Right from the start I knew Mark McCloskey’s origin story was going to be special.
McCloskey, President and Founder of Oneview Healthcare, agreed to meet while we were both traveling through Chicago. We booked the meeting well in advance, but it turned out that we accidentally picked a date when Oneview was hosting several key customers at its US headquarters in Chicago. It would have been completely understandable if McCloskey postponed our meeting, but he and his team insisted keep it on the books. They had made a commitment and they wanted to make good on it.
Making commitments and living up to them is something that permeates McCloskey’s origin story and makes it special. In fact, this commitment is something that McCloskey has infused into the company he founded. Oneview has a strong reputation as a company that listens to its customers and delivers on promises made. This is partly why their customers are such strong advocates.
McCloskey’s story begins as many Irish tales do, as a young man leaving his beloved home to seek his fortune abroad. In McCloskey’s case, his journey began with a commitment made to a dress-maker friend of his. He took five dresses designed by his friend with a promise to sell them in London. Armed with nothing more than determination to succeed, he sold those dresses to a local London fashion retailer, Next PLC and convinced them to let him have space in one of their stores in return for a percentage of his dress sales.
With no experience in either fashion or retail, McCloskey focused on listening to what customers wanted and then tried it. Eventually he found a winning formula and in short order, he grew the business from one location to several dozen. He hired staff, took care of marketing and worked with his dressmaker friend to ensure a steady supply of dresses for the sprawling retail operation. By the tender age of 22, he had 84 people working for him and he was selling dresses all over England.
Unfortunately, it all came to abrupt end in 1988 when his dressmaker friend decided to retire from the business in order to start a family. McCloskey wound down the operation and returned to Ireland.
Back at home, McCloskey became a successful sales executive at a telecommunications company that was later acquired by British Telecom. He then went on to co-found a company that ran Ireland’s first independent ATM networks because he thought people should be able to conveniently access their own money from any ATM. That company was acquired by Ulster Bank in 2004. Two years after that acquisition, McCloskey found himself in hospital for knee surgery and it was his experience that ignited the flame that would become Oneview Healthcare.
“They put me in a ward room after my surgery,” recalled McCloskey. “The room held 4 people in total and had just 1 TV. The biggest guy in the room had the remote so no one was going to argue with him about what to watch. So for three days I watched what he wanted to watch.”
During those three days, McCloskey began to take note of the odd and inefficient processes at the hospital. “I noticed that everything was paper based,” recounted McCloskey. “Whenever a nurse or doctor came in the room, they asked the same questions over and over. It became very repetitive. On top of that, I got woken up every morning at 6am when a lady from food services came in the room to hand us slips of paper with that day’s menu on it. We had to check what we wanted for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then the lady would collect all the papers. I would come back after physio and the lunch that I ordered would be on the tray and it would be cold because it had been sitting there for an hour. They hospital delivered the meals according to the kitchen’s schedule and not the patient’s schedule. Then after almost 4 days in the hospital, they gave me an A4 sheet of paper with some instructions on it and said ‘there’s your physio’ now off you go.”
Following his hospital stay, McCloskey found himself on a plane to New York City with his wife. With the less-than-stellar healthcare experience still fresh in his mind, McCloskey was pleasantly surprised by much better experience he had as an airline passenger – especially with the in-flight entertainment system. [Editor’s Note: It is never a good sign when the customer experience in the AIRLINE industry is superior to your own].
During that trip, McCloskey committed himself to bringing that same airline experience to healthcare and Oneview Healthcare was born.
It was here that his early experience selling dresses helped him. Once again, McCloskey found himself in an unfamiliar industry (healthcare) attempting to sell a product he knew very little about (patient entertainment systems). Taking a cue from his past, he started by finding out what customers actually wanted and then incorporating that into his offering.
One of the first organizations he showed the product to was Epworth HealthCare, the largest private hospital group operator in Australia’s state of Victoria. They were impressed, but had numerous suggestions to improve the product which the small Oneview team added to the product. This virtuous cycle repeated itself over and over as McCloskey continued to show the product to healthcare organizations around the world including: UCSF Mission Bay, Chris O’Brian Lifehouse and Maimonides Medical Center.
