“Focus all your resources on creating revenue, even if they are small jobs”.
Job Title: Chief Coffee Drinker at Hello Healthcare
1. To start off… Can we get you a coffee?
“A” coffee? Only 1? Pfffft… amateurs ☺
2. When you’re on camera, you talk A LOT about coffee. Is it because you’re hoping for a nice coffee before, during or after the interview on camera, or are there other reasons you talk so much about coffee?
Reason 1 – In a world of digital communication, email, LinkedIn and Skype, it is good to take time off and sit down face to face with a person and really get to know them… coffee is an excellent conduit to achieve this.
Reason 2 – Meeting someone for coffee, especially when you are a start-up, is a more cost-effective way to network. A coffee one can still afford. A breakfast/lunch/dinner will quickly eat into your savings.
3. In Acumen Issue 8, you stated that Africa is “probably” the capital of innovation in the world, what exactly did you mean by that?
There are few places around the world as tough to do business in as Africa (obviously I am generalising now). You have to run a business that delivers services or products in a reliable and efficient manner in an environment with variable skillsets and somewhat volatile infrastructure (whether electricity, expensive bandwidth, roads, etc). And yet Africa has produced global giants such as MTN, UTi, Mpesa, etc.
4. We love data as much as you love coffee. You have mentioned before that Hello Healthcare employs 19 full-time developers and have several others on contract. Where do they fit in and why do you need them? Assuming there are some software solutions, and statistical data required.
We are a healthcare company that operates in the primary healthcare space (i.e. nursing, careworkers, retirement villages, frail care, sub-acute, mobile clinics, remote sites, healthcare facilities in factories and mines, oil rigs, wellness and occupational healthcare). Offering such a broad range of services and having such a diverse base of clients (we are business to business services providers) means that if we do not have control mechanism we would not be able to run a business.
Hence we developed a whole range of solutions in-house for ourselves that allow us at a touch of a button to know how many patients were seen for what condition, how much stock was used, how productive was the staff etc. I believe running any organisation means you need to know what is going on in real time (or semi real time, connection permitting).
Though originally the solutions were developed for our own needs, we were soon asked to offer the solutions in the market to such a degree that today it is being used all over South Africa and Africa and expanding into other continents as we speak. So, effectively we run numerous primary healthcare facilities all over (quietly… you’ll never see the Hello Healthcare name as we prefer to stay under the radar screen).
Although we own all the IP we often work with other companies who are good at specific solutions so that we can integrate them with our systems. The future of business is in offering a fully integrated solution.
On the data side… I can’t stand companies that mine the data of their clients, so we took a decision that we will never mine our client’s data. Our client’s data is theirs and remains on their servers. We do not touch it. Ever.
5. What is your opinion on people having 24/7 secure access to their medical records online?
Just to remind, we are not a patient interfacing company. Our systems are used by the organisations that handle the patients so the medical records online idea is something that we would not offer. But I do I think it is a great idea that will happen in pockets of service provider isolation: with this I mean that I struggle to see how one medical aid will share their patient’s records with other medical aids when for example, a patient leaves the one medical aid for another provider. The biggest stumbling block is lack of trust that large companies have created by being irresponsible with the patient’s data. Trust is not something you win back easily. But it will happen – just don’t expect it too soon.
6. Do you think there is a document storage solution opportunity for this?
Perhaps… I could imagine a comprehensive solution where I have all my documents, papers, contracts, agreements, health tests etc. in one place. But that one place will become a magnet for the hacking community as well – and having some of the best programmers in Africa working with us I can assure you that there is no such thing as 100% security.
7. Do you think it’s a good thing that Google is trying out a video-based platform to connect consumers with physicians for live video help? If they released an API or provide quick access to this, would you want to integrate this into your systems?
It is a great idea if a bit late. There are already many solution providers doing this (VSee, etc.). Google has fallen asleep at the wheel of innovation and is desperately trying to catch up (for the record, I use Google products and I like them, so I am not saying they are bad – just very very slow at innovating). There are less known but far more powerful and useful solutions already existing.
8. How about ordering repeat prescriptions online and have it delivered to your nearest pharmacy? It should be about convenience, shouldn’t it?
Absolutely! Brilliant idea and there are a lot of people already doing it (even as far as delivering it to people’s homes, for example with chronic medications – e.g. the company SBUYS). The biggest stumbling block often isn’t the idea or practicality of it, but rather the lobbying efforts of those who control the distribution channels and are trying to protect it (a tad like SAA’s efforts at stopping Emirates from adding more flights to SA and thus bringing more tourists just so they slow down the competition).
9. Do you know of any electronically available system for doctors, that we’re just not using?
There are dozens of doctor systems out there, some great and some less great. I am not a big fan of any of them and also don’t understand the business model behind offering the systems in that space. But I may be wrong.
