Healthcare is a place of unlimited opportunity for those who are able to see it and seize it. Principle Health Systems board member and shareholder Chris Light is one such go-getter. When he quit his insurance sales job in 2010, he spent the next decade jumping from opportunity to opportunity in the healthcare industry. From being a regional sales manager at Millennium Health, Chris went on to establish a succession of specialized healthcare services firms – Green Light Medical, Harvest Labs, TW Safety and Concord Life Sciences. He eventually settled at Principle Health, where he plans to stay for a while and finally see something grow. He shares this interesting journey in this interview with Samuel Gbadebo. With his unique combination of experience in both insurance and healthcare, Chris also offers an interesting perspective on incentivizing healthcare as a solution to the health insurance dilemma.
I have a guest that is unique, enterprising, and embodies the whole go-getter mindset attitude. His name is Chris Light and he’s a Board Member and Shareholder of Principle Health Systems. They’re an organization that operates multiple entities in healthcare from physician practices, to labs, to surgery centers, and even some pharmacies. What I like about this episode though, and what you’re going to see in the interview, is Chris talks about how he got to where he is. He started in insurance sales. When he got into medical sales, his medical sales career is what opened him up to all the opportunities that he then went on to pursue and get to where he is. It’s pretty fascinating because he captures the essence of staying aware, keeping your eye on the prize of where can I take things next. It’s an interesting episode. We even get into some perspectives on healthcare and how his career as an entrepreneur in healthcare has molded him to start to focus on wanting to do what he believes can be great solutions for some of the world’s biggest problems. Enjoy the episode. It’s good stuff and I hope you learn a lot from it.
Chris, how are we doing?
Very well. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for coming. This is Chris Light. He’s the Founding Board Member at Principle Health Systems. We’re going to talk about his career and get into some things regarding the medical sales industry. Chris, once again, thanks for showing up. Let’s get right into it. Tell us who you are.
I’m Chris Light. I’m originally from Florida and I live in Houston, Texas, and my day-to-day job right now is I have a couple of business partners in a company called Principle Health Systems. It’s a diverse medical company with a handful of businesses underneath it.
What does Principle Health Systems do? Give me some context.
We own a handful of ancillary businesses and then we also purchased an interventional pain physician practice. In the State of Texas, we have a practice. We have a couple of laboratories, a couple of pharmacies, a DME business, a diagnostic EMG mobile business, a stake in a surgical center and that covers it.
What’s the goal? What’s the mission statement with Principle Health Systems? What are you trying to do?
Our tagline is a personalized service precision medicine. If you asked us what our goal was, we’re not going after the precision medicine from a cancer standpoint, which is typically what people think about that. We’re more along the lines of providing a level of service to let the physicians practice precision medicine. I would say we got into this on the ancillary side we got into ownership of a practice. If I told you our 5 or 10-year goal, there’s a lot of consolidation as in healthcare from the standpoint of most physicians now work for a hospital system where it wasn’t that case many years ago. We are growing that practice and evolving into a true health system. We always tell people we’re like a health system without the hospital. Probably our goal is to become that and give physicians a place where they’re not necessarily an employee, like most of our big hospital systems that we see, but to be true partners.
Who is your typical customer? Who’s your first touchpoint when it comes to growing the business?
On the ancillary side, we have a large focus on musculoskeletal doctors. Our number one customers are A-list customers, as you would call them, what’s going to be any orthopedic, neurosurgery, podiatry, and interventional pain specialist. Now we serve some other specialties outside of that, but that’s our call points.
The reason why it’s great to hear this is because you started as a sales rep. Take us back to childhood. What did you envision your life being? What did you want, if anything, and then, take us to college?
When I was little, I wanted to play professional baseball for a living. Obviously, that didn’t pan out. My dad was a salesman. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in school, but I figured something along those lines. I’ve been motivated to have a strong career early on. I knew I was going to be a much career-driven person. I didn’t know how I was going to be in sales, but I ended up getting a job in my senior year of college. I was managing a gym. A gentleman who worked at the gym offered me a job when I was a senior. I ultimately finished night school and worked during the day for him. That ended up being in insurance sales. That was technically my first job in sales. He started to teach me that.
