Being a mompreneur is like running a marathon

Focus, prioritization and an effective support team are crucial to success

Grace Park is the Co-Founder and President of DocDoc – Asia’s leading patient empowerment company, based out of Singapore.

A proud mompreneur today, she brings with her more than 19 years of leadership experience, nearly 13 of which were spent in international healthcare when she led large-scale teams of distributors and a direct-to-doctor, pan-Asian sales force for Fortune 500 companies. She joined the private healthcare sector with the vision to extend and enhance human lives. She strongly believes that it is possible to do good and do well at the same time.

Prior to DocDoc, Grace held leadership positions at Medtronic, most recently as the Managing Director for its ASEAN operations, leading the company to expand its footprint for medical technology in these markets.

In this free-wheeling interview with AsiaBizToday, she responds to a host of questions and shares her experiences of being a full-time mompreneur

Tell us briefly about your Career, Journey & Passion

I began my career as a Military Intelligence Army officer after graduating with honours from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the United States Army for five years, leaving as a Captain at the Pentagon. I arrived in Singapore as a Fulbright Fellow after my MBA from Harvard Business School alongside an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

In search for a great mission in the private sector, I joined global healthcare corporations to include Bristol-Myers Squibb where I managed local grants of +US$100M to support women and children with HIV/AIDS in 9 African countries, and Medtronic, most recently as the Managing Director for its Southeast Asia operations, leading the company to expand its medical technology footprint to benefit more patients in several developing countries.

After nearly 10 years in corporate healthcare, I began my entrepreneurship journey. Currently, I am the Co-founder & President of DocDoc, the world’s first patient intelligence company. DocDoc’s goal is to optimise healthcare outcomes and spending, and improve the patient’s end-to-end healthcare journey. DocDoc combines the power of artificial and human intelligence to deliver powerful healthcare solutions to insurance companies, corporates and governments.

What drove you to set up your current business?

The purpose of what DocDoc is today originates from a personal story of when my 90-day old infant daughter was diagnosed with a rare liver condition. The surgeon who broke the news to us insisted that my husband and I admit her into the hospital immediately to do a major surgery the next day and inevitably, she would undergo a liver transplant. Our lives had forever changed at that moment.

We asked the doctor a few questions to feel more confident that we were passing our child to the right medical team. “How many times have you done a liver transplant? How much will it cost? Are your other patients thriving today post-transplant?” The senior doctor was not willing to give us guidance on his qualifications to perform the procedure. Instinctively, I contacted a close personal friend who was a doctor in the same hospital. We had done a medical mission a few years prior, and I knew he would be our patient advocate. He walked us out of that room and helped us in our global search to find the right doctor for our baby daughter.

 

Our chosen doctor was one of the pioneers of live liver transplants who had performed thousands of live liver transplants. He and his team based in Japan not only were the highest volume liver transplant team in the world, but also 60% less expensive than the first team that wanted to do the procedure but were far less experienced.

My husband and Co-Founder & CEO of DocDoc, Cole Sirucek, donated his liver to our daughter. The 15-hour operation was highly complex with several unique challenges. Thanks to the highly qualified team, a pediatric flipped live liver transplant was successfully completed, making my daughter the youngest patient in the world to undergo the procedure.  Thankfully, our daughter is thriving today.

As Cole was recovering in the ICU, we realised that what we needed to do at DocDoc is to empower patients with relevant and meaningful data points to make more informed decisions in their healthcare journey. We took up a challenge to do something that does not exist – to provide greater transparency in the healthcare sector.

What is your role in the current company

Like any entrepreneur, I wear multiple hats. My operational focus is leading the team that is responsible for expanding DocDoc’s doctor network across multiple countries. My ten years of professional experience in corporate healthcare has been immensely beneficial in this role. Today, we have established Asia’s largest doctor network of 23,000 doctors in eight countries. The medical community continues to embrace our vision. Well over 96% of the doctors we have approached in the last 6 months have signed up to be a part of our network.

Additionally, being a co-founder of DocDoc, I am the company’s spokesperson in the media and responsible for spreading the importance of our brand vision across the globe. Alongside this, my usual duties of a co-founder span into investor relations, company strategy, finance, human resources and business development.

Being a new mom and an entrepreneur couldn’t have been easy. What have been your experiences running a company as a mompreneur? Have you faced any obstacles in your initiatives?

With the “grass looking greener on the other side” mentality, mentees enquire how they too can start a new company, have a baby, and have a healthy, sustainable relationship with a significant other all at the same time.

First, I have been fortunate to have help. While my parents and relatives live far away, I have reliable and trustworthy domestic support, which was critical for the processes that I had put in place to ensure my household would function efficiently. While this setup freed me to focus at work, I was not able to outsource every task. The 3 am feeds disrupted my sleep!  Rest is critical for optimal performance, and I was hopeful to reach the end of this sleepless phase.  In the moment, it may seem that the sleepless phase never ends but have hope to endure as it shall pass.

Second, what is also not common about my situation is that my husband is also the Co-founder & CEO of DocDoc. We have learned over the years how to bring out the best in each other.  We focus on and play to our individual strengths, so we do not overlap each other very often but complement one another instead. We do have heated debates but through our shared values, we work through issues respectfully to come to a solution. Together, we aim to compartmentalise issues.  While work challenges or problems stay at the office, any personal disagreements stay at home and never overflow into the office.