Fast forward to the end of 2012. At this point Oneview was a company of eight and without any customers, McCloskey had to make a tough decision. The company needed an infusion of cash in order to ensure it could make the Christmas payroll. McCloskey went to his wife and explained the situation. Together they decided to sell both their cars and put the money in the company. His wife had just one condition – that when the company “made it” that she would get the car of her dreams. McCloskey agreed and the cars were sold quickly.
And then the call came.
Alan Kincade, CEO of Epworth HealthCare called McCloskey to ask him to come to Australia to make a last presentation to the selection committee who was looking at new patient entertainment systems. McCloskey flew down to Australia and met with the Epworth team. The product’s vastly improved feature set, which went well beyond a simple entertainment system, impressed the committee. After the presentation, Kincade asked to meet privately with McCloskey.
“At that meeting Alan told me that we had the best product he’d ever seen,” said McCloskey. “But before we could move forward, he wanted me to answer a few questions from their financial controller. At that point he invited Liz into the room and she asked me three questions which I answered as honestly as I could.”
“How many employees do you have?”
“What’s your revenue?”
“Our revenue is zero right now.”
“What’s your balance sheet look like?”
“Not that good actually. Right now we’re $5 Million in debt.”
According to McCloskey it was at that point that the controller turned to Kincade and said: “Honestly Alan you can’t sign a contract with a company from Ireland with eight people who are 5 million in debt.”
But just when all hope seemed lost, Kincade said the magic words that would set Oneview on a path to success: “Mark, can you sort out your debt problem? If you can get back to me in 6 months and prove to me that you have the money and the balance sheet sorted out so that I can sign a contract for 5 years, I’ll do business with you.”
McCloskey committed to Kincade that he would.
The meeting happened on a Wednesday and by Friday McCloskey was home in Ireland getting ready with his wife for a dinner party with some friends. By cosmic coincidence, one of the other guests at the dinner party just happened to be a financier from Australia who helped companies raise capital. Over dinner, the two of them agreed to meet at the Oneview office on Monday.
During that meeting, McCloskey and his team impressed the financier who agreed to help Oneview raise money and restructure its debt. That financier was James Fitter, who is now Oneview’s Chief Executive Officer.
Together McCloskey and Fitter raised $8 Million from family, friends and angel investors. They bought back the company’s debt from the bank and in a few short months they got the balance sheet in order. A week after they completed the financing, the company inked its first deal – from Chris O’Brian Lifehouse in Australia. A week later, UCSF called to negotiate a deal.
“Joe Bengfort, CIO of UCSF Medical Center called me up and told me ‘You have a great product and you are one of two finalists’,” said McCloskey. “He then told us that the other company was installed in 40,000 beds compared to the zero that we had. Despite that, he let us know that we had won the contract because ‘UCSF has not gotten to where it is without making brave and bold decisions’”
To secure the deal, McCloskey had to make several commitments including: handing over Board of Director notes to Bengfort so that he could read about the technical direction and financial health of the company (something that Fitter had implemented as standard company practice earlier in the year) and to allowing a member of the UCSF team serve on the new customer advisory board for the Oneview product (which they did).
With these two new customers in the fold and having met the conditions outlined by Kincade at their last meeting, McCloskey returned to Epworth and signed the deal. In just a few months Oneview went from zero revenue to having three large hospital clients. It was just the boost the company needed.
Today, Oneview is a successful company with offices in Dublin (Global HQ), Chicago, Dubai, Melbourne and Sydney. The company recently announced a further global expansion with customers in Thailand and the rest of UAE.
As McCloskey told his story, I was struck by the number of times he was asked to make a commitment and was impressed by his effort to make good on those commitments. Whether it was a promise to sell a certain number of dresses, to address the company finances or to buy a car of his wife’s dreams, McCloskey never waivered in his commitment.
In this day and age, it is easy to make a verbal promise and even easier to break it. Verbal agreements simply do not have the heft they once did. To me it is rare and special to you hear a story like McCloskey’s – of promises made and kept.
Over this past year I have gotten to know a few members of the Oneview team and I can tell you firsthand that the company has a culture of living up to commitments. When they say they will do something, they do it. It’s not hard to trace this culture back to McCloskey. It is one of the reasons why the company is succeeding.
EPILOGUE: McCloskey did buy his wife the car of her dreams. He never did get around to replacing his vehicle and now uses Uber instead.