Founder Shares

Hosted ByTrevor Schmidt

At Hutchison PLLC, we work with founders and entrepreneurs as they fight and grind and stress and push to bring their visions to reality. We are inspired by their incredible stories of success, of failure, of reworking and trying again.

We get to see this every day through our work, helping technology and life science companies start up, operate, get funded, and exit, but we want a chance to share some of these stories with you, our listener. So whether you already are an entrepreneur, have an idea that someday you want to start a business or are just fascinated by the stories of how a business goes from idea to success... or not such a success, this podcast is for you. 

Making Payroll, Raising Capital, and the Adrenaline Rush of Being a HealthTech CEO, with Ludi’s Gail Peace

Gail Peace started her business journey early. At 12 – having never worn makeup – she began selling Avon to women in the neighborhood because it was much more lucrative than babysitting. Today she’s the CEO of Ludi, a physician time tracking software based in Nashville TN. On the show, she talks about life as a CEO, going through the accelerator program Healthbox, seeking venture capital, building a team, and the challenges of being a female founder.

 

Trevor Schmidt: Hello, and welcome to the Founder Shares podcast. We’re so happy that you’ve chosen to spend some time with us. I’m your host, Trevor Schmidt. I’m an attorney at Hutchison, a law firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. We work with founders and entrepreneurs as they fight, grind, stress and push to bring their visions to reality. We are inspired by their incredible stories of success, failure, reworking and trying again.

 

Having an idea is one thing, but building a business from that idea? Well, that’s what this podcast is about, and we hope you’re inspired by these stories.

 

Today’s guest is Gail Peace, CEO of Ludi, a physician time-keeping app and financial management system based in Nashville, Tennessee.  We’ll be talking about her life as a CEO, going through an accelerator program, seeking venture capital, building a team, and the challenges of being a female founder.

 

But before we get to that, and long before she founded Ludi, Gail started her entrepreneurial journey.

Gail Peace: When I was 12, I actually sold Avon and my mom needed to be the one that actually called the orders in because I was 12, but I, you know, went around and put all the books on doors and took, took all the orders.

And then my mom would turn in the order Avon, but something really funny happened about six months in this woman called me and said, you know, Hey, can you come to my house and help me understand how to wear a lot of this makeup. And when I was 12, I didn’t even wear makeup. So it was very awkward sales call, but that’s started my career.

Trevor Schmidt: She also made and sold birthday cakes – whatever she could do to make a dollar that was more lucrative than babysitting.

After college, she had a career in healthcare, and she started to notice some gaps and inefficiencies.

 

Gail Peace:

And so while I was at Vanguard, I started noticing with some of these complex agreements that we had with doctors. We weren’t doing a very good job paying them. It wasn’t transparent for the doctor. And when the doctor needed to provide some type of documentation, we didn’t make it easy. So I just sort of identified that this was a gap and it was a way to really partner better with your most important partner, the physician, and to be transparent and so forth.

So I had the idea to create a, to create Ludi from there.

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah. So when you were working with these hospitals, did you have in mind all along that you were thinking of what kind of a business you wanted, the opera that you eventually wanted to found, or did it really come out of these experiences that you had with doctors that this was a need that I wanted to

Gail Peace: fill?

Yeah, it really came out of the need. I would say, you know, that entrepreneur word is too overused today. Isn’t it? I don’t know. Sometimes it makes me a little crazy. Like there are these degrees now called entrepreneur. Okay. It’s business. It’s a business degree and entrepreneur is somebody who takes the risk and this is bungee jumping every day.

it’s that kind of adrenaline rush when you don’t know how you’re going to make payroll in two weeks? I mean, just having that. That commitment to me is more of the entrepreneurial side. So, no, I didn’t know. I was going to start a business. I used to joke. With one of my girlfriends, we were both in sales.

She was in a media sales and I was in, you know, selling at the time, some kind of business development, support, SAS product to hospitals. And we used to joke and say, gosh, we’d love to run our own company, but we don’t know how to do anything. We just sell things. You know, if I had an idea, I would start a company.

many things changed at Vanguard the last year I was there and I sort of sensed, it was time for me to move on . And so it just kind of came together. They, you know, that it was a good time to try to do, and this opportunity, I had some consulting options when I left Vanguard and none of that really felt right.

And I’m not good at looking for a job when I have a job. So I usually just leave or else. You know, figure out some eloquent way to , work my way out. Um, and then I figured out what my next move is. So I, I spent some time, you know, during the summer, the spring and summer trying to figure out 2013, what I wanted to do.

And I just, I knew all of these complex agreements made it really difficult for the hospital to manage. There was no transparency. We couldn’t see what we were spending. So it just really had the idea to build different software solutions that would help. Really identify and change the financial perspective on all of those investments for the hospital.

Trevor Schmidt: Well, that’s, that’s fantastic perspective. And this is one that has always personally interested me is that you’ve got this idea now, you know, you’ve had a need that you need to fill, but what’s the, what’s the next step? I mean, so that first day you’re just like, all right, I’m going to start this business.

Who’s the first call that you make or what’s that, that next step that you take.

Gail Peace: Yeah, well, I did a lot of research, so because of the position I was in, which was fabulous, I met with many hospitals, CEOs around town. We would have, you know, different partnership opportunities discussions. We’ve partnered with many different hospitals in our local area, especially on the tertiary and quaternary care.

We were community hospitals. So we had different partners. So what I did was I made a list of 20 hospitals CEO’s that I could drive to. In Cabo land. I was living there at the time and I  , contacted these CEOs and said, Hey, I’m thinking about starting this business. Can you give me your opinion?

