As CEO and leader of multiple early-stage, high-growth healthcare and technology businesses, here are 5 key lessons that have made the difference in scaling profitably and successfully.  As CEO of CRF Inc., a mobile patient/clinician platform for clinical trials, and now at Health Helm, Inc., a mobile patient/clinician platform for self reporting and communications, my toughest lessons have involved balancing:  achieve milestones, demonstrate clinical evidence and impact while stretching resources to achieve results.

1. Listen to, learn from our customers - in our case, our patients and their clinicians

Our mobile software platforms over the last 15 years are designed to enable and motivate patient-reported-outcomes (PRO) or self-reporting.  The Food and Drug Administration has prioritized PRO in healthcare because of better outcomes and health, in large part because patients know themselves best and they pay attention to what they track.  In any business, the "voice of the customer" is key: seeking it, being open-minded to learn from it, even when the feedback is negative or contrary. We constantly strive to gain insights from our patients and clinicians.  What can we learn from their stories? What impact are these things making in their lives? And how can we make a difference? Every team member every day is driven by our patients and clinicians, gathering and analyzing their data and clinical evidence, and applying that to making that difference.  This is basic fuel to scaling our business engine!

2. Build a shared vision

Our company's vision is to make a measurable improvement in the quality of our patients' health.  We are a data-and-results-driven team with a platform that produces the evidence demonstrating better outcomes, lower costs and more satisfied patients and clinicians.  The data and continuing analytics, in turn, enable our patients and clinicians - and our company - to learn, adjust and improve. I had the privilege of working with and learning from Bryan Smith, a co-author of "The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook," about creating a core purpose or destiny for our businesses.  With my teams, we shape our core purpose into a shared vision, and continually evolve it as we learn and gain insight from our customers. Successful scaling requires continual evolution of our shared vision, tracking our progress against the vision, and transparently reporting meaningful results (good, bad and ugly) while growing profitable revenues.

3. Grow a high-performance team

In my last blog, I talked about high-performance teams.  Critical to any successful team is a combination of bright, curious minds, shared passion about the business' or team's core purpose, and the right mix of skills and expertise to get the job done.  Our team members share common values, have mutual respect for one another, while demonstrating both conviction and being open-minded to new points of view or data. Especially in rapidly scaling business, we have intentionally mixed a combination of "been-there-done-that," more seasoned team members and "fresh" perspectives (new to this domain or earlier in their careers) - this combination enables us to move smarter, faster.

4. Deliver operational excellence

Operational excellence is obvious, a "no brainer," but is a challenge for rapidly scaling businesses.  Clearly mapping each step of the operations, clear roles, accountabilities for us, our customers and any third parties, setting clear expectations and metrics at each step - all are critical to success. Setting clear expectations with our customers - and not overpromising - and managing and communicating continually are keys.  Bumps will occur; we must be prepared for them, own up to our part in those, and fix them quickly. This is where our team of "seasoned" and "fresh" experiences can make a difference: we define what quality and success look like, how to measure and report them, what potential risks and failures lie ahead, and how to prevent or mitigate bumps when they occur.

5. Cash is "king" (or "queen")!

In all businesses, and especially in rapidly scaling businesses, cash is king. Managing cash smartly, spending where it makes real impact to build value, conserving it for uncertainties - these are the ways to achieve pivotal milestones: with customers, in the market, building assets and value for shareholders.  How many earlier stage companies raise a round of financing only to blow through their cash too rapidly, falling short of value milestones? I have been very fortunate with CFOs, investors and financially attuned team members aligned around making the smartest use of cash.

In conclusion, my balancing these five critical success factors to achieve forward momentum and results is key.

About the author

Pamela W. McNamara -- Pam is CEO and co-founder of Health Helm, Inc., a mobile software company supporting Patient Reported Outcomes for Outcomes & Cost-effective care coordination with their clinicians. She was former CEO of CRF Inc., the world's leading mobile health, electronic patient reported outcome mobile health platform supporting clinical trials. Under her leadership, CRF profitably scaled in the US and globally.  She was former CEO of Arthur D. Little, Inc., and led the firm's Global Healthcare Practice.  She was President of Cambridge Consultants, Inc. (US). She sits on the Boards of Southcoast Health System (Trustee), Tufts School of Engineering (Advisor), rEVO Biologics (Independent Advisor), and was formerly an independent Director of Omrix Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:OMRI), GTC Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:GTCB).  Pam has a BS in Civil Engineering from Tufts University.

Published on: Mar 7, 2018