Health care business benefits from Fox Valley entrepreneurs

By on July 13, 2012

Photo: FVEC Organizing Committee member Joe Abraham speaks at the FVEC event in Batavia. Courtesy Photo

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Elburn resident Maria Kuhn and her partner Dr. Christina Krause launched their award-winning Integrated Health Advocacy Program (IHAP) over a decade ago. Through their business, Benefit Performance Associates, LLC, Kuhn and Krause have used IHAP to address the health care needs of individuals with multiple chronic illnesses, while reducing the health care costs of the employers who provide health care benefits for these individuals.

Kuhn said that employers spend 80 percent of their health care dollars on 20 percent of their employee population—people with anywhere from five to 15 health problems. According to Kuhn, within the first year of using their program, employers make back a dollar for every dollar they spend on the program. Over the following years, employers save from $3 to $8 for every dollar they spend.

However, the focus is not strictly on saving money, she said. Their goal is to help these very sick individuals make better health decisions, feel better, and attain their best state of health.

“It’s a win-win for the participants, the employers and the clinicians who work with them,” Krause said.

Although the company was experiencing much success with their program, their business model for providing this service was not structured in a way that allowed the company to grow. This is where the Waubonsee Community College’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) came in.

SBDC Director Harriet Parker saw the potential this business had for larger- scale success, and she introduced Kuhn and Krause to several of the business consultants with the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center.

The pair began their work with Joe Abraham, Founder and CEO of BOSI, and author of the book, Entrepreneurial DNA. They took Abraham’s assessment to help them to understand their approach to business (Builder, Opportunist, Specialist, Innovator), what their business strengths were, and how they could leverage them in their own business.

Abraham spent a couple of sessions with the partners, helping them to flesh out their business strategy and modify their business model. They changed their direct sales model to one that relied on partnering with their larger customers to distribute their program more widely.

Parker and Bob Mann, attorney and health care benefits expert, helped them to refine their sales presentation and come up with a more concise message. They also addressed several sales concerns and how the partnerships could be structured, helped them develop a realistic pricing structure and identify negotiating points for various scenarios with potential customers.

Kuhn and Krause are currently in discussions with their first customer under the new model, a large health care broker in Indiana. This new contract has the potential to bring them $300,000 worth of revenue.

They are also in their next phase of work with the FVEC, in which they are working with systems guru Andy Parker to streamline their data collection and create more efficient systems.

“We feel excited and energized,” Kuhn said. “The questions (the consultants asked us) were practical. We learned so much. There’s so many people in the Fox Valley who are committed to making small businesses grow.”

Summary background of the FVEC
The Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center (FVEC) was created in 2010 through a partnership between the Waubonsee Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Center for Business Education Innovation and Development (CBEID).

Funded in part through a grant from the U.S. SBA Small Business Jobs Act, the FVEC is made up of entrepreneurs and business leaders from the Fox Valley area who work with entrepreneurs identified through the SBDC. These small businesses might be in start-up mode, launching a new product, expanding into different markets or innovating and doing new things.

The mission of the FVEC is to help small businesses enhance their success and stimulate economic growth in the Fox Valley.

Successful entrepreneurs provide small businesses with CEO training and mentoring, strategic introductions, and assist in areas such as increasing revenue, improving marketing strategies, business planning and any number of operational issues.

According to SMDC Director
Harriet Parker, FVEC has:
• Helped more than
30 companies
• Raised more than $1.9 million
in debt and equity financing
• Created 50 new jobs