And people will meet with you for their opinion. They will not meet with you if you’re trying to sell to them. And I wasn’t trying to sell to them. And so what I did was I cobbled together wire frames and put them on my iPad. Again. Remember, this is 2012. And I just used my iPad. I would, you know, go from right to left on and change the screen and it made it look like I was hitting on software.

So I didn’t build the software. I built the concept of how it would work. And then I think I only had 16 face-to-face meetings. Four of them didn’t end up coming to fruition, but during those 15 minute meetings, I said, I really want your opinion wanting to get me one of three things, one Oh, Gail. That’s a great idea.

Somebody will buy that someday. Two, nobody will ever buy that or three. I need it right now. And so I got to, I need it right now. So I was able to transition one of those over the next, I would say 90 days into a contract. So I had our first contract before I’d even coded the software. So then it became a little uncomfortable, like, Oh my goodness, we’ve got to, we should be implementing it.

Right. It’s not really released yet, so that’s okay. That, that problem. Right.

Trevor Schmidt: And early on, was it, was it just you, or did you kind of have a, a team with you at that time or was  it

Gail Peace:   yeah, so I, I did know I had worked for another company that we sold in 2006 to WebMD it was a company called BMO. And so I knew of people that were developers.

So I called the guy that we had worked with. It was in house with us and said, Hey, what are you doing? Would you be interested in doing this, you know, side thing with me? And he was interested, but he kept his full-time job. And so quickly by August, I think I incorporated in June by August. I said, you know, this probably isn’t going to work.

Who should I work with? And so then I contracted then August with the company to do the build. And they’re based in, um, in Scottsdale, Arizona. And I knew of them. I knew that she would deliver the woman who runs the company. It’s also a woman business entity. And so we have, we’ve been with them for eight years.

They do, they do great work. Um, and it’s been a great partnership, but it’s interesting. You asked if it was just me. So then I brought on a utility player, like six months in somebody that could help me with. Marketing database analysis, servicing the clients, training the doctors, and she kind of could do a lot of different things.

And then from there we finally found somebody to help with sales, you know, so that I did, wasn’t the only one doing all of the sales and product and so forth. And so about two years in, I kind of figured out I’m gonna have to raise the money. Hospitals are, you know, they take a long time to make decisions.

So years of bootstrapping, and then, um, I joined healthcare accelerator program, but 18 months out, uh, when I started and they taught me how to raise money. Okay.

Trevor Schmidt: Um, so how was that experience with the accelerator?

Gail Peace: Fabulous.  So we did a program called health box and it was founded by Nina , who was the founder of health box.

She’s no longer there, but she is on my board. Now she’s one of my board members and really brilliant. Brilliant lady. And she had worked with a company called sandbox and the investment company, and then had this idea to do health box. And so we had space that we were able to use. That was theirs. We, we spent really four months, I would say, in office with them and then they let us stay.

We kept using office space there. I would say for like another year, probably. And then when I, when I went to move, Nina said, Oh no, no, we like having you here. I mean, they’ve gone through like two more classes and we would just all cram in. We were at these tables and, you know, it was a little tricky to do the sales aspects from there, you know, calling or having client calls cause everything echoed.

It was a warehouse building, you know, near the train tracks. So in the one conference room, the train would go by and. You know, people would say, I can’t hear you. I don’t know what to do. I know myself.

And so what was, what would you say the primary benefit of health box was for you? I mean, was it, did you have mentors along the way?

Was it kind of being surrounded by other, uh, young companies? What,  what was most helpful?

Well, it was both of those things, Trevor, I would say, you know, in, unless you are a person that just goes out looking for businesses and starting them and you, you like any business, as long as you’re running it.

You know, for me, I’m probably going to do this once, right. Started a company and I’ll probably go all the way through selling it at some point. But that doesn’t mean because I know how to run the business. I know how to raise money. And so what I figured out pretty quickly is that raising money as a full-time job.

So you have to take a pause on what you’re doing to raise the money. And so health box gave me a little bit of  money, a little bit of breathing room for those four months where I could focus on learning how to raise money. And so it was the, the other colleagues in my program that were great to learn from.

And also from the mentorship of the program, it was very structured. And we also had, um, we each were assigned an analyst also that helped us, which was terrific to try to figure out, well, how much money should I raise? How long is the runway? What, you know, all of those words that you don’t even know what they mean when you’re.

You know, just doing your job. If you’re not in that business, it was all new. So the Healthbox really helped me get, I would say, get focused around that. And so I started in November of 2013 and then we closed, we closed a million dollar round and. And, uh, June of 2014. So it was like an eight month process.

Trevor Schmidt: And, you know, you’ve talked a little bit about it, but how was that experience of going out and pitching yourself to investors and attracting the right people to work with.

Gail Peace: You know, best way to describe it as the most awkward thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s like, it is completely like being naked in front of somebody.

You know, they’re asking you questions that, you know, you generally don’t ask people, you know, very detailed questions about the financial position. It was hard. I think raising money is, is difficult. But again, I think there are people who go from company to company and they like that. Um, I didn’t really enjoy that as much as, um, I would have hoped, but I was very fortunate in that I met people through health box, so there were some options for me in the Midwest.

And I wasn’t looking for a lot of money. I did do it as a series, a. And then, um, because I knew Charlie Martin, I called on Martin ventures. And initially I didn’t think that was going to work out in the beginning, but then it did. And because Charlie knew me and I knew Charlie, it was just, it was fabulous because I’d worked for him.

