Kansas City Business Journal, May 2016
Lisa Sackuvich spent 20 years in healthcare as an infusion nurse before a trusted mentor offered her a piece of advice (after a 12-hour-plus shift) that caused her to act: “If you’re going to work this hard for someone else, you should work this hard for yourself.”
That hit home for the humble entrepreneur, who founded Lenexa-based ARJ Infusion Services in 2000 with the belief that patients deserve high-quality, compassionate care.
ARJ—named after her three kids—provides home infusion therapies for children and adults with acute, rare, and chronic conditions; physicians often refer clients to her.
Her years of experience providing patient care in cardiac and intensive care units, hospital environments, and administering IV therapy in the home—combined with her passion to make a difference in the industry—prepared her to transfer her expertise into a functioning company.
Now, ARJ has more than 100 employees and dispenses medications in all 50 states. She still can’t believe how much it has grown, and she offers advice for other entrepreneurs looking to translate their expertise into a company.
Understand your audience
This is one of the most important considerations when opening a company, Sackuvich said. Listen to them, take their words to heart, and model your mission after their needs.
Many of ARJ’s patients have to be stuck with an IV many times a week, which is mentally and physically exhausting, so she created an environment where the patients would feel relaxed and comfortable.
“We don’t send anyone out to see the patient who doesn’t already know the patient and has not studied their chart or background, so we don’t look rookie,” Sackuvich said. “We know what it’s like to be on the other end.”
With the in-home model, patients with chronic conditions and compromised immune systems don’t have to spend time driving to medical facilities for treatment and can avoid potentially contracting additional illnesses, Sackuvich said. She feels connected to patients partially because she, too, had regular IV treatments for a medical condition at age 3.
Build a credible reputation
Even though Sackuvich was a nurse in Kansas City and a lot of doctors gave ARJ Infusion a chance because of her reputation, it took awhile for the company itself to build a credible reputation. The solution: Stick to your mission, provide great services, and the reputation will come.
“It just takes one, and then the physician’s patient is happy. And that’s what doctors and nurses care about—if the patient is well taken care of and if their patient journey is good. That starts the snowball of getting more referrals from physicians.”
Be persistent and hardheaded
At the beginning, rejection comes often from a lot of different directions, including sales.
“When you have a lot of experience and you know what you want to do, and you have this great passion for it, then you need to trust yourself and surround yourself with great people. I have learned so much from not only the employees, but also the patients I care for.”