What is your favorite TV show? Ask that to most children, and they will answer a cartoon or something on the Disney Channel. Ask David Sanders and you would have gotten an answer you were not expecting: Prime Minister’s Question Time.
Growing up, this show fascinated Sanders, especially the horror stories that came from the health care questions. The program led Sanders to pursue politics as a means to affect policy. He is now a successful politician and director of Winrock International and Innovate Arkansas. I had the opportunity to have dinner with Sanders during Walton College Dean Matthew Waller’s Honors Entrepreneurship Forum, where he spoke about unique ways to enter the health care space, related his story, and gave advice for other entrepreneurs.
Health care is a growing industry consisting of 18 percent of the GDP of 2017 and is projected to be even higher in 2018. In the past 20 years, this share of GDP has risen almost 10 percent. While Sanders believes this growth is unsustainable, he argues there are still gains to be made by approaching health care analytically.
Walmart’s Center for Excellence did an analysis of its own health care spending and realized that 70-80 percent of the money spent was going to only 10-12 percent of their employees. Further investigation revealed a pattern of misdiagnoses and unnecessary surgery. By restructuring the incentives for their doctors, not giving them a percentage amount for each surgery they performed, and requiring second opinions, Walmart drastically cut health care costs while providing better care for their employees. Sanders argues that this analytical approach will produce better care for people and reduce costs which will result in greater strides forward in healthcare.
Sanders, whose passion for health care has influenced his education and his career, received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. Since then, he has worked at Johnson Controls, served as the policy and communications aide for Gov. Mike Huckabee, served as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and is a current member of the Arkansas Senate while being the director of Winrock International and Innovate Arkansas. He helped pass the Arkansas Health Care Transparency Act, which created a giant HIPPA complaint database of public and private health claims made in Arkansas.
Innovate Arkansas is an accelerator which helps entrepreneurial businesses scale into profitable businesses. Dean Waller’s class is structured around the book, The Start-Up J-Curve, by Howard Love. The J-Curve has six steps: create, launch, morph, model, scale and harvest. Innovate Arkansas exists to help companies during the scale and harvest phases and provides entrepreneurial businesses who have good ideas with the money they need to succeed and the support they need to grow. Innovate Arkansas currently is working with 116 companies in Northwest and Central Arkansas.
The first piece of advice Sanders gave to the class of budding entrepreneurs was to look for problems and figure out a way to solve them. Do not rest until they are solved! You might have to work a full-time job and then work late into the night on your entrepreneurial ideas. He then encouraged the class to be willing to take risks. The last piece of advice was one that is not as common as the others. He advised us to be selfless and argued that being selfless will actually propel you further in your career than selfishness will.
Sanders is a unique man who has combined his desire to solve health care problems with his business and political acumen. His example of selfless service demonstrated by his public service in various political positions and entrepreneurial ventures that seek to help others develop their ideas is an example worth emulating. It is hard to believe all this started by watching a TV show.
To learn more about Innovate Arkansas you can visit their website.
Annelise Koster is a freshman honors student at the Walton School of Business studying international business and German. Find her on LinkedIn.