He was my boss’s boss’s boss. Right. For, you know, the on and off for 10 years, at some point, you know, I knew of him and, um, and I think he appreciated and knew I would deliver. And so he had the confidence in us and so they, they funded the whole round and, um, yeah, and then I never looked back. I, I just, I knew that I wanted  that one round to get us off the ground and we would grow.

As we could grow from there. I, you know, I suppose one could analyze my company and someday somebody will and say, okay, you could have raised more and grown faster. I don’t know. I’m from Missouri. I’m kind of conservative take calculated risks. It was just more comfortable for me to do that one round. And we’ve been very successful since then.

So we fund all of our own development and all of the things we need from our operation. So that’s just been a more comfortable growing. Pace for me.

Trevor Schmidt: And after you took on that investment, did you feel like

your pressures around the business changed or was it always the same, uh, you know, having to, to continue to grow the business? Like you wanted it to.

Gail Peace: I wouldn’t say it was always the same. For me. Yeah. And Martin ventures, they’ve been great. I, you know,  somebody is always on my board for Martin ventures and they’ve been very supportive and helpful and because of the connections, because they are healthcare based, um, that’s been fabulous.

So yeah, I think I put enough pressure on myself really.  I don’t think it was any greater, if that was your question. And I didn’t feel any increased pressure. I did feel like for the first time I could finally like make payroll, you know, It every two weeks. It just seems like you blink and it’s time to process payroll again, that, that made me feel a lot better.

I’m like, okay, for the next 18 months, I can really focus on growing and getting clients. And then we’ll, we’ll go from there.

Trevor Schmidt: That was going to be my next question. I mean, what did you use that investment primarily for, was it to build out the product further or to kind of grow the team?

Gail Peace: It was, it was really to do the functions of, of marketing and to grow the team.

I didn’t have, you know, I was doing all product HR sales. Um, they had pretty much everything and, and until even as recently as two and a half years ago, I probably held onto some of that stuff too long. But , when you’re, uh, an early stage company, you kind of wait until the last two, you really need somebody before you pull somebody else on.

So by the time they get there, you’re like, Oh, thank goodness. I’m so busy. I can’t even train you. I just don’t even have hardly the time to sort through it. So, um, yeah, it’s been, it’s been an interesting and interesting path for sure, but we used it to not really on the product. The product was, you know, um, Um, uh, how’s the right way to say, you know, that last 5% to get you to perfect is really painful.

And I’ve always known that I’ve always been good at good. Get it done. Right. And then fix it as you go. So I think where some engineering type people, when they build a product can’t ever get finished, I already had the vision. Let’s get it out then this way and keep tweaking it and improving it. So the product held up really well.

We did do a complete rewrite in 2000. Let’s see probably five years in. We upgraded the platform and the user interface and, you know, made things faster, better. but really, the original products has done has done really well. And we’ve added two more products to that original platform over the years.

Trevor Schmidt: Tell us a little bit about kind of those additional products, but what problems were those solving?

Gail Peace: Yeah, so the first, the first thing we saw was really when the physician needs to provide some kind of documentation in order to get paid. So I’m a medical director. I have up to 20 hours a month that I can get paid for $200 an hour.

I have to turn in a time log. So we created an app that the doctors use their phone and we served up all of the rules of each contract. Uniquely to each doctor so that their documentation was appropriate and proper because it came off in their contract. So rather than them free texting something, and then we moved into really tackling on call.

So on-call for hospitals is a really big expense, especially if you’re a trauma center. I mean, millions and millions of dollars spent in the on-call arrangements. So we added in the calendaring feature and making sure that. Maybe somebody other than the doctor could record the time. Um, and that was our second product called shift time log.

And then we released what we call dock time spend, which is really. And additional contracts that hospitals use for hospital-based services for huge contracts, for things like pathology, anesthesia, we integrated those in that have other kinds of payments. And so now our development work at the moment we’re releasing, um, an, a phased approach.

really anything to do with the physician employment contract. So any kind of productivity payments they might receive for work RBU’s, there’s all these , true-ups that are done each quarter annually. We’re going to do all of that in our software. So we just keep growing into anything to do with that relationship between the hospital and the doctor.

Any way that hospital pays the doctor, it should be done in our platform so that you can see it all ticket and tie it and make sure it’s, you know, compliant, appropriate, manage better. Yeah.

Trevor Schmidt: I think you hit on something that I wanted to talk about a little bit. So, you know, a lot of the teams that we work with are interested in offering technology solutions to healthcare.

And that’s, you know, clearly what you do, but maybe you could talk a little bit about what some of those unique challenges, challenges are associated with offering technology into the healthcare space or working with doctors and working with all the regulations associated with that.  what’s been your experience and how have you overcome some of those challenges?

Gail Peace: Yeah, I think it’s important for companies that, you know, seeing healthcare as their next growth arena to hire people who come out of the industry because it is so nuanced. So I think, you know, somebody with connections or somebody that knows how to navigate the health systems. And that’s certainly been the case for us.

On the sales side, we are most successful with our sales team when they have already been selling into hospitals. So they understand. All of those nuances of how the hospitals work in the regulatory world. And then, you know, I’ve sold him my career to hospitals and to health plans. And they’re very different, I would say, but something that’s good, bad.

And I don’t know the right way to say this. It doesn’t sound pejorative, but hospital executives are not paid to make decisions. So if they make a decision and it goes bad, they could lose their job. Right. But there’s a lot of people that don’t make decisions. They’re not really , motivated to improve things or to take a little bit of a risk.

So you really have to find those executives that see, okay, this, this is something we have to fix, and I’m going to, I’m going to take a risk and I’m gonna, I’m gonna throw some money down and, and, and jump on a contract with this small, early stage company. And I know they’ll have my back. I mean, it’s, it’s a lot to ask.

