Monday, January 29, 2018

There's No Hope Road

This is my last week at my current job.  Most other employees of the company are already gone.  I'm supporting our production systems through the end of the month and then shutting everything down by the end of the week.

I've been at my job for 11+ years in one capacity or another.  I started by doing some consulting work for the company while they were still in the tail end of a research project.  Then, I became a part time employee after the consulting contract ended.  When the company got their first round of venture capital, they hired me as the IT Director.  Four years ago, I became the Chief Technology Officer.

Looking back, I can see all kinds of things we should have done differently.  I should have fought to use a higher percentage of our funding for product development.  I could have done a few architectural things differently.  We simply needed to create more products and then find a way to sell the more complete product set.

In many ways, until the past year or so, we never had any competitors in the market.  But, we were a niche company, providing services to treat a small handful of chronic diseases, rather than a more full spectrum company that encompassed all of chronic care.  In some ways, we were too specialized and deep for our own good.

If a healthcare organization bought our product and used it properly, they saw more lab revenue, more primary care revenue, and healthier patients.  But, they also saw reduced emergency department revenue and reduced inpatient revenue.  The net effect was that fee-for-service organizations were presented with a product that would make their patients healthier but at the expense of lost profit on the bottom line.

Our fee for service model in the US is so perverted that more than one medical director basically told us that our product was a no-brainer, and that they should use it, but that the CEO would never go for a product that had a negative net effect on revenue.

We tried to sell this product through the beginnings of the ACA, when people were more focused on EHR implementations.  Then, those same organizations were more focused on something called meaningful use.  And, after years of being in business, and with the advent of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), we thought we finally had a window to succeed.  We integrated our product with two of the larger EHR systems on the market.

And yet, we never got any traction.  We have tried ceaselessly to find a way into at-risk organizations.  The customers that we have love our products.  But, we haven't sold the product to a new customer in years right now.  We haven't had a full-time salesperson in years.  We haven't had a full time CEO in years.  We managed to limp along for longer than we might have deserved, but finally, the financials simply made no more sense.  We are out of cash.

I will fail to see a large amount of money that the company owes me.  I'm not surprised, to be honest.  Others are going to lose even more money.

I feel like I've poured my heart and soul into this company for the better part of a decade, and now it's just over.  To say it's bittersweet is an understatement.  We probably made it further than we had any business making it, but it wasn't enough.

It looks like I'm going to land on my feet.  I will hopefully have a job offer in the next 24-48 hours, and I won't need to collect unemployment at all.  At my age, finding a new job has been extremely difficult, to be honest.  Age discrimination in IT is a very real thing, and I've dealt with it a lot over the past year or so.  Assuming the job offer I'm expecting does come through, it will be because I'm capable of doing the new job, but also because of my prior connections to people at the new organization - another case of who you know rather than just what you know.

I'm excited about the future and new opportunities.  But, after investing so much blood, sweat and tears here, it's difficult to see it all go away.

It's also been a good learning experience.  I took a position without benefits at a marginal salary vs. my job title and skills/experience.  I did it because I truly believed in what the company was doing, and I still believe that we were doing the right thing.  But, in the end, it's all about money, and no one rewarded me for "doing the right thing".  Next time, I'll be more careful.  The whole situation reminds me of the lyrics to a song called Hope Road by Anne Clark.  Here are the lyrics at the end of that song:

"Next time I'll be more cautions
Next time I Won't be fooled
It's another of those basic things
You're never taught at school
Let this be a warning
As you wander through the world
It makes no difference who you are
Be you boy or be you girl
Be very , very careful
When people seems so nice
It's not how that it's expensive
Later on you pay the price
There's no Hope Road"

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