Driven: How Did I Get Here Ep.5 – Knowing When to Seize an Opportunity

In this episode of the “Driven: How Did I Get Here?” podcast, host Justin Gray talks with Heidi Jannenga, co-founder and president of WebPT, about making big transitions and trusting in the path.

Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?
Well, interesting. Going back to my childhood, I actually wanted to be a veterinarian. So in some capacity, I knew I had this need to help people, or help things. In this case, animals. So I guess even from an early age I recognized that innate piece of who I am, at the core of really wanting to be there to help others. Fast forward into what I actually became as my career as a physical therapist.

Let’s fast forward to the point where you become co-founder of a software startup? What as the impetus for that change?
I had been practicing for 15 years and had kind of reached the top of my game in terms of treating athletes of all sorts. I was running three clinics in the greater Phoenix area and had P&L responsibilities. During that time, I realized one of our biggest expenses was transcription and dictation. I just so happened to be dating a software engineer and entrepreneur at the time, and so not having a lot of technology sense at the time, I asked if he could help me find EMR software for physical therapists. Needless to say, nothing existed.

So we started off on this journey together, of trying to put the brain and workflow of a physical therapist into a software program. It took us about nine months to get that first v1 prototype working.

What was the biggest challenge along the way? What did you guys have to overcome in growing that initial idea into the business that it is today?
Going from being a physical therapist and clinic director transitioning into software development…talk about polar opposites. That was pretty difficult for me. As we bootstrapped through those first four years, I continued to work full time at the clinic. I stepped down as clinic director a year in for two reasons. The business was starting to grow, but I also got pregnant. So trying to juggle three full-time things at once was just, was just not something I wanted to continue to do.

What do you look for in the employees you hire today to try to keep that spirit in the business going?
As we started building the business, something that really was a conscious effort for us was to build a culture that we thought was going to be sustainable and scalable. We’ve always hired for culture first over skill set, and we still do that today. We have a culture that is very collaborative and open. It’s hardworking but it’s still fun. We look for people who really want to give 100 percent to what they’re doing. We use a lot of experiential and sometimes off-the-wall questions trying to peel back who that person is at the core and not just that superficial interview persona that comes to every interview.

Do you have a favorite interview question?
I have a couple. One for me, since we’re in Arizona, I like to bring in the Native American culture, and in the Native American culture everyone has a spirit animal. We ask people what their spirit animal is and why – explaining that the spirit animal is your persona embodied in an animal. It always takes people aback a little bit.

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