Right? So it’s important in the beginning. To get some experience and get some clients and try, you know, I run all the books about not trying to eat the big fish on, you know, too early. I almost did that myself. It was very scary. I think you really have to get people that know that industry because it’s not something that’s just, Oh, 20% of the GDP let’s go there, you know?

Trevor Schmidt: Right.

Gail Peace: We’re in banking. We can certainly figure out healthcare can, but he needs some help.

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah. Well, so tell us a little bit about that. You said you, you tried to catch the big fish too early. What happened?

Gail Peace: Yeah During health box, I had an opportunity. We met different systems and so there was a very large investor owned health care system.

I had three small hospital clients, and then I was dancing with one of the largest systems in the country. And so. It it, I, well, I know I could have delivered, I would have had to build all the staff out to do so. And then, um, just trying to get that contract done was brutal.  Investor owned systems are tough.

They’re very good business people running them and  they really work hard on getting their vendors down on price. So it finally came down to, we proposed a price and they came back and said, essentially, they came back and said they would give me 18% of what I set my price. I don’t know much. I’m kind of new at this, but that’s not going to work.

I’m like, you wouldn’t want me to agree to do that. I won’t be able to deliver. So we. You know, we sort of parted ways. Um, I had some stern warnings from people there that I said, you know, once we walk away, we will never do business with you. And I was like, I don’t know what you want me to say. You’re going to give me not even a fifth of what I need to service this account.

And what’s really funny is now flash forward. We’re eight years in business. Two years ago, we got a big fish, slightly larger than them. And that price I said is exactly what I got and that’s exactly what we needed to serve us. And to deliver comfortably. So I was not wrong eight years ago on that price.

Oh, so you got your, your prize, not the 18% of the price.

Oh. And then not that client it’s with a different client of comparable size, but I, I was not wrong on needing that money to be able to deliver it. our software is very, um, It’s sneaky, sophisticated, because it looks like it’s super easy, cause it should be for the doctor, but then it’s nuanced of what’s going on behind it.

So it, you know, we really spend a lot of time helping people get all of their contracts in there. We don’t just drop it off with a hug and a kiss. We implement, we make sure we have client service people to make sure they’re using it right. We’ll touch base annually and sort of scan through their site with them and tell them the things we see they could do differently to make it more efficient.

You know, it’s not, um, it takes support.  it just is better if the client uses it. So that’s where we, we really focus on not just dropping it off. It’s not just software. It’s a solution.

Trevor Schmidt: Well, when you, when you talked about having to do with particular terms within a contract, you know, like it says a lawyer immediately in the back of my head, I was like, that’s, that’s a lot of customization or uniqueness for each client.

I imagine. Is it a difficult, is it difficult to kind of scale that up then? Or is it if there are enough commonalities between them.

Gail Peace: Yeah. You know, uh, it’s there are payment mechanisms that differ, but the, the base of the contract is pretty, pretty similar. Right? So you’re an attorney and we, and we love making, um, sort of jokes.

When we do our sales calls, we’ll say like how many attorneys are in the room and they’ll raise their hand. And then our next question is, do you guys take any math classes? Because we get these contracts and mathematically, they just don’t make sense. So an example might be the contract I’ll read. The doctor will do 10 hours a week up to 10 hours a week, not to exceed 520 hours in the year and they’ll turn in monthly time logs.

That all sounds good. Right. But then you’d divide it out. 520 divided by 12 is 43.33. So then we’ll go back to the client and say, are you really giving them 43.3, three hours every month? And they’ll say, we’ll know, we’re only giving them 40 hours and like, Oh, well then that’s 400, you know that it’s not enough hours compared to the five 20, like you’re, you’re leaving, they’re leaving a little shy.

So anyway, we always joke about that. I had to get a lawyer.

Trevor Schmidt: You understood that though. Cause I I’ve seen it in law school classrooms and CLE is everywhere. Just like lawyers, physically cringe when math comes up and I’ve never really understood that.

Gail Peace: Yeah, well, it’s true. And sometimes we’ll read the contract and it’ll say, okay, position will be paid $7,500 right.

Quarter for all of these duties. And we’re like, awesome. How many hours?It Never says in there? Like how many hours? And then we’ll go back and say, well, if they turn in one hour, it makes 7,500. Do you have a fair market value issue. Because this is so highly regulated. Like you can’t pay him $7,500 an hour.

so what, what does happen over time? As our clients implement with us and begin to trust us. We began to help guide the attorneys of here’s some templates. Like here’s all of the duties you’ve already written. Don’t write any new ones on your next contract. Pick some of these like, cause there’s really some well-written ones.

And then they’ll be like, they’d say the same thing as another one. That’s similar, but not as you know, so. Pick one and, you know, template it out or we’ll give guidance on, you know, monthly time logs. Let’s make sure that the math works so that it’s not weird fraction of a, of a payment for the doctor. So anyway, I liked joking about that, but yeah, I’ve learned a lot about contracts because that’s what we do.

We intake all these contracts. We built software to, to OCR this quickly so we can load them in more quickly and figure out what our questions are. And yeah, it’s been, it’s been a fun process.

Trevor Schmidt: Absolutely. I wanted to go back to something you had mentioned, because we talked about how selling into the healthcare space.

You’re often dealing with people who are adverse to taking on potential risks, any, any suggestions or tips for people as, as they are trying to convince people to take on that risk, to work with a small company or to work with somebody who maybe hasn’t proven themselves out for a number of customers.

Yeah.

Gail Peace: Yeah. We used to call it FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt. So you should call it in the old days. Now you would call it the return on investment. So what you really need to do is as brush up your business case, if someone’s going to give you money for your product, it either has to help them increase their revenue or decrease their expenses.