10. In health, time is sometimes a deciding factor if you’re going to live or die. Why do hospitals and doctors still rely on out-dated systems, such as sticky notes and paper? There’s no CTRL + F to quickly go through your records. Are they afraid of sharing the data?
There are some amazing things going on both in the private and public sector (e.g. there is a government owned hospital in Johannesburg that is completely automated… almost a pilot for potential roll out nationwide). Give it time. Healthcare is a complex dinosaur… As consumers we are often frustrated by the lack of progress, but those in charge often have to be very careful as it is real lives they are managing. But yes, I agree.
That’s what we are doing in the primary healthcare space (i.e. not hospitals). The problem will come when you start going to more rural areas – how do you ensure that a sophisticated and delicate system is kept up and running and all users are fully trained on it? The actual software and hardware is the easy part – it is the human factor that is the most challenging. But it will happen (and is happening).
11. Describe your work ethic in 5 words.
Honest, Now, Direct (i.e. don’t mince words – tell it like it is), inclusive (i.e. everyone must benefit) and coffee-fuelled.
12. How many electronic devices do you touch on a daily basis?
Laptop and phone. I don’t like technology per se. For me they are just tools. Choose the right tool for the right job. No need for expensive tablets and devices. They often are just a distraction.
13. What’s the biggest problem you’ve experienced with growing Hello Healthcare?
We have a backlog of ca. 280 corporates waiting for our solutions – the trick is to grow quickly enough to satisfy that demand yet not too quickly that you lose control of all the parts. My biggest focus is to ensure that each and every client is perfectly happy. That means I spend the majority of my time trying to find dreamers who, like us, want to make a difference in how healthcare is delivered and who also understand the sustainability part of it. We even turned down an offer to take Hello Healthcare to the USA.
14. You’ve had a few businesses that unfortunately failed. Were they product-based or service-based and why did they fail?
They failed because I was trying to be important and sit in a glass office and hope that clients would just come. I was in love with our solutions and not in love with trying to solve the client’s problems. Mostly they were service-based.
15. If you can give our 13400-odd business owners, entrepreneurs, IT resellers and service providers 5 business tips, what would it be?
a. Find clients (even non-paying one) as quickly as possible. No-one is going to pay for something that no-one else is using. Get reference sites ASAP.
b. Focus all your resources on creating revenue, even if they are small jobs.
c. Keep your costs down to an absolute minimum. I worked out of my garage for the first 4 years. Ideally find someone who has big offices and ask them if they could give you free office and internet.
d. Work 7 days a week for the first 10 years. Delete all distractions that don’t contribute to revenue.
Talk is cheap. Be careful of believing people who tell you that a big deal is around the corner. You will build a business one small deal at the time.
e. Don’t worry too much about problems you may experience one day when you are big. Focus on growing the company in the stage that you are in now. Survive and pay the bills.
… and enjoy the journey and not just the destination. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster – you’ll go through highs and lows on a daily basis. They are part of this great (ad)venture.
16. What do you do 8 o’clock in the evening?
Work (usually catch up on emails). My work day usually ends around 23.00.
17. What do you do 8 o’clock in the morning?
I will have been in the office for 2 hours already.
18. What is your favourite TV Programme?
Don’t watch TV.
19. Best city to visit in South Africa?
All of them are beautiful… but the city is made of people. Rather than visit a city, visit the people.
20. Best city to work in SA?
I like them all for different reasons. But I would love to one day work in Ficksburg (in German, it means to “Screw”) just to see how long I could keep a straight face.
21. What’s your opinion on having a card containing your medical information stored on a magnetic strip card? We know about security issues, but we want OTHER perspectives on this.
I think – over time – we will be moving away from cards to other type of recognising technologies. I don’t have a view on this. I am still trying to find my Gautrain card I misplaced 2 weeks ago.
22. If I started a business, what should I do with my first R30 000 profit?
Reinvest it immediately in a resource that can generate additional revenue (eg. New sales person)? Make sure you are admin light and sales heavy (assuming you have a product and service already)
23. As a serial entrepreneur, if you only had R10 000 available, what kind of business would you start?
I would buy something that people want at a discount and sell it to them. The whole aim is to make the money work. You want to generate as much revenue as possible as that will enable you to a) grow and, b) get financial books with which you can increase the probability of gaining funding (and do good bookkeeping… it will be absolutely crucial down the line).
24. And if you had R100,000?
Same as above… It is easy to spend when you have a lot of money. All money you spend should be spent on things that generate revenue.
25. What is the first question you would ask any attendee at a networking event that you haven’t met before? Besides; “What’s your name”, “How are you”, “Where’s the toilet” and “Want a refill”?
“What are you passionate about?”… followed by “What are you doing tomorrow morning to make that passion your full time occupation”