Vince Danielsen is CEO of Wello.
Calgary’s Business: What is Wello? When and why was it founded?
Danielson: Wello is an innovative virtual health-care provider that gives people anytime, anywhere access to services that help them get well when they’re sick and keep well over the long term.
We have a saying at Wello – healthy people do amazing things. That’s why we founded Wello. We wanted to give people convenient and easy access to health care whenever they need it, without the added stress of having to make an in-person visit to a clinic.
Our team of nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat medical conditions through video and phone visits, and people can even connect to their care team through secure webchat. Wello’s nurse practitioners can also provide coaching on prevention and wellness.
CB: What’s the company’s growth plans?
Danielson: Wello started in Calgary (in 2017), but we’ve since expanded to include Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This month we’ll be expanding to Ontario, and then coast-to-coast in 2019.
Wello services are available for individuals, but our focus at this stage is on giving companies the opportunity to include Wello as part of their employees’ health benefits plans. Employers know that their teams are happiest and most productive when they feel healthy.
With 40 years of experience providing and designing corporate health-care plans through our parent company, INLIV, we know that employers are looking for new ways to help meet the health needs of their employees, and Wello does just that in an easy and convenient way.
CB: Why do you see such potential growth for this idea?
Danielson: There’s a major trend in health benefits plans toward personalized benefits, and Wello gives employees the chance to use the service for whatever their health-care needs are, from obtaining a prescription or treating an illness, to receiving mental health counselling.
But a big reason why companies would want an anytime, anywhere service like Wello as part of their benefits is because more and more employees are working remotely. A virtual health-care service like Wello is perfect for companies like that – and I would argue, every company is facing that remote workforce trend.
Finally, with a generational change in the workforce, keeping millennial employees engaged and healthy is going to require employers to offer health benefits that can be accessed digitally and conveniently. Wello is helping to lead that innovation.
CB: As an entrepreneur what were your biggest challenges in setting up the business and today?
Danielson: First of all, let me say that we need more entrepreneurs in Canada. Entrepreneurship is a unique skillset, and it should be celebrated and supported across our economy. With their creativity and innovation, entrepreneurs are vital to the economic health of our country.
Many entrepreneurs know that coming up with a new business concept is not the hardest part. The first big challenge is testing the value proposition with your customers to ensure you’ve got the concept right – you’re excited about your business and fired up to get started, but you need to scrutinize your business model with customer analytics.
The second big challenge in pioneering products is to continuously refine your product so that you’re finding the right match between the price of what you do and the appetite of the payors in your market.
Third, if you’re working in an innovative space like Wello is, your go-to-market plan needs to recognize that a big part of your early work is going to be educating the market, so you need to be willing to adapt your model and learn on the fly as the market changes. That means openness to change is absolutely critical – the leadership team at Wello is made up of seasoned entrepreneurs, so we’re comfortable challenging our assumptions constantly. We thrive on change, and I feel our team’s passion and resilience every day.
Like the best entrepreneurs, we’re not as focused on the challenges we may face as on the opportunities to learn and change quickly to make this business successful.
CB: You’re a former Calgary Stampeder and Grey Cup champion. What lessons did you learn from sports that have helped you in business?
Danielson: Sports and business have so many similarities. Most importantly, a team of stars isn’t enough to win a championship, just like how a stack of good resumés isn’t enough to build a successful business. You need a group of skilled and passionate individuals who are focused on the following things:
- Alignment behind a greater vision, so that everyone on the team understands how their contributions and sacrifice contribute to that vision. A team of stars doesn’t always follow this philosophy as individual accomplishments can at times overshadow the team goals. Championship teams and companies sacrifice for each other and the greater good of the vision and goal.
- A game plan or business plan that everyone on the team knows their role within and under the most stressful situations, each team member knows what they need to do – and more importantly how their role fits into the entire team’s execution.
- The veterans on the team, just like the most experienced executives, set the tone for younger members of the team both in living the team’s business values and in work ethic. If a new player or employee joins and sees a manager or executive not living up to those values, that’s behaviour they’re going to absorb and it can hold the team back from greatness. When managers are great role models, that permeates the team and builds momentum.
- Trust takes time to build, so too much changeover in staff or frequent overhauls in your business/game plan prevents teams from building relationships, processes and culture that lead to strong performance. Of course, there will always be change and a certain amount is healthy, but you need enough consistency in place to build that trust.
- Great leaders have a focus on innovation in how they think and what they create. I saw great coaches push the envelope and recreate the game, and great executives are always pushing to find new ways to innovate their industry.
- Finally, great teams are ready to take advantage of any opportunity. In football, the best teams always seemed to know the right plays – but that was because they were well-prepared, practising constantly and studying their competition intensely. They knew the game so well that it was almost like the game moved slower. It’s the same in business – when you know your industry and ecosystem so well and you’ve built up experience, the pace of business change is much more manageable, it’s easier to connect the dots on new trends, and you can seize opportunities.
– Mario Toneguzzi