Right? The only thing we do in businesses, I need to do my business better. So it’s either going to help me grow my revenue or cut my expenses. So with that framework in mind, You know, sketch out what your product does and then if you convince them, The people that you’re selling to that this is real and you make them nervous enough about missing that.

Then you get the actions. So that’s really, you know, we really sell on the return on the investment. And I’ll tell you when people implement our software, there’s this halo effect where you get a percent or two pick up in the first year, just because it feels a little big brother. It is a compliance tool in addition to being a financial tool.

So there are some benefits that just trickled down. And now that we’ve had clients for eight years, even at the same clients, you know, so I can see their same store year over year, what they’re doing and people do spend less every year and managing this, I think better when they have software to do so.

So there’s a lot. It also identifies opportunities, you know? So anybody selling software has to figure any product has to figure out how do I help their business case? Like what is the return? And then you just kind of make them nervous about not doing it. Right? So that  the fear of non-action is, is , greater than the fear of action.

Trevor Schmidt: Absolutely. And I, and I imagine your kind of prior experience, both selling into hospitals for other products, and then also kind of working on the biz dev side kind of helped inform that approach. Do you, do you feel like your experience prior was pretty critical to your success now?

Gail Peace: Absolutely. Yeah. And, and, you know, we’ll get, um, the sales team may, you know, get me in front of a prospect with them or a client and immediately I can empathize, I know exactly what they’re going through.

And so. You know, just establishing that credibility that you know, what they’re dealing with and going through, and here’s how we handled it. And here’s what some of our clients are. And I think we, you know, we listen, we try to be very empathetic and listen, figure out really if our, if our product is going to help them before you rush off on your own agenda, right.

Listen carefully and then, you know, figure it out. But we have, for me, businesses, it’s fun. It’s fun to work with people who. Want to improve something and we work really hard to help them improve it. And, and I think that’s what I’m most proud of is the team of people that I’ve assembled are, they’re amazing.

We’re, we’re 20 full-time equivalents. And I probably contract for like maybe six, maybe another six, if you count all the, you know, the stuff that I outsource. And so, you know, we’re a small but mighty team. And I think when you hire good people and. You know, just come at things from a real true point of, we want to help clients.

And we, you know, when we help clients, we sell more and that’s a win-win for everybody. Right. So it’s, yeah, it’s just, it’s been a fun, it’s certainly been, uh, been like living the dream Trevor.

Trevor Schmidt: That’s great. Not a lot of people can say that about their jobs. So I’m always excited to hear people say that. Uh, tell me a little bit about how you went about growing your team.

Did you have a specific approach to to hiring or kind of a mindset as you went out and looked for people to join the team,

Gail Peace: you know, it, because I’ve done a fuse, a smaller startup company experiences. There’s a group of people once you work with, you know, you kind of like, and trust and know. And so I would say that the first eight years have been really somebody that I knew or somebody that I know knows.

Well, so we’re a hundred percent virtual. And we already were before COVID hit. So, you know, the pandemic. It has made a lot of people have to change their business model and so forth. We were already structured with everything in the cloud with everybody working from workstations. If anybody’s computer gets stolen, there’s nothing, right.

We keep everything in locations. At least they should be. So, um, you know, we can replace computers or send it to somebody quickly and stand it up. so we were in a good position when, when COVID hit, cause people were scrambling around trying to figure out how to work, zoom and YouTube, you know, whatever GoTo meeting.

And we already had all of that in place.  but I would say now, as we’ve grown, sort of our networks of people are running out. So, um, I just hired, um, a QA engineer who started two weeks ago and that’s the first person I’ve hired that I haven’t known. Well, I posted the job. Um, I think my product, uh, colleague put it up on hacker.com and we got like probably 15 extremely qualified applicants.

And so, yeah, I’ve picked, selected this gentleman who lives out in LA, never met him in person. Didn’t even see him until our company called this week. I had never even seen him in person.  and so we’re also hiring a chief technology officer right now, and I hired a search firm and it scared the daylights out of me.

Cause your culture, your culture is really the secret sauce. Of your business. And so we’ve really been able to handpick or people knew enough about us or knew someone who worked here or worked with somebody before in another job. So as we had grown expand, I think that’s the part that keeps me up at night.

How do you maintain that really hardworking, you know, culture that people feel like this is their company. Cause everybody does everybody here feels like this is our company.

Trevor Schmidt: Well, maybe you could talk a little bit about that. Cause I think like you said, a lot of people found themselves being thrown into remote work and are now trying to figure out how to adapt to it.

But maybe you could speak a little bit about how you have maintained the, the company culture that you wanted. Well, while remote and how do you maintain contact with your colleagues while remote and how does that work for you?

Gail Peace: Yeah, it’s all about, um, I think I did something in Forbes, actually in the, in the recently in their magazine.

I think I did a three point thing on how to manage your company virtually. It’s all about communication. So. You know, before COVID we didn’t turn the cameras on. We had a go-to meeting every week, but now, because we haven’t been able to get together at all for eight months, we turned the cameras on. So it’s a balance of that though.

And like not everybody needs a camera on all the time. Like all day, you can’t sit in front of your, your zoom meeting. So, um, I would say that for us, it’s just making sure people understand what’s expected of them. And that they’re honest with you, like, you know, with. Well, we were already prepared to work from home and very successful in doing so.

All of a sudden everybody’s kids are home and you’re trying to homeschool them and your spouse is there and it’s like, wait, this is my space. And now y’all are here. So I think we’ve gone through that learning curve a little bit. And we were very flexible, especially in the early days and said, look. If you need to flex your hours, just put them on your calendar.

