Founder of ConnectMD, Dr. Seku Gathers is a concierge physician, entrepreneur, author, podcaster, teacher on Insight Timer, mindset coach, and award-winning filmmaker. Having dedicated his life to the refinement of healing techniques to serve humanity, he provides a living example of how embracing inner truth unleashes one’s full potential, both professionally and personally. His book “Total Body Wellness: The Truth About Your Health” shares this approach and explores the mind-body connection.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was raised in the same place that birthed Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, and Adam Sandler: Brooklyn, New York. My experience growing up was often paradoxical. Both my parents worked for the New York City board of education. Together, they earned what one would call a middle-class income. For a reason still unclear to me, however, my father did not want to move, so we lived in a poor section of Brooklyn called Brownsville. Ocean Hill Brownsville to be specific. I witnessed poverty and all the tragedy connected to it firsthand, including homelessness, violence, drugs, crime, and alcoholism. As early as age 5 or 6, I routinely found capped and uncapped crack vials scattered outside my front gate. Everything was different inside my home, however. My mother, an elementary school teacher, juiced fresh broccoli when the naturopathic doctor said my eyesight was getting bad. On the weekends we watched movies from our home VHS player – which was a luxury item in the 80s. I keep this paradox with me always. A person’s outer world and the inner world can be completely different. The only way to find out is to investigate.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
My grandfather, Azel Brown, was the first entrepreneur I ever met. He was my hero. “Mr. Brown,” as his customers and workers called him, was the first African American to own and operate his own pest control business in Brooklyn. He started the business in the late 1960s, and it was burgeoning by the time I arrived in the ’70s. He had 65 employees and hundreds of residential and business contracts. He was the epitome of a successful, respected businessman. I would often go to his office as a young boy. It was like going to a candy store. Wide-eyed, I would get absorbed in all the activity and just be struck by the fact that someone in my family started this prosperous business. I started my first “official business” in college. I had worked hard to ensure my entrance into medical school, but during my junior and senior years, I decided to capitalize on a persistent campus problem. There was no place to get snacks after the dining hall closed. So I opened a store out of my room. Every week, I would travel with a buddy to Costco and get chips, candy, hot dogs, and juice. I sold it all at 100% – 200% profit. It was a ton of fun. After graduating from medical school and completing my residency, I once again identified a problem in the market – the healthcare industry. When people traveled to the US from other countries and stayed at hotels, there was no safe or reliable place for them to get medical care without going to big hospitals that were overwhelming to navigate. (This was before the emergence of CityMD and other Urgent Care centers.) I developed a business that brought care directly to travelers. As we scaled and got contracts with hotels and international insurance carriers, the business grew into a substantial and valued service. Then in 2010, I was battling Hepatitis C, a condition I contracted while caring for a patient. This was all happening while managing the dissolution of my first marriage. Things were not working well in my life – physically or psychologically – and both affected the other. My physical state did not provide enough energy to manage or deal with the relationship challenges, and the relationship challenges diminished my ability to recover effectively. This is part of the reason why I am so passionate about working with clients on their physical health and mindset as a way to achieve optimum wellness. In 2019, I launched ConnectMD, a company that provides mindset coaching and concierge medical care to professionals, entrepreneurs, and celebrities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I began to see the gaps in personal health care. Clients often would need medical treatment, but the nidus may have been mental or emotional. There was a clear opportunity for me to provide a service to fill both needs.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Do not try and scale your company too fast. What tends to happen if you have a great service or concept is that it takes off. The next logical step is to get the idea or service to more people. No, please don’t do that. Not yet. First, look at the systems you have in place to deliver the service. Then ask the following questions: Do I have the team and proper system in place to handle the influx of new customers? Are any of my team members at risk to leave or move with a competitor? The entrepreneur does not run his business; his people run it. Not only is it important to keep your customers happy, you should also make sure to keep your employees happy. The biggest challenge I have had in business is choosing and retaining the right team members. If you scale your business too fast, then you will get an influx of business, but a key team member will leave, putting you in the very precarious position of being unable to deliver the value you promised. Or you get the influx of new business, but your system is not set up to handle it, and the same problem occurs. Relationships with customers are like any relationships. They will only give you so much leeway before they start looking for a different partner.