Keep asking questions until you fully understand.

Lauren Hill is the President and Founder of Medical Inflatables. Medical Inflatables was born after Hill—who was working in marketing at a major Houston hospital at the time—noticed a gap in community health education events.
The general public’s knowledge about how to prevent a heart attack and the signs and symptoms was lacking, but health events were failing to engage attendees enough for them to retain vital information and take action to improve their health. Hill wanted to draw them in with a showstopper, something more than a free pen or a flashy magnet. Her goal was to engage, educate, and also entertain. With heart disease running in her family, and heart attacks the number one cause of death in the U.S., the heart was a natural place to start.
Hill discovered a giant heart exhibit at a museum in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t portable. And that was the key—to bring a giant heart, or brain, or lung, or body, to a hospital industry conference, school or fun run. She knew she had to build it herself. With design advice from doctors at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Hill sketched the heart with help from a medical illustrator, and voila, the MEGA Heart was born.
From its debut at the Heart Hospital of Austin, MEGA Heart has traveled the world, from Singapore to Australia. In the years that followed, Hill added MEGA Brain, MEGA Lungs and Mega Body to her traveling anatomy collection. MEGA Brain debuted with a nation-wide tour of major and minor league baseball games, state fairs, and shopping malls, and has also since traveled the world.
As an expert in health education, Hill has appeared—along with her MEGA exhibits—on national television, including the Dr. Oz show and The Doctors. She debuted her MEGA Lungs on the Dr. Oz show. Hill is regularly quoted in the media, and her exhibits are sought out by clients such as hospitals, foundations, associations and schools across the globe.
She is a member of Healthcare Marketing Association, The American Marketing Association, Texas Public Health Association and in her former, hospital role was recognized as Marketer of the Year by the American Marketing Association, Houston Chapter.

Where did the idea for Medical Inflatables, Inc. come from?

I was working as an event coordinator for a local hospital and we hosted many health fairs around town. At these health fairs, I would explain to people about heart health, what heart disease looks like, and the destruction it causes (as the number 1 killer of Americans). Not having many visual aids at my disposal, it was difficult to capture people’s imagination and really hit home the destructive impact of heart disease. One day I thought to myself, what if I could show heart disease larger than life? What if I could walk through a heart? I did an on-line search for “walk-through heart” and one museum exhibit in Philadelphia popped up. I called the museum inquiring if the exhibit could travel to Houston, it could not. That’s he moment the idea hit: the walk-through heart had to be portable, and therefore, inflatable!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

First is the morning routine with my children. Once they are settled and where they need to be I go to the gym or straight to my office. It is important to me to incorporate physical activity into every day. It allows me work with a clear head and stay focused. The first thing I do at the office is organize with a to-do list. I put the most difficult tasks at the top and the goal is get to them first. I also try not to answer emails or take phone calls while I am brainstorming new ideas or focusing on specific projects – although multi-tasking seems like a good idea, one really can’t give 100% to two or three different tasks at the same time!

How do you bring ideas to life?

For new product ideas, I usually engage a doctor or specialist in the field. After they help identify what will make the exhibit scientifically accurate, I then use a medical illustrator to sketch out the initial concept. Next steps include consulting with my manufacturer and getting a 3D rendering. All parties weigh-in until we settle on the final exhibit model.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Augmented Reality – it may possibly be the future of all learning. That and telemedicine. Using telemedicine in rural parts of the country has really made access to the best healthcare possible for all.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I don’t bite off more than I can chew. I used to make this mistake in my professional and personal life. I would take on too much and wasn’t producing to my highest standard. It took me years to learn how to say “no.”

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t worry about going out of business, sales will inevitably ebb and flow, keep up the hustle. Also, hire an assistant. It took me 9 years to figure out I can’t do it all myself and it isn’t a sign of weakness or inability to get help.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

In the beginning of my business, it was the amount I charged for our products. Everyone said I should be charging less, that I wasn’t capitalizing on the entire market. While that may have been true, I have kept a price point where we provided the best, most innovative products and exceptional customer service. While we are not a fit for everyone, the niche market I have created has been, and remains, sustainable.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep asking questions until you fully understand. Also, read and truly understand your P&L. Early on I had a business advisor, a former CEO from a large retail chain, who taught me to look for outliers in my P&L. You must understand what is working and invest more into that, cut out what isn’t working. Many entrepreneurs are self-taught and might have a great product or service, but if they are not always focusing on the bottom line, I believe they’ll have a higher likelihood of failure.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Talk to the person who can do something about it. This is a lesson from my mom. If you are negotiating a deal, or can’t get the answers you need, talk to the person in charge. Pick up the phone! It’s amazing how much sentiment is lost over email. Whenever there is a problem or a deal that needs negotiating, I do it over the phone or in person. We are much more likely to come up with solutions and end with both parties getting what they need with real interpersonal dialogue.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I let a competitor get to me. I found out (prior to getting a patent) that a friend of our family copied my idea. I went into such a tailspin thinking that I would go out of business when the opposite actually happened. Once I stopped grieving for, what at the time felt like a personal affront, I learned to be competitive. I restructured the way I did business and I moved forward, never looking back.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An app that pairs with camera phones that kicks in when someone (mainly my 5-year old) takes multiple pictures of the same thing.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A massage -nothing is more relaxing and has a direct impact on my well-being, benefiting personal and professional productivity.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Pipedrive – it’s a basic CRM, but it helps me keep a tally on where we stand with all of our customers (past, present and future).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I love anything by Malcom Gladwell.

What is your favorite quote?

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
– Abraham Lincoln

 

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