This is the eighth installment of a multi-part blog series by Hart Williford, CEO and president of Ingenious Med.
In every company I’ve run, one of the processes I’ve always believed in and practiced is this: a business should be customer led and customer focused. Ingenious Med was started by four physician leaders, and our current chairman and CMO, Dr. Steven Liu. These founders were beginning a hospitalist practice back in 1999 and were frustrated that their workflow was essentially paper based. Dr. Liu, prior to becoming an MD, had received an engineering degree from UVA. So, as these four physicians saw a need, Steve said “I can automate this” and wrote the first application.
From day one, the company designed applications with physician workflow at its core. In responding to their own need, the founders of the company were their own first customers. As a result, they were pleased with the product, and able to refine it as their needs evolved. To this day, a lot of the ergonomics of that initial design have remained within the system. How does a company stay engaged as the customer base grows, especially at the rate Ingenious Med’s has?
Now, every product that we design, we get business development partners, we get our customers involved. Nothing we work on is done without really taking a look at the exact needs of many of our most active customers. The best consultants to the company are the power users of your product. How? Well, in every organization I’ve run, I’ve formed a group of forward thinking customer-leaders who truly understand that technology is only of benefit when it is deployed to accomplish the specific strategic goals of the user’s organization. So, here at Ingenious Med, we have the Leader’s Circle Advisory Board, a group comprised of physician and administrative leadership, representatives from our largest and most influential user groups. We’re always in contact, but once a year we assemble and do a deep dive together.
At these meetings, we review our product roadmap for the next twelve to eighteen months and get feedback to ensure that the long range direction is correct, that every single click of each progressive design wireframe follows a true workflow that’s both efficient and ergonomic. As a result, these Leader’s Circle participants bring significant value to us as a company.
Venue can be important for work of this type. I happen to be a fly fishing fanatic, so the Leader’s Circle this year is at the Vermejo Lodge in New Mexico. We fly fish as a team the first day, and then the formal work begins with a meeting that evening, kicked off with an industry speaker in an area of interest to all parties. We spend the next full day in intensive discussions, reviewing the road map and detailed wireframes, gaining significant impact that can guide our development team in accomplishing far superior solutions in the marketplace.
The feedback we received from our attendees is that Leader’s Circle is the most beneficial event in their calendar, not just from what they receive in the business meetings, but the conversations they’re able to have with their peers outside the formal meetings; one on one on the river or at dinner, are invaluable. The one common bond between all of these customers that come is, they’re all using our solutions to achieve their strategies and they can all learn from each other, bringing unique challenges. We’re happy to supply them an environment to share ideas they’re uniquely situated to understand, while picking their brains and ensuring we remain as dedicated as ever to the needs of our customers.
Other parts in this series:
Management by Corporate Beliefs
Nurturing Work-Life Balance
Strategic Imperatives: Repeatable Success
Strategic Imperatives: Theory and Action
The Value and Motivation of Customer Surveys
Proactivity and the Slow Bleed
Entrepreneur v. the Implementer