LAQ: Shannon Pierce of New Ocean Health Systems

June 14, 2018


Upon graduation from Clemson University's College of Nursing with honors, Shannon Pierce began her career as a critical care nurse. It was during her tour of delivering frontline care, that Pierce bore the idea for a platform that enabled the accurate collection and storage of clinician data to be accessed for enhanced communication. Upon turning this idea into a business venture, Pierce now serves as company founder and member of New Ocean Health Systems (formerly CareCam). In addition to this, Pierce has served as an advisor and participant in economic development conversations across the Upstate of South Carolina, and as a consultant to a number of companies in a variety of capacities, including, most recently, Leavitt Partners. As such, she has been instrumental in a number of policies and national discussions on the national healthcare system, its challenges and opportunities. She currently volunteers with students, entrepreneurs, health systems and economic development agencies to inspire others to pursue their biggest dreams, but her proudest accomplishment remains her family: her husband Olly, who is also a small business owner, and their adult sons, Evan and Aidan.


Who was your first hire? Why?

Michael Hrebenak - a Georgia Tech student and Star Trek fanatic who worked with me for months to create system requirements for a $400k IT build. I needed someone who could translate for the multifaceted developers. I like to work with people who are very different from me and each other - it is a great way to run a lean and effective shop. 


He slept in my son’s room, and I fed him a foot long sub a day - and he was grateful. When you accomplish big things together, give credit where credit is due and pay the best you can, people will give all they have. We had fun.


What was it like the first time you had to fire someone?

Business is business. I’m able to severe ties if desired results are not achieved. It is not personal.


I worked as a virtual company until we did a 10mm raise. Until then I worked with folks contractually for deliverables and could start and stop engagements at anytime. There are folks I still work with that way who remain some of my favorite people and best friends.


In 2013, I was required to fire a very good and effective employee. It was political and not professional. It pained me beyond words. I wrote a great recommendation and helped her with subsequent job placement. She up-leveled immediately and her career continues to thrive. When things are out of my control, I have learned to let go and remember there is a bigger picture.


People say that at the end of the day, being the head of a startup is lonely because you don’t have someone to actually relate to. Do you feel that is true? Why?


I would not say lonely. I would say self isolation happens in order to accomplish what must be done. I would have not achieved anything if I did it alone. My family, friend and colleagues have been crucial each step along the way.  I believe people pleasing and success are mutually exclusive in a start up ecosystem. Though I’ve had great support, there are times I’ve had to stand alone to achieve necessary and lasting results.


What is the worst part of starting your own business?

The lows can be really low. When you doubt yourself it can be detrimental. Recognizing the difference between my personal principles and preferences is key. I can be pliable when it comes to my preferences while my principles must remain intact.


Regardless of how good or bad it is, I do my best to remember...”this too shall pass”.


A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in the worrying about things like logos. What is your best advice for them to be really worrying about?


Know what outcomes you are trying to achieve. Focus on achieving necessary milestones on time and under budget. Process and product are more important than the props.


I care more about the roots than the foliage. Be sure your foundation and fundamentals are in place. There are many distractions that can distract from your ultimate deliverables. Having said that, a strong strategic plan is important. It makes sense to measure twice and cut once so when you can include good branding and marketing from the get go, it may help you do more with less. But your company colors will not be what makes or breaks you. 


What is the one company that you wanted to start, but never did?


My brothers and I wanted to test and grade the world’s rollercoasters and get paid for it. I think someone has beat me to it. 

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