Elizabeth’s Holmes company Theranos went from a 10 billion valuation to 0. She was the youngest self made billionaire and was a beacon of light to aspiring scientist and entrepreneurs alike. Now her company is dissolved because of fraud and she faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. But after watching the documentary “THE INVENTOR” which showcased Theranos ascension and fall, I finished it with some lessons learned. Leaders make or break the company and I don’t think she was a bad person, but everyone is subject to what I’ve dubbed “The Tiger King Effect”. A visionary starts out with a noble goal, then comes the money, influence and spotlight and if not careful; the downfall. Below are 4 lessons I’ve learned after watching the documentary “THE INVENTOR”.
1. DON’T RUSH TO MARKET
I tend to have lots of ideas which I want to share with the public. Quickly. The problem is that I don’t give enough time for some of my ideas to get tested. Theranos “Edison” product wasn’t ready to be shared with the public yet. Her laser vision didn’t allow her to see the problems of the machine. And those problems were being expressed internally by her colleagues and employees. Which leads me to the next lesson...
2. EMPLOYEES FIRST. CUSTOMERS SECOND.
You hear a lot of visionaries speak of the importance of being customer obsessed. But what if we put the employees first? What if the company was employee obsessed? They’re the ones who work on the products or services and can give authentic feedback that ultimately affects the customer and bottomline. The leadership was so focused on solving the customers problem that they ignored the employees warning. Companies that treat they’re staff good. Do good. Go figure. I’ll keep this in mind once my business needs employees.
3. SAFETY HAS TO BE FIRST
I created a journal that I’m pretty proud of. It has helped people get in the habit of journaling which has been known to have a host of mental and emotional benefits. But I‘m ashamed to say I rushed my first journal. There was (and still is) nothing like it on the market, so I hurried to get it out there. I didn’t have it proof-read or inspected by anyone, and in doing so the journal is full of grammatical errors and some redundancy with a few of the journal prompts. But no one got hurt, injured or died because of this. The medical machine that Theranos put out caused harm to their patients. And some are seeking class action lawsuits. If you’re going to put an automated car, or food product or in the case of Theranos; a medical device, you better make sure it’s safer than safe. I kept hearing the word ‘mission’ and ‘vision’ when the leadership team spoke and rarely heard the word “safe” or “safety”.
4. HAVE A DIVERSE BOARD
Most won’t admit this, but we love people who are brutally honest (with love of course). These people tell us the truth even if we don’t want to hear it or admit it. They call out bs and “keep it real” with us. This is the type of board you want. Her board seemed to only see her “good side”. Also I noticed that her board was one demographic; old, rich, white men who weren’t in the scientific or medical field. Diversity of gender and backgrounds open the conversation and can help with blind spots. And visionaries tend to have a lot of blind spots due to their intense focus on the mission at hand.
I think the “blood test in a box” technology will eventually make its way into every home. Maybe 10 years from now or 50, and hopefully with a company that learns from Theranos’s mistakes.
Design on my friend. Design on.