Cause there’s nothing worse than trying to find somebody and you, and there it’s not on their calendar. Let’s just put yourself out. I don’t care. Put the hours you’re working or however you want to do it so that I can find you or find somebody if I need to.  and a lot of our implementation team while there are client calls, a lot of the work is, is very diligent and very.

Uh, independent. So it doesn’t matter if they work between 12:00 PM and 4:00 AM. It really doesn’t. So we had some folks flex like that in the beginning, and I feel like we’ve gotten to some kind of weird new normal. That’s not great, but we’re all kind of dealing right now. Right. Um, as school either gets back in or doesn’t get back in session.

So it’s calmed down a little bit, um, because of the pandemic people, you know, people get stressed out for, for different. And, and that manifests in different ways. So I saw weird behaviors of people that I never had seen. And it’s just because of stress it’s everybody handles it differently. This is a very stressful time.

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s all of it. The normal stresses kind of condensed into a single moment. It almost seems like,

Gail Peace: Oh, toss on an election year and all of the bologna that goes back and forth around that. I mean, it’s a very confusing time. Very unsettling. Absolutely. Yeah. So I also bought, um, so we had the, we usually get together two times a year in person for like three days.

And the whole purpose of it is. Just the human interaction because we’re in our homes most of the time. So while the meeting, the meetings are light on content and heavy on, you know, social interaction. And so we didn’t get to do that in March. So, um, we were supposed to go, I think we were going to the beach.

Yeah. We were going to Virginia Beach. We were going to meet there. I always pick a fun place. Last summer. It was Reno. I’m sorry. We went to Tahoe, flew into Reno.  so we didn’t get to do that in March. We’re not going to get to do it, um, in October. So I’ve started sending these boxes. So these care boxes.

So the marketing team, I have a marketing team now I love  saying that. And so we get some Ludi schwag, you know, we get like, We pick a theme and then we pack these boxes with all this stuff and send it to people. So, um, yeah, we’re doing our boxes now, so let’s, what’s going on behind me. And if I look like a hoarder, it’s just because the stuff is starting to be delivered and I have to prepare 20 boxes to send out.

But this time I’m doing something cute with, um, you know, we’ve had so much disruption with the weather. I mean, I, people in California with the fires, I, you know, here I’m in Nashville, we had the tornado then. You know, we’ve got people with storms, um, the hurricanes and so forth. So I, I got like this time, um, it’s I got them like kits of stuff to survive.

So I got them these really cool halo bolt chargers that you can plug your computer and your phone and your coffeepot into. There you go. After the hurricane. I used that bolt for like four days. It never lost his battery. I used it all day long.

Trevor Schmidt: That’s fantastic. The coffee pot one was what I would not have thought of, but you know, you gotta have priorities here.

Gail Peace: I, it had to have a plug. You could do a lamp or a coffee pot, whatever. Wow.

Trevor Schmidt: I can, I can, I can sit in the dark as long as I’ve got the coffee. I think we’ll be all right.

Gail Peace: Last time we did a really neat, um, try to do a special segment. So I had a woman do a meditation class. Um, with us over zoom. And then I bought everybody Headspace for a year, which isn’t an app to meditate because I do think that’s like one other way to maybe calm yourself down as we know what people are doing it for thousands of years, it must work.

Trevor Schmidt: It can’t all be wrong. So.

Gail Peace: So

Trevor Schmidt: I did want to ask you, you know, the literature is pretty extensive about some of the unique challenges facing, uh, female founders, particularly. And I wondered if there was anything you feel comfortable kind of speaking about what your experience has been and whether you’ve had kind of uphill challenges because you were a female founder that hasn’t been your experience.

Yeah,

Gail Peace: . I just, I think anybody raising money it’s tremendously difficult. So I don’t know if my path was any different than a male’s path. I’ll never know if I had a harder time or not , but I would say that for me, what really helped was that accelerator program to get the skills and the knowledge and mentors to help me figure out what I was doing.

, and help me package that pitch up. Right? Cause it is packaging. Of course, I had a great law firm that helped me to LLC, which was fabulous. Um, Justin and Anna were like my go-to people through both the health box thing. And then, and then my series a really, because you you’re going to do this once, so it’s maybe twice, you know, whatever.

So, um, that part was hard, but I don’t know for me, Trevor, if I. I think, look, I think it’s hard to raise my hand no matter who you are. And I would say that six years after I’ve raised money, it’s just so depressing to see that the same amount goes to female entrepreneurs, which is shy of 2%. It’s just a venture capital.

So I did the VC world. So I think there’s something to it. I think it’s there, you know, we all have biases that we just have to admit. We have we’re reading a great book. We do book club at work too, um, called how to be an anti-racist right now. And it’s really helped me look at a lot of situations differently, but I think there is some inherent bias and, and in the VC world, um, around gender.

So it just has to be part of it. So I think to overcome that you have to be deliberate and set up groups of people. And what I hope to do someday is be helpful to women entrepreneurs to help them through the path that I had. Because it’s not, you know, it’s not an easy, it’s not an easy path, but for me , Martin ventures, I was lucky , that I knew Charlie and had experience already.

they’ve been great to work with for may for sure.

Trevor Schmidt: That’s something you’ve been able to do kind of at this stage in your career is mentor other kind of business, exact, so people coming up and forming their own business, or is that something you hope

Gail Peace: so they have to do in the future?

This kind of, if you. It’s hard to explain. So I joined this past year, the entrepreneur organization, the EO, which I don’t know, I didn’t know about that before, but that has been like therapy to talk to people who are in your exact shoes, because there are not many people you can talk to and you can’t talk to people that you work with.

