In this episode Josh speaks with Elyse Dickerson, CEO of Eosera, a biotechnology company. They talk about the concept of “Conscious Capitalism”, what it is and why it is important.
Elyse Stoltz Dickerson is CEO and Co-Founder of Eosera, Inc., a female-led biotech ear care company committed to developing innovative products that address underserved healthcare needs, such as earwax impaction, ear itch, ear hygiene, and more. Elyse has over two decades of experience leading teams in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. She managed portfolios with annual revenues of $1.7 Billion and drove product innovation and the commercialization of numerous technologies across the globe.
Elyse holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Elyse, married with two children, resides in Fort Worth, Texas. She is also a lifelong athlete and has completed marathons, triathlons, and an Ironman.
In todays episode you will learn about:
- What is conscious capitalism?
- Should profit be your purpose?
- Why should you have clarifying statement around each of your core values?
- Eosera’s unique story.
Narrator: Welcome to Cracking the Cash Flow Code where you’ll learn what it takes to create enough cash to fill the four buckets of profit. You’ll learn what it takes to have enough cash for a great lifestyle, have enough cash for when emergency strikes, fully fund the growth program, and fund your retirement program. When you do this, you will have a sale‑ready company that will allow you to keep or sell your business. This allows you to do what you want with your business, when you want, in the way you want.
In Cracking the Cash Flow Code, we focus on the four areas of business that let you take your successful business and make it economically and personally sustainable. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning, and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable and allow you to be free of cash flow worries.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. My guest today is Elyse Stoltz Dickerson. She has an interesting company which is called Eosera. They deal with all sorts of ear stuff we need to talk about. We may get into that a little bit later when I bring Elise on which is going to be about two seconds, actually a little bit more as I have something I want to ask you to do.
Before I bring her on, what I would like you to do is, after you watch this show, or you listen to the show, if you would go to wherever you’re watching or listening to this podcast and give us an honest rating and review. I would really appreciate it.
Let’s bring Elyse on we’ll start the conversation. Hey, Elise, how are you today?
Elyse: I’m great. Thanks for having me.
Josh: My pleasure. I wanted to start off a conversation with something that caught my interest and what your booking agency was trying to get you on the show, which was your interest in conscious capitalism and the fact that you guys practice conscious capitalism. I’m going to bet almost nobody listening to this podcast has any idea what I just said? Could you give us an explanation of what conscious capitalism is?
Elyse: Sure. Hopefully everybody knows what capitalism is. I am a capitalist, through and through. I spent a lot of my career the first really 20 years of my career in corporate America. I started to get the feeling that big corporate America had it wrong in terms of just being focused on money and the bottom line.
As we know, pretty much any public company, they’re beholden to their shareholders which is the capitalistic model. I think that, as a result, they’ve lost sight of what’s really important which is people. Most companies exists to improve people’s lives in some way or another or make products to benefit people. Also, at the core is their employees that are making these products or services in order for them to eventually make money.
The idea behind Conscious Capitalism is that I kind of like to think of it as a capitalist with a heart. The idea is that you have some sort of purpose as a company that is higher than just profits. It’s more than just about making money.
Making money is important, but not at the expense of everything else. Our higher purpose as a company is people. We believe that if you put people at the center of every decision you make so whether it’s the patients that we’re trying to create products for our employees that work tirelessly for us day in and day out, our investors that give us the capital to keep moving forward.
We think about all these different people when we’re making big decisions that could potentially affect one group or another. What I can say is, we’re five years into this company, and by putting people first the profits have followed. I truly believe that the model of conscious capitalism works and gives you really happier employees at the end of the day.
Josh: Yeah, sounds like something Peter Drucker would say. I remember back when I read his book, Task Management Responsibilities eight zillion years ago, in the early 80s, the line in there always caught me he said, “The purpose of business is to create and serve a customer profit as a result.” Anybody who ever says to me, I have this conversation, why? What’s the purpose of your company? Why do you exist?” They say, “Well, it’s to make money.” I said, “No, that’s a result. What’s the purpose of your company?” If your purpose is profit usually isn’t much profit. It’s been my experience.
Elyse: Yeah. My experience in working for these big companies is that, especially employees, they just kind of became a number. It was sort of what have you delivered to the bottom line for me today and this quarter. If you haven’t met or exceeded your goal then you don’t matter to me anymore. I just don’t think that’s a sustainable way to run a company long term.
