A Slice on Dr. David Lenihan, Co-Founder and CEO of Tiber Health
A graduate in Biology, Pure Mathematics and Law (Touro College, New York); a qualified Chiropractor, a Ph.D. in Neurosurgery and another one in Electrophysiology (University of Edinburgh, Scotland), and an MBA from the University of Cambridge (UK). Phew! Talk about a strong, solid educational background! Dr. David Lenihan is all this and so much more. Yup, just him, just the one person…
Dr. Lenihan, Chicago born and bred, is the Co-Founder and CEO of Tiber Health Corporation, a group of companies consisting of Tiber Health Innovation (digital platform and analytics system), Tiber Health Public Benefit Corporation (a public benefit company, educational institutions, medical school psychology programs, etc.) and a real estate company that owns all their building assets.
His educational streak runs parallel to his entrepreneurial one. It was while studying in the UK that he started his first venture in the private healthcare sector. There was more passion and enthusiasm there than there was knowledge of finances and accounting. Reflecting on this first venture, Dr. Lenihan noted, “I didn’t really understand balance sheet mechanics and how that works in business at that time. I was fresh out of school and running a multimillion-dollar business. But, having to throw all that stuff on the balance sheet really inhibits your work, growth and expansion, and it did cause me some problems. When I moved there, I raised all types of capital to start private health care clinics in Europe. I raised millions of pounds and started up. I went from five employees to 200, with 20 clinics across the country. What I didn’t realize was profit and loss, and cash flow are two different pieces of paper. So, while I was making all types of money, we ran out of cash. I didn’t know all these things, how to run a business.” This is when he had to recapitalize his company, perhaps one of the hardest tasks for any entrepreneur. It was a traumatic but timely lesson that paid off rich dividends for all of Dr. Lenihan’s future ventures.
On returning to the United States, he worked at Washington University briefly, before accepting the Dean’s position at a medical school. With all these experiences behind him, he moved from education to private equity and become the first person to buy a US medical school, the Ponce Health Sciences University.
Talent management is something Dr. Lenihan has strengthened over the years. Reconciling different types of personalities; ensuring they remain engaged and productive; avoiding or handling personality conflicts effectively; working with a high level of emotional intelligence; and creating one, cohesive, unidirectional team are all skills he has acquired through time. Getting the right people for the job, is critical too.
There is a lot to learn from Dr. Lenihan’s fundraising experiences. While raising the initial capital was fairly easy for him, he hit multiple speed bumps when it came to recapitalizing. Patience is an asset when it comes to fundraising; impatience and getting upset don’t help at all. He suggests that if things don’t work out with someone, it’s best to move on to find a better fit. It also helps to put things in perspective, he feels that when someone says no to financing you, they do not necessarily mean that you have a bad company or idea, it could just mean that they are not looking at financing in that current sector at that time.
One of his biggest challenges has been living in two different time spaces – one that is about 10-20 years in the future to ensure they achieve their vision and goals; and the current one, so as to steer the team successfully towards that goal. He does this by constantly keeping the vision at the forefront. As a leader, running so many businesses meant that, at some point, he had to step away from managing the minutiae and largely focus on the bigger picture. This has been a challenge for many entrepreneurs, as it was for him, yet this is something that needs to be done.
David’s leadership style is a balance of gentle humor and firmness when needed. As the President and CEO, he believes in accepting the blame and responsibility of something not working out and sharing the credit when things do work out. Humor has been a worthy companion in his journey. He finds self-deprecating humor to be the grease that unjams clogged thought processes and allows people to move ahead without becoming defensive or aggressive.
“Never get too excited or upset. It is going to be ok. Things are never as good or bad as you think.” These are David’s words of advice for all those out there looking at building successful businesses. He recommends balancing the celebrations of wins and disappointments of losses- and moving on. And yes, it helps to understand core aspects of finances, including cash flow!
There are three mentors that helped shape Dr. Lenihan’s life and achievements. Mike, his first mentor (who he met while working on his Ph.D.), taught him how to think through a process. Mike also stressed the importance of taking time out periodically, to think through future plans and to decompress. His second
mentor, Max (one of the main investors in the UK company) taught Dr. Lenihan the importance of money, how to read a balance sheet, forecast cash flow, taking educated risks and investing wisely. His third mentor, Jay (EVP of a New York university), took Dr. Lenihan under his wing and taught him how to bring the education and the clinical aspects together and develop a system to run a successful business. Having good mentors is an asset when it comes to building one’s own business.
When Dr. Lenihan sees somebody that, if it hadn’t been for Tiber, would probably have had to drive an extra 100 miles to a physician, it makes everything worthwhile. When he sees students that other medical schools turned down (telling them that they wouldn’t be able to do it), graduating from Ponce, that for him is victory. This is what makes the whole journey a fulfilling one.
This man with a mission wants to leave a rich and enriching legacy. The mission? To provide low-cost, high-quality education, by digitizing and standardizing the curriculum. They want to establish 30 medical schools around the globe by 2030. Success for Dr. Lenihan would be when, even after 20-30 years, Ponce Health Sciences University of Tiber Health, will be written about positively, like it is now…
Dr. David Lenihan holds a Bachelor’s in Biology and Mathematics, a Doctor of Chiropractic Degree, a Ph.D. in Medicine and Neurosurgery/Electrophysiology, a J.D. and an MBA. Previously, he was Dean of Touro College. Currently, he is President of Ponce Health Sciences University and Co-Founder and CEO of Tiber Health. Connect with Dr. Lenihan on LinkedIn.