Before a business can scale, there will be days when it fails on the market. Whether this failure comes from defective technology or a poor idea isn’t the question. Rather will the leader be willing to make several business pivots to get his crew through the course. Business expert and Pfizer pioneer Malcolm Bohm knows that if a business is not making those critical pivots, then they cannot pull in customers. A product needs to have different flavors and sophistication in order to sell and make a start-up become a 150 million dollar company. Malcolm shares his journey from a few clients to a few thousands clients and the changes and challenges that came along with it.

A Medical Mindset Born From Business Pivots with Malcolm Bohm

My guest is a business expert who is a recognized expert in life sciences. Since 1993, he’s been a pioneer at companies like Astra, Pfizer and Novartis. As an expert in both a business and the science of saving lives, he went on to build Trialytics, an industry-leading software company focused on using data mining to help consumers better react to medicines and treatments. Now, he’s pursuing his next big idea and he’s here to share his wisdom with us. Welcome, Malcolm Bohm, thrilled to have you on the show. Let’s start off with a difficult question. Malcolm, what was the biggest failure of your life and how did you recover?

Hi, Mitch. It pertains to when we were starting my current company, Liquid Grids. We built the initial software, we turned on the spigot and it flopped over dead. We had spent six months of engineering time, significant amounts of investor money, and we could not figure it out.

How long did it stay dead before you finally got it fixed?

It stayed dead for about three months. I was sweating bullets for most of that time. It was the most stressful time I think I can ever remember in my life. We figured it out. I famously tell people it’s the shower scene. Having a shower one day, trying in my mind to work out, “What the heck do I do? I’ve got to work this out because if I don’t work this out this company is dead.” It suddenly came to me, and I burst out of the shower soaking wet, got on a call with my chief technology officer at the time and I explained to him my idea. He said, “Malcolm, this is good. This is strong. Let me work on it.” Three months later, we re-emerged and that idea has actually been the underpinning foundation of Liquid Grids as it is today.

That’s ridiculously crazy that you should be able to start a company and have it basically inoperable for three months. What were you telling your investors, your employees, even your customers? What did you say?

To the investors, that was probably the more difficult part. At the time, we were at Angel investors. A lot of people that I had raised money for lived right in the town that I live in or was living in at the time in La Jolla, San Diego. It was actually very difficult to manage them because they were all open arms and angry, and I had laser targets on my back for quite some time. When we were able to calm the storm and stop the Angels basically trying to take over the company, we managed to take the steam out of that. Internally in the company, with a very small team at the time, that was a test of leadership. Honestly, a lot of people join startups, young companies, and there’s an energy and an excitement. When the ship starts to sink, the rats jump off really quickly. As a leader, you have to actually really rally your troops around the challenge. I was actually very lucky. We didn’t lose anybody at the time and we managed to muscle through. One of the key things of course is to make sure that you’re taking care of them and you take care of yourself last.

YFTC 060 | Business Pivots
Business Pivots: One of the key things is to make sure that you’re taking care of your people and you take care of yourself last.

Malcolm, you’re a very experienced CEO. This isn’t your first rodeo, as they say. You obviously had to bring some of the wisdom of the past into this very difficult situation. What ideas did you have and what advice would you give somebody who finds themselves in a situation where their technology platform just completely goes down, maybe even with customers on it and clients waiting for their processes to start and everything? What do you say to those people? How do you handle it? 

I think there’s a fundamental question that you have to ask yourself which is, “Is this falling down because it’s a technology failure or is it falling down because the idea is poor?” If the idea is poor, then the answer you have to give yourself is to shut it down. Move on. In our case, it was more of a technology failure. We had outsourced our technology build, at least some of the source code, overseas. That is a piece of advice I give often, don’t do it. Unless you have really, really good relationships with an overseas team, don’t do that. I think the fundamental question has to be, “Is this something that I can solve or is the idea that I’m going after just not strong enough?”

