Starting a business

My Dream-Me is pretty harsh…

Angela Spang

I have embarked on the daunting journey of writing a book….or three, more accurately. Apparently I have a lot to say (who knew)…

I have always been a fan of objective viewing of self, as we tend to be either overly critical or alternatively not clear on our strengths and how we should manage them in relation to other people (and their potential shortcomings in the same area), but I have to say that I am taking it to a new level now!

The other day I woke up in the middle of a dream, and clearly the book writing challenge has made quite an impact — I am obviously pretty occupied with the idea since I was actually DREAMING about it. This is slightly concerning since I haven’t actually written a SINGLE word yet! I am worried what is to come.

Stick to Twitter

Dream-Me

I woke up offended.

My Dream-Me was telling my real me to “stick to Twitter”. Ouch. I am all for straight communication, but that is HARSH feedback to someone who hasn’t even started writing yet! Clearly Dream-Me is not wasting any time! She isn’t wrong though: I have said for years that I like Twitter — the limitation of characters is a challenge and a blessing — better be succinct and not waffle. I have seen the same tendencies in myself when it comes to writing: I struggle with filling in long blank spaces in applications for funding or similar (maybe that’s why I never applied for anything apart from an epic double failure in a Horizon2020 application a couple of years back where the second attempt was actually scored WORSE than the FIRST one. I gave up after that.).

Realise when you are not the best person for the job

One of my strengths as a leader is to put the right person in the right place. I match make well between people and roles, and sometimes I see futures for people that they may have not realised themselves. This strength is useful here….I have absolutely no plans to become a writer. Just because I have STORIES to tell doesn’t make me a writer…those are different things. People who believe that authors should only write their own stories or you aren’t a real author if you don’t do the actual writing yourself haven’t thought long enough about it, imho.

After all, Authors have editors, illustrators, designers….and they use computers ūüėČ

I will have a writing partner

She will take the jumbled words, the blurry memories, the ugly and unsaid, the beauty and the magic…and she will use her skill and talent to turn my secrets and my scars into something that we can all learn from. I will have to trust her; I know it will require me to be brave. I will tell her things I have never told anyone, and I am already scared.

Maybe that is why my Dream-Me is saying stick to Twitter. She is not wrong.

Will you read my books?

Summarize me and JUNE: Attempt 1

I have tried to summarize me in a few words for the Goldman Sachs 10k I am just about to embark on. How do you think I did?

Here is what I wrote:

Making healthcare better for the women and girls you love.

Multi award-winning innovator and serial entrepreneur. (thats from LinkedIn, true but braggy sounding on here.)

I don’t like Brexit

I am Swedish, living in the UK since 12 years, still struggling to not translate and try to explain swedish expressions (eg “There is no danger on the roof”) during business conversations.

Useless education

Trained ballerina, rocks parallel parking but can’t cook. Once burnt boiling eggs.

It’s complicated

Like talking strategy, change and people. Enthusiastic introvert who has to do the hakka before networking. Residential will take all my energy, but I am really looking forward to learning from everyone on the programme.

JUNE Medical

June was a code name from the beginning, but it got stuck so I kept it. We focus on surgical women’s health, anything that is in the operating theatre and give women the opportunity to get back on their feet faster, back to the life they want to live. We distribute medical devices for some of the largest companies in healthcare, as well as making our own solutions when we don’t find good products (Galaxy II is such a project).
I have been supporting The Fistula Foundation with surgical equipment for many years, and my GalaxyII project is an important cornerstone in that goal.
I am on the programme to ensure I make the best choices and optimise where and how we can contribute to improving healthcare for women and girls.

Why simplicity is important in innovation

It is so easy to fall into the trap of ego. You know you have a great idea, and you want to show the world how clever it is…well, it is easy to also want to show the world how proud you are of having thought of it!

And being proud is a good thing.

