Venture of the Year
Whole Health Management
Founder & CEO
Entrepreneurs don't always get the chance to stop and think
about the wild ride they've been on, or laugh about some of the
close calls that turned out right, and eventually led to their
ultimate success. But Jim Hummer got to do both on June
13th in a presentation to the OVA. The occasion was OVA's Venture
of the Year Award, which this year went to Hummer's Whole
Before a packed ballroom at the Union Club, the Cleveland
native and Harvard Business School graduate told the absorbing
tale of how he created a company almost from scratch, before
selling it earlier this year to the nation's largest drug store
chain, Walgreens, reaping a considerable fortune.
More than 25 years ago, Hummer, first trained as an accountant,
saw the tremendous market potential for preventive health and
later electronic medical records, converging trends which he says
he knew would one day become fixtures in the larger health care
market. After working in San Francisco and later earning an MBA at
Harvard, he came back to Cleveland, where he got some exposure to
the employee health care industry through a job in which he was
responsible for the human resources function.
In 1982, he co-founded a company to deliver ambulatory health
services. It opened its first clinic in Stow, Ohio. The location
quickly became profitable, so the company opened more. "And we had
all these visions of grandeur about being a $100-million company,"
he recalled. With the help of what he jokingly calls "the McKinsey
mafia," he began raising money from the likes of Roy Disney
(brother of the Disney Company's founder, Walt Disney) and
Cleveland-based Primus Venture Partners in order to grow the
But Hummer, holding 20% of the equity in that venture, was
eventually forced out in a management struggle. "I learned a hard
lesson about control," he said. "At the age of 29, I was worth $3
million, and at 32, I was pretty much broke." He spent a few
months feeling sorry for himself and occupied his time by
working for his two brothers as a laborer before he was ready
to try again.
In 1988, he got his second chance. He acquired the assets of
Compton Associates from its founder, a physician who pioneered the
delivery of on-site occupational health services in the federal
sector. He did so in
part by tapping the credit line he had accumulated from 28 credit
cards he had been nursing for just such an opportunity.
Again, the company—which by 1991 had been renamed Whole Health
Management—grew rapidly, and by 1997, "we had to move (the
office) out of my bedroom. My wife said, 'you have two women in
our bedroom—that's over.'" Not long afterward came a big break. Continental
Airlines asked the company's help in setting up a clinic in remote
Guam, and because it did, the airline later offered WHM the chance
to bid on several less-remote, more-profitable locations, which
instantly doubled company revenues from $6 million to $12 million.
Other major airlines eventually heard about the deal, and they too
eventually became clients.
Three years ago, Walgreen's president approached the company about
developing their retail clinics. Whole Health declined, but the two
companies continued to talk. Earlier this year, Walgreen purchased
Whole Health and its largest competitor, combining them into a
health and wellness division.
Hummer plans to plow much of his personal proceeds from the
sale back into the Northeast Ohio economy. "We've invested about
$8 million in Cleveland companies, and I'll also be helping the
nonprofit sector*. I'll close that loop. Hopefully, we've done
* In July, Hummer noted that investment in area companies had
already grown to $11 million, and his donations to nonprofits
stood at $4 million.
Webcasts from the Meeting:
Click on the images below to view webcasts.
Jim Hummer, Whole Health Management
Paul Allen, Zolio
Webcast produced by
Mike Sutyak, The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative.
for updates about future events.
A Web-Based Resume-Management Service
The Cleveland-based start-up Zolio provides a web-based
resume-management service, targeted at users between the ages of
18-30. "Zolio is not another job board, or a social network. It's
solely a utility for candidates to create and manage their
resumes, and also to manage their reputations," said Paul Allen,
a member of Zolio's board of advisors. "The experience of
interacting with this tool is like working with a desktop
application rather than a web page," he added.
Revenues would come from a subscription service to colleges and
universities. "We (also) anticipate at some point offering a
subscription service to companies, as an alternative to
recruiters," Mr. Allen said
Zolio is not seeking investments at this time.
See complete presentation (PPT).
The 5-Minute Forum is an opportunity for business owners to
make a 5-minute presentation at our monthly luncheon meeting for
raising capital, identifying customers, establishing distribution,
or recruiting management. See
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