I had something like that happen to me in my own history with Timeslips Corporation. We had an idea to build a product to keep track of computer time so people can deduct it from their taxes. My partner and I quit our jobs and started to build this company around that idea, which we thought was a pretty good idea. We did no market research of course but we thought it was a good idea. About a week after we had quit our jobs and we’re ready to launch, my accountants mentioned that the IRS had relaxed their rulings on contemporaneous record keeping. Our product was now completely useless. We had no choice. We had to pivot. We had to completely change directions. I was lucky to have an amazing partner, and the two of us brainstormed and we figured it out. We figured out how to come through with a whole different focus. That really was a blessing in disguise because if we had built a company around keeping track of computer time, we probably never would have been able to grow it to be anything at all. Sometimes that pivot is the gift that you didn’t know you were getting.

We’ll certainly talk about pivots, Mitch, but what I’ll tell you is that I think it’s an absolutely vital part of growing a business. You will not get to a thousand customers if you are not pivoting. In my last company where we did actually grow to that kind of magnitude, me as a leader had to pivot several times. When I started the company, the product was very popular. We couldn’t sell enough of it. At the same time, you had to look and say, “I’m never going to grow $150-million company if I’m just selling this flavor. I’ve got to get more sophisticated, increase the length and reach of the product to higher echelons, to larger enterprises. Those pivots in the business are critical, pivots in the ideas in the early business, but pivots when you’re maturing as well.

Let’s go back in time and let’s talk about that beginning for you. Where did you start your business life?

I worked for very large pharmaceutical companies for probably the first half of my life. I carried the bag as a salesperson, and moved into clinical trials, moved through to end-stage clinical trials, and then ultimately into commercial and marketing. I was batting up against the glass ceiling. I realized that I was becoming more and more frustrated by the box that I was living in. One day, I was driving home from work and a headhunter called me. He said, “We have an opportunity for you. One of the people in your past from Pfizer is really interested in working with you again.” I said, “Tell me about the company.” They said, “There isn’t one.” “What do you mean?” He said, “They have a Canadian company but they don’t have anything in the US. They’d like you to start it.” I went, “Okay.” This was the end of a long week. Novartis Pharmaceuticals somehow is tired of the bureaucracy and so I took the flyer and said, “Just send me some information.” About a month later, I’d been hired along with one other gentleman. We rented a condo and we started to get to work. That was my first. I felt like I was jumping off the Titanic without a parachute, just free-falling but it was so much fun.

We had this furnished apartment in New Jersey. He was in the living room and I was in the bedroom. He was dealing with one aspect of the business, plus I was dealing with the others. Three or four months later, we had designed an office space. We had it built out by the landlords. We’d hired a clinical team, a regular treat team, a medical affairs team, and we had launched the first Phase III Clinical Trial in Lupus for the first time in 30 years with data being done. It was just riding by the seat of your pants. It was so much fun. I realized after that jump off the Titanic that I was never going to go back to Corporate America. That I was in charge of my own destiny at that point.

I have to believe that you must have felt like there was a little bit of the universe taking control here because you set it out in your mind that you were unhappy being an employee. All of a sudden, out of the blue, you get this call. Do you think that happens to people a lot or do you think they have to do something more aggressive to get themselves out of that 9 to 5 type of a job?

I lived in Ireland for many years. I’ve often thought to myself, “Do I have the luck of the Irish?” Sometimes I find that I’m at a turning point, something needs to give, something needs to break for me. Suddenly, it’s there. It happens. Sometimes I wonder just, “How did that come to be?” I believe strongly in faith, and sometimes faith is part of the solution here and it’s just pure darn luck. The reality of business is you’ve got to make your own luck for the most part. It’s rare that some magical formula just drops out of the sky. I think you have to be very aggressive in business, and there are lots of different ways that you can be aggressive without being inappropriate. You have to be shouting from the rooftops, evangelizing, explaining and living it 24/7. That’s part of why it all comes back to you. If you work that hard to tell your story and to share your story and to share the opportunity that you’re building, then it comes back to you because you’ve made the investment. I think it’s a little bit of both, Mitch.