Josh: I would agree with that. I think that the people, I mean, if you look at what’s happened to Jack Welch after he left, it looks like he did a great job of running GE, as far as profits and all that kind of good stuff. The truth was he has so many buried problems that after he left, they all came to the forefront. And just running your company for profit, almost always comes back and bite you in the rear end.
Elyse: That’s right. That’s right.
Josh: That’s my experience. Is your former conscious capitalism John Mackey’s version also or is it a different version?
Elyse: Nope. Same.
Josh: Okay. John Mackey, for people who don’t know, is the founder of Whole Foods, and is credited with the founding of the conscious capitalism movement, even have a magazine I think if I’m not mistaken.
Elyse: Yeah, there’s a really a global movement. John has spoken at many of the conferences and written books and that kind of thing.
Josh: Yeah, he’s an interesting guy. Interesting company, too. It’s really interesting that Amazon owns Whole Foods. Amazon is pretty much Whole Foods run the way they’ve always run before they became Amazon.
They also did that was Apple’s, which was another— although they’re not a real conscious capitalism company, they operate as if they were. I just find that interesting. Whenever I talk about conscious capitalism, there’s another form of business that comes along, which has benefit corporations. Do you do anything that benefit corporations? Are you going to become a benefit Corp?
Elyse: We are not. We’re a traditional C Corp. When we incorporated, we didn’t probably have the foresight to incorporate that way. I think it’s a great business model. I think the philosophy is you end up giving back a certain percent of your proceeds. Is that right?
Josh: No, it’s actually people plan a profits and you go through a very in depth process where you’re certified as being a socially conscious company. You have to go through a process and basically saying, “Do you do this? Do you do this? Do you do this?”
It’s worthwhile going through looking at least if you will qualify or not. If you go to blabs.org. They’re the people who certify benefit corporations. It’s a lot of work. I always tell people say, “If you have a good business, reason for it, do it.” A good business reason, by the way might be if you employ a bunch of millennials, or Gen Z’s, because those group of folks that are mission driven especially millennials. They want the company they work for it to be mission driven too. Speaking of that, where do values fit in with your company.
Elyse: We have our set of core values. We have them front and center pretty much daily or weekly at our staff meetings. We have people internally that are constantly focused on sort of keeping it top of mind for employees. We have core values that might be a little bit different than some. One of our key ones is bravery.
For me, as a woman in business, that was something that took me a while to find courage to speak up in rooms that were predominantly men, often I was the only woman. That became one of our top core values. We talked about it. People will give examples throughout the week or month or year of how they have exhibited certain values.
It’s really great especially when times get tough. Inevitably, in any business, there’s going to be ups and downs, but when times are tough, and we can fall back on those core values that we are a community of people that work together. We’re all in this together. It really seems to make that little bit of difference we need to push through the tough times and then obviously enjoy the great times.
Josh: When you have bravery, one of your core values, do you have a clarifying statement so everybody in your company knows what bravery means?
Elyse: Well, we have them listed throughout the building and we have examples. We have a book. Actually, we’re putting out our first book this year for employees that talk about each of the different values and gives examples from the year. We actually stole this idea from Zappos.
They have a culture book. We thought it was fantastic so we’re implementing something like that. But I think by keeping it a living, breathing thing, where we’re talking about it, it’s not just a statement. We believe that bravery can be interpreted in different ways and how you exhibit that.
Maybe it’s with a vendor, maybe it’s with a customer, a very tough customer that called in and is difficult to deal with and how these core values can show up in different aspects of the business.
Josh: Yeah, I’m going to encourage you strongly to put a clarifying statement around each of your core values and let me tell you why. I actually do this exercise every time I lead a workshop. I put people in groups of eight to 10. I give them a word that they all know the meaning of, or at least they think they know the meaning of.
Now they have them write down 10 words which are synonyms of the word we’re talking about. It could be trust. It could be vending. It could be money. It could be any of those things. Then they have everybody compare their lists and see how many all have the same word on the list. It’s never more than two.
It’s usually zero, or one. So, what that has taught me, I actually got that from Tony Robbins. I think it’s a great exercise he used to do all the time. I don’t know if he still does it. What I’ve learned is that we all have what we think is true about a particular word unless there’s a definition on it, not everyone’s on the same page. It’s great to have all the examples. I think that’s a wonderful thing to do. At the same time, values can be really good teaching tools.
So if you have bravery, and you have a clarifying statement around it, and you have somebody who’s not being brave, you can bring them to that clarifying statement that says, “Here’s what we’re talking about and in here’s why this is important. Now, do you understand that?”
