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How to Sharpen Focus and Own a Market: Imprivata CEO Omar Hussain (Part 7)

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 27th 2013

Sramana: Your goal is to become a billion-dollar company. It sounds like one of your primary strategies for reaching that goal is the introduction of new products.

Omar Hussain: Absolutely. There are a lot of problem areas in healthcare right now. Things like secure printing, secure electronic information exchange, electronic prescription authentication, and patient identification are all unsolved problems. Our customers are prestigious hospitals, and they come and tell us what the priorities are. My biggest problem is not a shortage of ideas, it is doing it fast enough to keep our client hospitals happy.

Sramana: What organizing principles will you follow for acquisitions? Will you limit yourself to hospital providers only?

Omar Hussain: In the short term, our focus is on the markets we are in. Right now we see a long runway in the space we are in. When we look at acquisitions, we will do it to leverage our distribution and sales force. In some cases we will look for acquisitions to expand our footprint, but they will be in adjacent markets. We will look at complementary solutions. We don’t do much in ambulatory today, so if we find the right technology there, then we could cross-pollinate. Would we go to pharma? Probably not.

Sramana: Could you talk some about the culture of your organization?

Omar Hussain: We focus on people. We have a great culture, and we have managed to maintain that culture through highs and lows. We are not looking for loyalty. We are looking for people who are incredibly passionate. We look for people who have courage and conviction. They are not afraid of having their ideas shot down. We look for people who have integrity; if something is wrong, we know it is wrong and we accept it. We make good decision because don’t rationalize.

Our company is also really into food. We just moved into new office spaces, and all of our conference rooms are named after food groups. We have everything from Sushi to Curry and Chili. The board room is Porterhouse. We have a lot of fun and we laugh a lot, which helps us get through the tough times.

One day in 2008 all of the biometric readers stopped working. The entire company rallied between 4:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. to fix the problem. We did not have a single customer leave us. I personally called customers to apologize. We did not make excuses. Something went wrong and we admitted it.

Sramana: I think this is a really nice story. You have the logic of the business figured out. Sometimes that happens quickly, and sometimes it takes longer. In your case, the logic of the business took longer to come out. I really like that you moved to company to healthcare so you could be a mission-critical component. That is a strong, logical position.

Omar Hussain: That is well put. You are exactly right.

Sramana: I want entrepreneurs to listen to you and see how you can constantly look for the sharper logic behind your business. We often leave it out there in horizontal ways and take whatever we can get out of business. The sharper you can position and focus your business, the faster the growth will be.

Omar Hussain: I think the underlying assumption here is that we wanted to be in a space that we owned. It was not just about growth or value. We would never have been able to consolidate a foothold in a defensive position. In healthcare they did not want anybody else. Big companies would not cater to them, and startups were too small.

Sramana: Congratulations, and good luck with the rest of your business. This is a great story; thanks for sharing it.

This segment is part 7 in the series : How to Sharpen Focus and Own a Market: Imprivata CEO Omar Hussain
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