I think it was a little bit of luck, and as we know, luck comes to those of us who are prepared. The part that I think you’re not really recognizing here, Malcolm, is that you had the right mindset. I think for our listeners, mindset is a very important element of what it takes to be in business, of what it takes to lead a team and to initiate what comes down to being a brand new company. In your mind, Malcolm, whether you realized it then or not, you had already planted the seed. You had already tilled the soil, waiting for this opportunity to show up in one form or another, and then it did. Even though it felt like it came out of thin air, it didn’t. There was a lot of preparation on the invisible spectrum to get you to that moment in time. What happened after that? How did you get to starting and building your own company?

When you’re dealing with rare diseases, which we were in that company, lupus amongst three other rare diseases, the biggest challenge that you have is, “Where do I find these patients?” By nature of being a rare disease, it’s going to be rarity that you find them. The natural order of things would have been to open up investigative sites in probably 30 countries, in the hopes that you would accrue one patient on average per year across those countries. That just wasn’t good enough for us. In the world of pharmaceuticals in R&D, every day that you miss is a day that’s missed on the market. That’s millions of dollars. That opportunity cost is very important.

When I turned around to the team, I said, ” I don’t want to do it that way. We need to find a different way to do it.” In walks with one of my marketing guys and he had a listing of doctors with what are called ICD-9 codes at the time. Today it’s ICD-10. These are the reimbursement codes that are used to basically get reimbursement for the procedures and the diagnosis, etc. That happens when you go and see a doctor or a hospital, etc. I’ve never seen these before. I looked at it and I was like, “My lord, there’s a thousand doctors on this list that have sought reimbursement for SLE, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. It was the simplest exercise. We guest out that list and we put out packets to the first 100. We were able to actually recruit 75 additional doctors in the US, and we closed that clinical trial a month early, which is unheard of. I realized that approach with data to inform the strategy was golden. I’d never heard of this data before. I called that same guy who brought the data to me. I said, “Come and visit me on Saturday.” By Monday, we had named Trialytics. It was trials and analytics put together, Trialytics, and it was using reimbursement claims data to support clinical trial recruitment, investigative site recruitment. In the end, we started aggregating information from the clearing houses, as they’re known, for $270 million covered lives in the United States.

Anybody else even have a glimpse of that idea when the two of you came up with it?

Not to my knowledge. We really actually were ahead of the market in terms of the application of this data into the R&D space. Part of the legacy that I have is that it was successful. It’s now standard in the industry to use those approaches. Trialytics really was the pioneer, if you will, on working on that data, and also not just using it from a blockchain approach. We used it from an algorithmic approach. We actually had data scientists who were looking at that data and running algorithms to predict which particular doctor would be more successful and what factors were driving that. It was pretty interesting. We were certainly up against being the newbies in the marketplace with a new type of approach.

Let’s break this down into two pieces here. We had what sounds like at the time even a great idea, but then something had to happen. We needed implementation. Malcolm, what did you do? How did you approach this? You’re a scientist. You’re not an engineer in the sense of building things but yet you figured this out. Can you tell us what that process was like? 

When you just have a bucket of data, you have to start to think about how could this information be implemented in a way that the customer that I used to be, by the way, I used to be the customer of this, how would I, sitting in that seat, be able to digest this and put it to work in my over-bureaucratic corporation? It was really trying to answer that question. I think a lot of entrepreneurs fail. They get so enamored with what they’ve created that they fail to understand that that’s just not the way it could be done if I was sitting back in the seat as a sponsor. We started to break down the value chain that we had to create and make that very simple. An example would be we’d have a doctor’s name and we’d have their location, but the location was actually the billing location. It may not be the same location as the actual practice. There’s no point in handing over to an executive in a pharmaceutical company a billing address and telephone number if that’s the number that they’re actually going to call. We have to break down the process into digestible, simple steps that an end customer would use and would be comfortable doing. As we broke that down, we were able to unlock the value.

I see what you were doing and that is pretty cool. How did you build the business as clients started coming in the door? Did you use any form of systems to automate the sales process or to automate lead flow or to help your sales people take this to the market? How did you do that part?