About everything you just can’t because you’re the CEO. So it’s a weird dynamic. Like you, you went from being like friends and colleagues with people, and now you’re like, I don’t know. You’re kind of, you’re not inside the castle always. Right. You’re kind of a little scary. So the entrepreneur organization is, has been really helpful for me to, to kind of have somebody to talk. But I would say this, you know, starting a company is not like a 40 or 50 or 60 or even 80 hour week job. It is a hundred percent of your time. And sometimes it, the expense of things in your personal life. and I’ve talked to a lot of founders, a lot of people who’ve gone through this, you know, um, your family life suffers your personal life suffers because this becomes the, has to become everything to get where you need to go.

So, yeah, I haven’t had a lot of time to do that yet.

Trevor Schmidt: Talk about that a little bit, because you know, I hear that from a lot of founders and CEOs about how all encompassing the job is. So. Do you view it as this is a time of life I’ve got to get through this, or is there a way that you can find some balance and admits the craziness?

Gail Peace: Yeah, I, I would say that that’s what you strive to do is find the balance. Do you know, through the craziness, but, it’s, it’s hard because it becomes you, you put so much time and effort into it, you know, and maybe people sometimes stay longer when it’s not successful. I mean, we’ve been lucky.

So since 2016 we’ve been cashflow positive. And so we’re very successful today. And so it’s allowed us to do things, but if. We were still in that upside down part, it’s just wearing like, cause you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to keep things going. And is it the right thing to keep things going?

And sometimes your family thinks you’re nuts. Like what do you mean? You’re still talking about that. We talked about that yesterday. Why, why can’t you move on? Well, I can’t move on like this, all of this. So I don’t know if I’ve talked to a lot of people and I think different people handle it better and balance it better.

Um, Yeah. So it’s something I’m always striving to do. So

Trevor Schmidt: who would you say are your biggest influences in your career or, um, maybe you’ve had a particular mentor or someone that you’ve kind of looked up to, even from afar?

Gail Peace:  You know, I don’t know. Steve jobs is always somebody that I just really thought, like he just did it.

Right, right. Um, I would say that I just take one, whatever I can learn from somebody and try to be positive. So I’m not sure it’s been like one person, but I’ve learned through my career. Wow. I really like how he managed that situation. Tough employee situation. So I really like how that guy did that business plan.

I really like how that lady position. You know, so I think I’d take, I I’m constantly learning. And I think that helps. I think I have just a desire, a constant desire to learn. So yeah, I make our company. Would you book club? We read about three books a year, like crazy books. We write on the art of tidying up.

But that was a really good one. So anything from that to more like a business book or something as complex as this, how to be an anti-racist now, because, um, you know, I think these are important topics to keep expanding, you know, your thinking. So I don’t know that it’d be any one person, but a variety of people.

Trevor Schmidt: So, how did, how do you come up with the books for your company’s book club? Do you text suggestions or do you just pick them all out?

Gail Peace: Uh, suggestions. And then I pick them out. So, you know, cause the product guy always comes in with the product one every time and not everybody wants to read a product based book so that like every fifth one, I’ll pull something that’s more, you know, textbooky. Yeah. So, and the same thing with, you know, the sales lady she’ll always want to do something related to solution selling or, you know, um, how did the art of closing, you know, not that one, we won’t talk about that one. Let’s see the other ones.

Trevor Schmidt: And then with your book club, do you have like group discussions or do you read them and?

Gail Peace: Yeah. on Our Monday call, we usually not every week, but usually every two weeks we’ll have a chapter assigned. And then we just open it up for discussion. And it’s really funny. Cause I think people enjoy it. Even if they don’t speak.

There’s like the same five out of 20 that talk. And then I wonder, are they buying the book because they spend stuff. And then the one day I went back to look to see if people had even bought the book. Or maybe they’re just not expensing it. I don’t, I don’t know. So some of them might completely be ignoring me, but I I’m in my happy bubble.

Trevor Schmidt: I dunno for a minute, from a serial lurker in those types of environments, they’re probably reading the book and enjoying very much the discussion going on around them.

Gail Peace: Yeah. Yeah. Just not everybody wants to chat. I get it. Right.

Trevor Schmidt: So what was one of the more interesting books that you’ve read kind of over the

process?

Gail Peace: Uh, well, I think this how to be an anti-racist, because it’s just drudging up so much in a, particularly at a time when there’s so much unrest in our, in our country. And, and, you know, I think what we’re starting to learn in this book, which has really caused us all to stop and think is it’s really, the problem is our policies.

It’s not really people, but it’s the policies that are written by people that are sometimes unfair,  that contribute to this. So I think that’s been a really good one that art of tidying up was fun just because it was something different. Um, I would say, um, delivering happiness, the Zappos story was fabulous.

That was like a really fun read because it was. Super easy. And then we’ve had more of the textbook ones, you know , there’s a guy named Mitch Wiseman who used to be the CEO of university of Missouri. And he’s written a couple books we’ve read, well, he gave us one book in a PDF format. We were helping him edit it.

So we read that in our book club. So, you know, it just, it sort of depends on, um, you know, try to mix it up a little bit.

Trevor Schmidt: What do you enjoy most about being a CEO?

Gail Peace: Living the dream Trevor. I feel like I did hit a glass ceiling. It was very real in my career. And so I like now being able to problem-solve and drive the business in a correct direction by taking input of others.

I like having the ability to do the right thing. I was actually doing some interviews earlier today and we talked a lot about, um, a couple of sales cycles that I’ve been involved in one in the state of Florida. I won’t mention the name of the hospital, but walked out  it felt like they were going to use our software to do something nefarious, which is not what our softwares about.

