Medical Device Startups Master Juggling and Balancing with Focus

Medical device startups are faced with numerous challenges and obstacles to get their products to market.

Yes, I could discuss the main obstacle for a medical device startup: MONEY.

But I’m not going to in this post.

Instead, I’d like to share a few thoughts on balancing and juggling and how these apply to medical device startups.

Medical Device Startups Struggle with Balance

Yes, you likely understand the concept of balancing. At least how it applies to walking down the street.

I do too, yet admit that achieving and maintaining balance during projects can be a significant challenge.

Imagine for a moment you are managing a medical device product development project. It’s early in the game still. However, you have to consider all sorts of factors and influence.

You’re main objective is to get from point A to point B as smoothly as possible.

Project Managers need to balance from point A to B

Project Managers need to balance from point A to B

Easy enough, right? You know the goal. You understand what to do. You’ve probably done this before.

Except the challenge of getting from point A to point B for medical device startups is much more challenging than you walking that proverbial tightrope alone. Your entire project team is on that tightrope with you.

Medical device startups travel across tightropes together
Medical device startups travel across tightropes together

Imagine for a moment that you and your project team are literally trying to keep your balance while walking across a tight rope–together. Yes, sounds like an amazing circus act.

We love the tightrope acts because of the risks involved. And maybe we enjoy medical device startups because of risks involved too (probably more about the thrill and business kind of risks; not risks to patients).

But we would have a hard time pulling off this amazing feat of balance in medical device startups. Why?

There are several reasons. I’ll share a few:

  • Funding (yes, I know I said this wasn’t going to be about money)
  • Company vision & strategy
  • Established roles & responsibilities
  • Poor communication

Let me expand.

Vision & Strategy Impacts Balance

Medical device startups must have an articulated and written down vision and strategy.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Vision statements and strategic plans are usually to vague and fuzzy to mean anything. And generally speaking, I’d have to agree with you.

I think author Erika Andersen defines strategy best in her book Being Strategic.

Being strategic means consistently making those core directional choices that will best move us toward our hoped-for future.

In this context, you have to define the “hoped-for future”. For the tightrope walker, this is the other side, or point B.

The same is true for medical device startups. If your hoped-for future is to launch a new medical device, then the strategy developed needs to reflect this.

And realize that you will constantly have to tweak and adjust along the in order to achieve the hoped-for future.

The same is true for the tightrope walker. Walking a tightrope requires constant shifts and adjustments along the journey in order to maintain balance.

Define Roles & Responsibilities.

We are currently working on a project that involves software for medical device startups. Our executive team has been meeting quite a bit recently in large part due to roles and responsibilities. One of the phrases uttered is “stay in our swim lanes”.

A good phrase. But only meaningful because we have defined roles and responsibilities for the team.

Everyone on your team has to know their role. They have to know their responsibilities.

I’ve worked with plenty of medical device startups that did not fully understand this. In some cases, multiple people were working on the exact same tasks at the exact same time but didn’t know it.

Medical device startups don’t usually have extra resources (people or money) lying around being idle.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Yes, cliche. Yes, still a problem.

You cannot communicate often enough with your team.

Remember, communication is more than just sending an email update. What if you do so only to find out a few days later the person you emailed has over 7,000 unread emails in his inbox. This happened to me just the other day.

Once I discovered this, I realized I had fallen into the comfortable email trap that so many medical device startups do too (and all of us for that matter).

So I had to figure out a better way to communicate to this person.

Communication requires at least two people engaged. If I just sent an email and get no response back, that’s really more of a notification.

Medical Device Startups Also Have to Juggle!

Yes, medical device startups can be a regular old circus.

Balancing across a tight rope.

Juggling many things at once.

What do medical device startups juggle?

It’s a constant juggling act. Advancing the medical device technology. Realizing you need more definition. Having to test and maybe re-test.

Oh yeah, dealing with establishing a quality system.

Putting together a regulatory submission.

Medical device startups sometimes have to juggle chainsaws

Medical device startups sometimes have to juggle chainsaws

Yes, sometimes the things medical device startups have to juggle seem like a bunch of chainsaws flying through the air. One small slip or wrong move, and there will be blood.


A key concept for medical device startups is focus.

Yes, it definitely gets back to what Erika tells us about being strategic.

But focus is more than just that.

Medical Device Startups need FOCUS

Medical Device Startups need FOCUS

Focus is about being dialed in. Focus can be a driving force for success.

Think about the tightrope walkers as they balance from point A to point B.

Think about the juggler slinging running chainsaws through the air.

How do the tightrope walkers and jugglers hone their craft: FOCUS.

And so can medical device startups.



Jon Speer has been in the medical device industry for over 16 years. In 2007, Jon started Creo Quality to help medical device companies with project management, quality systems, and regulatory submissions. As a result of his experience in the medical device industry, Jon had an idea to develop a software solution to improve how companies handle Design Controls. Because of this was born. You can find him on Google+Twitter, and LinkedIn

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