To answer the question whether I faced obstacles for being a mompreneur, I have to say that I have faced discrimination since childhood, but I decided to move forward in ways to remove or bypass the obstacles and not dwell on it. Despite every person I had crossed paths with limiting beliefs on mompreneurs, I had the good fortune of meeting so many more who were amazing champions of supporting more women in tech leadership.

With DocDoc having over 85 employees today, I believe that the company is more than its founders.  Each colleague has a personal story in which if he or she or loved ones had access to the services of DocDoc, the outcomes of the personal situations may have been vastly different.  I am grateful for my colleagues who share our beliefs and commitment to achieve our operational goals because, together as a team, we can win.

Female founders are not a common sight in the tech space. Have you faced any challenges as a female co-founder building a tech company? How did you overcome them?

Being a double minority in my academic and workplace environments has been a constant norm throughout my life, whether at West Point, the Army, or the executive levels in global corporations.  After building a habit of getting out of my comfort zone, it becomes expected that anything worth doing will be challenging.

Many female founders face a common problem – lack of tech expertise. It’s not necessary for a founder of a tech company to have deep expertise in tech but they must be able to identify and bring in people who do. It is also important to identify what you as a founder bring to the table. For example, I have spent ten years in corporate healthcare working with doctors on the ground and leading large-scale Pan-Asian sales teams. This expertise directly correlates to my current role in DocDoc. I have spent the first half of my career studying and practising leadership in the US Army. The values and guiding principles instilled in me during those days continue to shape my approach to leadership at DocDoc.

How has being a mother impacted your work?

While I have been sensitive about timeliness due to my military training, I find myself more acutely aware of how little time we actually have in this world.  Based on this realisation, I spend my time on activities that truly matter whether that means spending quality time with family or working toward our vision to make a significant and positive impact in this world.

How do you balance work and personal life?

I love what we are building at DocDoc so I often find myself in the ‘flow’ of the tasks at hand. Over the years, I’ve managed to eliminate feelings of guilt, such as spending too little or too much time with my child. Guilt is a useless emotion. Instead, I focus on trying to compartmentalise, being fully present when doing work and being fully present when spending time with family.

What is wonderful about being an entrepreneur is having control over my time.  For example, if my daughter’s teacher schedules a parent-teacher conference, I prioritise this event and make up the missed work in the evenings when she is asleep.  I have flexibility and control with my time which is important. Interestingly, while I was a cadet at West Point, we learned how to prioritise because there were so many more tasks and homework handed out on a daily basis than there was time to complete.  It is no different today where on a daily basis, I need to prioritise the activities that matter most.

Can you describe an experience you have had that has been particularly meaningful?

One experience that I had a profound impact on me was when Cole and I raced 250 km on foot across the Gobi Desert and raised US$75K for medical missions benefitting children in Chengdu, China, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, who needed heart surgeries but could not afford it.

The race was gruelling and tested my physical and mental limits, but the pain endured was nothing in comparison to the feeling we had when we observed the open heart surgeries being performed on the children we were able to support, affording them surgeries and a second chance at life.

Coincidentally, the Singaporean heart surgeon leading the medical mission and training a team of local surgeons was the very same doctor whom I had texted when my infant daughter was diagnosed with a failing liver. At our most vulnerable moment, he immediately responded and guided us in the global search to find the most relevant doctor for our daughter. It is amazing how life comes in to a full circle.  What we are doing at DocDoc is creating a scalable replica of this doctor who acted as our advocate in the industry. We are delivering to everyday patients what our advocate had been to or had done for us – to structure our thinking to make a more data-driven decision and to be the trusted friend in the entire continuum of care.

How would you define success?

On the personal front, success would be to raise a beautiful daughter inside and out who discovers her gifts, talents, and interests to make the world a better place.

On the professional front, it would be to transform healthcare by changing the status quo to a new norm in which patients have access to relevant data and seek to make data-driven healthcare decisions in their doctor discovery process.

The status quo today is that patients choose grey-haired doctors and/or those with excellent bed-side manners, assuming these indicators correlate with higher expertise and better predicted outcomes. Unfortunately, it does not.

It has been thought impossible to obtain more relevant and objective data points to make more informed decisions when choosing a doctor.  With DocDoc, it is no longer impossible.

We are developing market awareness and educating patients on how to structure their thinking based on HOPE – Outcome, Price and Experience – as objective quality markers when choosing doctors.  By partnering with the consumer, DocDoc forms a trusted relationship and focuses on what the consumer cares about most.

When patients stop relying on anecdotes or arbitrary recommendations or proxies for high-quality doctors (such as grey hair) and instead demand relevant information every time they need to find a doctor, we will know we have made a significant and positive impact.

What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs, especially aspiring mompreneurs?

First, guard your mind. The entrepreneur journey is a marathon and not a sprint and not everyday will be sunshine and rainbows.  There will be some challenging days ahead. If you believe in your purpose, it will sustain you through the hardships.  Run your own race.  There is no right answer on parenting or a blueprint to  entrepreneurship. Both are highly volatile, ambiguous and messy.  Enjoy the journey and appreciate and grow from the learning opportunity.

Make sure to be kind to yourself and take good care of your body. Sleep enough hours when you can, eat healthy foods, and hit it hard in the gym.  This has helped me manage stress levels and allowed me to have a clear mind for more optimal decision making.

I will share a quote that I shared with my daughter.  It is wisdom from Winnie the Pooh: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Think big and have MORE courage than fear!

Have your community support system sorted out on the home front and work front. There are no lone rangers out there. If you hire people of character who are aligned with your values and vision, then your colleagues are able to make significant contributions alongside you. A caring support team is behind every successful mompreneur!