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Turf Turns Three ...

A moment of reflection before setting the agenda for the next 3 years

Last week, Turf Health turned 3.

I cannot believe it’s been 3 years since Steve Nasson and I formally shed our past work lives and took the plunge to build a business from scratch, together, to help ophthalmologists with a key, under-serviced area of their practices.  I reflected over the holidays about the ophthalmology practices we’ve helped and how we got to build a growing, sustained business.

The months preceding the decision to go all-in with our new company were interesting, to say the least. As we sought to beta our services (under the name of Drive Referrals at the time), the degree of uncertainty was nearly paralyzing. We had 3 or 4 “Nos” right out of the gate from doctors we knew well and thought would take a flyer on what we were offering. We’d spent money traveling to these doctors – basic economy seats, sharing rooms at Fairfield Inns, and with a meal budget that was basically granola bar, Chipotle, and Chipotle again (no guac).

While we were confident we were on the right track, these “Nos” had us wondering if we were making a mistake professionally and financially.

One particularly fraught moment commands my memory when I reflect to the period leading up to the decision to incorporate and go full time. Steve and I stood in an airport after a particularly difficult “No”. We’d been tweaking our both our pricing and our offering – like, changing the actual product! – in the meeting with the doctor we were pitching, who I’m quite sure thought we were insane. We were dejected. Maybe this wasn’t going to work. Maybe what we thought the market needed, what we thought the market told us it needed, wasn’t accurate.

Two roads diverged in the airport. Steve’s flight was in the concourse to the left; mine in the concourse to the right. We stood silently for a good while. Then one of us said, “let’s not give up yet. But if we can’t sign on an account in the next 2 weeks, let’s move on.”

We closed 2 beta accounts on the 14th day. We closed another one 3 weeks later. We over-delivered for these clients, learned a ton in the process, and committed to formally incorporating on January 2, 2017.

That beta period was invaluable. It led to the evolution of our offering, the development of 2 software products, 3 years of quarter-over-quarter growth, expansion from Steve and me to an awesome team of 6, and a lifetime’s worth of experience immersed in the world of optometric referrals and OD-MD relationships. 5,000 meetings with ODs in their offices. Hundreds of doctors, staff and OD Liaisons using Radius. And relationships with many of our clients we wouldn’t trade for anything.

Three years. That’s half my youngest daughter’s life.

I remember acutely what it was like to have a 3-year old. A ton of growing and maturity, many bumps and bruises, and all of that matched by considerable new challenges, activities, learning and re-programming. And that’s where Turf Health is now. We have learned so much about the market, about our clients, about optometrists, and about our company. We know what we want to be when we grow up.

With that, here are our goals for the next 3 years:

  • To partner deeply, on long-term bases, with a limited set of ophthalmology practices who do not have full-time OD Liaisons. We are capping our client base at 20 practices on annual agreements.
  • To perform short-term market audits for ophthalmology practices who have OD Liaisons and need to better understand their markets and opportunities.
  • To have hundreds more OD Liaisons and Practice Representatives switch from Excel spreadsheets to Radius to manage their outreach activity.
  • And to offer training to OD Liaisons, bringing all we’ve learned at Turf, plus decades of office-based provider sales and relationship building experience to a best in class training program. Stay tuned for an announcement about OD Liaison University, which launches in March.

Here at the 3-year mark, we thank our clients – ophthalmologists, administrators, practice liaisons alike; our friends in the industry who have supported us; our vendors and partners; and our employees, without whom Turf would not be a success.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Sean

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