As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Nieves. Peter Nieves serves as the Chief Commercial Officer for WIN Fertility. He is responsible for the profitable growth, product strategy, marketing and expansion at WIN. Peter also leads the US based account management and sales team. Prior to joining WIN, Peter served as Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer for Teladoc. He served as Executive Vice President of the National Employer Market at Optum and as a Senior Partner with Mercer. Peter has 25 years of experience in the benefits consulting and health services industry.
Thank you so much for joining us Peter! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I joined WINFertility several years ago as Chief Commercial Officer. Over the years I have supported (and hopefully helped) many friends and family, all challenged with fertility issues.
I listened to the myriad stories shared with me from the vantage point of having had my own horribly challenging journey with my wife. We lived a six-year nightmare! Everything that could go wrong did go wrong: The losses, the stress, the emotional roller coaster, and the financial toll it took on us was devastating, and this happened without a covered fertility benefit. Joining WIN was the perfect opportunity because this is something I’m truly passionate about; I believe in our model and results. Being able to help people overcome their fertility issues and build their families, as my wife and I have, is amazingly rewarding. I may never see the faces of the many families we assist in their family-building journey, but it is infinitely inspiring and moves us to continue to improve on our services at WIN.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
The clinical advocacy that WINFertility provides families is an “Aha moment” each day. The ability to help them make better choices, seek the best care, improve outcomes, and assist employers with designing and implementing a plan that help employees with the costs of these procedures so that they can build the family of their dreams, are all things I wish were available years ago. We provide a service that families need.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
This story is funny and somewhat embarrassing. An industry event we planned to attend included a large number of reproductive endocrinologists (fertility doctors) and we needed “swag” to hand out at the event with the WINFertility name on it. I was running fast and approved the purchase of a large quantity of stress-relieving items. Well, I was clearly red in the face when the boxes were opened and large, white, squeezable sperm cells with smiley faces were handed to me. In a millisecond I learned that nothing related to building-family is off limits — they were a huge hit!
That embarrassing experience opened my mind to ask more questions and learn more about male factor infertility, which ultimately led to a soon-to-be announced new service from WINFertility WIN-for-Him, that will be available this spring.
Now open to discussing sperm, I inquired with our nurse lead and informatics team who educated me on the fact that often the male factor (sperm count, morphology etc) is far too often not tested for and not known. Men, as I know from my own experience, are reluctant to admit they may have an issue or go to a clinic to offer a sample for testing. So we developed a program, part of a broad-based WIN-for-Him solution, along with a partner that developed the latest tech to inexpensively deliver a sperm sampling kit to the male at his own home. A kit is delivered and a sample is collected and preserved for shipping in a proprietary vessel and case, mailed to a lab with results back to the patient in 48 hours. Disarmed from embarrassment, free to explore greater needs, coupled with my own experience, the testing of the male factor contribution to a couple’s fertility challenges will increasingly help patients to become pregnant, with the help of WIN.
Infertility is highly complex, with wide ranging issues, most of which are unforeseen until the employee is engaged in the WinFertility process. Shouldn’t infertility be a financial roller-coaster with no way to gauge actual cost to the employer? How does WinFertility manage costs to make it as risk free as possible for employers?
Infertility should not be a financial roller-coaster for an individual if they are aware of all factors they face and plan appropriately. Certainly, the patient needs to know if they have coverage for fertility-related costs from their employer’s benefit plan.
WIN is focused on helping the patient understand their benefit coverage and potential out-of-pocket costs if any. WIN Nurse Care Managers complete a full history report of the patient and educate them on the options, procedures, and pharmaceuticals that are most appropriate and medically necessary. WIN integrates with large health plans to offer the most cost efficient pricing for fertility medical services in network. Our Nurse Care Managers are unique in the industry as we are the only fertility manager to assign a nurse with a minimum of 5 years fertility clinic experience to help each patient through their journey. Our nurses, combined with our status of more than 21 years in this space, provide better outcomes and higher success rates. Healthcare and Rx are purchased as the lowest cost and only medically appropriate care and Rx distribution is the WIN focus. Our track record for huge savings over pre-WIN program is huge, an ROI of 500%+. This cost minimization and education greatly reduces cost surprises for our patients and their employers.
Infertility is extremely stressful for the participating employee, whose daily life realistically is built on hope. Stress affects productivity. How does WINFertility assist employees to manage stress?