That was really an interesting journey for me because we started off with back of a cigarette packet tracking with what we were doing then moving into spreadsheets, and then spreadsheets became far too complicated, and so we actually went through a systematic approach. Today, we’re using pretty much the same thing. We used Salesforce as our repository. We forced all of our sales people and the account leads to become proficient in Salesforce. We’re talking twelve, thirteen years ago. It was still rudimentary at the time. As you grow an account for your company and that account is an enterprise, there may be multiple different divisions and multiple different personnel that you’re having to manage relationships with. You have to do that in a systematic way. The danger is that you get crossover from sales people and accounts. You also have to be able to track where people in your accounts are moving. They may move from one department to another. It’s quite common in my world that the entire marketing team just gets completely changed out every year. I think it’s very important you have to have that systematic approach to managing large clients and increasing numbers of clients.

YFTC 060 | Business Pivots
Business Pivots: It’s very important you have to have that systematic approach to managing large clients and increasing numbers of clients.

Let’s put this in perspective, Malcolm, because you’re dealing with an audience. Your client base is different than I think a lot of our listeners. I can’t be sure but a lot of our listeners I believe are in small businesses or are working still in transitioning to their own business. Yet here you are starting a business, dealing with large corporate clients and having to track personnel as they move from division to division. Salesforce was just about a requirement or something like that. How do you feel that’s possible with today’s tools? Would you still use Salesforce or would you take a different approach?

I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t use Salesforce, but I would also say it’s very expensive. You have to have a certain level of business before you get to that kind of expenditure. When you’re getting to a thousand clients, that’s when Salesforce really becomes extremely efficient for you. You have to spread the cost. It actually offsets its own cost at that level. Right now with Liquid Grids, a much smaller company, it’s on its growth trajectory for sure but we still use the systematic approach just not as expensive. We use a customer relationship management tool. We’ve used HubSpot along the way. We’ve used Zoho. Sometimes we use both. There are tools out there that are very useful.

Tell us about the journey from a few clients to a few hundred clients, to eventually a few thousand clients. What changed internally as you made that journey?

It was really interesting because when we were going from hitting our hundredth customer, we had a big celebration. The bell got rung and everybody had some celebration. I found at that time that I was becoming so short-staffed on my own time to commit to each one of these hundred customers along with my team members that I realized I needed to pull myself out of that and empower. That was actually one of the hardest things for me to learn was, from a sales perspective, managing that relationship with those clients. I was always looked upon as the guru, “He’s the guy. He’s the founder. He started this. If you need any questions answered that I can’t answer, Malcolm will step in.” I just couldn’t be that person anymore.

When we hit the hundredth, I’d already planned that I would be moving out of the day-to-day sales operations in order that I could take it up to the next level within my target companies that I was going after and starting to pace them on the next level of idea and partnership that we could have. That continued. When we went to 200 and then 300 and then 500 and so on and so forth, my role had to change, and the empowerment downwards had to increase. I actually found myself in some respects out of touch with what was going on at the cold phase on the day-to-day management of individual accounts and smaller accounts where I was much more focused on, “How can I develop a multi-year multi-million dollar relationship with company X?” That was where I started to focus more of my effort.

I have to say I was not as insightful as you are and were at the time. I hung on to every last task until the last minute before I could possibly give it up. I had what you call entrepreneur’s disease, which means that I think I can do everything better than everybody else faster and more efficiently. As a result, I didn’t delegate and it really took its toll. Malcolm, if you could believe this, it took me two years to figure out how to truly delegate the stuff that I knew I could do but needed to be focused on other things. It was a hard journey for me. 

Believe me, it wasn’t easy for me either. To this day, quite frankly, I think I suffer from that disease. I do believe that most of the things that go on, I could probably do it better myself. If you have that attitude, it actually undermines stuff. You reduce the sense of accountability, responsibility, and fulfillment that they get from what you should be doing. What I realized not easily, Mitch was that in an advisory-mentor role, I can actually empower these gals and guys very, very effectively. I just had to make sure that I had the time once in a while for each of those members of my team to get that benefit.

