Successful health innovators deploy strategies that may appear obvious but they are often overlooked. They are succinct, focused, and customer first. These are strategies that health innovators can easily learn and implement.
How do we come up with a compelling and powerful foundational message that resonates with the characteristics of early adopters? What can we do to make sure we don't get distracted by shining new opportunities? How do we define and validate our product strategy with customers?
On this episode, Chief Commercial Officer at Holon Solutions, Julie Mann, shares what has contributed to their success and the key lessons they’ve learned along the way.
A self-described “customer-first person,” Julie Mann is the Chief Commercial Officer at Holon Solutions. At Holon, she leads and manages all things customer-facing, ensuring that every customer’s unique needs are solved with the right solution.
She started her career at a medical billing company and has slowly evolved to different roles, like training customers on how to use revenue management software, moving into sales presentations and demonstrations, and eventually into a full sales role.
No matter what positions or projects she’s tackled, she’s always been driven by 2 key themes: a focus on customers, and a drive to work with the most innovative technologies on the market. She's passionate about solving the challenges in healthcare through innovation, collaboration, and partnership.
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Welcome back to the show, COIQ listeners on today's episode, we are going to to explore what it takes to successfully commercialize and innovation and health care. And I have from someone who is doing it really well and I had someone with me here today. Julie Mann, welcome to the show. Thank you Dr. Roxie. So Julie is the chief commercial officer for Holon solutions and I thought you would be able to, um, you know, start off the conversation by telling us a little bit about your background and what you do. Sure, sure. Well, thanks again for having me. So I would say to start off, I am a customer first person totally. And I'm currently in my role. I lead commercial operations for Holon, which has all the customer facing things. So I would classify myself as being the person in charge of making the magic happen. You know, making sure that I'm connecting people that have problems to our solutions that solve them. So I haven't always been in sales. I kind of started my career off, um, in a medical billing company where I used to post charges and payments. I really served as a really good foundation for kind of where I'm at today. So slowly I evolved into different roles. Um, I then started kind of training customers on how to use revenue cycle management software. Um, the sales team then would tap me to kind of help them
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with sales presentations and demonstrations. And then from there I, um, kinda got introduced to a full sales role. And I would say the common theme in my career has always been that customer focus, but then also always to work with the most innovative technologies that are on the market. You know, I am by nature curious and there has tons of problems and there's a lot of technologies out there, right, that just add to those problems. So I've walked into companies that have these kind of breakthroughs solutions. And so that's really what landed me at hole one today. So, so thank you for sharing that. It's amazing how all of those Lily pads really early on on in our career. Um, really influence and build into what we're doing today when we would have never thought that when we were in that moment. So, so, you know, you kind of touched on this a little bit. Describe from your perspective what it's like riding this crazy roller coaster of healthcare innovation today. It's really confusing. You know, I would say that, um, for anybody that's in healthcare that's attended some of the big conferences like HIMS for example, right? If you are walking through the trade show floors, right, right, right. And um, it is tick, right? And when you just kind of stop and have a casual conversation, right? Or being like, so what do you do? It's very seldom that you hear somebody articulate
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something in a simplest form that you can understand and be like, wow. Right. In most cases, especially in those scenarios where hymns, you know, has a wide variety of different healthcare technology solutions, not like a niche, you know, audience. Um, it's really interesting, right? It's like, and you're still like, okay, what do you do? Right. For me, I've always just really been focused on that is like how can you take something that's super complicated that you know, is really innovative but be able to commercialize it in a way that people are instantly going to get it, you know, and be this really 10 paragraph explanation, you know, it's like a couple of sentences. Like that's what we do. And then you can dive in deeper. Yeah. So what are those couple of sentences for you guys? For us, it's, hold on liberates the data to liberate the care. And we've lost that too. Like we do what's really complicated in the back end, right? We have a new way of making data actionable and we can go into that. But fundamentally that's what we do. We liberate the data to liberate the care. And it was a statement that, um, my colleague Robert Conley kind of just threw out there. You know, we were prepping for a big meeting when w with our prospect at the time, Phillips, we liberate the data. And I was like, yes. Cause I, I granted this was at the time
