Dave Veale interviews Chris Boudreau, CEO of ClinicServer, as part of his Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders. http://www.leadershipunleashed.ca
Watch the quick video and read the full interview…
ENTREPRENEUR WANTS TO DEMOCRATIZE HEALTH CARE
About a million dollars was raised in 90 days
Leadership Unleashed Column by Dave Veale
as published in the Telegraph and Journal
12/08/2012, Page C01
My interview with Chris Boudreau, CEO of ClinicServer, was my longest interview to date but not nearly long enough for me to ask all the questions I had for this innovative entrepreneur.
ClinicServer, a restart of a company that’s been in existence since 1999, has gone from a company with three employees in home offices to an international tech firm with a staff of 13 and $1.2 million in angel funding since Chris took the helm in 2010. While he is happy with the business results, Chris is quick to point out to me that his immediate focus is to continue to build relationships with IT partners and investors in Canada and abroad.
Chris has had a diverse career that includes a number of entrepreneurial pursuits as well as being a globalization specialist with Nortel for ten years. A chance meeting at a barbecue in rural New Brunswick provided an opportunity to amass his experience and knowledge and, more importantly, shape his compelling vision of “democratizing health care.” ClinicServer offers a web-based management system that simplifies, empowers and grows clinics by allowing medical professionals to communicate and share patient records securely. Using ClinicServer’s software, clinicians can book appointments, record patient records and manage their billings without downloads or servers.
I began by asking Chris what prepared him for the leadership ride he has been on with Clinic-Server.
A: My first job at Nortel was ridiculous. I found it absolutely excruciating, so I would look for things to do. In the end I became a globalization specialist with them. That’s where I got my patent application and some of the toolsets that I put together for Nortel at the time. I was with them right up until December 1999, when I cashed out my chips and went on to other things.
Q: You have a patent?
A: Yeah, it’s in controlled language, translation memory and machine translation.
Q: Tell me about how you entered the entrepreneurial world.
A: I started a company called Arvise Technologies. It was meant just to be myself. I was going to do some consulting and continue my R&D work because I had some really cool ideas for the language industry.
I eventually merged Arvise Technologies with Living Language Services into BabelFish technologies. It was both the best and worst time of my life.
Q: Sounds like there is a lot to this story. What was the biggest lesson from this experience?
A: Follow your gut with detail. When your gut is telling you to look a little bit deeper, do it. You might not be able to put your finger on something, but the very fact that it’s triggered something means that there’s information that’s missing – and you need to find that information somehow.
Q: How did ClinicServer pop into the picture?
A: I was invited to a barbecue in the middle of nowhere in central New Brunswick. A few beers, a nice camp fire and a great chat and I learned about this little company called ClinicServer and about Paul Kasdan and Tom McLean (co-founders).
I’d never heard of Kasdan & McLean, and the more I learned, the more I began to understand that these are brilliant men who built this brilliant enterprise product and they were just stuck.
Q: Did you sense immediately that you would become the CEO?
A: My initial intent was to get them refocused, get a plan put together and provide them with a circle of influence for mentorship, knowing the money would come. That turned into them asking me if I would run the company, which I’m sure was a huge step for them because it’s their baby.
Q: Can you give me an example of how health care is behind other sectors when it comes to IT?
A: You go to a bank today, you can sign up online and they’ll even give you a graphical representation of where you’re spending your money. They’re actually giving you back meaningful information to help you make decisions quickly. We’re not doing that in health care. Imagine if we could get meaningful information in health care? How powerful that would be?
Q: What has surprised you as you’ve worked on taking ClinicServer to the next level?
A: I think probably the biggest surprise for me is, or has been, from the investment community that’s here. There’s a lot of money in New Brunswick – a lot of money that people are unaware of.
Q: What is the message for other entrepreneurs?
A: If you have the right idea, the right team and the right vision, people are willing to take a risk on you.
Q: How much did you raise and what was the timeline?
A: About a million dollars. The majority was raised in 90 days.
Q: Did it surprise you that it wasn’t more challenging to get the investment?
A: I had expected it to take us longer than it did.
Q: What do you think helped you secure that investment so quickly?
A: Clear vision, knowing what your market is and having a strong team. An investor will know whether you’re wishywashy in the first two minutes. They may not verbalize it, but they can tell.
Q: Were there any unexpected challenges in raising the money?
A: What was a challenge, initially, was that institutional types of investors didn’t appear to have the appetite for innovation and risk. As much as they say they do, they don’t.
Q: I understand this wasn’t the case with angel investors?
A: Angels came quickly because we targeted our angel investors rather than use a shotgun approach. We wanted people involved with this company who not only contributed financially but also with their intellect. It is not all about money, it is about filling your knowledge gaps with people who can help drive your business.
Q: In your opinion, what does a leader need to do to really develop a culture of innovation?
A: You look to bring people to the forefront and let them express their ideas in a way that’s not judgmental, and that helps them become critical of their own thinking.
You also want to be able to encourage idea sharing. As a leader, you want people to share everything with you.
The net net is that you need to have a culture where vulnerability can exist because vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation.
Q: How would you finish the following sentence?”A leader’s job is to …”
A: A leader’s job is to inspire.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering jumping into an entrepreneurial startup environment?
A: Identify your limits up front. Before you leap, ask yourself the important questions: “Have I talked to my significant other? Do we know what we’re willing to give up? How much money can we survive with?” Answering these questions can dictate what type of enterprise to get involved with and at what stage.
Q: What’s the best advice you ever got?
A: I’ve been given a lot of good advice. One of the best pieces of advice was”Failure is always an option, but fear is not.”
Q: What’s the most exciting business opportunity ClinicServer has right now?
A: We’re releasing our product in Zimbabwe, which is a unique opportunity. We’re offering it to the country’s entire private health-care sector. What excites me even more is very soon we’ll be able to drive value to the patient. That’s what makes me wake up every day and go full out.
Q: Democratizing health care?
A: You bet.
Dave Veale is a leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or via Twitter@Dave_Veale. To read past columns and watch videos go to www.LeadershipUnleashed.ca.