You had this job before college, right?How do you achieve your goals? Just get up and go after them. Click To Tweet
Yes. During my senior year of college, I finished school in night classes so that I could work.
Your first job out of college, what was that?
I had the same job. He hired me and said, “During school, I’ll start teaching you everything that you can know. When you finish school, move you into the sales role.” This is what I did.
That was Creekmore Insurance Group?
Tell us what happened next. After Creekmore, you got your insurance experience. You got some sales experience. What did you want to do after that?
Honestly, I envisioned myself being in insurance. I still think that’s a good career for a lot of people. I would tell myself like, “I’m going to have a brokerage like this.” The gentleman that I worked for was incredibly successful. Nothing more than you could ask for most people. There was a string of instances that happened. I had a friend that I went to school with who worked for the company that I went to work for. I was casually talking to her, telling her some of the things that I was thinking about, and she’s like, “You should come to work for this company. It’s an amazing opportunity.” She was like, “Don’t take the interview if you’re not going to take the job.” I did it and then left.
Was that Millennium Health?
Yes. I moved from Florida to Arizona.
It wasn’t much that you were thinking you have to work in this space of Millennium Health. You were more so exposed to an opportunity. It sounded good and you took it.
I used to joke all the time and say, “You sell toothpicks and make money off some toothpicks.”
Tell us when you got into Millennium Health, what was that experience like? First of all, tell us what you did there and then what the experience was like.
I started as a customer service rep. When resigned, I was a regional manager for Texas and Louisiana. We sold toxicology testing. Therapeutic drug monitoring is what they used to call it, but at the end of the day, it was urine toxicology. It was primarily marketed toward physicians who write opioids and it’s still used heavily to this day. You’re doing a urine test for two reasons. One, in an addiction standpoint, to make sure there are no drugs in a system. Two, I prescribed you opiates and benzos, so I want to make sure that those are the only drugs in your system and that the drugs that I prescribed are in your system. That was pretty much it.
What took you to your next step? You talked about you went into entrepreneurship after that. How did you even make that transition? It was Millennium Health. You were selling toxicology testing, then what?
I would say a few things. I did well in sales at Millennium, so I ended up in President’s Club and then I got promoted. When I got promoted, a good salesman doesn’t have to work 80 hours a week. I had a manager who was onboard with that and not that I didn’t work. We were one of the top reps. I would say 35 hours a week, but we were crushing sales. I got promoted. I felt like I started working 70 overnight and lived on the road, running with reps, taking corporate calls all night, living in a hotel. I was only a manager for three months because I quit. I had always told myself I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I grew up idolizing entrepreneurs. It got to a point where I was like, “I’m going to do it.” It happened.
I tried to take my manager with me. Originally, I thought he was going to. This is going to go in public. He may hear this. He didn’t come the night before that. The night before he was like, “I’m not going to leave.” I was like, “I’ve told everybody that I know that I’m leaving. I’m out. I’m not turning back.” I would say it was largely spurred by the company that we worked for got red tape and corporate, which is a great thing if you own the company. It’s not for me and for as an employee. I felt like things were changing and I was going to jump at an opportunity.
How did you create this opportunity then with GreenLight Medical? Did you have it brewing? Was it something that you decided to put together when you were certain you were leaving? How did they come about?
Nothing special. We have a sales team now. The mark of a good sales rep is someone who goes beyond their product and helping their providers. I didn’t create Facebook. The product that existed elsewhere. By trying to be a resource to physicians, I had directed people to this product. They didn’t know who I was or nothing I got paid for. I saw an opportunity to be like, “I can create a product like this. I’ve got great relationships. Hopefully, I can make it a little bit better from the standpoint of the customer experience.” That’s ultimately how it happened. I was a competitive product I was familiar with.