Chet used to have a rule and he taught this to me when I began to manage BBI. Chet taught me to get rid of what he called impromptu-got-a-minute meetings. If I tell you that it was one of the smartest things I ever learned about time management, this was it. What he basically said is you let everybody know that the only time you’ll be able to talk to them is at 3:00 PM or 3:30 PM and your got-a-minute meetings will all take place in that one 30-minute slot. If it doesn’t get covered then, then it has to wait until the weekly meeting or the next time there’s a got-a-minute meeting. That helped me enormously, particularly as we started growing staff past 300. Otherwise, I was just peppered with questions and couldn’t focus at all. Malcolm, give us a rundown of what you did to basically scale your management team and how you brought them on and educated them on what it was that you wanted them to do?

The first and easy answer, it’s not easy to implement, is to hire really smartly. What we did was we went out to our competitors and very aggressively courted their leadership team. The story that we were able to tell of course was compelling. We were privately held so we were in charge of the equity. At the time, we did a reverse merger but we hired very, very specifically. I also hired people into those roles that I personally felt I really liked them. That was really important to me. I had found myself when I was back in the enterprise dealing with people that were very capable but maybe not necessarily people that I could get on with. I felt that although the rule in business is never to have a friendship, you do need to have people that you have an affinity with that you like as a person. When you combine that affinity of enjoying somebody’s company as well as respecting what they can do from a business perspective, then I think you get two plus two, equals five. What we did was we hired aggressively from competitor companies. Our story was that we were on the trajectory that none of them were.

Hiring was really, really critical but also keeping that team small. When I had that what you would say the 30-minute meeting where all of the just-a-minute meetings took place, there were just five of us. That was really, really important because if you grew any more than that, we’d spend so much damn time in that 30 minutes and became two and a half hours. The team directly around me was kept small and hired largely from senior roles at our competitors.

YFTC 060 | Business Pivots
The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs Are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies

I like the idea that you went out and found the talent in the specific areas that you needed. The other part that you talked about is the fact that you were looking for people that you could enjoy working with. I like the idea but in my experience, and this is something I cover in my book, The Invisible Organization, I think the most important thing is to stay neutral about that in particular. In essence, the only thing that really matters in business is performance. If you like somebody and their performance is lacking, it makes it harder to make a correction in that area. That’s my perspective. I focus entirely on performance. If I like them, it was because they were so good at their job and we would have that in common and get along. What do you think about that?

I actually think on reflection. As I look back, it’s probably the wiser thing to do. It’s not something that I’ve been able to teach myself to do. I think that’s just my character. I’ve also found a way that there is a balance with, “If I need to give you some feedback that says you’re not performing, I didn’t like this, why did you make that decision, I disagree with you.” I’ve also made it a comfortable thing that I can turn around to them and have that discussion. That’s something that really has taken me time to get right. I will admit to you that in the early years of running my companies, I was known as being very aggressive, like almost scarily aggressive when something went wrong. Today, I never raise my voice and I’ve learned how to message back to those people who I do enjoy that their performance they needed to do a better job.

We had one of my favorite employees under-prepared for a key new account. I could see it and I wrote to him and I said, “In my humble opinion, you could lose this client before we even begin. Step back, breathe, do some work on it. I’ll help you but it’s got to improve because I’ll hold you directly responsible if we do lose that client.” Having the ability to have that discussion with those people that you do like for me has always been important, but it’s not an easy one to do. Typically, business leaders do lean in to the performance metrics, particularly if you grow a company and you don’t know some of the people that are in your company. When we grew into 700 people, I would walk through offices and I would never have known this person worked for us if I met them in the local newspaper shop. Then you do have to transcend metrics down the organization. My core team of people, it’s always been important to me that I really like them too.

This show is really all about management and growth. I love the direction we’re taking here, Malcolm, because most of the time we really are speaking to other small business owners. Here you have a different perspective, a perspective of how to translate the values of a large corporation into a small enterprise before it becomes large. That’s what I’m hearing. I definitely appreciate your perspective. Let’s take this conversation to a different level now, Malcolm. After all, Trialytics was a huge success. Tell us about what happened at the end and how you left that company and the way it’s evolved since. Also, we’ll move into what you’re doing now.

