Small Business Lessons: Good Things Come To Those Who Persevere
You know that saying, “Good things come to those who wait”? Well, I must respectfully disagree with that cliché. Good things come to those who work hard and persevere, I say. My health management solution company, LiveHealthier, persevered for almost five years to solicit the business of Allstate Insurance. From our first invitation to one of Allstate’s Supplier Diversity Exchange events in 2008 to our procurement as its preferred health management vendor in 2013, we did not simply wait around — we spent that time forging and honing the necessary relationships. A small business, LiveHealthier was just growing into adolescence when we attended the Allstate Supplier Diversity Exchange in 2008. But it was an opportunity that put me in front of influencers in a major company, including the director of supplier diversity, the vice president of procurement, and Allstate CEO Tom Wilson, whom I was able to hear speak and have a brief conversation with during the event. Tom Wilson’s personal commitment to creating a culture of health was inspiring, and I was certain that LiveHealthier would one day have a partnership with Allstate.
Coming Up Short
As a result of our initial participation in the Exchange, we were given the opportunity to bid on Allstate’s Health Management business and we were actually named one of the two finalists. We were young, but we wanted to prove ourselves with a Fortune 500 company. Unfortunately, we were not awarded the business. I’m not going to lie, being that close to the finish line, but coming up short, hurt. That said, we remained in touch with our Allstate contacts and looked forward to the road ahead. For the next five years after our initial loss, LiveHealthier was invited to Allstate’s Northbrook, Ill., headquarters to provide an update on our new developments, success stories and the company’s overall well-being—and we did just that, leveraging the learnings and relationships we first developed at the Exchange. Every year, we got a little better, our products and systems became a bit more engaging, our suite of services got a bit bigger and we got a bit smarter. We used our time to advance our product offerings and learn more about Allstate as a company, because we were not ready to let the opportunity go.
Earning the Business
Those five years helped me understand the Allstate culture and capture what makes them and their environment distinct (key knowledge that is essential for any small business to meet the needs of a client). This information was invaluable to LiveHealthier during our next procurement opportunity with Allstate, which came in early 2013. After five years of persevering, learning, relationship-fostering and working with Allstate, we were able to leverage our past experiences to procure the new Health Management contract and begin implementing an employee wellness solution that both companies can be proud of. Would we have been able to handle Allstate as a client in 2008? Possibly, but after going through the Exchange and learning what is expected of a vendor, along with learning best practices and key insights about Allstate’s culture and values from top executives, we had a strong idea of what we had to work toward to earn the company’s business. We kept improving, kept learning and, most importantly, kept in touch.
Relationships, Patience Essential
So, to what do we owe our 2013 contract? Our 2008 attendance at Allstate’s Supplier Diversity Exchange. This whole experience is a great reminder that business is about relationships and that patience is essential. I encourage any small business to take advantage of similar opportunities, and I can’t stress enough the importance that such events can have on your understanding of the procurement world of large organizations, as well as the myriad of personal contacts and professional resources available to you. Though LiveHealthier wasn’t awarded Allstate’s business for five years, we were patient and committed ourselves to those relationships/resources while keeping the goal in sight. That perseverance has certainly paid off!
An award-winning entrepreneur, Mary Moslander is founder and CEO of LiveHealthier, a global provider of employee health and wellness programs. When not in the office, she can be found taking in the sights from her new San Francisco home with her husband and three daughters.