…Just not so proud that it derails your innovation. Let me give you a good example, witnessed often in previous roles in large corporations:

Clever person solves a problem. Clever person then tries to share solution with other clever people, but makes the pitch lopsided, and the OTHER clever people end up offering to help with THEIR solutions to the problem. Clever person leaves feeling devalued, demotivated and misunderstood.

So what went wrong?

The mistake was made to make the PROBLEM bigger than the SOLUTION. (We tend to do this when we want to build suspense, to really milk out the praise we think we deserve for our brilliant solution.) It then back fires, because we focus too much on the stage before the solution, and once everyone’s brain is in help and solution mode, it is very challenging to present a solution. Intelligent creative people love problem solving and are so eager to help, they can’t stop!

Try this next time

Instead of building up the problem too big and subsequently losing your moment to shine, try summarizing the discussion you want to have up front. Try starting with saying something along the lines of : ‚ÄúYou know that x we have been mulling over? I have a solution I want to share with you today, and I am really proud of it!‚ÄĚ

Be honest, know yourself and use your strengths. Innovation is only beautiful when it is simple, and everyone gets it.

(Just like a good joke is only funny if you don’t have to explain it.)

My biggest business failure (so far…)

It seemed like a slam dunk, and I was convinced it would be an easy win. After all, it was an under-served market, a simple product that required no training to switch to, and I knew we could make it for half the cost as the market leader, who had no competition. Slam dunk by far, right?

Wrong. 2 years later, our Galaxy retractor is not even in 20 hospitals in the UK market. I don’t get it. How can this not be the EASIEST SELL IN THE WORLD?! (You can tell I am frustrated by this!)

Procurement sell?

If my job was to save NHS money and still maintaining similar quality, I would want to freakin’ MARRY Galaxy. No re-training needed, British company and almost -50% cost. If all of the current product was switched out, the NHS would save half a million pounds…..ANNUALLY. Without ANY work.

How messed up is it what this discussion must happen surgeon by surgeon, hospital by hospital? And how frustrating is it, that a British company could create 5 more jobs, save the NHS millions of pounds AND do better for the environment (yeah, 10% less plastic waste too) and STILL not be the number one provider?

My Top Endorsed Skills

So, as a reasonably good (well…) business leader and someone whose Top Endorsed Skill on LinkedIn is Product Launch and Marketing Strategy from my career in medical device, I am considering this to be my greatest failure. We are doing something wrong, and I just can’t seem to figure out how to fix it.

It is taking too long: 2 years and we are nowhere close to where we should be. 2 years, 500k annually. A million pounds in wasted tax money, and in addition, money that is leaving the UK to an American company.

I want to save money for the NHS, keep the funding in the UK and grow our business so we can employ more people in Buckinghamshire instead of Connecticut. But I can’t for the life of me make it work.

That must be my biggest failure: it seems so OBVIOUS and SIMPLE, and yet I can’t crack it.

Any idea what I am doing wrong??

 

 

 

Product development and Launch ‚Äď the JUNE MEDICAL way

I’ve done The Big

Because I have had the pleasure of working with larger corporations (I spend 10 years with JNJ, 3 with Allergan and 3 with American Medical Systems ENDO) I have quite a lot of experience of new product development and taking new things to market. I have had my finger in design, development, research, early stage testing, pre-launch and launch, as well as training and port market evaluations.

Long process, not always for the right reasons

Usually in one of the large corporates, a new product development idea goes through many rounds of iterations, with a lot of people who don’t have the faintest idea of what the patient symptoms are, what the available solutions are, what the surgeon need is or what the possible outcomes should be.

That’s where JUNE MEDICAL is different. Let me give you the example of this month’s launch: The GOKit.

I was sitting with Maria, nurse at St Marys Hospital, when she got yet another call from the consultant asking her to run upstairs and fetch something from Theatres (she works in Outpatient). When she came back, I asked about what I just observed, and it turns out that she quite frequently must run upstairs to collect a piece of equipment that is missing from the resterilizable trays they use in Outpatient. (Which also means she opens a complete sterile tray just for one or two missing pieces!)

