Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur“ we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Hoffman, Founder and CEO at Vector Remote Care.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Kevin Hoffman: I am the son of a cardiac sudden death survivor, father of three, leader of people, and a solution engineer for cardiac patient care. My life experiences inspired me to set out to solve major patient care problems. Vector Remote Care is that solution.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Kevin Hoffman: Before founding Vector, I was a cardiac technician for St. Jude Medical. I was often called to hospital emergency rooms to interrogate patients with pacemakers and defibrillators. On one occasion, a patient was being shocked repeatedly by his implanted defibrillator. The purpose of a defibrillator is to rescue a patient by delivering a shock, or defibrillation to a dangerously fast heart rate called ventricular fibrillation.
Upon investigation, I found this poor patient had a normal heart rate and his device was malfunctioning due to a faulty wire. Shocks like this cause undue stress, pain, and insecurity for patients. Even worse, problems like this manifest over time – this device had been recording abnormal readings weeks before this catastrophic event. The aha moment was knowing that situations like these are preventable. Had someone been consistently checking this patient’s device readings, this whole traumatic event could have been avoided.
This event triggered flashbacks to my mom who had a devastatingly
similar experience. She also had an implanted defibrillator and she too
was repeatedly shocked for this same wire malfunction ten years prior.
TEN YEARS and this entirely preventable problem had not been solved.
Daily remote monitoring is recommended as standard of care by the Heart Rhythm Society, but many cardiology clinics struggle to keep up. Patients deserve better care and Vector is providing it. Our work at Vector improves outcomes for tens of thousands of patients. The impact Vector makes to prevent hospitalizations and improve outcomes far exceeds what I could have done as an individual device technician.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Kevin Hoffman: I’m definitely a natural born entrepreneur. I have always loved diving into a big problem and envisioning a way through. A necessary trait for success as an entrepreneur is making the most with what you have.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Kevin Hoffman: Eating lunch on a ski trip with my entire family, my 42-year-old mother went into cardiac arrest. Luckily, there was a doctor nearby who began CPR on her until paramedics arrived with a defibrillator. Nine out of ten people don’t survive an event like this; she was one of the lucky ones. After receiving an implanted defibrillator, her device malfunctioned and repeatedly shocked her. Not only did this cause her physical pain through the repeated inappropriate shocks, the psychological trauma was real and ongoing. Her experience motivated me to study cardiac anatomy, physiology, and implanted cardiac devices at Arrhythmia Technologies Institute after I graduated college. I wanted to play a role in improving cardiac device patient care and was able to do so in my local community. With Vector, we are monitoring patients across the entire United States. We are on a mission to connect every patient to their doctor to improve the lives and safety of patients everywhere.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Kevin Hoffman: It starts with passion. Vector comes from a very real, personal experience and a goal to help patients with implanted cardiac devices. Everyone that works for Vector shares this same goal. A patient-first perspective is evident in all that we do, from sales to engineering. It is this goal, fueled by our passion, that has defined our mission: to improve the lives and safety of cardiac patients.
For many on our team, our mission is personal. In fact, one employee reached out to apply for a job after learning about us through her pacemaker clinic. She saw the value of our work and wanted to be a part of it. It is this enthusiasm and commitment to our patients that makes Vector a great place to work.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Kevin Hoffman: Let’s go back to problem solving. Regardless of the situation, I believe it’s important to look for ways to solve or fix something– somehow, some way. It is this “find a way” characteristic that drives me to respond to situations by looking at how we can do it, rather than explaining why it can’t be done. I believe in being resourceful and showing initiative.
Blameless problem solving is another character trait that I believe contributes to my success. I lead by applying creativity, spirit, and enthusiasm to developing solutions, rather than pointing fingers and dwelling on problems. By identifying lessons learned, we are able use those lessons to improve our processes so we don’t make the same mistake again. Get smarter with every mistake. Learn from every experience.
In work, and in life, I believe in doing what’s right. There’s no greater way to build a reputation than to steadfastly do what’s right for others. In all situations, do what’s best for the patient even if it’s to our own detriment. Every day.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Kevin Hoffman: This is a tough one. As a glass half-full kind of guy, I block bad and harness good. There is however one thing that stands out, specifically as it relates to starting Vector. To some of the people closest to me, this endeavor involved too much risk. Some important people in my life suggested that what I was taking on had too much risk and liability. This advice definitely slowed me down as it weighed on my mind.
I (obviously) forged forward because I believed I would be providing a real benefit to cardiac patients. We are now solving a precise problem — keeping patients safe by simplifying the monitoring and managing of remote cardiac data.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Kevin Hoffman: There is always more than one way to get something done. Be okay
with someone going about it in a way you wouldn’t.
Don’t focus on the negative. Encourage and reward the behaviors you want. Regularly extend meaningful acknowledgment and appreciation. An encouraging approach is more productive and it is contagious – it sets the tone for a healthy culture.
