Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Olivier Chateau, CEO of Health Union, located in Philadelphia, PA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Health Union is the proven industry leader in social health, encouraging the dynamic, real-time action people take to find meaningful connections and share information that impacts their health journey. The company reaches millions of people across virtually every chronic and complex health condition through the largest portfolio of condition-specific online health communities (e.g., Migraine.com, MultipleSclerosis.net, LungCancer.net) and health leaders.
Health Union’s unique approach to providing information, connection and validation through social health provides a mutually beneficial impact on people living with or impacted by these conditions. It also benefits the healthcare industry, which is looking to reach and engage patients in relevant ways. People living with conditions are the only audience for our online health communities, and we offer meaningful opportunities to customers in the healthcare industry through media and advertising, marketing research insights and clinical services.
Tell us about yourself
Over a 10-year career in the pharma industry spanning multiple commercial marketing roles, I began to realize there had to be a more meaningful way to engage with patients. My co-founder and I identified that there was room to challenge the norms and status quo of relationship marketing, which was limited due to regulations and limited resources within the pharma industry. As a result, we founded Health Union in 2010, launching Migraine.com, the first of what is currently 42 condition-specific online health communities.
When we set out, we had a clear purpose: to find a better way for people with chronic and complex health challenges to find answers, connect with others and share experiences via the web and social media. We have not only done that but also continue to expand the number of chronic condition-specific communities we serve, as well as approaches and tools to better serve the needs of the people participating in those communities. I am motivated every day by that purpose, the notion that there are millions of people who are positively impacted by what we do and the fact that there are countless opportunities to help people. We have barely scratched the surface.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I mentioned earlier that it was important for us to establish and maintain a strong purpose and mission. I believe Health Union’s biggest accomplishment has been staying true to the mission and finding the right balance between, first and foremost, doing what’s right for the people and being able to drive value financially. Our mission has allowed us to develop relationships and an immersive understanding of the patient's journey and experience. We are helping to transform people’s health journeys while providing mutual and meaningful value to everyone that helps grow the business and what we can offer.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Candidly, managing the ups and downs - especially the downs - of the business is the hardest aspect of running a business, specifically as it relates to our people and managing expectations. People are our greatest asset and as we continue to adapt to the evolving needs of the healthcare industry and the workplace environment, we need to keep the lines of communication open with team members. The more team members understand the rationale for decisions, as well as their true impact, the better they understand what company gains mean for everybody going forward.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, you need to thoroughly understand your audiences and customers. Many startups have failed or faltered because, despite having a great idea, they lacked deep knowledge and expertise about their market. You can’t just create what you think your customers or audiences will need. You have to put in the effort to understand their needs and also adapt to them as they change.
Second, you need to be patient. Success, including making money, requires patience mixed with perseverance and the right people with the right mindset. For example, Health Union waited three years between launching our first and second online health communities. Doing so helped us to assess what elements of our model and approach needed to be refined to make them as valuable to people with chronic and complex health conditions — and scalable — as possible a decade later, we now have more than 40 communities, with new communities launching each year.
Third, you must believe in your product or service more than others do. This ties back to establishing and sticking with a purpose, as well as having deep market knowledge. But you also shouldn’t need other people to convince you that what you’re offering is beneficial or impactful. Your belief in your product and service should be palpable throughout everything you do or say and every decision you make for the company, as well as through your team members. This will also help, especially in the early days of your company, if others express doubt about your product or solution or whether your offering is right for the market.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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