Reflections of an Entrepreneur: LifeLoop CEO, Amy Johnson
Omaha-based startup, LifeLoop is a senior living software company whose mission is to preserve the connections between residents, their care providers, and family members such that everyone is always “in the loop” about what is taking place in the lives of elderly loved ones in senior communities. Silicon Prairie News has been following the story…
Omaha-based startup, LifeLoop is a senior living software company whose mission is to preserve the connections between residents, their care providers, and family members such that everyone is always “in the loop” about what is taking place in the lives of elderly loved ones in senior communities. Silicon Prairie News has been following the story of this purpose-driven company since its launch in 2015.
We recently caught up with Amy Johnson, co-founder and CEO of LifeLoop to check in on the company as it approaches its 5-year milestone. Here are some insights that this inspiring entrepreneur shared with us regarding her adventure running LifeLoop over these past years.
Recognizing the problem
I think it’s going to happen overtime. I mean it has happened overtime for us with LifeLoop. The initial idea was to solve a problem for families. But then we quickly realized the existence of a much larger problem. I think that is a significant moment, when you realize that there is this large opportunity to make a big impact to help not only families but also communities. And in my case, senior living communities. I was thinking about how to help people better operate and connect overall. That moment was the first diving in point. Do we want to tackle all of this? You just get addicted to solving every problem – it is the best way to describe what we are constantly doing. Every community is a little different and every customer has a different problem. And we address each of those problems as their partners, every day
It all began with my husband and I and Phil Lee. I always laugh about our story because my husband’s a commodity trader, my background is sales and marketing and Phil has a law degree. So, three people solving this problem and we have no technical background and no senior living background – seems like we’re just crazy to do take this on. We just began looking at the problem and thinking about what makes sense. For us it was simply problem solving at an operational level. We could look at things objectively. We were not blinded by the kind of perspectives that develop when you have been in an industry for a longtime. This has been a definite advantage for us.
Tackling the problem piece by piece
We started with our first customer, Dial Retirement Communities. They were the one senior living company we knew, from a personal standpoint. We thought to run our idea by our contact there. This was before we even had a product and asked, “This is an idea we want to develop for families. If we built this, would you be willing to be our first customer?”
We started this conversation knowing very well that we had no idea what to build yet. It was very much an ‘OK this is what we think the problems are’ type of conversation followed by a request to spend time with Dial’s staff to figure out what the problems really were. We continue, as a company, to never build out any of our features to the full extent of what we think should be built because we realize that we cannot really know. Just as we started with our first customer asking, ‘what are your problems and how are you currently solving them’, we begin by creating an MVP for whatever that feature is saying ‘well let’s try something, then let’s try something better, then let’s go one step further getting adoption in there’ and then taking it one step further after that. Getting early adopters and understanding how they’re using the product or not using it is important. Then you know.
Though all our customers are extremely different, they all have the same problems. They are just solving them in different ways. We have to develop a best practice for each of them. It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the issues in this space but it’s manageable when you really break it down into pieces and digest one bite at a time.
Building a team
I know for sure that if I was just doing this by myself, there’s no way that I would have accomplished what we have. Putting a good group of people together is key to making things happen. It’s all about pulling together. Every person on our team has a story of why they are here. Everybody brings their own strength. I always know what we’re lacking. I might not have a role open until I need somebody.
When recruiting talent, I consider where that person can add value. I look at who the person is, where their strengths are and what their life would need. That’s kind of how we we’ve added everybody overtime. Sometimes, it takes me a long time to hire people. Sometimes, it is just a leap of faith. Sometimes, it hasn’t worked out. It’s very much about that culture fit.
I do also get a lot of people that come in who want a job. I ask, what do you want to do? What is it that makes you excited? Then reverse engineering role for them. Then there are always those great people that can do a lot of things.