Those two things are basically the same thing. I had been living in the world of data as it could be used strategically in the pharmaceutical industry. I had cut my teeth in my early career in analytics and data modeling. I was quite comfortable there, but as I came out of that world, I actually had time to breathe for a summer. I moved to San Diego where I now live. I always said to my wife, “While we can, we will,” and we did. I got here on a semi-retired stage. I started to look around, “What’s going on in the world?” I’ve been so heads down like an ostrich in Trialytics and running that business. What’s happening in the world?

Actually, what had happened was Facebook had happened and Twitter had happened. This whole new internet thing had happened. I did not understand it, Mitch. I was like, “Why the hell did people need to tweet about a burger in a Five Guys Burgers &Fries? Why did people need to announce this stuff?” I did not understand it. In that summer of 2010, I really started to think and look at, “What’s happening?” I had the epiphany that, “If this is happening today, and it’s already in 500 million people, it’s not going to go away.” It’s allowing an entirely new relationship with the consumer, one that we’ve never had. Remembering that advertising, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, that’s generally being one-way traffic is projected into the living room in the hopes that you’re there, in the hopes that you’re the right patient, but you don’t have the chance to talk back.

I believed that the sales force is going down and rep access into a doctor’s office is going away. What I realized was, “The one person that I can guarantee is going to see a healthcare professional is whom? It’s the patient. It’s the consumer.” Suddenly, these consumers are all over the internet talking about burgers and Five Guys Burgers &Fries. I was like, “Are they talking about other stuff, some more interesting stuff that aligns to where I am in the industry?” I did something I’ve never done. I went around and joined every single software working group in San Diego. It didn’t matter if it was PHP or Ruby on Rails, Python. I didn’t know any of these stuff, I’m not a coder, but I wanted to find a developer and I wanted to understand software more. I never really understood it. I joined all these clubs. I met one gentleman, his name is Jason, and I hired him. I said, “Jason, I’m going to pay you $3,000 per month to work for me and build a pipework to see if people are talking about medical stuff out on Facebook and Twitter.” The 2nd of January 2011, we opened up the pipe and we said, “We’re going to house for one word.” We housed for diabetes. Overnight, we got 3.27 million posts from Facebook and Twitter that included the term diabetes.

I’m a healthcare guy, as I started to come through it, I started to recognize, “There are parents that are announcing their child has just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. There are pregnant women going through all glucose tolerance tests for gestational diabetes testing. There are people with Type 2 diabetes who were talking about their A1C level.” As a healthcare guy, I realized, “If you get rid of all these junk, all these crap, all these jokes, there’s real dialogue in here. There is an opportunity to potentially transform the way in which healthcare consumers are empowered with information.” That could transform the way the pharmaceutical industry, which is where I had been most of my life, could actually make sure that the doctor knows about that drug and that the patient is asking for it. The transformation for me was actually seamless with the exception of that one summer where I really had to step back and open my eyes up to find out what was going on in the world. It came to me naturally, Mitch, moving to the next business.

I see exactly what happened, the meeting of Jason being significant, but the idea of using social media basically as a database and then creating search patterns to look for the words that were meaningful to you and now to your clients. Malcolm, from the work with Jason back in 2011 and from this idea of searching for a medical term and getting three million hits from social media, where did that take you?

Through several pivots, what we do today is use very sophisticated software and data mining techniques to understand what is it that we would need to say to healthcare consumers out there that would attract their attention on their specific disease in a way that is natural for them, almost a native advertising, if you will. How can I talk to somebody who suffers from migraine and be relevant to them without just being generic? “Get pain relief now” means nothing to a migrainer. I have to give it some context. What we’ve matured our business model to is using the same premise as I did in 2011 to understand what is it that people are saying but using it in a way that attracts their attention. What we’ve now done because we were so successful in doing so, we’re building out a portfolio of communities of people by disease. Within that portfolio, we have some of the largest, fastest growing, and most engaged audiences which we’ve built on Facebook that lead in their categories.

