Staying Sane While Starting Up: Medical Courier Entrepreneur Derrick Miles, On Mogul Watch

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed. Photo provided

Derrick Miles left a career as a sought-after healthcare executive to become an entrepreneur, carving out a niche in the medical courier market.

The experience didn’t kill him and gave him the desire to create a service that helps people.

Founder and CEO of CourMed, Miles and his team deliver medical products on demand. Patients and healthcare organizations can use the service to track proof of delivery and have video consultations on items being delivered.

We have a lot of stay-at-home moms and dads that drive for us, veterans and retirees who would have a level of empathy that goes beyond what your typical driver has who works at on-demand delivery.

Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed.

Years of experience as a sought-after executive helped Miles quickly form partnerships and clients in the industry while maintaining a five-star rating in customer service.

But it wasn’t easy. Miles found that the Black startup experience can be so isolating, and the challenges, so daunting, he admits he once considered suicide.

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The healthcare industry is ripe for disruption as consumers turn to telemedicine for healthcare. How people receive their medical equipment and supplies is part of the equation. The medical courier market was valued at around $4.2 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $6 billion by 2026, according to the Credence Research Medical Courier Market Growth, Future Prospects, and Competitive Analysis, 2018 – 2026.

Miles spoke with Moguldom about his experiences banking while Black, things that cause a startup to fail and how to overcome the mental anguish of starting a company.

I was such a failure when I first started as an entrepreneur. I was coming out of corporate America as one of the highest-recruited healthcare executives. Turning into an entrepreneur, all I was doing was failing. I had gotten so discouraged I thought about taking my life. I decided if I was going to create something, it was going to be a product that encouraged people.

Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed.

Moguldom: Why did you start CourMed?

Derrick L. Miles: I saw an opportunity to really add value in the healthcare space. Generally, the industry is 10 years behind what is cutting edge. I saw where we could come in and provide a lower-cost solution to hospitals and pharmacies, as well as open up the system to transparency by allowing customers to see in real time where their deliveries are located. The foundation of everything we do is always customer service.

Moguldom: When did you start CourMed? And how many team members do you have today?

Derrick L. Miles: We started on May 15, 2015. Today we have close to 65 drivers here in Dallas-Fort Worth who pick up all sorts of things for us from prescription meds to vitamins, supplements, eyewear, natural medicine, you name it. If its healthcare related and it can be delivered to the home, we deliver it.

The first time I received an investment check. I went to cash it at the bank and they accused me of fraud. I had to prove it was real and I was innocent. People just didn’t believe that I could raise money. I don’t know what that was about, although I have a clue.

Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed.

Moguldom: What were some of the challenges when launching?

Derrick L. Miles: One of the things to happen was the first time I received an investment check. I went to cash it at the bank and they accused me of fraud. I had to go through this process to prove it was real and I was innocent. They initially said, “We don’t believe you. Take your money out of our bank.” I was like, “OK, cool.” Once I started raising money, I just got to the point I would say to investors, “Don’t give me a check. I’ll just give you the information and you can send the money electronically.”

I would say that experience was difficult for me to handle at first. People just didn’t believe that I could raise money. I don’t know what that was about, although I have a clue what it was about. If I didn’t have such great relationships with the people who invested with me, I probably would have lost some investors. The bank actually made me give them the phone number of my investor and they called him to verify that he invested in the company. They made all these accusations and it was a horrible experience caused me a lot of hesitation. But as far as doing the software and all the other things for CourMed, because we’re experienced healthcare executives and former executives, we have relationships and the know-how, and years of experience. The operational process of starting out wasn’t as difficult for us and we were able to keep the expenses down versus someone in their 20s learning their way through the startup process. The challenge for us was actually raising the money and being able to move forward in that way.

Moguldom: You started an investment group, TMB Equity Partners, in 2009. Is CourMed the only company your group is currently invested in?

Derrick L. Miles: Yes, we truly believe in being myopic, and putting all of our force behind one to get movement. But we have some others we’re looking at post-liquidity event. But as of right now, we’re putting all of our eggs in the CourMed basket because we have some really good national partners to help us scale. And one of the goals within TMB Equity Partners is to reach liquidity event within five years, and we probably have about 18 months to go.

As far as doing the software and all the other things for CourMed, because we’re experienced healthcare executives and former executives, we have relationships and the know-how, and years of experience.

Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed.

Moguldom: Since starting CourMed, you invested in other companies. What were those companies?

Derrick L. Miles: They all failed and nothing to write home about what. I had a conversation with another hospital administrator that became a private equity guy, and he was like, “Derrick, it only takes one. One winner can change your life.” So today, we feel that CourMed is that one winner. And that’s why we’re putting so much force behind it right now.

We were very focused on finding the right board … people with a high net worth. When we got in a crunch, it was our board who came up with the additional monies to fund software.

Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed.

Moguldom: Thanks for sharing how the other companies failed. Often times people think that just because they get an infusion of cash from a VC, their business is automatically going to succeed. There are so many other issues and factors that come into play. In regard to those companies that you invested in that did fail, what would you say was perhaps a common thing that created the failure of those other companies?