That being said, it’s not always gumballs and confetti. Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations because employees are there for a reason. However, when you have a solid foundation built with positive reinforcement, hard conversations tend to be taken more seriously and are received better.
In a healthy culture, a person’s job is fulfilling and enjoyable. Of course there can be pieces and parts that are more or less desirable than others, but having the right people in the right seats and doing work that is rewarding is a great start. Support your team with processes and work that is designed for productivity.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Kevin Hoffman: Be true to your word. The key is to be very consistent with what you say, follow through on commitments, be honest and transparent.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Kevin Hoffman: Reliability breeds confidence and a sense of stability. When people know they can count on you they will come back to you.
COVID has changed life as we know it, both day-to-day work and home life. With so many changes and so many unknowns, it is especially important to be something (or someone) that is a beacon of stability during this overwhelming, crazy time we are living in today
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Kevin Hoffman: It goes back to delivering on your promises. Do what you say you are going to do; do it consistently and reliably. Young companies often grow too quickly. When this happens, they lose the ability to deliver on promises causing customer churn and employees to become unhappy, which perpetuates a sickness in the organization that can impact company culture and affect professional pride.
It goes back to delivering on your promises… honor commitments, do what you say you are going to do and do it consistently and reliably… don’t put yourself in a position where you are.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Kevin Hoffman: As an entrepreneur, the stakes are high and the responsibility heavy. There is no consistent paycheck and no benefits provided. There is definite risk and uncertainty, which is scary. Bootstrapping Vector was a conscious decision to go all in on an investment that I was fully at the helm for success or failure. There would be no diversification across mutual funds, fiscal conservatism – I had to give it my all.
Success in entrepreneurship has accentuated highs and lows because the stakes are so high. We’re employing real people and protecting real patients. Winning the super bowl is sweeter than winning the season opener.
One of the best feelings I can remember was being able to provide employees benefits: health insurance, retirement contributions, and competitive compensation. After so much time of struggle and growth, to be able to provide these things – and receive them myself – that’s a great feeling. These things had to be earned, built, achieved, and we did it together.
A “regular job” gives you paperwork to read through and agree to terms. Entrepreneurship means having to actually create the paperwork and there is so much to that.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Kevin Hoffman: One of my biggest highs is watching those around me—from employees to clients—embrace the mission of Vector (to help cardiac patients) with the same level of passion for which I started this company. Then, seeing my vision move from helping hundreds of patients to helping hundreds of thousands.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Kevin Hoffman: Sure. One of the low points of my entrepreneurial journey was the realization that no matter how much I do, how much we accomplish at Vector, there is always more to do
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Kevin Hoffman: When I finally came to the realization that there would always be more to do, it wasn’t so much that I “bounced back”. It was more like I had another “aha” moment. I realized the entrepreneurial calling wasn’t to simply solve a problem and be done; it’s so much more. “Arrival” is to continue to create and build – more, different, bigger.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
Family- to remind you what matters most
Friends- to have an outlet from work
Faith- to keep perspective on how small today’s problems are in the
grand scheme of life
Fear- keeps you on the edge of your seat, alert, and prepared for next
Mentors- don’t go down a path without a guide. Don’t go it alone
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Kevin Hoffman: It goes back to “finding a way.” To me, resilience means treating every problem as an opportunity, and keeping in perspective that there is a solution, you just have to find it. Take a step back, regroup, and think. Optimism and perseverance are two key traits of resilient people
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Kevin Hoffman: Sure, as I mentioned earlier my mom went into cardiac arrest when I was young. It wasn’t just that she survived, it was her recovery from brain damage and watching and helping her along the way. As a middle schooler, I had to help my mom learn her multiplication tables. I watched her fight for her recovery and got to witness her rebound. Her commitment to pulling through and, ultimately, arriving at the day when she corrected me instead of me correcting her and realizing … Mom is back. Despite all the hardships, it was so awesome to have her back. It is a time, and day, and a lesson I will never forget
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Kevin Hoffman: Absolutely. I always have, it’s built in based on everything I’ve witnessed growing up. It is a choice. You have to wake up, make every day count, and commit to that optimism.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Kevin Hoffman: When things aren’t going well, if there are hardships or issues within a business, the way you react sets the tone for how the team responds. If you go into panic mode, poor choices and poor results are often the outcome. A positive attitude brings stability and confidence to the team. Being able to redirect focus onto the solution rather than the problem often leads to better results.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Kevin Hoffman: This is a quote my father has carried in his wallet for years. He made me a laminated copy to carry in my wallet when I started Vector.
“This is the beginning of a new day: I have been given this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life
for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving
something in its place that I have traded for it. I want it to be a gain,
not loss: good, not evil: success, not failure, in order that I shall not
regret the price I paid for it.” – Heartsill Wilson.
We’re only here for so long. Make the most of it
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!