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when one of the star Wars movies is coming out, right? The rebellion loosely, like kind of put it out there as we were putting our presentation together with Philips and when we said we liberate the data, it just really resignated with them because the current state that we're in with health care, right is um, data siloed. It's all over. The people have made tremendous investments in different kinds of technologies, whether it be their EHR, their HIE, their pop health platforms. And the fundamental problem that they have is they can't make that data actionable because it's a locked in these silos. You know, the best solution that people have come up with is like a portal or something like that, but it's not out there. So the word liberate, people get it, you know, and as soon as we say liberate the data, they're like, Ooh, we need that. And we're like with a purpose, right? The reason that we're reading it is we want to let physicians be physicians. You know, we want nurses to be nurses. We want the care team to feel like they have the right information, um, about the patients that they're seeing. And so it's been really rewarding to kind of come to that. You know, it kind of quirky how it started, but it really speaks to fundamentally what we do. You know, in my experience, the most powerful compelling messaging strategy that we've ever developed for our clients
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has always been developed in the most strangest wait. You know, I have a colleague and as soon as she says, okay, this is gonna sound really dumb, but, and I'm like, okay, you know, the magic is coming. Yeah. So it's just, you know, you stumble upon these things and it's like, aha. And what I really love about the, you know, this phrase that you just communicated is obviously it's simplicity. Um, but as you think about early adopters, you know, just characteristic of early adopters, they're kind of rebels, right? They're looking for like the new, the different what everybody else is doing. And so just that word, that verb liberate, like what early adopter doesn't want to get behind that movement. It's attracting that early segment of the market in a real powerful way. You know, it really has, and it's allowed us to really kind of cut through that noise. That is, it is Hinz that is the healthcare it space in general. And I think that we're also really focused, right? Like we're not trying to save the world and do everything right. Like, um, the whole reason that we started the company was, you know, we just saw this data problem, right? Like it used to be like a paper problem, you know, data problem. And you can't just give people a firehose of longitudinal data and think that that's going to be actionable and they're gonna read all that text and be
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like, Oh, I just needed to know about who their PCP was. Right? So that whole thought of being like, let's just be really meaningful. Um, being focused on solving this very specific problem of being able to surface the right information at the right time. So that's another thing that I think is really fascinating about this whole commercialization process as you're talking about solving a single problem. So a lot of times when we're working with health innovators, they might go into it with the intent to solve one problem, but it's like, but we could also solve this and we can solve this and we could solve this for this market and this for this sub market. And so I find that that convolutes the messaging that convolutes the value proposition. And it sounds like that's also something that you've done that's really been a game changer for you guys, is really focusing on a single business problem. It really is. Cause the end of the day it's like we are so focused on getting the right information to the care team, right? So it leads to other things, right? So we did go through an exercise really early on when I joined and coming up with our commercial plan, right? Say who is our ideal customer profile? And not that that's like a unique strategy, but it's really, really important. Right? And so understanding like, okay, this is kind of what we can do. Who are the people that you
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know have this problem? You know, you could say all of healthcare, right? Like you could say that we narrowed it down to primary markets and we were ultra focused on those primary markets. And those primary markets for us are, um, health systems and vendors. And with each of them they have the same users, right? It's the care, the care teams. And so our messaging is slightly different, right? But we know we have this focus and we went through this exercise. The first time we did it, um, was really painful, right? Because you have strong personalities. That's what makes us a great team, right? So perspectives and you want to work through it. You know, we agreed, right? Like this is our foundational kind of game plan. Like this is who our customer is, this is who it's not. This is who we are and this is who we're not. And it gave us our marching orders so that as we got into these conversations, because it's pretty common, you know, when we're kind of showing people like what we can do that they'd be like, Oh, can you help me with this? You know, and in the class, right. It would have been so easy. We didn't have those guard rails, we'd be like, sure, why not? Let's try it. And it was for, we need cashflow cashflow, so let's do it. Yes. And so it's also kind of given us that discipline, you know,
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to say, listen, we agreed on this. Now there are every once in a while, right, there'll be kind of that anomaly that pops up, but we'll talk about it and be like, okay, like what are the rules that we'll have for this engagement? You know, and let's put some bookends if you will and cause you don't want to shut down something really good. But it's allowed us to have that foundation that we then built upon. And so we knew exactly who we're targeting. We knew exactly what problems we're solving for them and it just made such a better interaction with those customers. So you know, it seems as though that that is kind of like a no brainer. Going through the exercise of that targeting strategy and really developing that ideal customer profile. And like you said, not only what you are or who is your ideal customer, but also who is, who is not your ideal client customer. Um, but so many people overlook that strategy. Um, and what I see happen really often, especially for early stage, um, healthcare tech companies is that if they don't do that work, um, when they're in the pilot phase, they get really excited about it and they've got this new business. And typically those early adopter customers are visionaries. They're, they see the future. That's what motivated them to buy into something that was really brand new. And when they do that, they have all these