They will either say yes or no. Bravery is a pretty—we sort of known since being brave and not brave, although I think we could get into a lot of argument about that by just using the word. Some people bravery is trying, in other people’s bravery is getting out of their comfort zone.
To me, those are two very different things. They can be interpreted differently. So, if I was to say bravery at— you know, Sarah, is getting out of your comfort zone and for somebody else, bravery means trying. He said, “No, trying is not being brave here. Getting out of your comfort zone is brave.”
That’s why I think it’s so important to really have that. I became values obsessed in 1982. The reason it came, it happens, I was the worst manager of all times. I realized that values were important in the value that I was trying to exhibit, which I did not exhibit up to that point was personal responsibility, which for me means I don’t blame, I don’t justify, I take responsibility for everything that happens in my life whether I can control it or not. That’s just for me.
Now, for a company, we just say, “We take responsibility for everything that happens within our company, period. It doesn’t leave any room for excuses which I hate.
Anyway, here’s my soapbox for why clarifying statements are so important. Once you do that, then you get to build pillars around that which are, things of support, whatever those values are. They become really easy, good tools to work with. There’s my free advice is worth, don’t you? Not much.
Let’s talk about your company for a while. How did you guys—you left Corporate America which is a pretty brave thing to do. Then you start up your own startup company. What was the biggest roadblock you faced getting your company started?
Josh: Okay. How’d you get past the fear?
Elyse: Yeah, so I think there wasn’t one direct path, but I think for me, writing down my fears was a big part of it so I’m a big fan of journaling. I feel like it’s a way for me to interpret what I’m internalizing and recognize it. I think that’s half the battle, especially with fear is sometimes we don’t even admit to ourselves that we are scared.
What it came down for me was the fear of failure, fear of what people might think of me, fear of the unknown. Once I kind of got all that down on paper, I was able to sort of start checking off, “Okay, well, that’s not that bad. That’s not that bad.” If you can be more tangible with the fears and so that was the biggest hurdle. Then really figuring out what we wanted to do. My business partner, and I had both spent about 15 years in the eye care industry.
We knew we wanted to stay in healthcare, but we weren’t set on what kind of products that we wanted to create so figuring that out was probably the second biggest hurdle.
Josh: Did you go to the marketplace to figure that out? Did you just bring it to the marketplace and say, “Here it is.”
Elyse: Yeah. I’m a fan of letting the market tell you what it needs, and then go building something to fulfill that void. I’ve seen it done the other way, build something great, creative and then try to push—
Josh: From the Steve Jobs school.
Elyse: I’m not and so we spent the first three months just talking to doctors. Any doctor that would take a lunch, breakfast, and dinner coffee with us, we would take that 15, 20 minutes with them. We had a series of questions sort of like market research that we would ask.
At the end, we would always ask, what is something that is a common condition that patients come in complaining about that you think should be able to be treated at home, but there is just no good remedy. Earwax impaction was something that plagued the elderly and children and everybody in between. We talked to pediatricians, geriatricians, regular GPS.
Earwax impaction is the number one reason that hearing aids failed to work properly. It can lead to delays in auditory development in young children. It’s just a nuisance for people sort of in between those stages of life where they feel like they’re losing their hearing because wax is just jam down in there, but nothing existed over the counter that actually worked.
We took that as our first target and spent about nine months in a lab here in Texas. We had local doctors sending us human ear wax that they would extract from patients and put in a little test tube and mail it off to us. We figured out how to dissolve it down.
Josh: Is that what your product does? You just put it in and it dissolves earwax?
Elyse: That’s what our first product does? Yes, Earwax MD. It dissolves wax in about 15 minutes and then you rinse the ear canal just with warm water. Because once you dissolve it, you got to get it out.
Josh: Right. That’s pretty cool. I might have to try it myself.
Elyse: Yeah, well, I’m looking at your earbud or your air pod. With the increased use of devices in our ears, it actually is increasing the rate of impaction. Because when we stick something in our ear, it’s pushing that wax further down. You probably are like most people, you pull that air pod out and you look at it, you’re like, “Oh, what’s that on that?”
Maybe you have pristine ears.
Josh: No, no, no, I have a pair of custom headphones I had made for me. About every 10 days, I have to spend 15 minutes cleaning them.
Elyse: Right, right?
Josh: It’s disgusting. That’s all there is to it.
Elyse: Imagine playing with that in the lab and having to—
Josh: You’re a brave person.
