Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rick Johnson, CEO of Voi, Inc., located in Springfield, VT, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Voi is a behavioral healthcare technology company delivering empirically validated solutions that address the needs of those at risk for suicide and other behavioral health issues, as well as those who care for them. The Voi platform offers a suite of tools that combine science, technology, collaboration, and compassion to identify and aid at-risk individuals. Voi can help hospitals and health systems, public agencies (military, veteran organizations, and prisons), and educational institutions solve many of their complex challenges. Keeping people alive and well, managing risks, creating standards, documenting and implementing best practices, lowering costs, and generating revenue.

Tell us about yourself

I identify and connect with organizations working to provide mental health care services to patients, employees, veterans, prisoners, and service members. As a U.S. Marine Corps leader for 30 years, I have seen first-hand the devastating impact untreated mental health issues have on individuals and their loved ones. In 2010, I served as the Chief of Staff, Vice Chief of Staff, and Deputy Group Commander for the Marine Forces Reserve, which had approximately 100,000 Marines and Sailors. In these positions, I investigated any suicides and attempted suicides in the force, and sadly, I was doing a number of investigations a month, and I saw first-hand the devastating impact these events had on loved ones and fellow Marines and Sailors. I vowed that when I retired, I would focus on ending suicides in our most vulnerable populations. I am confident that, with sufficient focus, detection and effective treatment of mental health issues can be dramatically improved.

Previously, I served as a Vermont Assistant Attorney General, taught strategy and planning at the U.S. Naval War College, worked as the Associate Director of The Dartmouth Institute (a health policy think-tank), and created and helped lead Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system's innovation center. I hold a JD from Vermont Law School, a MALD in international relations from Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, a MA in strategy from the U.S. Naval War College, and a BS in oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My objective has always been to get our solutions into as many hands as possible. I am proud to say we are well on our way to achieving this goal. A number of organizations are currently using our solutions and saving lives.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

As a startup CEO, the hardest but most rewarding thing is the amount of effort I have to put in to grow my business. There is really no time off as you need to be always available to answer your customers' questions and address business-related issues and be willing to do anything that is required to get the job done.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

As a startup CEO, I would recommend that you put significant time and effort into hiring the right people. It is imperative that you surround yourself with individuals who are self-starters, can think critically, are comfortable working with ambiguity, and are willing to "roll up their sleeves" to get the job done. In addition, you need to remain flexible and open-minded as you will be doing a lot of developing and testing. Many decisions will need to be reassessed as countless things won't work out as intended. Flexibility will also allow you to conduct out-of-the-box thinking, which is a must as you will have limited financial resources and time. Finally, you need perseverance. There will be many obstacles to overcome, and sometimes you may feel overwhelmed and unsupported. At those times, you need to remember what you are trying to accomplish, push past these feelings, develop a solution, and get the company back on track.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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