Digging deeper

I asked her more questions, and then suggested a product we could make for her that would solve her problem of missing, broken or incomplete trays. She laughed and said ‚ÄúA new product will take years to be put together and approved!‚ÄĚ.

I winked and reminded her that we are JUNE MEDICAL (!), and asked her to give me 3 months. She laughed and said the challenge was on. I was pretty pleased with myself when I casually strolled in just before Christmas and presented her with the first sterile sample kit of the new outpatient Gynae Tray, and she was absolutely over the moon ‚Äď blown away with the quality and the low cost, saving the trust money.

In summary:

  • Know your stuff
  • Watch your customers and solve their problems
  • Work fast

 

Oh, and GOKit? See for yourself! www.junemedical.com/gokit/

 

Innovation is difficult? I disagree!

We are naturally capable of innovating all the time, but our psychological filters stop us before we even get out our drawing books.

How hard is it to innovate? Is it raw talent, a trained skill or just luck? As a growth company, how can you repeatedly implement great new products, processes or services? Continuous innovation is not easy and if you keep using the same method you will experience diminishing results.

Innovation comes naturally to me, as my key strengths of Improvement and problem solving, combined with creativity and a love of change bring me a brain that never stops. (Exhausting, trust me.)

Here are my top 8 suggestions to get your started into the habit of innovation:

1.     Ask customers. If you simply ask your customers how you could improve your product or service, they will give you plenty of ideas for innovations. Typically, they will ask for new features or that you make your product cheaper, faster, easier to use, available in different styles and colours etc. Listen to these requests carefully and choose the ones that will really pay back.

2.     Observe customers: Never ask what they WANT. Ask what THE PROBLEM is. Then you can innovate.

3.     Copy Paste: look at someone else’s idea. One way to innovate is to pinch an idea that works elsewhere and apply it in your business.

4.     Minimize or maximize. Take something that is standard and minimise or maximise it. Take out the middle man. (IKEA lets you build your own furniture, or sells the service to pay extra for someone to do it for you)

5.     Eliminate. What could you take out of your product or service to make it better? Dell eliminated the computer store, Amazon eliminated the bookstore, the Sony Walkman eliminated speakers and record functions.

6.     Collaborate. Work with another company who sees things differently. We recently spoke to a lighting company who had great ideas for improving visibility in surgery.

7.     Combine. Combine your product with something else to make something new. It works at all levels. Think of a suitcase with wheels, or a mobile phone with a camera or a flight with a massage.

8.     Ask your team. Lead your team is such a way that innovation and improvement is always on everybody’s mind, and that nobody is afraid to speak their opinions.

Why I love LMEDAC (even though most people can’t say it)

When doctors learn a new procedure or product, they train on plastic or computer simulators, and/or actual live patients (who often don’t realize it). This causes unnecessary harm and suffering, and surgical errors cost the NHS billions.

This of course wasn’t a problem when few innovations came through, but today it has doubled from just 5 years ago. Patients are injured and even killed, because learning curves aren’t completed before going into live surgery (including children).

We train doctors to be better surgeons, by providing donated cadaveric tissue instead of training on live patients.

Our company’s potential is enormous, but our topic is emotional and sensitive. Guidance end expert advise will give us a higher chance of getting this right, and if we do, we will all benefit: for every surgeon we train, the improved outcomes impacts every patient they will ever operate on.

Our work is threefold:

Policy ‚Äď to change guidelines

Funding ‚Äď to give doctors the funds and time off to train

Availability ‚Äď increase awareness of cadaver donations (as opposed to just organ donation, which most have heard of).

For us, our work really DO make a difference between life and death. We are passionate about our vision, and hope you will be too.

