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KEDGE Alumni | The Journey of a Physician-Turned-Entrepreneur

Date:2017-03-16 News From: Vistors:612

A story of growth and entrepreneurship of Zhao Yi, SJTU-KEDGE Global MBA Alumnus


Bachelor of Clinical Medicine, Nanjing Medical University;
Master of Business Administration, KEDGE-SJTU Global MBA;
Former clinical physician;
Former executive member in AstraZeneca, a world-renowned medical device manufacturer, as well as Medtronic, BARD, and Boston Scientific;
Established HeGrace Healthcare in 2015. Starting with emergency treatment training, He Grace found its way to rapid growth by offering comprehensive healthcare and emergency treatment solutions for major events, corporations and public facilities.

At the first sight, Zhao Yi gives an impression of a calm, cultured man with a somewhat bookish air. You may wonder if he is a doctor, a teacher, or a lawyer. All these seem more likely than the stereotypical entrepreneur, who acts like a flash and moves like a gust, making a splash at each appearance. Indeed, just as Zhao says, many people still feel he’s more like a physician than an entrepreneur. 

Why taking off the white coat and abandoning a high-paying career at foreign firms? What drives the pursuit of his startup dream? Let’s take a look at the story behind Zhao Yi, a physician-turned-entrepreneur. 

MBA Studies: a Window to the Business World
Before deciding to enroll in a business school to further expand his horizon, Zhao Yi had a wealth of field expertise in the healthcare industry with years of experience in managing the sales of medical devices. The MBA experience has given him the theoretical tools to verify his past experience and take them up to new levels. From financial to legal affairs, from marketing to e-business, the MBA modules offered Zhao Yi a panoramic view of the business world as if a detailed map was unfolded in front of him. This experience gave him the confidence to start his own business and the tools to assess and prepare for business risks. Exchanging ideas with fellow students with various industry background and different personal traits also brought him transformational changes both in terms of knowledge and mindset. 

Becoming an Industry Leader: a Hard-Earned Success within Two Years
In 2015, after two years as a surgeon and 13 years working in the sales division of foreign-owned companies, Zhao put his entrepreneurial ideas into practice and founded HeGrace Healthcare to offer specialized emergency healthcare treatment services. On the outset, he focused on first-aid training. Afterwards, seeing the popularity of mass sports events, HeGrace ventured into comprehensive emergency treatment solutions for major sports event organizers. Led by its strong business acumen, HeGrace started to provide remote medical checkup service for sports events since the first half of 2016. ECG is conducted on-site, and diagnosis is completed within minutes as data travels to and from the off-site ECG diagnosis center. This process has drastically reduced the complexity and inconvenience of existing checkup procedures. 

HeGrace has grown by leaps and bounds within less than two years since its establishment. The company secured angel investment in November 2015. By December 2016, it has completed series-A financing at the level of tens of million yuan. In 2016, HeGrace became an official partner of Shanghai International Marathon. In the same year, the first-aid service provided by HeGrace ranks first in terms of the number of people covered. 

Competition does exist, but very few companies manage to perform as well as HeGrace. Zhao attributes the company’s exceptional success to the outstanding professionalism and high standards for its products and services. “I keep emphasizing to my team that a good product rests at the core of our business. Without a good product, all the rest are merely bubbles bound to burst,” says Zhao.

For example, HeGrace was the first to introduce the concept of “two-minute emergency treatment” to the marathon market. In doing so, it sets a lofty standard for its own service, effectively creating a barrier demanding utmost professionalism in pre-event preparations, on-site coordination and systematic emergency responses. According to Zhao, many clients have taken such standards for granted, and so far not a single competitor has attempted to challenge those standards. 

In addition to healthcare for sports events, HeGrace also aspires to establish an efficient emergency treatment system for the society. It helps companies establish solutions for corporate safety and emergency treatment systems. Healthcare and emergency treatment risk assessment are conducted factoring in age distribution, types of work and other parameters. Then, based on assessment results, a customized emergency treatment system will be established, coupled with training and interfacing with specialized medical services.

With the advent of the Internet age, no one can afford to turn its back on the vast potentials of the Internet. Being no exception, HeGrace initiated an Internet project recently, which will remain a strategic focus in the next 2 to 3 years.

The Bumpy Ride of a Startup
Zhao Yi uses the metaphor of sea navigation to describe his career transformation. “Big companies are like huge vessels with lots of people focusing on different tasks. With a large displacement, these ships withstand all weather conditions by employing different techniques. They are able to prepare for and respond well in advance even to devastating typhoons. But once you start your own business you are all alone, paddling towards a faint beacon. Unable to respond properly, a tiny ruffle could be disastrous,” says Zhao.

