Upstate Entrepreneur Finds Risk Addictive

Upstate Entrepreneur Finds Risk Addictive

Specializing in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Solutions and Business Process Automation (BPA), Jeff Frankel is one of Upstate’s leading innovators who loves what he does and isn’t afraid to take a risk.

Jeff Frankel is a 4th generation, native Schenectadian who grew up in Niskayuna, NY. As an entrepreneurial leader in Upstate New York, his long history of starting and growing innovation companies proves he isn’t afraid of challenge – in fact, he welcomes risk!

Jeff is the Executive Vice President and Principal of docSTAR, a B2B software firm specializing in enterprise content management solutions and business process automation. His more than two decades of experience in corporate business development, including working with industry leading firms such as Authentidate Holdings Corp, Med-Flash, Health Focus NY, EFS Healthcare Group, PROS of Stratford and Ernst & Young, has guided his perspectives on streamlining business for improved efficiency and productivity.

But don’t let the resume fool you. Jeff is a ‘work hard – play hard’ type of guy. As he sits in his office along the beautiful Mohawk River, he’s proud to have cultivated a cool work environment at his high tech software company. “The team takes full advantage of the location and property, often working and collaborating outside. Just because we’re working on groundbreaking technology, doesn’t mean we can’t have fun doing it,” says Jeff.

docSTAR eliminates paper and streamlines business processes from within any department and across any business segment. Originally more of a product than a business, it was the flagship product of BitWise Designs also known as Authentidate, Inc. As the application continued to evolve throughout the 80’s and 90’s as a leader in the automation space, docSTAR was rebranded into a business unit in 1996.  

I had a chance to speak with Jeff about his career and how he has successfully disrupted several emerging industries, including the ECM and BPA markets. He believes what has made him so successful is knowing he’s not the smartest guy in the room, but instead by surrounding himself with smart people. “The end result is a group of team players who are consistently on the same page,” he says. And while he admits the team won’t always make the right decisions, Jeff is thankful to have made more than most with the support of others.

“Building a team starts with the person first and the business acumen second,” says Jeff. He believes when your gut tells you that you have the right person, you owe yourself, your business and the person, the opportunity to succeed or fail. Never one to burn a bridge, Jeff has experienced how cultivating these relationships creates more collaboration. “You never know when someone may resurface in another business setting,” he added.

Jeff saw this play out first hand after receiving what he calls the “worst advice in his career” from a person who he eventually hired! He had spent several years transforming his father-in-law’s medical supply business into a multi-location full service respiratory healthcare company, which was then sold to Lincare Corporation. He knew prior to the sale what he wanted to do next.

Jeff says healthcare has always been and remains a very labor intensive, compliance driven industry. “One of the many anomalies in healthcare is the amount of time it takes to obtain reimbursement for services rendered. In fact it takes an industry average of >80 days to obtain payment from Medicare/Medicaid. In order to bill for services, you must have a physician’s signature on file either in the form of a prescription or certificate of medical necessity,” he says. “The challenge is/was getting the physician to sign and send them in a timely fashion, which was never the case. We often sent employees to the physician’s office, week over week, waiting for these documents. Knowing this pain point, I developed a business plan around an e-prescribing platform. The challenge? To get healthcare professionals to adopt the solution.”

The next step in his plan was to call up a colleague and share his idea and strategy. His buddy and former employer at EFS Healthcare Group however wasn’t as excited – actually he wasn’t excited at all. He tried to convince Jeff that he was “crazy,” and that he didn’t have the resources or network to convince Medicare to accept electronic signatures. Being the go big or go home kinda guy that he is, Jeff hung up the phone more determined than before to take his plan to market.

“It was the perfect storm with President Clinton about to sign the e-signature bill into law. Combine this with the United States Postal Service Electronic Postmark (EPM) Initiative, and what I knew about the Healthcare industry and what the American Association for Homecare lobbyists were pushing about the e-signatures, and all the elements were aligned,” says Jeff.

In 2000 Jeff went from owning a multi-location respiratory business to becoming the founder of  startup – Web CMN (Certificate Medical Necessity). Through strategic acquisition in 2001, Web CMN became Trac Medical Solutions, a division of Authentidate Holding Corp. During the 2000-2001 transition period between the sale of the respiratory business, the startups of Web CMN and the imminent funding from Authentidate, Jeff tagged the one individual whom he could rely upon to take the interim CEO role. He called his friend and former employer back. Not to wave it in his face (well, maybe a little), but instead to get him involved. Jeff knew his friend had connections to Medicare and the compliance experience needed to bring credibility to the application. “See that? Trust your instincts and judgment!” he says laughing.

Together Jeff and his colleague captured the imagination of an entire industry with the CareCERT e-prescribing application. They went from concept, to development and ultimately implementation with many of the largest homecare providers in the United States.

Jeff says being an entrepreneur and taking these risks certainly isn’t for everyone. In fact, with each new venture he takes on, his wife asks him, “Why can’t you be more normal?” Jeff confesses he has no idea what this means. He says he loves what he does, and finds it addictive! “Whenever I even consider a more “normal” career path – the next opportunity comes along!”

He makes it sound so easy, right? Jeff assures me it’s not. He believes that building a brand is critical to the success of any company, and encourages young entrepreneurs to get involved on whichever social media channel drives the most business to your company.  More importantly, know your stakeholders and build relationships that drive opportunity.

“Your brand is who you are and what you do. If you’re not actively involved in social media networking and bragging about your business expertise, you’re not giving 100% to your brand or your business,” he insists. As a guest writer, Jeff has published hundreds of articles on Business Process Automation and Productivity Software. Each piece is aligned with what he does at docSTAR to elevate and build brand for his company. “Traditional media is not open to entrepreneurs, unless you’re a Fortune 100 company. Instead of pining for the cover of US News or Forbes, Upstate NY entrepreneurs need to be creative and look for other means to identify with readers that are potential buyers. I’d rather have 10 smaller publications with mid-range domain authority publish my story than one large,” he adds, “but Forbes would be awesome!”

Jeff feels in general Upstate founders need to connect and collaborate more with “entrepreneurs who have the battle scars and win/loss stories.” These are the people with the knowledge and experience, he says, who can help take an idea, shape it into a business, and even more importantly, succeed! “It’s all about sharing information,” says Jeff.

As for what Jeff dreams about at night? He’d like to start a company with his wife and three sons but he’s not sure his wife will let him. And he wouldn’t turn down the chance to collaborate with Jack Nicklaus, because he loves golf.

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