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ideas of what they could do with your solution. And so how do you determine which one of those are going to be great ideas and they were commercially viable for all of your customers and which ones are just the customization that that particular customer is wanting that could derail you and take you off course. Oh, isn't that a good topic? Um, I can tell you were going through that with one of our largest ACO customers, right? They're fantastic. And one of the reasons that they're so fantastic is because we're a perfect fit, right? Like we had a piece of technology that they really needed to problem. And so when you fundamentally have that right, we didn't force anything, you know, force anything, it just was going to work. Right. It's like, okay, cool. Let's, so we're starting from that standpoint. The other thing that really works is transparency and just talking to them, right? So, no doubt they were kind of throw some things at us and we tried a couple and some just did not work, right? Yeah. We were like, Hey, you know, we tried it, we went into it with you in a spirit of partnership, but this is where we need to stay focused. So we just had another conversation. Um, I don't know, I want to say like three months ago, and they told us about this big strategic priority and we didn't have known about it. And we're like,
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well, cool, let's help you with that. We're like, we can just, our product does that, right? Like he can help you solve that problem. And they were like, Oh, you know, so not only was it such a, an aha moment for us, like with them, we immediately then it starts, you know, developing everything and you know, want to commercialize another application. He tapped several industry experts, you know, consultants, um, analyst, obviously lots of other provider organizations, vendors and just said, Hey, we kind of heard about this, you know, would this be meaningful to you? And dr Roxy consistently, people were like, if you can solve for that. And so when you get that overwhelming reaction, you know, you're onto something really good. I could, we, you know, kind of quickly and again, since we're like a young, nimble company, we can kind of hear and stuff together pretty quickly and about this new application on our platform. And not only do it, we just make the new announcement. We also found a couple of customers to do it with Josie, right? That, that innovator early adopter when they're like, we've been trying to solve this to you guys. You know, and I think that those are the kinds of, um, markers, if you will, right? That when you kind of are consistently hearing that you don't just listen to one person, you know, start to, you know, throw it out there with a diverse pool
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and you're getting that feedback. It's so exciting. It is really exciting. And so it's really, so it's almost like a fo, uh, an informal version of um, co-creation with the customers. And so always advocating for co-creation. You know, it's fascinating to me how many, um, entrepreneurs, um, are companies that want to only innovate, do all of that product development with their internal team and don't tap into the external stakeholders that can really reduce the R and D cost and, and kind of make sure that you're going to go to market with something that's actually going to solve one of their top priority problems. Right. You know, it's funny, even when you say it, it's like, it sounds so obvious, like when you get around technologists especially, right? Like so in love, what they can build, you know, hour of it and it's like, no, no, right. To design to solve a problem and you have to engage those people that you're solving the problem for. And during that process for us, right, like we went, we got super excited and it was almost like, it's like, okay, let's reign back in. Right. Like it's focused and let's talk to people and not just talk to like, you know, the, the top executives of our, right. Yeah. Engaging throughout their organization and multiple stakeholders too. Again, not just talking to them. And I can tell you it's so rewarding, right? Like when you actually call people
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- Right. And I have a lot of favorite clients. You know, my team teases me all the time cause they were like, you say that about everybody the best clients because if I have a question I can just call them and it doesn't matter. And it's like the chief medical officer or you know, one of the nurses who's an administrator, you know, they all like want to talk to us because they know that we care. You know? And that's so, I mean that's, that's, that's unheard of or not unheard of. But it's rare. Usually it's like, I'm busy. Things are chaotic over here. Don't call me unless there's no. And it's so awesome because it's like, it's just making it transparent, right. To be like, Hey, we were talking to so-and-so and they thought about this, would this be meaningful to you? Because a lot of decisions are made in healthcare, right? Like, um, let's just say the suite decides that they have this problem and they're like, you know what, we're just going to throw this piece of technology at it and it's going to be salt. The end users get it and are like, we're not using that later. It's like a bust for us to kind of gauge road organizations and be talking to everybody and make sure that everybody's aligned and then design, you know, the app to meet their workflows and make their workflows better. Yeah. So powerful because then
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people use it, you know, clinician goes up, you know, ROI goes up and like everybody's happy and, yeah. And that's why I feel like I can say those things. Like I love them all. Customer. Uh, so you, you, you kind of mentioned this a little bit, but um, take us back to like the early days, right? The beginnings of solutions. Um, you know, what, what do you think, what were some of those decisions that you or the organization, you know, the other leaders made that you think were just like pivotal decisions for you? Like if you hadn't made that, like you didn't maybe realize it then that it was going to be so impactful, but looking back in hindsight, wow, this was a game changer for us. This was, you know, helped put it set up on a path of success. Yeah, I would say that hands down for us it was picking the best early customers. not only the people who are like the innovators, right? But the people that truly will want it to go into a relationship with us as partners, understanding that we hadn't had everything figured out. You know, we've got like really smart people that created some like new solutions to old problems, but there was still going to be some figuring out and you know, you hear the term like development partners, I really categorize them as that. I really categorize them as early customers and so we had some
