This is a follow up story for Vorttx Training and Testing. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Kyle Golding, co-founder, and CMO of VORTTX Training and Testing SaaS virtual emergency response training system for long-term healthcare facilities. VORTTX is a yearly subscription service that my business partner Tadd Weese and I started in 2016. The VORTTX platform allows individuals and groups to participate in variable simulations of emergency response situations to train, test, and update the staff of long-term healthcare facilities. We sell the system directly to operators and management teams at long-term care facilities like nursing homes, senior centers, and hospice care. VORTTX Training And Testing were named the 2018 winner of the Best Compliance Solution in Clinical and Health Administration award. The award is given annually by MedTech Breakthrough, an independent organization that recognizes the top companies, technologies, and products in the global health and medical technology market.
Although VORTTX was well-received upon the launch in 2016 and continually grew throughout the following 3 years, the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the first quarter of 2020 has had a staggering effect on our current sales.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Before COVID-19, VORTTX was doing well with good adoption rates, great reviews plus repeat customers from the first year to the second year, and even starting third-year renewals. AS a side-hustle, we did some paid advertising and attending industry trade shows but ultimately settled into direct email marketing, social media, word-of-mouth, and public relations tactics to keep costs low but still effective.
We also began working on an eventually “phase 2” service offering of additional services. This was part of the original launch idea of reinvesting all sales into developing VORTTX into a full suite of SaaS with integrated services for long-term healthcare along with short-term, hospitals, and private practices.
With the Medtech Breakthrough award in 2018, we revamped the website, offered more instruction and industry data via email, and refined our current offering because VORTTX was doing well. We maximized the award with new PR, a major push across our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), and updated our website with a new language, photography, and additional graphics.
My co-founder and I kept our day jobs (he is the Director of Operations for a long-term care facility and I run a business development and marketing firm) and let VORTTX run on “cruise control”. We are working on a resource library of articles and blog posts which we will offer subscribes as a value-added bonus.
The VORTTX user feedback has been very positive, with minimal complaints. We have many requests for additional services and options, but we have stayed focused on a similar approach which presents fewer “bugs” to keep operating at expected levels. We had plans for major updates in 2020, but then coronavirus completely changed the healthcare industry almost overnight.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
We definitely were not prepared for COVID-19. We took a long view of developing VORTTX as a bootstrapped side hustle. There have been times over the last 4 years when we didn’t pay much attention to VORTTX as we should have and would have if this was our main professional focus. Our relaxed attitude was fine when things were going well, but now we might lose a whole year in just a few months due to the coronavirus. The medical system will not recover anytime soon. Budgets, spending, and investment in non-COVID training will be highly scrutinized, delayed, or put off altogether for the foreseeable future.
Adopt new business ideas or processes to make what you have in place work, even if it’s not profitable.
One of the drivers for facilities signing up for the VORTTX service was this training has been an aspect of licensing, inspections, and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements. These regulations had been unenforced before, but the grace period had ended and training plus documentation for compliance was becoming more important. Now, COVID-19 prevention is the only focus for any faculty that would traditionally utilize VORTTX.
We have had discussions about developing a COVID-19 specific training program but the virus, the data, and the approach to stopping spread continually change. This makes a training system hard to realize. The legal liabilities are unknown as well at this time.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We do believe that scientists, medical professionals, and organizations will get a level of control on the coronavirus and incorporate this new threat into the previous “normal” systems of operations. When that happens, training and compliance documentation will become important again. The results of the next presidential election could have an effect on how swiftly compliance regulations are enforced (or not). As a side hustle, VORTTX can stay “as-is” until the system returns to normal and then offer solutions that make sense in 2021 and beyond.
We are using this downtime to rethink the long term plan and invest in a growth plan for coming back after COVID-19. We hope to learn, collaborate, and innovate from the lessons learned this year. We probably will be more proactive in our development to not get caught behind like we did this year. Until then, we are doing research, learning from others, and experimenting with technology tools for better execution.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
My book recommendation for all entrepreneurs and business leaders is Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work by Piyush Patel. It’s a solid look at the need and value of building a corporate culture that results in a winning business. Patel built his business Digital-Tutors from a $50 startup into a nearly $50M exit. A true American entrepreneur success story. His book is full of practical steps for building a fantastic culture in the workplace.
I got a chance to interview Patel on the Oklahoma Venture Forum podcast on iTunes.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
My advice right now is if you are being crushed by COVID-19 restrictions on your business then adapt, adopt or pivot. Adapt new options, technology or operational tactics to find new or different ways to execute. Adopt new business ideas or processes to make what you have in place work, even if it’s not profitable. Just survive at break-even or minimal losses unit the end of the shutdowns and limitations. If you can’t them pivot your whole business model.
If your city and state are opening back up, the key is massive communication about how your customers can do business with you (hours, order online, delivery only) and the safety protocols you have put in place to keep them, your employees, and community as safe as possible. As things change (good or bad) keep communicating. Daily, hourly even if you have to.
Finally, do NOT try to go from how you did business during COVID-19 straight back to how you did business before the pandemic. Keep the new things you incorporated for as long as your audience will use them. Improve form the lessons learned. Let your audience tell you when and how you will operate in the future. You might find more profitability, lower cost, and better transactions in ways you never would have explored if not forced by a public health crisis. Don’t lose that opportunity. Don’t forget, the public has been changed by this as well. Let them tell you how they want to move forward.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We will be investing in technology updates in the future. Hopefully writing our own version of 3rd party tech we’re using now. That might be hiring a firm or a freelancer (or two) but we haven’t made any decisions and won’t until we see how the medical industry recovers from COVID-19. We would love to go fully mobile with an app and extended communication options but that’s an expense we won’t be ready to tackle for a while.
Where can we go to learn more?
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