You started by searching data and then finding the value of search terms in data like Facebook and social media data. From there, you transitioned to building communities and trying to aggregate people whose lives revolve around those key words, if you will, those illnesses or symptoms. Until finally, and I think we’re now coming right into present day, I know exactly what you’re doing now and I love the direction you’ve taken, you’re building these communities now to bring people together for a purpose. Let’s talk about that purpose and in particular one community, the one that you’re now focused on. Tell me that story.

For everybody that’s listening, we built out a community of elderly family caregivers, specifically going after people who are taking care of largely dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, not at the exclusion of all kinds of other types of care and maladies. Three were really the big ones. Part of the reason why is that there’s big portfolio focused in the pharmaceutical industry on those drugs and cracking Alzheimer’s and drugs that actually slow down that disease effectively is a huge push. We look at it from a portfolio perspective. The lesson for me and the tremendous eye-opener for me was just the amount of work that these people do to take care of their elderly loved ones. It’s really been quite striking. I think in my entire career of pushing drugs and making people better by developing and selling drugs, what I really had no idea was some of the dedication and devotion and the amount of work that needs to be done in and around just having a pill that might alleviate some symptoms.

YFTC 060 | Business Pivots
Business Pivots: The tremendous eye-opener for me was just the amount of work that these people do to take care of their elderly loved ones.

Our caregiver community, it’s called The Caregiver Connection on Facebook and now at about 115,000 people, average age of over 60, taking care of people who are over 70 and 80 years old, has been fascinating as a journey. It’s the one that frankly I’m most proud of. We built it absolutely from zero. Our technology infuses everything that we do there in terms of the way we curate and stimulate that community. We’re taking that community now to a new level because it has such scale and it has such vibrance. As a community of people, they have such needs that we’re actually going to create an association around that community and start to project the learnings that we found from that community. I’m not talking about learnings of how to build a community; that we know. It’s the learnings within the discussions of that community that are so incredibly valuable. We’d like to project that more broadly to the 43 million Americans that are currently caregivers in the United States.

The dialogue that happens every day is in the form of thousands of comments, comments between caregivers that are solving for problems, “Dad has a bed sore and I know he needs to be turned every fifteen minutes, but he’s in such pain he won’t let me do it. Has anybody else have this issue and how did you solve it?” They all pile in. They all have their different flavors. What we’ve accumulated in each one of these communities but in particular the caregiver one, is a lifetime of insights and a lifetime of tips and solutions that it literally would take you a lifetime to accrue that knowledge. We’ve crowd sourced a lot of information. I think that’s really the solution that these communities allow to crowd source information that’s incredibly useful. We want to project that even further. It’s a very interesting evolution of a model at Liquid Grids.

I think, Malcolm, it’s an evolution of you. What I see in your story is a guy who really worked for Big Pharma and basically pushed his pills for all these years, but all of a sudden what touched your heart was the suffering of these particular people. I know you have a personal connection to this as well. To me the evolution of what you’ve been through is significant. My listeners who can relate to the story, it’s the evolution we all must take. We all must go from trying to sell the next thing to truly empathizing with the people we are working with and selling to and serving. Malcolm, I believe that’s exactly what you’ve done. That’s where your passion shows up for me, and I see it in your words and in your work. I’m really, really thrilled to see you doing this because I know there’s such a need for this. Congratulations on really making that transition. Tell me how we can help you on your mission to help these family caregivers? 

I think probably the most important thing is if any of the listeners in fact had been through the same experience that I did with my father where there is that recognition that there’s something going wrong and they’re not the same as they were, is today there are places that you can go. The internet has allowed that for us. Our association, The American Association of Family Caregivers, will be stood off within the next two to three months. I’d love for anybody who gets touched by this radio show to go and join that. If some of you are going to say, “It’s not relevant to me. I’m only 35 or I’m only 25 or whatever.” Here’s the scary part of this. The number of people that are living older is growing rapidly. The number of people that are available in the workplace to actually care for them is actually diminishing. We have a growing problem. More and more younger people are facing what these elderly caregivers that we’re connected to today are facing. They’re facing it day and day, every day. I think one of the important things is that people know that these resources are there and actively go out and join it. Join The Caregiver Connection and join the association.