Elyse: My business partner did more of that.
Josh: Okay, is your product patented?
Elyse: Yes. Our first product is patented. We filed the patent in 2016. We had it granted this year so it takes a while.
Elyse: Thank you.
Josh: Are you guys funded with outside money? Or is it all your own money?
Elyse: The first year we used our own money and then we won $50,000 in a business pitch competition, which we use to run a human clinical trial. Once we had proof of concept and some clinical data, then we went to raise money from angel investors. We raised 1.2 million in the first round and about 800,000 in the second round. So about 2 million total and then we are profitable now.
Josh: What is your exit strategy for your investors?
Elyse: Our exit strategy is to sell to a larger multinational strategic that could take these products and take them around the world. They’ve already got the infrastructures built in place. They’ve already got retail distribution around the world. We’re focused right now just on building that US business.
Then it’ll be time to sell it off. We’re kind of building out product lines so that we could sell off ear care. We’re about to enter the nasal category. That could be a separate business that we continue to grow if we sell one off, but that’s the plan. We’ll see if that happens or not.
Josh: If you sell one of your [inaudible 00:18:35] off and keep the rest of it, do you cash out your investors and become totally private at that point?
Elyse: I mean, that would be one scenario. We don’t have anything locked into place. It kind of depends on what products are left at the time. That’ll be a negotiation.
Josh: That makes sense. If you give somebody, I hate this question, I’m going to ask it to you anyhow.
Elyse: Why not?
Josh: It’s one of those days, what can I say? So, if you have one piece of advice to give us somebody who was going to run a business, it has been in business for 20 years or so, and is sort of stuck. What would that one piece of advice be?
Elyse: Okay, so advice to somebody that’s been in business for 20 years or the one that started a new business?
Josh: Yes. No, that’s been in business for 20 years. Someone’s been in business for a long time and they’re kind of stuck, what will be the one thing you might tell them that could help them get unstuck.
Elyse: For us that has been to not be afraid to ask for help or to ask for outside opinions, I believe that nobody builds a business alone. Especially if we’ve been in our business and sort of focused for so long, we kind of can lose sight of potential opportunities that are on the periphery. It’s nice to have other people’s opinions or ideas.
A lot of business owners get closed off to other people’s ideas. They think they know it all. Reality is nobody ever knows at all. I’m part of several different business networks. YPO is one of them. Conscious capitals another one. I love those resources.
Josh: Did YPO changed their membership requirements? Because it used to be 50 employees back when I was in YPO.
Elyse: No, there’s not an employee requirement at this point. It was more revenue requirements.
Josh: What’s your revenue requirement these days? Just out of curiosity?
Elyse: I believe its 10 million, but I think it’s different for different industries.
Josh: Yeah, banking has sort of weird rules with it. Back when I joined IPO in the dark ages, it was 50 employees and $5 million, but that was 1983.
Elyse: Yeah, things change. With private equity now, it’s totally different. It’s kind of depends on the business you have.
Josh: Yeah, YPO is a great organization. I was a member. I am a big, big fan of peer to peer groups. If you get a chance, this is just a little bit off thing. If you can find the manual for moderator training that YPO uses and use it at your own peer to peer group, you will have a much better peer to peer group.
YPO does the best training for peer to peers of anybody in the country. I’ve talked to dozens of others and nobody comes close. Elyse, unfortunately, we are out of time. I’ve had a good time wanting you all over the world. I’m going to bet and you’re going to say, “Well, she’s kind of interesting thing. I think I might want to find her.” How would they do that?
Josh: I will be doing that myself. I have something I would like you to do also. I’ve been kind of obsessed with I call the sale ready company. By the way, a sale ready company does not mean you’re going to sell your company. Let me repeat that. You are not going to sell your company. You are going to have your company ready for sale, which is a completely different thing.
When you have a sale ready company means you’ve created a company somebody else would want to own. But when you do that, you’re not likely to sell it because you’re making too much money and having too much fun. So, I wrote an eBook on how to create a sell ready company.
It’s easy to get you go to http://sustainablebusiness.co/saleready. You can get our eBook on The Eight Steps it takes to Sell Your Company. This is Josh Patrick. We’re with Elyse Stoltz Dickerson. You’re at Cracking the Cash Flow Code. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to Cracking the Cash Flow Code where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?”
If you’ve liked what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 extension 102, or visit us on our website at www.sustainablebusiness.co, or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening and we hope to see you at Cracking the Cash Flow Code in the near future.