And so the more I probed, the more I thought this just doesn’t fit with me. And so that’s really powerful to be able to do business with people you want to do business with. And not have to take business that you don’t feel good about. So that’s only happened twice in eight years, but you know, if something doesn’t feel right, it’s usually not right.

And I’ve sort of run that way. So I, this has been great. It’s been great to assemble a team of people and to see their success. And I feel like each one, you know, we had five Ludi babies this year. Each person like having another child or whatever. I feel like part of what we do is allowing them to live their life and theirs.

I feel very proud of that. Like, it’s not just about the 20 people, but it’s like, I feel like their families, I feel like that’s like a little bit of the pressure of that too, you know?

Trevor Schmidt: Well, I was going to ask you, cause that’s, you know, related to that joy of knowing that you’re helping support. These families is that pressure of knowing you’re supporting these families.

Gail Peace: Which I think in, in April, I thought, what am I doing with COVID then it’s okay.

We got that.

Trevor Schmidt: So I feel like based on what you’ve said, I know the answer to this, but have you ever at any point stopped and said, you know, I wish I could go back to the corporate world or go back to working for somebody else.

Gail Peace: I don’t, I don’t think I can now. Well, my chief operating officer tells me I can never work for anybody.

Yeah. I like to think I’m a fair person and not unreasonable and pretty open-minded. So I think that’s part of the problem. I think ego really can mess people up and I work really hard not to have that, just to like, do the right thing for the business, even if what I thought. Starts to begin to sound, not like the right thing, then let go then, you know, change, like let it go.

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah. That’s, that’s an interesting point. Is there, is that something that you consciously do or is that something you’ve learned to do over time or something that you’ve implemented?

Gail Peace: Consciously do and why I meditate, like shut your mouth and listen, like, don’t talk so fast. You know, literally, like I really had to stop myself to not voice my, I don’t know people that I work with may say I still voice.

My opinion a lot, but I try really hard to stop and listen and be thoughtful about, you know, I don’t know. I don’t always know what’s right.

 

Trevor Schmidt: Yeah. I think there’s a, there’s a danger for it. Especially new or younger CEOs to feel like they have to have the answer and if they don’t, then they’re not providing leadership.

So I think it’s always interesting to hear. No, you gotta, you gotta take on that, those other perspectives

Gail Peace: for sure.

Trevor Schmidt: So what’s your vision for Ludi for the next five to 10 years? Where do you see the company going?

Gail Peace: Well, we’re going to conquer the world. I do think the space, this is really wide open. So we have roughly 260 hospital customers.

Every hospital in the country needs this or something like it. There’s not really a competitor right now. We have little people over here doing bits and pieces, but not the. The whole thing that we do. So, um, yeah, it’s just really to scale over the next, uh, couple of years and we were cleaning up some things and putting systems in place to be able to do that more effectively, I think.

And that’s, that’s where we’re headed for sure.

Trevor Schmidt:  Well, great. Well, so we are the founder shares podcast. And so I like to ask all of our guests,  if there was one piece of advice that you wanted to share with somebody who’s thinking about starting a new business or somebody who’s just started their business and are up and running, what’s that piece of advice that you’d want to share.

Gail Peace: That’s a good one. Okay. Um, my advice will come with a story. So when you start a company and you’re at a cocktail party, people say, what do you do? And you say, Oh, I started this company. And they’re like, really? I have the best idea. Like I would be rich. I can’t tell you what it is, but I would be so rich if I just did this.

So I’ll look at them seriously and be like, you should absolutely do it. Right. You should absolutely do it because I think that people think success is about the idea. And so my, my bit of advice is that this that I’m doing is 99.5% grit and 0.5% idea. Like you have got to make it through. It doesn’t matter how good the idea is.

It is about having the stamina, finding the attorneys, finding the people to help you set it up, finding the customers, finding the employees, figuring out how to file your taxes, figured out how to pay to do payroll, figuring out how to set up your business license. Everything you do for the first two years is new.

Every single day. I remember thinking if I could just do the same thing twice, one day I would, would be it today. So I would say if you’re going to start, if you have an idea to start a business, do it, but just know that you’re really going to, you’re going to have to have the stamina and just really be able to fight through it, to make it work.

It’s not, it just, things don’t just happen. I mean, the Twitters don’t, they’re not accidents. They just don’t like, boom. It’s like magic, right? I mean, there’s a lot of years of, of. Some hard work in there, but I appreciate you inviting me to do the podcast. That was super fun.

Trevor Schmidt: Oh, I loved it. And I, you know, I appreciate that insight because I think, you know, in some respects the idea is the easy part and then you actually have to go and build a company.

So congratulations to you on where things are at with Ludi and there’s so much appreciate you coming on.

Gail Peace: Yeah. Thanks so much and appreciate all you guys do as well.

 

Trevor Schmidt: That was Gail Peace, CEO of Ludi, and you can find more on her company at LudiInc.com.  I am so grateful to Gail for sharing insight and experiences.

 

If you’re a founder or business owner like Gail and in need of legal advice, we’d love to hear from you. You can start by visiting hutchlaw.com. We have the capacity to help you out with just about any legal need your company may be facing, and we are passionate about the innovation economy and ready to support you on your entrepreneurial journey.

 

This show was edited and produced by Earfluence.

 

I’m Trevor Schmidt, and we’ll talk to you next time on the Founder Shares podcast!

Full Episode Transcript

 

Hosted by Trevor Schmidt

Founder Shares is edited and produced by Earfluence.

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