How long would you say from deciding to leave or knowing when you were going to leave to having a product that you can sell and sustain yourself with? What was that time span?
Pretty quick. I was only a manager for three months and I wasn’t even thinking about quitting for the first month or two because you’re excited to be in a new role and moving up the ladder. I’ll also add that they presented us with a new non-compete that was required. It was seven pages long. It was a long one. That was probably the catalyst. Maybe a month. Once I quit, we hit the ground running quickly. I had a product live in2 to 3 months.
When you say we, so you already had some people you were starting to work with?
As far as from the business side?
From the founding side of GreenLight Medical?
No. I was the only owner of the product. I say we, I had a developer who is a buddy that I went to college with and he literally was doing it. He had a full-time job, so he built it on nights and weekends. Part-time he’d built the product for me and we launched it fairly quickly.
Yes. I had a one year non-compete from Millennium. I ultimately knew that I could get back into that business from the standpoint of the margins and the revenues were significantly greater than what I was doing at Greenlight, although it was still a good business. Once my non-compete had ended on the day we probably opened up the lab. I had been planning it for months and then on the day, we opened it up. To be honest, I don’t think I ever went back after my previous customers. I was super grateful for Millennium. It’s a huge life-changing job for me financially. I don’t think I ever approached any of my previous customers. Millennium helped me build Greenlight. I had tons of referrals from their sales team. I started a laboratory with two physicians. We started a laboratory with goals of trying to make it something special.
Walk me through the rest because you still had experiences at Concord Life Sciences and then finally, Principle Health Systems.
I had two partners. We had a partnership disagreement. I thought that I was deserving of more equity. I learned a lot about ego during that time. I was the main driver of the business. I was partnered with two physicians who had full-time jobs outside. The way we structured it, we were paid equally. I felt like I made them a lot of money in the process. They were involved, but not to the point where I was. I presented my case to become the majority partner. At first, it was well received and then it was not well received. I tried to buy them out. They decided they did not want to. I said, “You can buy me out. I’m going to go do my own thing.” We struck up an agreement. They bought me out and I left and the next month started Concord Life Sciences, which is the lab that I’m sitting in now.Take opportunities when they arise. Click To Tweet
When I hear your story, it sounds like at the end of the day, you’re someone that if an opportunity is presented and it makes sense, you’re going to take full advantage of it and you’re not going to let it get past you. Is that fair? How would you describe it?
No, that’s accurate. I feel like at this stage I could drown an opportunity. I try to stay more focused on growing something. I joked with my business partners. I’m like, “This is the longest job I’ve ever had.” I’m looking at something I’m like, “You could see how time and attention to one thing can grow.” I’ve never gotten to experience that. I would say I could drown an opportunity. I’m trying to be more focused.
For our audience, the time span from leaving Millennium to now is how long?
I resigned from Millennium in March of 2013.
Since then, you’ve jumped into opportunity after opportunity and you’ve leveraged it into bigger opportunities. What is the reason for that? What would you say sustained you to make that happen on a consistent basis? You wake up in the morning and you’re driven to go out and do this.
From a sales standpoint, it’s something that companies look for. Someone who wakes up and has that drive. I don’t know. It’s a tough question. I always tell people when I interview, “I can’t teach you to get out of bed and want to do it. I can teach you the product, but I can’t teach you to want to do it.” I feel like that’s in me, maybe that’s something that I was raised with. I’m 1 of 5. I wouldn’t say we all share that trait. I’m not sure. It’s like progress. You want more, you want to do better. You want growth. I don’t know if I have a great answer for that.
There’s no wrong answer. It’s your truth. That’s important for everyone to understand because you’ve created some amazing things, so it’s good to know what drives that. What you’re saying is that it’s the nature of who you were, which is why you were drawn to sales in the first place. That’s important for everyone to take note of.