Sooner or later we’re all going to be there. I think it’d be great to start educating yourself on what will happen to your own loved ones and to us really as we grow older. The Caregiver Connection is going to be a place where people will also be able to see information on the association and become involved as well. Malcolm, you have something incredibly unique about your association that I was very excited to hear about. It’s something that I want you to talk about because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. You’re building a telephone hotline. Explain how that works.

It’s actually really exciting because we have a lot of people in this particular community we’re building out that have been doing this for so long that they themselves are very passionate about it. We see them actually mentoring often in the community. There’s a lady called Sonia and there’s another one called Carol and there’s another one called Brinkert, and we see them in dialogue a lot. When they give their advice or share their thoughts people actually really respond to that very well. What we thought was, “Why don’t we empower some of our community members that are, if you will, influencing a lot of other people in the conversations on the Facebook page. Why don’t we empower them to actually be a hotline helper?” They’re going to be volunteering parts of their time for any other caregiver to talk to them about their issues, the challenges that they’re facing or frankly, just to be another person to talk to. That is one of the saddest things of being a caregiver, that it is a very lonely role. They get very claustrophobic because they can’t leave the home because of the nature of the illness of the one they care for. The hotline is actually going to be really, really interesting to watch and mature as the caregivers effectively take it over. We are merely putting it up there for them to take over.

I see exactly what you’re doing. This is truly a heart to heart connection, something very rare in business, I believe. The fact that you’re doing it now for a group of people, the most underserved group of people that I can think of who are afflicted but not themselves sick is critical and so important. I tip my hat to you for wanting to do this and for investing in this. We’re here to help you no matter how we can. Let’s get busy. Let’s share this with our relatives. Let’s show them that there’s a way to get some help if they need it. Malcolm, I have a couple of questions for you. My first question, I ask this to all of my contributors. It’s a question that helps me understand a little bit about where you came from. Who, in all of space and time, would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?

I actually have two. I would like Barack Obama and Richard Branson.

Can I come with you on that one?

Yeah. I have actually met Barack Obama and shook his hand. It was purely by accident. I was walking out of an elevator in the Indiana primary against Hillary. I was told to step aside. I didn’t realize they were talking to me. The second time they said it, I looked up and he was one foot away from me. That’s why I shook his hand and asked him to go and win. Unfortunately, he lost the primary that day to Hillary, but eventually won. I think his humble beginnings and how he navigated to be one of the greatest politicians in my lifetime, it would be such an honor to spend time with him one-on -one. Similarly with Richard Branson, somebody who appeals to my entrepreneurial side, who’s learned so, so much and risked so much so early in his life becomes such a fantastic figure. I couldn’t split it between them. I have to have them both.

I would love to be in on that conversation with you. I think it’s a great choice. Both of them are just incredible people. Here’s the grand finale question, the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?

I’ve lived my life in healthcare and so I have to answer on that tone. There’s lots of personal legacies, things I’d like to share with you, but really it has to be a healthcare question. What I’d like to be a part of is the application of artificial intelligence and data approaches that can unlock the cure for a disease.

Do you see this happening in your lifetime?

I actually do. Today, you can do genetic testing that will tell you the best combination therapy for your particular cancer that will give you the greatest potential for longer term survival. It’s not a cure but it’s a longer term survival. If we can be doing that today in 2017, I believe in 2027, I certainly hope to be alive at that point, ten years from now the rate at which technology and data processing and data power is progressing. I actually believe that there’s an opportunity to completely stop certain dreadful diseases. If you think about cancer, we’re so much closer today. Cancer, when I was in my twenties, was a death sentence. Today, it isn’t. It doesn’t need to be always a death sentence. I think it’s there and I certainly want to have a part playing that.

I know you will, Malcolm. It’s been a true pleasure having you on the show. I love your insights. I love your perspective. Malcolm Bohm, you’ve been such a pleasure to spend time with. Thank you for your wisdom. Thank you, Malcolm. We’ll talk again soon. 

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