It was about a year after dental school that I realized how much I enjoyed business. I felt drawn to leadership roles and teaching when it involved the business side of dentistry. Students who had questions about their career options after school, were my favorite kind of mentees!
It was in June of 2021 that I had the opportunity to dive deeper into health-care tech. And, it has truly been a wild ride. Full of surprises and adventure. I began working with Samsotech, initially on their COVID 19 focused products. In the beginning, we had only three products in the pipeline.
- eVAS, a cost-effective Vaccine Administration Solution
- ePCR, a fully automated PCR test administration solution and
- eVAC Tracker, an employee vaccination and test tracking and monitoring system for enterprises. This solution integrates with a company’s HRIS and access control systems.
Since then, we have been working on several other products.
None of the above has been easy. And this journey has taught me a lot. Here are a few things that stand out.
The hustle is real
We hear about entrepreneurs and startup founders in Silicon Valley all the time and wonder about the large valuations of their companies. We almost think it is too easy. Investors seem to just be piling money into these small and promising companies. This could not be further from the truth. The costs to stay in business and to conduct business are higher here in California than anywhere else. If a founder has a large valuation on their business, they have hustled night and day to make it there. And the hustle will continue till they get their first sale and even after that.
Achieving product-market fit
You may have an idea about a product, but you may also be too early for the market. People may not value your product until years later. Or you may have a product, but there are also a lot of imitation products and competition will drive everyone to the ground. Companies will fight you tooth and nail on price, till profitability becomes a distant dream. This is not the case just in technology, it’s in every industry. This is why instead of first focusing on what you can sell and who you can sell it to, it’s important to understand the problems your customers have. And what you can do to solve them. My dad calls this ‘diving deep into the problem.’ Steve Jobs calls it ‘peeling the onion.’
Conducting in-depth interviews with customers
Learn to ask the right kinds of questions so that you can understand what your customer is struggling with the most. Solving their biggest, most important problem, that currently has a less that satisfactory solution, is where opportunity lies! Dan Olsen’s book, the Lean Product Playbook is an excellent guide to learning how to build a product customers will love. The book gets very technical and detailed in some sections, but so should you if you want to create a truly groundbreaking product.
Rejection is important
I can’t count the number of times my emails or LinkedIn messages were met with a cold response. Some of the responses are clearly etched in my memory because they were so unique and colorful. However, all rejections teach you something. They teach you about your approach, your product value or the customer’s needs. Learning from those rejections and pivoting before you try again is what’s important. As Einstein said, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’
Focus on a few things
This again is true for everything. You can’t be everything to everyone. Sometimes a customer will ask if you can do things that are beyond your scope. In order to please the customer, and retain the sale, you feel compelled to agree. However, it is important to know where your teams’ limits are. We all should be willing to work with another company to provide the customer with a fully integrated solution. And not promise the customer the moon and stars.
Carve out thinking and reading time
I have always been the most productive when I have been able to carve out free-time. When my mind is not occupied with tasks, meetings and work, I end up reading, thinking more deeply and writing. This is where my creativity lies. I dropped one day teaching at Pacific to do exactly that. Think about ideas, write more, and read technical books. Today is Wednesday and technically, my day off. However, after I am done writing this blog post, I plan to spend the rest of my morning reading Dan Olsen’s book and making notes on our next product! You need to take time off to work on your business.
When you’re being hit with one rejection after the other, or have not made a sale in many months, it’s easy to get disheartened and think you’re in the wrong line of business. Maybe you could have stuck with what you know. It’s hard to tell whether you’re just one more push away from success or you need to give up and focus on another product. At the end of the day, there is a fine line separating the two. What’s important here is to not takes those things personally and let it affect your credibility and self-worth. You’re out here hustling, trying for the best. You have to stay positive, and like Dory says, ‘keep swimming.’ If one thing does not work out, you should always have other opportunities to pursue.
Although my time in tech is coming to an end, I know I will never completely detach from the experience. Working as a product manager has been far too enriching, to be able to let it go completely. I hope to continue giving back to Samsotech, in terms of ideas and attending conferences and exhibitions, even after I’ve moved on to the next phase of my life in June! What’s happening in June 2022? Stay tuned to find out.