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absolutely fantastic ones and ones that would work with us and have those conversations right then that I was talking to you not looking to us to be like they have all the answers, you know, they knew that okay, here is what we think. What do you think? Let's try it out and let's then talk about it like what worked, what didn't work. And I think having those relationships was just absolutely key. And at the same time we walked away from a few relationships, right? That on paper it was kind of hard. Going back to that whole cashflow conversation, that's not going to help us. Right? Like I don't think that that's going to be something that's going to be a longterm win. It is going to help a short term problem. Yeah. I really think that fundamentally choosing the best customers was one of the best decisions we've made. So, you know, kind of take us back to that, that moment or that stage. Um, you know, was anyone on the team ever concerned about turning down business, um, or saying that this was an ideal customer and this one wasn't? And you know, was there any type of, you know, negotiation internally on who those early customers were going to be like, you know what's I mean? I'd imagine that it's not like everybody's always on the same page of like, this is what we're going to do. Some people are, you know, typically
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have like, ah, you know, how could we say no to this? I mean, you nailed it. I mean, I that, that's what I love about our team, right? It's like, is there any decision that is made that everybody's like, yeah, good idea. Right? Right. So it is having those different perspectives and questioning like everything, you know, and I appreciate that so much. And I think that's part of the reason that we've been so successful is because we have that culture right? Where everybody goes good to be able to kind of jump in and have an opposing view and challenge things because we're all in this together. There were some hard conversations and I think kind of going back to those initial, that ideal customer profile session that we did was like, remember that right? would be called the Santa Fe here for Y. Yes. And I think especially when you start talking about like some big names in healthcare, you know, it's like, um, people just want to have that as a customer and it's like, yeah, but you guys, it's not a good deal for us. Right? Oh my goodness. It's like you're preaching to the choir here. Don't get all woo woo because ABC OMT health system said yes, you can sleep. Be your demise, your company down the bureaucracy, the time, the change, your priorities, you know, and a lot of times, especially for startup or emergent companies, I'm out, I'm often recommending that
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they're looking for the, you know, C, C level of co clients, right? Not even the secondary ones, but C level because they're going to, I found that they're going to be the ones that are more, um, open to that, uh, partnership relationship that you described earlier where they're not expecting you to have all the answers and they're really wanting to participate in the development of that solution. Yes. Yup. And I can totally see that. And I think that, you know, when we look back at these things, that's everything, right? Those early relationships and, um, growing them into even bigger engagements is really, really exciting. And we've certainly experienced that with our vendor partners, um, because it's real to them, right? Like they're in a competitive space. They have users that want their stuff to be easier to interact with and so hold on can be their silent partner. So it makes sense, right? They were constantly at the table with them and talking with them and there's some really cool things that are gonna come out for that. Yeah. That's awesome. So, you know, there's a lot of conversation right now about not necessarily going to market with products and solutions as much as it is with going to market and creating a category the market catch up. Um, and that being a really, um, uh, a rural, um, strong strategy for success and that if you're just looking to just build awareness and adoption
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of your innovation, you're only going to increase, you know, so far. But if you're actually trying to help create a whole category that, you know, so much thought leadership and authority with that, that it kind of snowballs and its effectiveness in any, um, you know, experience or thoughts around creating a category versus marketing a specific solution. It's so interesting that you say that because when we were really kind of coming up with our foundational messaging a couple of years ago, it was hard for people because we are a new solution, right? Um, we don't fit into any one category nicely, right? Cause we are surfacing insights into the workflow. We're not an interface vendor. We're not in EHR. And at first people just want to bucket you into one of these categories. And so we went through this discussion and I was like, okay, maybe we're this new category and then we're like, let's not do that. Let's just focus on the problem that we're solving right there. And kind of fast forward, you know, to just even a couple of weeks ago I was talking to, um, I had a series of talking to several analysts and I talked to Forester, Gartner and frost and Sullivan. Every single one of those conversations, dr Roxy, they were like, you guys don't fit into any one category. We love this stuff doesn't. And I was like, Oh cool. Cause we think that too. I stopped stressing out about it, you know, does not apply.