Leadership in general is something that a lot of people, it’s much a nature versus nurture argument. Leaders wake up and they do it. I was the captain of a baseball team in high school that I didn’t start on. I’m like, “It’s a compliment,” but it’s like you’re not even good enough to start. At this point, I have a family. I have goals. I’ve always written down my goals. You wake up and you want to get out. It’s the same thing you’re doing. You get up and go after it.
Your focus has been in healthcare, but when you got into Millennium, it wasn’t necessarily because you want it to be in healthcare. It was because there was an opportunity and you took it. How has that shaped what you want to do? Is it that healthcare was a great business and it’s healthcare, so why not? Would you say that you have found this secret passion for healthcare specifically?
I did not get into healthcare because I want to help people. I’d be lying to you. Everybody says that I interview. That wasn’t the case for me. I remembered to the T, the lady said, “Why do you want to be here?” I said, “I want to make money.” That was it. I was like, “I’m sorry if you don’t like that answer.” She’s like, “I love it.” Now that I’ve been in healthcare, especially having a physician practice, it’s something that I call campfire talks when you’re having a beer solving the world’s problems. I think about that all the time and talk about it with my business partners and people we work with.
Healthcare is ripe for disruption in many different ways, but I also think it’s like the Titanic and to move it with some of the institutional, from how insurance works and all the whole nine, we’ll see lots of it chip away. It’s something about all the time. I’m passionate about that. Frankly, I would say it’s easier said than done in the insurance world that we live in to make those changes. You see things like Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon putting together these health systems. Those are out there. It remains to be seen how they show up, but there’s a lot of room for disruption in healthcare. I would say I’m passionate about solving a lot of healthcare’s problems.
With that being said, is there any you can share with us, some things that come top of mind when you think about that?
This will be controversial.
This is the whole point. You better speak your mind. We are listening.
In healthcare, from what I can see, we’re at a place whereas a provider of healthcare and healthcare services, not myself directly, but we have a clinic in healthcare services. More so than ever, we see insurance dictate what you’re allowed to have or what you’re allowed to receive or what surgeries are approved. Those checks and balances are in place for a reason because there’ve been lots of people who’ve abused their privilege. The balance is over skewed toward the insurance company of dictating that care. Beyond that, from a standpoint of cost of care, I personally think that the problem is not necessarily our health system, but it’s in having accountability from a standpoint of our personal selves.
There are things that we’re born with or things that we can’t necessarily plan for like catastrophic incidences, car accidents and things like that. The American way is McDonald’s and TV and no gym. We have a physician practice. The average person is obese. When the average person is not obese, things like pressure on joints, they don’t exist. To me, I always say it’s super controversial and I’m sure somebody will read this and tell me why that their thyroid is the reason that they can’t control it. I’m not here to say that that’s not true. By and large, we can impact or control our body mass index. That should go into the cost of insurance because there’s no incentive. If me and you are the same age, both male, both non-smoker, we pay the same, whether you weigh 400 pounds or 120 pounds. It’s the same cost. Incentivizing or penalizing people for that standpoint, most people there’s a repercussion, they’ll deal with it differently.
Let me make sure we all understand and I’m going to do my best to take what you’re saying and paraphrase. You’re saying that maybe if we incentivized your patients to say, “You particularly don’t have any ailments as far as why you’re overweight. You have an opportunity to change that. If you do, your insurance will be less. If you don’t, then that’s fine too, but this is what you’re going to pay.”
I’ll give you an example. I sold life insurance. The ratings, when you apply for life insurance, if you have life insurance, there’s preferred and super preferred. These are the healthy people, the least amount of risk, then there’s standard, which is like a C in school. You’re average. You’re within this substandard. These are all the ailments because you have a higher risk percentage of dying. You have double or triple the premium. It gets expensive because we’re allowed to do it legally. I’m a firm believer that most diseases are lifestyle diseases. I could have some of these same things too. I’m not saying it as an elitist. I’m saying it from the standpoint of the cost of medicine. That’s a big part of it.
