“What Happens When You Fall Into A Swamp Full Of Alligators While Chasing A Naked Patient”
Words of Wisdom with Alex Pollak, CEO of ParaDocs Worldwide
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Pollak, the CEO of ParaDocs Worldwide Inc., an event medical company specializing in music festivals, stadiums, and private venues. They have covered events ranging from The Victoria Secret Fashion Show to the Electric Zoo music festival to Comic Con, and more. ParaDocs have quickly become a major provider in the events and mass gathering medical care space in just a few years.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
ParaDocs was created out of a chance encounter (I had) on the train. …
I left my MBA/business background to pursue helping people and the medical field, though I used this knowledge to propel the business end, and grow the company. I was inspired as a first responder for 9/11, which was an experience that changed my life. I worked for New York City’s 911 Emergency Services, and I saw the value of what it means to help people everyday ( I recently retired from that this past year). At Paradocs Worldwide, Inc., working with young residents and doctors inspires me to be better everyday and teach them the values to help instill to their patients. Overall, the business of medical services at events is so exciting to me, because I feed off of and thrive in the fast paced environment at shows, concerts, and events. We do some of the largest and most well-known shows in the world, such as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Having a presence there and getting other people to know about us is a great feeling.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Just this past year, I fell into a swamp full of alligators while chasing a naked patient. While the circumstances that lead to an inebriated or mentally ill person to cavort through the woods is never humorous in itself, what is funny (or sad) is that it’s the third naked drowning person I had to rescue at a festival. There is always an interesting story in each incident as you try to back track exactly where they lost their clothing in middle of a 60,000 person crowd.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
ParaDocs exists in a very niche market. As an emerging field, event medicine is constantly evolving and we need to stand out from the ambulance companies who previously provided these services. We leverage our technology, in addition to superior clinical care, to meet the needs of the event operators. We work primarily with production and event managers who have little or no knowledge of clinical medicine. Key performance indicators, performance dashboards and statistics, however, are things they very much understand and crave. They don’t want or need to know every patient’s condition but crowd health measures and situational awareness is something they all want.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My old boss Glen had me read the Jim Collins books on excellence as part of my Lean Six Sigma training. The Hedgehog concept resonated deeply in me; find something you are passionate about, be the best at it, and it will drive your economic engine.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
About three years ago I founded a non-profit called ParaDocs Ambassadors. Ambassadors are a peer based safety program comprised of medical and nursing students promoting health and safety for large-scale events throughout the country. They act as the eyes and ears for the event, interacting and educating on substance and illicit drug use. They also offer grief counseling and emotional support to family members and those suffering due to substance abuse. The program has been met with great success and you can find them at most festivals throughout the country.
We recently had a few of our doctors go on a relief mission to Puerto Rico to offer free medical services to those affected by the hurricane. We hope to continue to expand support for those affected by natural disasters. It seems a natural extension to what we do every day, and our very dedicated staff of medical professionals want us to be able to respond when needed.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.
- Don’t wait for everything to be perfect to start. I spent so much time working toward my MBA in finance and pursuing a career in finance that I put off doing what I really loved, which was helping people. I have been a paramedic for years and always loved that but didn’t see it as a full-time job until an opportunity presented itself, which led to me start my own company, ParaDocs Worldwide. I won’t call it a regret, though, because the things I learned while studying finance and during my short-lived career I use today when running my business. I just wish I had been bold enough to pursue my passion sooner.
- Learn to embrace working with people because you can’t avoid them. I wish someone would have taught me about managing people. We have a large staff and managing 100 people means managing 900 different personalities. We are blessed to have a staff that are very qualified and dedicated practitioners, but pleasing everyone is one of the most difficult tasks I face. On the positive side, you should also be on constant lookout for hidden talents. our COO started out as a logistics volunteer, picking up paperwork and restocking supplies. Being a humble person, he never told us about his advanced degrees in human behavior and psychology. His talents are now being put to good use but could have been realized much earlier.
- Write everything down. I was naive when I was starting out and mostly relied on good will especially because I was working with a lot of friends. They say don’t do business with friends or family and I don’t necessarily believe that to be the case, you can do business but have a contract and put everything important in it.
- If it’s not broken, break it. Complacency is a common condition in many industries. People go to the same family practitioner for generations without ever second guessing or seeking another opinion. Stadiums and venues that have used the same medical provider for years are often hesitant to change services sometimes stating they’ve only had a few bad experiences over the years. One bad experience when it comes to managing medical emergencies is one too many, from both a human and a risk-management perspective.
- It’s okay to say “no”. Prior to an event, we perform a risk assessment and give our recommended staffing levels to the customer based on the size and scope of the event. We often get push back from clients wanting to reduce costs by cutting staff. If we don’t feel comfortable with the safety of the attendees we refuse the contract. If you are responsible for the outcome, don’t accept the gig if it puts your company, or those relying on you, at risk.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.
Marc Cuban. I made it a few rounds into Shark Tank, but didn’t read the fine print that bans social media platforms, so I was disqualified. I really wish I could go back in time to pitch Marc because not only is he a serial entrepreneur, but he is an owner of a sports team and I think he would be able to provide the kind of customer insights we look for, but which they often cannot articulate to us. We are very customer focused, of course, and as much as we like to exceed their expectations they don’t always know what their needs are. We will be successful if we can anticipate the needs they don’t even realize they have.