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I can't tell you how many forms we would fill out where they're like, what you get into. And I was like, does not apply. Right. Because we don't, but we're. Right, right. That's so funny. So you know that in my experience it's one of the pitfalls because, you know, it's, it's a natural in a lot of ways for us to want to fit in one of those boxes. But then there becomes this disconnect of how are we going out into the marketplace and saying we are unique and different are wanting to attract these revolutionary early adopters. But, but we're like this. Yeah. It's like, well now you just basically, you know, ruined everything else you were saying because now all of a sudden I'm putting you in the old box and you're not exciting and new and different anymore. Yeah. And I love that you say that because again, that was another one of those kinds of decisions, right? Where it was like a lot of stress and I'd be like, maybe I'm thinking about this wrong, but we're like, you know what? No, we're just going to leave with this. Right? We're not going to spend all this time creating this category or whatever. Right. Focus on what the clients need to be successful. I'm so happy that you said that. So, so what number employee were you? Cause I think you were you one of the earlier, or you were there some of
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the beginning stages, right? Yeah. So, um, hold on. The, the solution that we have today, we just commercially launched it in January of 2018 and I say that I'm, Oh my gosh, I was like in so many places it seems like yesterday and then it seems like many years in this, right, right. And so with that, yeah, I was part of the team, right. That was brought in to commercialize, you know, the solution, which is awesome and exciting. And so very early on we, um, are in growth mode right now and we are going to be, you know, expanding our team, which is really, really exciting. And so I think it's been really rewarding to be an early member of the team and kind of go through kind of that stage and just know that there's so many other great things ahead of us. Well, one of the things that I wanted to point out is that you're the chief commercial officer and that is a title that I often find and much larger mature organizations. So I think that I, you know, as someone being on the outside looking in, I would say that that's probably one of the most important decisions that the CEO or the leader, whoever hired you made, was bringing someone of your caliber to kind of fulfill that role that early. I don't see that happen very often. They're thinking like, Oh, well when we get to this, that's what
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brings someone at that level in. But at that point, all of those commercialization decisions are mostly already made. And so bringing you in early, um, I would assume had a big impact on the business. I think so. You know, and I think like when I, it was very clear to the team, um, you know, they told me that they knew exactly kind of what they're getting with me, right? So they were really focused on kind of picking me because they felt like I could kind of help them out. I had that walking into it, you know, so I knew that I had the confidence of the whole team and then everybody was going to be very open, collaborative, and honest with me. Um, and I can also tell you that when I first started, they kind of thought I would just be over sales and helping kind of commercialized from that perspective very quickly. It very quickly, I think like all this value we can't pass up. And it's almost like when you're early stage of that, right. To me, I wouldn't have been able to do it if I was super siloed. I needed to meet people too, interact with all the client facing components of the business, right. Because, you know, going to clients and listening to them and then, you know, talking to prospects, I have problems and then talking to our implementation team or, you know, all of those things were
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allowed me to kind of lead our strategy, um, as a member of the team. Um, but it's been very rewarding and I have here. So how do you, um, you know, how do you think that the early structure of the organization and culture of the organization is playing a role in your success? I think that it is critical to our success. You know, I think that the culture at pull on truly is, it's, it's a team effort. You know, no one thinks that it's, you know, one person driving everything. And I feel kind of having that culture of we're all in this together and also this openness, right? Everything's not always rainbows and unicorns kind of constantly be bringing feedback back and, um, talk through those things. And I think that culture is so special and we've tried to also kind of put that out there because a lot of companies don't kind of have that. And you know, it's awesome what all the tools available today, right? Like we're huge on Twitter. You know, we love LinkedIn, we do blogs and we try to post pictures of different names, you know, like outside of just the professional stuff that Alon is doing, you know, some funds. And it's so cool because I'm always talking to a prospect and, um, I wrote a blog about the revolutionary war and I use the term liberate, you know, and she was like, I was reading that and