You have an interesting perspective because you worked in the insurance game, so you have an insight that most of us do not have. You’re in a position now where you get to see the profile of a lot of different types of patients to the point where you can say, “I’m starting to notice that patients need more of an incentive.” My question with that is what are your physicians saying about this? Are they in agreement? Are they all over the place as far as some agree, some don’t, or are they in disagreement? Where do they stand?
This is anecdotal, but I’ve spoken to many physicians over the years. Most physicians who are in musculoskeletal, especially in chronic pain, and don’t get me wrong, we’ve got cancer survivors, failed back surgeries, amputated patients. We’ve got a lot of sick patients. I would tell you a lot of people would tell you without overweight, the clinic would be less profitable.
We can say it. This is a safe space to voice opinions. Our audience knows that we do everything we can to speak the truth here. We’re not here to filter our opinions and what we believe we experience.
Someone who’s lighter puts less pressure on their knees.
That goes hand in hand. You have a lot of providers that are in agreement with how you see it.
It’s anecdotal. This is nothing scientific.
What’s the reality of implementing something like this?
That’s difficult. We’re in a world where after Obamacare or whatever the health insurance reform that was implemented under Obama. It doesn’t allow discrimination. You’re effectively reversing legislation from that standpoint. That is going to put us on Capitol Hill and you won’t see me heading that way.
This is not an aspiration then?
No. We’ll play within the rules that I’m given.There is no better time than now to pursue your dreams. Click To Tweet
It’s an ambitious idea. I’m sure both sides can be argued. It can be argued well. That does bring me to my next question though. What do you see for the future? Before you answer that, that can be a nebulous question because it’s dynamic. Five years out, going along with this newfound principle you’re choosing to operate by focusing on one thing and seeing things. I’m seeing something playout for the long-term. Where would you like to be with this and maybe five years?
Our practice, when we took it over, it had five locations. We shut it down to three. It’ll expand rapidly. If I’m being aspirational, we’ll be the largest pain practice in Texas in five years.
This whole point is to talk about these things and to allow people to see what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it and having some attachment to the medical sales industry. It’s lovely to hear that you’re doing this and you came from that industry as well. If there’s something you can go back and tell yourself, maybe before Millennium Health, with all the information you know and all the things you’ve done with your career, what would that be?
I feel like I did it but take the chance on the opportunity. There are a lot of unknowns. I lived in multiple cities and some people are okay with that, moving to a city and not knowing anybody and chasing opportunity. I would’ve moved anywhere. I don’t know if I would necessarily change that, but as a word of advice to me, take opportunities when they arise. Sometimes they’ll be a little uncomfortable.
For our audience, it comprises all readers. Some people want to get into the industry in any field. Some people know exactly what fields. Some people are in the industry and they want to be a top performer or an executive. Some people want to get out and do something like you did. What’s some advice you would give to our readers about getting up and going after it? What’s something along those lines that you can share?
It’s important to know to have dreams. A lot of people stopped dreaming or have had dreams in the past. Goals and verbalizing those goals and even writing them down and knowing where you want to go, that’s vitally important. Not that it’s entrepreneurship for anybody. You can have a storied career in medical sales. There are seven-figure medical sales reps all over the place. It’s knowing what you want and not going to work from 9:00 to 5:00, but putting in the work and investing in relationships and networks and continuing education. To put yourself in a position where you have tools and relationships and networks that can’t be built in a day. Time is on your side. It’s like investing compounded interest. You can’t replace that. Starting now is the best time to start wherever you are now.
Chris, this was enlightening and we appreciate the time. Thanks again for taking it with us. We’re going to get back in touch and we’re going to have a part two to this because I got to see what we have more things to discuss regarding your ambitious plan that’s going to lead you to Capitol Hill. You’re saying it. You have nothing to do with it, but I can already see you there in some space doing something. We’ll continue this conversation. Thanks again, for coming to the show and I look forward to talking to you again.
