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Gene Groys of OnShift

Meet Gene Groys, founder of OnShift.
What is OnShift?
OnShift is a technology start-up. I founded OnShift in 2008 and in 2009 our first product shipped. We provide cloud-based software that helps long-term care and senior living organizations to schedule their employees efficiently and accurately. At the heart of our software is a communications platform that fills open shifts by sending messages to available employees via text, email, or automated phone call. Providers save a lot of time by automating this process. Employee absences are a big problem in healthcare.
Additionally, long-term care providers are facing major Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement cuts, and because of this they are looking to reduce their costs. Labor is their largest expense and OnShift helps them significantly control labor costs through better scheduling and shift management.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
One of the biggest surprises for me is how significant of an opportunity we are facing in the long-term care and senior living industry. When we conducted our initial market research, we realized that 90 percent of the market was managing their employees by pen and paper! And many of these organizations have thousands of staff members. This presented a major opportunity for OnShift and we’ve continued to consistently grow our market share in this space.
Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
When first starting out, we were bootstrapping to get by with personal capital and a small angel infusion of funds. We have received tremendous support from the local and regional investment community. Early Stage Partners, JumpStart, Glengary, and North Coast Angel Fund were our earliest investors. Since then, Draper Triangle Ventures and, most recently, a client of West Capital Advisors has also invested in OnShift. Our investors have provided the capital we needed to accelerate the growth of our business. We wouldn’t be here without them! Last year we had a 400-percent increase in annual revenue. These are some exciting times.
Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
We recognized how important marketing was even in the very early stages when I had one employee and was self-funded. One of the first email campaigns that we conducted focused on the pressures of regulatory compliance in long-term care.

Just 30 minutes after launching the campaign, I received a direct phone call from an administrator at a nursing home in the Toledo area. He was intrigued by the email he had received about how OnShift helps providers with their staffing regulations. We conducted a product demonstration shortly after our phone call and by the end of the week we had our first contract. That nursing home is still a happy OnShift customer four years later.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
I’m a transplant from the San Francisco Bay area, so when I started my business I had very little insight into what Cleveland had to offer. I even thought that to be successful I would need to seek support from companies located on the west coast. But what I quickly realized is that Cleveland is an undiscovered mecca for entrepreneurs.
At the first networking event I attended, people immediately started pointing me to organizations such as COSE, NEOSA and JumpStart. I even spent my first year working out of the COSE incubator space. I also quickly realized that Ohio as a whole offered many opportunities for angel and VC investment.
Additionally, we’re fortunate to have a steady stream of great talent in the area. The local universities like Cleveland State University and CWRU provide access to excellent and energetic resources. And, Cleveland is an affordable place to build a business and to live. What’s not to love?!
What advice would you give to someone starting a company here?
First, I would congratulate them on making a great decision for starting a company in Cleveland. Then I would tell them to temper their dreaming with a commitment to work. Any entrepreneur serious about starting their business should not move forward without a business plan.
One mistake many entrepreneurs make is thinking about the business plan as just something that’s required by investors. The business plan is truly a blueprint for how you are going to run your business. It should help define the validity of your market, the steps to get there, the costs and timeframe. A lack of a solid plan means that gaps exist in the business and you must address them. Be sure to take the time to build out a proper business plan and don’t develop it in a vacuum. Get input from trusted colleagues and others in the business community along the way.
Can you share an amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
Being a first time entrepreneur, I started this business in my basement with limited funds and one employee. We had to rely on existing skills and call in a lot of favors to get many things done. Fast forward a few years and now OnShift is in a downtown office in Playhouse Square, with over 40 employees and 500 customers. It’s definitely humbling.

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