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I was wondering how you can tie that back to liberating data. She goes, you loved it. And it just set the stage for such a nice conversation. Right? Because she felt like Sherry knew me a little bit and she already knew like, you know, the vibe that whole on and what we're trying to do. And she's like, listen, this is where we're at. And it was like we were already on the partnership discussion over that, getting to know each other thing a little bit more. And so I think as we grow, you know, we've been very intentional to try to keep that, you know, spirit out there so that people can kind of see, Hey, this is what is all about. There's no surprises. Um, and I think that's really important. That's awesome. I'm so happy for you guys. Um, so you, so you just kinda touched on something else that I think is really interesting is the power and the equalizer of social media. So, you know, that idea is not necessarily new, right? Social media has been around for a long time, but I think especially in health care and for a startup, you know, again, that whole social media thing is kind of like, okay, when we get to a certain size, then we'll hire someone to kind of manage our social media. So it's kind of like an afterthought or like a longer term strategy and there's such a huge opportunity
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that's missed if we overlook that or for that for later. For the all the reasons that you're just talking about. Um, you know, when you're talking about boots on the ground and trying to connect with people, right? With phone calls or emails or knocking on doors, it can, especially with a cold prospect, I mean, Oh my gosh, it can take forever, but then you can have that, that encounter, but unsolicited and counter on digital and just open the door wide open. Yeah. And you know what? I feel like so many healthcare companies aren't doing it. You know, I've been a fan of it forever. I had a friend, Gabe, he's amazing. He set me up on this like maybe five years ago. I kid you not called me the other day, it was like, I love what you're doing. I'm always following you on Twitter. And I said, I know it's so powerful. And that's what I love about it is you can pick the topics that are important to you and you can kind of cut through the noise and so for hold on, that's not a big deal. You know, we do hashtag liberate the data and you get all our stuff and it's like, you know, it's fun to put it out there, but we've made some really, really great connections. You know, I got introduced to this woman by the name Janae sharp and she does the Sharpe index, which is dedicated to
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reducing physician burnout is such a great ally for whole lot. Right? Yeah. Well it kinda, it brought us together and we've done really cool things and we have a couple other things planned, but we've met so many people like that through the use of social media. And it's almost like a modern day like newsletter, you know, about like, you know, back in the day you would mail out, you know, like a slick to somebody and whatever ends up in the garbage can, you know, email address. It's exponential and you can also like itch. It's just really cool and it's a way to engage with people and in the market and, um, just stay current and what's going on. so what, what recommendations are advice do you have for those listeners, those health innovators right now that are in the trenches, that are really struggling, um, for, for one reason or another? You know, what, what recommendations do you have for them? I would best sum it up probably by a lot of the topics, you know, that we touched on. You've got to start and you have to be focused, right? So you gotta have a problem that you're solving. If you're not solving a meaningful problem, like, forget about it, just stop, right? So assuming you have a really great problem, um, and or I should say you have a tough problem, you have a really great solution to that problem. I want to go
00:35:26:23 --> 00:36:09:02
through that rigor of identifying who your ideal customer is, right? And then you have to stay disciplined with focusing on that. And I think once you kind of have those things, the rest will kind of fall into place, you know, and, um, having those early customers, right, that are going to look at you as a true partner and you're in it together and you're getting feedback and support from them. I think that those things combined are really, um, what struggling organizations should look at first. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom today with all of our listeners and with me. I appreciate it. Thank you so much. This has been so fun. Absolutely. All right, well until next time. Okay. Bye. Bye.