“It is my dream that HeGrace will work equally well or even better if one day I am no longer with the company. This is where we are now striving to reach. It is also a sign of maturity for HeGrace. Perhaps I will eventually find the perfect work-life balance at that moment.”

“Dream, transparency, tolerance, speed and balance”—these keywords appear most frequently throughout the interview. Simple and sweet as they are, they probably sit right at the heart of Zhao’s personal philosophy.

Quick Q&A
1. What are your other lifetime goals?
For business, I hope HeGrace maintains its professionalism and leaning position, go public one day, and become a true industry leader. For family life, I hope I can allocate over 50% of my time for my family. 

2. What does learning mean to you?
Learning is part of my life. I think it is very important not just to me, but to everyone. It is not just about brushing up your knowledge, but it also means opening up your mindset and breaking your limits. Learning is fundamental for any achievement. Nothing comes without learning.

3. Who do you admire the most? 
I appreciate Jack Ma very much. He is very open-minded. He thinks out of the box. He is great at influencing people. He is a challenger, and he was able to lead the transformation of an entire industry. 

4. How do your friends describe you?
Many friends still feel that I am more like a doctor. People think I am open and tolerant. I have all kinds of friends. Some are really my confidants, and others are extraordinary in all different senses.

5. What is the one thing of your business partner that you absolutely cannot tolerate?
I put carefulness and professionalism on the top of my list. I do not appreciate sloppy clients.

6. What kinds of employees do you dislike?
First of all, I hope my employees are always ready to take responsibility. Secondly, I hope everyone has an open mindset, which is very important for startups. Innovating all by myself is far from sufficient. I encourage my employees to try hard and not be afraid of making mistakes.

I don’t like employees with negativity. One would face all kinds of difficulties in whatever job, so it’s not uncommon to feel down once in a while. However, we cannot let negativity take control, to the point that it affects our work or even influences the mood of other colleagues. Therefore, at HeGrace, we will try hard to build a team that is really proactive and dare to take on challenges.
7. What is your biggest strength?
I learn well. I am good at learning from different people and discovering the strength of others. This is also why so many people have become friends of mine.
I am also quite resilient. I am able to surmount tough situations where most would rather quit.

8. What is your biggest weakness?
I take a lot of time to make decisions. Sometimes, weighing too much makes me hesitant.

9. What makes a good leader in the current world?
First of all, you must be able to inspire people. As a leader, you need to guide and enlighten all your employees.
Secondly, you must be a strategist in planning your business and communicate clear targets to your team.
Thirdly, you must be able to build a great team, which is fundamental for a great company.
Finally, you must control risks and make sure certain bottom lines are never crossed.

Part-time Global MBA Highlights
Since 2002, KEDGE Business School has been cooperating with Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

1 Top MBA program. No.4 in Asia for full English EMBA (Financial Times EMBA Ranking, 2016).
2 Esteemed Schools with over a century's heritage.Shanghai Jiao Tong University founded in 1896,and KEDGE Business School founded in 1872.
3 International accreditations. China's first MBA to achieve 3 international accreditations from both partner institutions.

Part-time Global MBA Distinctive Features
Focus on your personal development and leadership
Highly diversified alumni network with over 30 nationalities
International study trip to explore new business opportunities

7 Majors (2 weeks) organized on different campuses:
Paris (Entrepreneurship) - Marseille (Innovation) - Shanghai (Global Management / Talent Management / Finance / Branding) - Bordeaux (Supply Chain)
2 International Majors (3 weeks travel abroad) - Wine & Spirits Management / Sustainable Change

EA-DBA Distinctive Features
Your path to a Doctorate - the highest educational credential possible
The first executive doctoral programme co-delivered by three of the top-ranked, fully-accredited Business and Management research institutions in Europe and Asia
Open the doors to numerous possibilities – a career transformation to academia or consultancy, or reaffirm your position in your current professional sector
Two EA-DBA tracks operating in parallel - 1) English Track 2) Chinese Track with English simultaneous translation
Personally apply your hard-earned lessons from the business world and contribute to the international, academic body of knowledge
Two postgraduate qualifications within three years (M.Sc. and DBA)

KEDGE Business School
No. 5 Business School in France (Challenge, 2016)
No. 22 EMBA in the world (Financial Times, 2016)

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