Thursday, July 19, 2007

10Q Interview with Jigsaw Health CEO, Pat Sullivan

Pat Sullivan is widely recognized as a pioneer and visionary in the high-tech industry who created ACT!®—the best-selling contact manager—used by millions of business professionals around the world. Sullivan was named as one of the “80 Most Influential People in Sales and Marketing History” among the ranks of Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Jack Welch, Donald Trump, and Bill Gates. Sullivan was also honored with the prestigious Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award not once, but twice! First for creating and marketing ACT!®. And again for SalesLogix®, the leading mid-market customer relationship manager.

So why start a company focused on chronic health conditions?
For the past 30 years, Pat Sullivan has struggled with the recurrent symptoms of Candidiasis, Mercury Toxicity (from dental amalgams), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Chronic Fatigue, and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Suffering from these conditions has driven Pat to discover the pieces to his own health puzzle. His motivation to find them came from his deep-seated belief in cause and effect—if there is an effect, there MUST be a cause!

I had the opportunity to work for Pat as Vice President of Product Management at SalesLogix and recently had the chance to catch up with him for this edition of the AZSB 10Q.

AZSB-1. Pat, why did you start Jigsaw Health?

PS: Jigsaw Health was born during the process of writing “Wellness Piece by Piece”, a book about my own health odyssey. Thus the puzzle metaphor. (More details at, or download the pdf eBook for free.). This is the 20-year shortcut I wish someone had given me long ago. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but what I’ve found is an underlying thread to most chronic health issues, and I’ve put it all into layman terms in telling my story. (Don’t have time for the book? We’ve summarized the roadmap into “The Top Ten Common Causes of Chronic Conditions” .

My own journey, struggle, and discovery provides the inspiration and guiding principals for Jigsaw Health.

AZSB-2. Who uses Jigsaw Health’s products?

PS: About 60% of our buyers are women, but Dave, many of these women are buying for their families and most if not all have some kind of chronic condition that they are trying to find an answer to. Thousands of people come to our site every day and read the depth of information that we have on many conditions. Some of these people end up buying a product but most really appreciate the help they get from the information we provide.

AZSB-3. What is your business model? (How do you Market your products)

PS: Jigsaw Health is a product formulator and an online retailer. We’re like – designing cool products with our own unique slant, contracting the assembly to manufacturers, and then staffing the online store with people who are eager to help customers solve problems. We rely heavily on the new art of Search Engine Optimization and Persuasion Architecture. I say “art” because getting all the variables to make a website really do a great job of selling requires constantly tweaking dozens of variables. There is science to it, but it usually feels more like an art form. Getting it right is hard and it requires constant attention.

The main thrust of our marketing is authenticity. The information for the most part is stuff that I personally learned over the past 20 years. I share things that work and things I feel don’t work. By helping people piece together their own health puzzles, we hope that they feel confident enough in our products to try them. Happy customers are the key to our long term marketing strategy.

AZSB-4. How is Jigsaw Health different from other health product providers?

PS: Most of our products are ones which we built for one person – me! Over the years I found a few products that helped me and many that seemed to have no effect at all. However, most of the time there would be something with each product that I would say, “Gee, I wish it had more of this, or less of that, or none of that.”

For instance, many people with chronic conditions have compromised absorption issues as well as the inability to convert many raw vitamins into the active forms of those vitamins that the body actually is able to use. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to help people overcome these issues by staying up to date on the latest ingredients, delivery mechanisms, and manufacturing capabilities. Magnesium and B vitamins are two good examples.

Magnesium is a major mineral that close to 80% of Americans are deficient in. If you supplement your diet with the true Recommended Daily Intake (RDI), most magnesium products will have a strong laxative effect, especially if you have gastro intestinal problems to begin with, like Irritable Bowel Syndromeor Celiac Disease, etc.