Derrick L. Miles: I’m so happy you asked that question. You’ve got to have a board of directors for your company. The companies that failed didn’t have a board. For CourMed, we were very focused on finding the right board of knowledgeable people with a high net worth. We were looking for people who brought in a household income north of $500,000. So that way, they definitely met the accredited investor requirement. But also, just when we got in a crunch, it was our board who came up with the additional monies to fund software or whatever we needed for business development. I will say the biggest benefit is to have a board of directors with resources. For CourMed we looked at people we knew are experts in the healthcare space and said this is something we should all go in on collectively. I believe that has been the major difference between what has failed and what is helping CourMed to succeed right now – the board of directors.

I don’t see CourMed’s name being around in five years. I do see the platform being used nationwide. We’re in discussions right now with a national hospital chain.

Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed.

Moguldom: What have been some notable wins since starting CourMed?

Derrick L. Miles: Our corporate partners, McKesson, a No. 6 Fortune 500 company, is our No. 1 vendor. We work with AmerisourceBergen, and we have a partnership with the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs). On the driver side, we have a partnership with QuikTrip, Chick-fil-A, and Nike. I worked at a nonprofit doing corporate partnerships before I started CourMed. I already knew how to build partnerships which helped us get a lot of momentum going early, especially when compared to most startups.  Additionally, our drivers have been maintaining a five-star rating for over 14 months.

Moguldom: What do the next five years look like with CourMed?

Derrick L. Miles: We’ve already had discussions with some major healthcare companies about acquiring CourMed. I don’t see CourMed’s name being around in five years. I do see the platform being used nationwide. We’re in discussions right now with a national hospital chain. And they like it, so I believe it will be acquired by one and it will be nationwide.

Moguldom: How much money have you raised thus far?

Derrick L. Miles: Around $300,000 to get us from nothing to where we are today.

Moguldom: You mentioned that your drivers have five-star ratings. How do you pick a good team to be able to deliver that type of customer service? How do you go about finding the right team members to help execute the vision of the company?

Derrick L. Miles: It all comes back to the foundation that we’re very clear on with why we exist, and it is to encourage the customer. Yeah, we get paid to pick up delivery and make the delivery. But the end result is that we want that patient to have an encouraging experience. One of the reasons I started CourMed was because I was such a failure when I first started as an entrepreneur. I was coming out of corporate America as one of the highest recruited healthcare executives to help turn things around. Turning into an entrepreneur, all I was doing was failing. I had gotten so discouraged at one time I thought about taking my life. But I got three phone calls from people that said, “Derrick, I just felt you need to be encouraged.” And from those three phone calls, I decided I wasn’t going to take my life and if I was going to create something, it was going to be a product that encouraged people. And we’re very clear with every driver that’s the purpose of why we exist. The type of drivers we recruit is a little bit different. We have a lot of stay-at-home moms and dads that drive for us, veterans, and retirees who would have a level of empathy that goes beyond what your typical driver has who works at on-demand delivery companies.

A startup is always evolving. You throw a lot on the wall to see what will stick. What we found is a number of people who come from corporations have been working in the same area for so long, it’s been like they’re on cruise control. Moving in a startup is difficult for them.

Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed.

Moguldom: You touched on mental health of entrepreneurs. I had this conversation with a founder a week ago about how building a business can isolate you from other people. When you become an entrepreneur and the people around you are not entrepreneurs, they don’t understand the struggles. They don’t understand what it’s like to have to wait on invoices or fire employees. In their mind, they think you’re just complaining. Some will even say, “why don’t you just go get a job?”  Entrepreneurs feel lonely and struggle with how to cope. Some want to end it all — and not just their business. How do you overcome that feeling?

Derrick L. Miles: Well, for me, I have a close-knit group of entrepreneurs that I’m with, and they’re older than me. I get to pull a lot from their experiences. What I’m going through, they’ve already been there. I said the next person we hire within CourMed must have experience with meeting payroll. If you work in corporate America you don’t know what is like to meet payroll as an entrepreneur, right? And that’s the type of people we want to bring in — those whose experiences we can pull on. Also, working for a startup has a different type of skillset. A startup is always evolving and is dynamic. You throw a lot on the wall to see what will and will not stick. And what we found out is a number of people who come from corporations have been working in the same area for so long, it’s been like they’re on cruise control, and moving in a startup is different or difficult for them.

From a mental health perspective, I clearly understand the struggle. Coming out of corporate America, I didn’t understand the struggle. I didn’t have 1,000 people anymore to help me turn around the organization, it was just me. I was everything. And that pressure made me consider that act. But now I’ve experienced a lot more success and I have a lot more experience. I have mentors and the relationships in place that I wouldn’t ever consider doing that ever again.

Moguldom: What can we do to help entrepreneurs, especially in the Black tech community where our culture doesn’t talk about mental health as much as we should? What should we do to counteract those feelings which could lead to suicide?

Derrick L. Miles: Get out of the office. There’s a beautiful thing about being able to do your work anywhere. We can live anywhere. If I wanted to move back to the Tampa Bay area and run CourMed out of the Dallas market, I can do that. Entrepreneurs should consider getting out and going to a co-working space just to be around other people. If I focus on the payroll for four hours straight, I know when I finish, I have to go out. I have to leave the office. I have a couple of buddies I can call to go have breakfast or lunch with if I need a strategic planning session to talk things out. Spend time with others who encourage you and reduce the relationships with people who discourage you. If it’s not a person that I feel encouraged to be around, then I’m not spending time with them.

Entrepreneurs should consider getting out to a co-working space just to be around other people. I have a couple of buddies I can call. Spend time with others who encourage you and reduce the relationships with people who discourage you.

Derrick Miles, founder and CEO of medical courier company CourMed.