057: Left a $220k corporate biotech job to start a business in 2014 aged 48, with a massive mortgage. Business partner got sick, never returned so sold for $1m to a listed company. Office across from her kids’ school. 2 FTE to 6 (Michelle Gallaher)

australia fte 6-10 healthcare podcast sales <$0.5m aud Nov 25, 2020

In this episode, I interview Michelle Gallaher, a Melbourne-based award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, and advocate for the Australian health technology sector and for women in science, technology, engineering maths, and medicine (STEMM). As CEO of Opyl Ltd (ASX:OPL), a company working at the intersection of social media, clinical trials, health data, and artificial intelligence, Michelle is a sought-after mentor, collaborator, media commentator, and influencer particularly on the pace of advancement of emerging digital health technologies.

After 25 years in Biotech, aged 48 in 2014 with a massive mortgage, she bootstrapped a business focusing on social media and healthcare. Three and a half years later in 2018, she sold to a listed company that did marketing in AI for $1 Million. She really wanted to get into the AI space and so after the sale, she stayed on as general manager and in early 2019, there was a significant strategic shift and the CEO left. She took over, rewrote the business plan within two weeks, and pivoted the business within seven months.

The business started with two full-time employees and currently has six. Their first-year sales were $311,000 with a profit of $80,000 and the two founders paid themselves $26,000 each after leaving a $220,000 a year corporate salary. A year before selling, her business partner got sick and never returned. Michelle’s father came in once a week for six weeks to help her with the restructuring and they grew their annual sales from $500,000 to $700,000 with a profit of just under $200,000. 

She put up her office across the road from her kids’ school. Michelle recommends growing a business through collaboration and feels that she has not yet succeeded in business, but is killing it as a parent. She believes the hardest thing about growing a small business is cash management and says that the one thing she would tell herself on day one of starting out is, “Go hard” Stay tuned to gain from Michelle’s wealth of small business growth wisdom.

This Cast Covers:

  • Solving the problem of recruiting people into clinical trials and the mining of social media for data that help inform healthcare strategy and forward development of new products and services for healthcare organizations.
  • Enabling an environment where patients’ voices are brought into the development of new healthcare technologies and clinical interventions.
  • Monetizing their work by offering consultancy services and selling enterprise solutions.
  • How she started the business, sold it three years later, and stayed on to manage it to date.
  • The intricacies of how artificial intelligence technology works and how they use it.
  • Pivoting from a social media consultancy to an AI-Based company that facilitates healthcare design, development, and delivery.
  • Leaving a cushy corporate job to bootstrap with no capital injection at all.
  • Why she feels she could have taken on an investor if she had to do it all over again.
  • Being left to run the business solo after her business partner got very sick and couldn’t help manage the business anymore.
  • Selling the business at a million-dollar valuation.
  • Shifting from a revenue-based business and pivoting into building out an intellectual property portfolio.
  • Scaling the business by collaborating with a company in a similar space.
  • Building a diverse team and implementing flexible workplace policies that ensure people enjoy coming to work.
  • Not there yet with success in business but killing it as a parent. 
  • Success in seeing an idea coming to fruition and not getting too hung up on the idea of social proof.
  • Why articulating what your value proposition is is key to succeeding in marketing.
  • Leveraging R&D tax incentives and looking at government grants to raise gainful financing.
  • The wonderful validation that comes from being listed at the ASX and the challenges that come with it.
  • Spending a lot of money to generate revenue and then selling intellectual property to get investor funding that can be immediately allocated to more research and development.
  • The level of expensiveness in terms of both time and money of being a listed company.
  • Working on improving her skills in talent management by having more difficult conversations with her team members.
  • Learning not to be affected by people not believing in her and to think fast to be able to evaluate where the business is at any one time.
  • Meeting Ariane Huffington and learning the value of sleep and sleep hygiene.
  • Being able to make all her decisions herself and fail without anybody watching.
  • Shifting from a growth mindset to a transformational mindset.
  • Consciously building on their culture on a daily basis and struggling to find some work-life balance.
  • Trying not to tie her identity to the success of her business.
  • Spending $100k on her professional development and how it has improved her strategic and core functional skills.
  • The advantages of having a diverse board of directors.

Additional Resources:

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Quotes:

“Community and professional networks are so important for a small business” – Michelle Gallaher

“Success is really hard to define” – Michelle Gallaher

“If you can’t articulate what your value proposition is, then you’re gonna have struggles marketing” – Michelle Gallaher

“It’s important to be authentic and vulnerable as a leader” – Michelle Gallaher

“The way we manage people is so crucial in small business” – Michelle Gallaher

“When you allow your mind to be creative, you actually become sharper at problem-solving” – Michelle Gallaher

“Networking is a business-critical task” – Michelle Gallaher

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Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/