation solutions that are covered under insurance. Millions of people like my mother, who have regular appointments multiple times a week for dialysis or chemotherapy need access to seamless transportation that will be covered by insurance. I think this is really needed and the technology is here now. We need to advocate for policy changes to include more transportation coverage in Medicare programs.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!