When you’re in an early stage company, the biggest thing I tell everybody is that you just have to be able to roll up your sleeves and do whatever is needed. And that’s not for everybody. Also, you have to have an appetite for risk. There is always going to be a level of uncertainty. It’s among the top five things you have to deal with when working in a startup. I am always really transparent about what they’re getting into.
Being your authentic self
I’m very transparent; you always know where I stand and how I feel. Having honest conversations can be very therapeutic. I have a very solid group of girlfriends who help keep me focused on what is important. And my kids keep me really busy, so I don’t have a ton time to overthink things, which is a positive. The occasional yoga session helps but I think it’s just about being vulnerable, open and honest especially with myself – that has been the best way I get through things. Through this whole journey, I have always struggled every time I try to be someone I am not. It doesn’t go well. You can’t force yourself to be somebody you are not. So be yourself, focus on what you’re good at, and find another person that’s good at whatever else you need
Real life begins outside your comfort zone
Living outside your comfort zone is the only way you can grow. That’s been the motto for our whole team. How do we get to that next level? We have this initial vision for our product and think once we get there, then everything will be great. But once we are there, we push ourselves outside our comfort zones and again try to get to the next point, then the next point. And so, it continues, there’s always another ‘once we get there’ moment. It becomes this fun addiction to solving problems and creating something that is helping people. If you’re not motivated by that, but are motivated by other things, it’s usually not going to work out. I am not motivated by money to the extent that others are and so that’s part of why this has worked for us. You have to be in it for the right reasons, that is, to solve the bigger problems.
Entrepreneurs get stuck comparing their middle to somebody else’s end. You want this big success story. Everybody wants this big success story. It is about achieving all these next points within the longer process. And it takes time to happen, always more time than you think.
We now have a really great product, really great brand in a big industry. We are at the point where I now know that we’re going to be fine. So, we are just going to keep on trucking and see what happens next.
Our evolving product
When we started, our platform was very basic. We did resident engagement tracking and calendar management. Two pretty basic features. Now we have digital signage, maintenance, transportation – we offer all the operational tools that run a community. That was not our initial intent but as we grew, we saw the opportunity to create a consolidated product for these establishments, saving them money and streamlining communications so that everyone could be on the same page. It is the whole goal now.
At first, we just wanted to solve the smaller problem but then we set our sights higher to solve the larger problems encompassing senior living communities. Residents are more engaged and are better cared for. We have added more features by design to enhance the culture of a community.
You have to take your ego completely out of the process. I see a lot of people make this mistake, I did too. You get so excited and you’re obsessed with your product that you feel like you have all the answers but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you think or feel if the client doesn’t see it too. You have to really reach out and not just engage somebody as a client but as a true partner. There is a necessary dialogue behind building not only an added feature but also a relationship. Get to know what they need and what you need.
Who needs LifeLoop
If you have somebody that you are looking to connect with or stay connected with as they transition into senior settings, we are that resource for families. If you want to connect with your parent or grandparent and the community, we can definitely help with that. We partner with many senior living facilities.
I think consumers just need to be more educated about how they’re going to stay connected so that they know and understand the care that their elderly loved ones are getting. We are in a unique time. Multiple generations are now all in the same senior settings. It is getting to be challenging for the staff too. Providing the tools to be more efficient is what we do, to make sure the care givers have enough time to spend with each resident.
The senior living industry is overbuilt. They were preparing for all the baby boomers but are now struggling with the realization that more seniors want to stay at home instead. LifeLoop is the differentiator that makes a facility and community stand out to encourage occupancy.
The ongoing adventure
This has not been an easy journey. I struggle a lot with perception versus reality. People perceive my life to be different than it really is. I always laugh. It looks like things are always going great. And overall, it is going good but it’s just such a messy, fun, exciting, exhausting, stressful process. It’s something I am very open about. It’s not for everybody, but if you get a taste of it and you feel up for it, you’ll never look back. It’s a blast!
More information about Amy Johnson and LifeLoop can be found at www.ourlifeloop.com.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT!
Sign up to receive daily updates in your inbox.