(and it is pronounced [ell-med-ack] )

(and you can read more about LMEDAC here)

(and you can donate your body here)

Why leaders with egos are bad for business

Here is what a leader with a big ego will do:

  1. Being defensive. (Early sign: Defending ideas. Ultimately turns into becoming defensive.)
  2. Comparing to others. If you continually compare yourself to others, you will actually become less competitive. Too inward focusing!
  3. Seeking  acceptance to justify your ego needs. You crave respect and recognition from others, which eventually interferes with your success.
  4. Show off: You make a point of showcasing your brilliance.
  5. You think you have all the answers.
  6. Reject advice. Not smart.
  7. Can’t admit to being wrong. Ever pushed an idea through, even though you had that sinking feeling in your gut? Cut your loss and regroup instead. Only weak leaders have a hard time doing this.

None of this will make your business stronger, bigger or healthier, and none if this will foster good leaders around you.

Got a big ego? I suggest you send it on holiday for a few weeks and see how you get on without it. You just may be surprised.

I’ve yet to meet anyone complaining someone’s ego is too small.

“Whaddaya mean, it ain’t personal?!!!”

Oh yes, it is.

Me starting a company is personal. VERY personal. I put my career into this, my skill, my talent, my goodwill, my credibility. I have used every contact I have, every favour I was owed and every connection I could think of. I have convinced people I CAN DO THIS, despite their lack of belief, their concern for my family, or their worry about my future.

I have had talks with every employee coming onboard, convincing them that this is THE PLACE TO BE, we are going places, we will be a company to grow and develop in.

So if you for even a second think that a startup or an established¬†company isn’t PERSONAL to the founder and owner, think again.

Every single record on Companies House is a manifest of a dream, a vision, an act of bravery. It is a rebel act against facts and statistics, and a streak of both genius and crazy.

You may not like what we do. You may not even care. But know this: for EVERY company out there, there is at least ONE person for whom it is personal.

Very, very personal.

Tough times hit hard: 5 things that may help.

Brexit, economic downturn, lack of funding, new regulations and changing personal circumstances  are all events that can rock the foundation of your startup business. Making it through hard times requires a steel determination and some serious grit. However, these days I think we need more than just fighting spirit. Here are some thoughts on what else to do when tough times hit.

Cut Carefully

I really don’t like this cutting, because I think one should always be frugal with money. In addition, for small and growing business, cost-cutting needs to be implemented with the precision of a surgeon‚Äôs scalpel. Cut too deep and your business will never recover. Cut too shallow and cash flow problems could force you to the back of the unemployment line. Exercise care and judgment in determining what and where to cut and by how much. And keep monitoring the impact.

Use Low-Budget Marketing

When recessions and other difficult times hit, the marketing function of a business is the first to get cut. With less advertising and marketing, the funnel of incoming prospects is reduced creating even more revenue decreases and setting up a vicious cycle.

The key to salvage any business in hard times is NOT to reduce your marketing activities but to REPLACE them with¬† Low-budget marketing (¬†include tactics such as PR, networking, public speaking, online marketing and more.) If you’re already doing that, then figure out how you can do more, through new channels.

Invest your way out?

Are there others feeling the pinch? Can you buy yourself some growth, with efficiencies to be made through scaling operations?

Customer. Customer. Customer.

In good times, business comes easy. Your sales pitch or¬†marketing message may be less effective but will still¬†get results. Surviving hard times requires going back full circle to the fundamentals:¬†Keep it simple, and give your customers what they want and need. Make sure EVERY customer is happy, because you certainly can’t afford¬†a single unhappy one.

Forwards!!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of replaying the situation that got you here today. If you had a failed partnership, replaying your mistakes is a mistake. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Lyubomirsky, Sousa, et al reveals analysis occurring during talking or writing is beneficial in difficult times while replaying negative events is detrimental.

There is a great book called “What got your here won’t get you there”, and that phrase¬†is a great reminder of the need to pause, take stock, realign and move forward.
Go win. If it was EASY, ANYBODY could’ve done it already.