I was one of the thousands of people struggling to take magnesium without getting diarrhea. So I worked with a biochemist to formulate a highly absorbable form of magnesium in a sustained release formula. This allows those deficient in magnesium to take far more that the RDI of magnesium without getting the dreaded laxative effect. (BTW, I’ll bet that is the first and only time you’ve have the word “diarrhea” in a blog post. ;-)

With B vitamin supplements, most do nothing except become expensive urine. First reason is because the cheaper inactive versions of each B vitamin in the formula. But these must be converted by your liver into the active form of each B in order to be used by the body!

Second reason is that the body can only use so many B vitamins at one time and excretes the rest. So we worked to formulate a supplement using only the active forms of each B vitamin in a sustained release formula.

AZSB-5. Do you have plans to take the company in other directions?

PS: We recently signed a distribution agreement with Natural Partners, the second largest distributor to doctors in the United States, which gives us access to doctors looking for better answers for their patients. While our original model was strictly based on selling direct to consumers, we had several good doctors around the country who had already found us and were either recommending our products to their patients, or carrying them on their own shelves. But there are some built in conveniences for a doctor when they are able to order multiple brands from a distributor, so they requested we begin a relationship with Natural Partners.

We have now begun to actively market to more doctors around the country to grow this channel. Much like SalesLogix -- the “big brother” of ACT! which I started in 1996 after I sold ACT! to Symantec – selling through a channel of recommenders is something that I’ve learned how to do and it’s something that we believe will help us grow even more.

AZSB-6. Do you have a business “philosophy”?

PS: If you don’t have empirical proof that customers are telling their friends good things about you, you’re not on the right track. (And unlike the majority of our competitors, Jigsaw Health is not an MLM/Network Marketing company with “downlines” and commission checks for customers who recruit their friends.)

AZSB-7. What is the challenge to your success?

PS: As always, generating awareness. When I started ACT!, it took about 5 years to become an “overnight success.” It usually seems to be like that. We have been building Jigsaw Health for a little over 2 years now, but we’re still hoping to break the trend and hit that “overnight success” status sooner than 5 years! :)

AZSB-8. If you were to change an event in your business since launching, what would it be?
PS: As I mentioned, I wrote “Wellness Piece by Piece” and started Jigsaw Health because I have a passion for helping people just like me who have struggled with long-lasting chronic health issues. But I approached these more as a hobby than as a really serious business. And to be candid, I just didn’t do as much due diligence on the industry and the marketplace as I should have. Turns out that “health and wellness” is an insanely crowded market with hundreds of pitfalls and to top it all off, you can’t even really explain what your products are designed to do with anything more than “grey language” that must be vetted by lawyers because of tight FDA regulations.

Of course, if I would have done that much due diligence, I probably wouldn’t have ever started Jigsaw Health in the first place. And then I would still be searching for a good magnesium, sustained release active B vitamin, etc…and so would all of our customers. ;-)

So not knowing what you don’t know can actually be a blessing!

AZSB-9. What advice can you offer our readers about starting a business here in Arizona?
PS: Other than the general lack of Arizona-based Venture Capital firms, there is really not much difference here than other places. In fact, I much prefer the environment and culture of Arizona to Silicon Valley which I lived in for about a year. Arizona is filled with tremendous talent. And there are quite a few entrepreneurs here with all the support structures in place. In my opinion, Arizona really is an excellent place to start a business. If you have a good enough idea and management team, the VC money will find you.

AZSB-10. How would you like the people to think of Jigsaw Health?

PS: I am most satisfied when I receive emails from customers thanking me about our research articles that helped them discover something off the beaten path, or products that finally started working for them, or the delightful customer service experience they’ve had.

There are so many people who are “walking wounded” desperately seeking answers to their own health puzzle. They’ve usually been to lots of doctors and generally have not received helped much. Most doctors are excellent with acute medicine – the keeping you alive part. But they don’t do chronic nearly as well, and they’ll admit as much.

The current medical system really works against the chronically unwell. Jigsaw Health wants to help those people find answers or at least give them hope that the answers exist and you can find them.

AZSB: Pat, it's been great getting caught up with you and we appreciate the valuable information you have shared with us. I wish you and your team, at Jigsaw Health, every success in the years to come. Thanks so much!

PS: Thank you, Dave.

For more information on Jigsaw Health and the products they provide, visit Jigsaw Health

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