Very true and I’m convinced stress was a big factor with the infertility challenges my wife and I struggled with. After we had our twins, now with three children, our fourth was conceived naturally!
WIN aggressively addresses the stress and anxiety that our patients are faced with. In an age of tech and virtual care the WIN value will always be about the relationships our nurses form with their patients. Our nurses experience the stress their patients are under every day and we have an opportunity to effectively support the emotional needs of our patients and their partners. We have our own in-house emotional coaching service that is built into our program and has been very well received. When my wife and I went through our fertility struggles, I was poorly equipped to face this and did not want to speak to anyone. Although I knew I needed help, I did not seek it. Had there been support and assistance by phone, I would have used it. WIN emotional coaches, directed by our nurses, increasingly help male patients/partners through the emotional side of the journey. I’m very proud of the solution we have added.
Once WINFertility does an analysis of the employee’s infertility issues, is there a transparency with the actual chance of success? Is there a cut-off point where you recommend the employee not pursue having a baby, as difficult as such transparency will be for the employee?
WIN Nurses and the treating provider will assist each patient with understanding their chances, absolutely. There are times when the journey to build a family takes another course and pivots to the possible use of a surrogate, if appropriate, or the adoption of so many beautiful children waiting for parents. WIN supports that pivot and has been instrumental in changing benefit plans from fertility to inclusive “family-building plans”. I have worked with employers that have migrated to a single benefit that allows the available benefit to be used for all family-building services, fertility, surrogacy or adoption. This allows all people to have support that is equal to all. This includes LGBTQ and single patients looking to build their family. WIN is leading the way for more people to build their families. Perhaps we need to drop “fertility” from our name, we are more than that.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
WIN was founded with the idea that a relatively new technology, Invitro Fertilization (IVF) and other Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) will forever change the way people overcome fertility challenges. WIN started 21 years ago to provide nurse support and discounted care bundles to people wanting to be parents or expand their family. We have never deviated from the original mission and vision of our purpose. Trends in society leading people to wait to start their family and other factors impacting male sperm counts have driven the need for WIN services more than ever before. The CDC has shared the rate of IVF use increased by 7.89% from 2016 to 2017 and has grown 99.66% over the past ten years. Employees rate the availability of fertility benefits very highly and employers are willing to offer it more readily. These factors are driving dramatically increasing demand for WIN services.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
Very simply, we offer Clinical Patient Advocacy by assigning Nurse Care Managers to each patient that help them on their journey. We match patients and doctors and provide educational support or clinical governance in some models that lead to improved outcomes. We are highly focused on patient support and in 2019 we received a 98.3% customer satisfaction rating as measured by a third party. Lastly, we help achieve the lowest cycle cost in the industry through outcome improvement, purchasing efficiency, and a focus on medical necessity.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
We are laser-focused on patient and partner support and guidance. We like to say that we are not only white-glove in our approach but also white-coat, as our service is delivered through fertility-trained nurses.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
WIN started as Women’s Integrated Network and was highly successful practically immediately. Our offer was so unique that we have enjoyed a competitor-less market until recent years. Despite little competition for years our costs are low, satisfaction high, outcomes unmatched and we are touching a very high percentage of all US fertility cycles. The WIN model has never strayed from our primary mission and services.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
We are helping more people than ever in our history. Employers increasingly trust our model and we service small, medium, large and jumbo clients from all industries with great success. WIN is the only fertility manager that is trusted to integrate with the nation’s largest health plans and Prescription Benefit Managers, who will manage distribution and costs of their employee’s medications. Our clients love us, they know we truly care and health plans are choosing WIN to support their members in this highly specialized sub-specialty.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Building a sustainable business model with a well defined mission should be an obvious start.
- Surround yourself with passionate people that are focused on the mission.
- Be patient and persistent.
- Treat people well and expect excellence from your team.
- Innovate and adapt to and with new technologies. WIN’s story of persistence in the market and the need that has evolved was partly luck and the other part was good planning.
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? Can you share a story?
There have been many people that have helped shape my thinking, my experiences and approach. I’m most grateful for my wife of 27 years. Our journey to have our four children has been hard but so rewarding. Using all that we went through so that today I can help to build WIN into the most amazing family- building company in the world is an amazing blessing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I too often learn of people that do not have the funds or benefits to cover the costs of fertility, adoption or surrogacy. With so many people in need I would love to find ways to raise money to help people build their families so that no one is without resources to build a family. A foundation to gather and direct needed resources or donated services to couples or singles that want to be a mom or a dad.
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