I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
I told you that was going to be an interesting episode. We covered quite a bit of ground there. Chris got to enlighten us with his aggressive career in jumping on opportunities when they come. We can all take note of doing that. Especially if you’re someone that wants to get into the industry, take the opportunity. If you’re someone that wants to advance within the industry, take the opportunity. If you’re someone that wants to do something like what he did and leave the industry to go do your own thing, take the opportunity. I champion that to the nth degree. It’s inspiring and we should all be trying to do that. As far as the ambitious plans go with incentivizing healthcare, it’s not a crazy idea. Insurance does work that way. Insurance is critical for all of us.
We all need it. If they can do that so freely, why couldn’t it be applied to other scenarios, especially when dealing with healthcare? Am I a fan of it particularly? I can’t say that. Am I against it? I’m not even sure I can say that. I do think it’s nuanced. Being in the medical sales field, I’ve seen all types of things. I’ve seen patients that had no idea what was going on and they were compromised and I’ve seen patients that completely abused the God-given health they were given and did whatever they wanted to do in their own lives. I have also seen not just patients, but people that have other things going on. Food can be an addiction and it causes all problems that they don’t know how to deal with on their own. It can become a convoluted argument quickly.
To even propose it is bold and ambitious. Chris was coming from the perspective that a lot of us don’t have. A lot of us don’t have an insurance background and a lot of us aren’t running a health system and able to see the profiles of many different patients to even come to those conclusions. What I do like and what I want us to all walk away with that we can gain from this is to pay attention to the opportunities around you. Every day we experience opportunities and we have to design a life for ourselves that allows us to appreciate those opportunities and jump on them when they can serve places we want to be. Something else that Chris said that I’m going to propose as challenges as I always do is at the end of this episode, he said to keep on dreaming. People should continue to dream and hold onto their dreams. Don’t let them wither away.
I want to challenge everyone reading to do that. Whatever your dream is, especially the dream that, as you matured in life, you said, “I’m putting that one in the back.” I want you to find one that is still realistic, but you’ve maybe decided to ignore because you’re afraid that it cannot be a reality or you don’t want to embrace to going on a limb and taking that chance. I want you to think of whatever that dream is and play with it. Take the time to evaluate it and see if it’s something you still can’t bring to fruition.
It’s such an important thing for us to continue to dream. Even me being able to share all of these amazing guests with you that are doing all things within this industry and being able to provide a resource that helps people and excel within the industry. That stemmed from a dream. I didn’t start leaving college or even start my career wanting to do those things. I started to dream about those things and started to see what would that look like? Here we are. Regardless of scale, small scale, large scale, I challenge everyone to dream. If you want to share any of those dreams, feel free to go to the website www.EvolveYourSuccess.com at the bottom right you’ll see, “Send a voice message.” Leave a voice message about whatever your dream is. It can be 1 or 2-liner about what you’re dreaming of and what you want to accomplish. If you’re okay with it, we will share it on the show in a future episode.
I want to say thank you for reading the blog because if you are out there that love this information, love hearing from medical sales professionals that are doing all different things out there in their careers. You have allowed me to continue to prevent to bring you all of these resources and bring you all these stories and these interviews. I appreciate it. I sincerely appreciate that you appreciate it. I get comments all the time about how people are reading these blogs are getting some good insights and it’s helping them develop on their own.
If you’re looking to get into the industry, medical device, sales, pharmaceutical sales, genetic testing, sales, toxicology sales, then check out www.EvolveYourSuccess.com, take the assessment, get some insight on what you can do to get closer to that reality. We have some programs and medical sales career builder that will get you right on track, pair you with the right people, teach you the right things to get a position. If you’re looking to excel within your sales role, check out our website as well and check out the Sales Builder Program designed to help you excel within your sales role and truly operate as a high performer. That’ll be it and come back next time for another amazing guest with another amazing story to provide more amazing resources for you. Thank you again for reading the blog
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