Ep. 121 – Kate Sheehan’s best advice to entrepreneurs: “You can’t compromise your reputation! If you come across as being honest and being ethical, then people will approach you.”

Kate Sheehan Show Notes

Kate Sheehan a Director of The OT Service and Occupational Thera-pist specializing in environmental design and equipment provision. She is well respected as a leader in the field of product and commercial consultancy and is passionate that products are designed to meet function, enable occupation, are simple and intuitive to use.

Most passionate about

  • I’m an Occupational Therapist, but I’m not a typical OT. I worked in emerging markets. Back in 2004, I was quite frustrated by the equipment market for people with disabilities, because it was quite institutional and functional but not very aesthetic.
  • At some point, I was asked to help as a consultant for commercial project aesthetics in hotels inaccessible toilets. And that brought me to the commercial sector looking at how we can influence design and change from a product development aspect but also how we can use the occupational therapy skills to enable companies to target people and how OTs can be the bridge between the product producers and the clinical authorities to help both meet the needs of the end-user.
  • I sold my company twice. The second time, last year I sold part of my business to my two business partners Adam Ferry and Samantha Shann, and now we are building the company together even further.
  • We have 24 therapists, and we work Nation Wild while focusing on two distinct sectors: We work for companies, helping them advising on exposing products to the OT market from a clinical point of view. We also do hands-on clinical work in housing and equipment, providing the therapy to support people to maximize their function in their won home.

Kate’s customers

  • For me, my clients are my ultimate customers, so it is the end-users; Mrs. Jones that is going to use the product.

Kate’s best advice about approaching customers

  • I think the best advice I can give is to be true your own values and ethics; If you come across as being honest and being ethical, then people will approach you.
  • The other thing for me is about being honest, and it’s about products. Companies are bringing new products and are very excited about them. And if I think it won’t work, I will tell them why I think it won’t work. One of the companies that I told them their product wouldn’t work was was quite frustrated with my remarks, came back a couple of years later with something else. And that really did work…
  • You can’t compromise your reputation!
  • And the other really important thing; Money isn’t everything!. By giving people (either end consumer or professionals or businesses) advice that you don’t charge for and that gives them some value. It’s really worth it.

Biggest failure with a customer

  • There is always success after failure! And you can learn more from things that come wrong than from things that happen right.
  • The biggest critical failure I had we helped a company that was looking at launching a radical new approach to deliver equipment to the end consumer.
  • They were going very fast, but as we saw it, they haven’t got the foundations in place, and we kept coming back to the basics. We kept telling them what they needed to do, but they kept moving way too quickly. In the end, the whole thing was collapsing. And what it did to me was to realize we should have said “stop” sooner! We should have said we are pooling out because you are not listening to what we are saying., and we should have been more assertive and said – this will not work.
  • I think we were almost overwhelmed because we thought it was such a good idea.

Biggest success due to the right customer approach

  • My greatest successes, the ones that have the most impact on me are my interactions with my clients, clients who had a catastrophic injury. There is one particular case that really had an impact on me. It was a young Mom with a two years old daughter, that had a catastrophic traffic incident and was paralyzed with her two legs.
  • I met her in the first two weeks after her incident, and I asked her (like I always ask) what her goal is? And she said she wants to be able to sky with mu daughter. And it was a very high goal, but I said, OK if that’s your goal this is where we are heading. She told me I’m the first person that said something positive to her. Until then everybody told her what she couldn’t do.
  • It was a long journey, getting her into a new property, get her back to work, find a new school to her daughter, and it took time. And she kept going. And I introduce her to the disabled Skying team. After two years, I got a text message with a picture of the client with her daughter on a top of the mountain with two words – “Got there!”

Kate’s most recommended tool

  • From my professional point of view, there is an excellent visual planning tool called idapt that enables me to help clients with some levels of disabilities. It allows me to plan how to organize their home, what products they need in their house, and how to adjust their house to their new mobility needs.

Kate’s key success factor

  • For me it’s my personality which is when somebody says to me ‘you can’t do something, that’s for me is like a “Red rag to a bull,’ I think anything is possible as long as you got the will to try and find a solution to it.
  • I can’t hear people who say to me “Oh no, occupational therapist can’t do this, or can’t do that”!  Of course, If you just stand back, you can’t find a solution to most things. You have to surround yourself with people that you can talk to and discuss a different kind of ideas. I have an amazing friend called Jen Gash, who is an OT Coach who has this ability to inspire you to succeed.

Kate’s Mountain

I believe that As an entrepreneur, the best way to get a fast, big, and sustainable success is by leading your (new) market category. That’s why,  for many years, the entire entrepreneurial journey reminds me of mountaineering, or conquering the mountain.

I asked Kate if there is a mountain she climbed or dream of climbing?

  • I would always think of a mountain called Bowfell in the lake district in England, which is the most beautiful mountain to climb. But it has particular resonance to me because on my Dad’s 80th birthday. My Dad didn’t want to party; he wanted the whole family to climb up Bowfell with him.
  • We got to the top of the Bowfell and drunk Champagne for my dad, and for me, again, it comes down to my Dad’s philosophy which is ‘you can do anything if you want to’!

 

Recommended tool

  • idapt – There’s nothing worse than dropping your phone and picking it up to see cracks and scratches all over the screen. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix to prevent this!

 

The best way to connect with Kate

 

More resources for Entrepreneurs

  1. Don’t Miss – Customer Focus Strategy & Execution: Market Analysis for Fundraising
  2. Hayut Yogev’s Latest postMarketing Automation for entrepreneurs – a curse or a blessing? How to best use it to gain more paying customers?
  3. Former interview: Resa Gooding: “In less than a year, I became number two in the market. It happened because of one tactic I did, and it’s always being helpful.”

 

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