Donatu Tramuto, CEO of Physicians Interactive

Donatu Tramuto, CEO of Physicians Interactive

Donato Tramuto never considered the term “social entrepreneurship” when he entered the healthcare industry approximately 30 years ago. But he didn’t need labels to do what he did.

Tramuto, an Ogunquit resident, is founder and CEO of Massachusetts-based Physicians Interactive, a seven-year-old company that is nearing $100 million in sales, and founder of Health eVillages, a global nonprofit that brings state-of-the-art mobile technology with embedded medical content to the most remote areas of the world.

He was also the inaugural keynote speaker at Maine Startup and Create Week on Monday evening.

While he’s well known in the healthcare industry and has a global platform, he’s not as well known in his home state. It’s quite possible that many MSCW attendees scanning the week’s schedule of events passed over Tramuto’s name without a hint of recognition. I admit having never heard of him myself. As a result, the room wasn’t as full as it could have been, which is too bad because Tramuto heaped valuable advice onto the audience.

Tramuto attributes his success in large part to his “internal compass,” which has guided his decisions and helped keep his goals firmly in sight. And that internal compass, he told the audience Monday evening, is a result of his often traumatic experiences. He suffered the loss of his hearing as a boy, lost an older brother in a car crash and lost close friends on 9/11. In 1972, his sister-in-law died in childbirth because a physician didn’t have access to her medical records.

“I knew then the direction of my life and my career and what I needed to do to make a difference,” he said.

“You see, challenges in one’s life — some more dire than others — often help to develop a deeper sense of character and direction in our own lives. In my case, those challenges — my hearing loss and the rejection and isolation I endured as a young man, and the loss of those close to me, combined to create an internal compass that continues to direct my life’s work even today — and that is to ensure that the most essential and innovative medical solutions are available to all, not just the rich and powerful, but those most in need wherever they may live.”

He was speaking to entrepreneurs Monday evening, but his advice is relevant to anyone. Below are some of the gems from the evening.

Be decisive. “Do not let the fear of the unknown or the looming possibility of failure paralyze you from making a difficult decision. Let that emotion move you forward. Whatever the outcome, you will not regret that you took control of that situation. You will continue to move forward despite or because of the decision you just made.”

Don’t listen to the naysayers. “Whenever anyone has told me not to do it, I’ve done the opposite. My message is this: Don’t give up, especially when people — even the most well-intentioned — advise you to toss your dreams aside.”

Be doggedly goal oriented. “Be prepared to confront in your business those challenges with a convergence of resilience and a clear understanding of your goal. And lastly you must be willing to never, never stop.”

Be ready to learn. [tweetable alt=”‘Success in leadership is a journey; no one enters this world as a natural born leader.’ @donatotramuto”]”Success in leadership is a journey; no one enters this world as a natural born leader.”[/tweetable]

Surround yourself with people who will challenge you. “A successful leader surrounds himself or herself with problem seekers: those who view the world through a prism of potential pitfalls and are unafraid to voice those reservations. How valuable it is to have advisers who possesses the ability to envision possible setbacks that you might not otherwise have imagined.”

Know your “Why;” a “What” is not sufficient. [tweetable hashtag=”#socialentrepreneurship” alt=”‘Nobody cares what you do until they know why you do it.’ @donatotramuto”]”Nobody cares what you do until they know why you do it.”[/tweetable]

Accept the fact you’re weird. “It took me many years to recognize that being called weird — ‘Donato, you work too many hours.’ ‘Donato, you just don’t fit in.’ ‘You’re strange.’ … It took me many years to realize that I was going to be a success every time I heard that statement. If you’re going to move the world forward and make a real difference then be ready to accept the fact you’re going to be different than everyone else.”

Start with the problem, not the solution. “A successful entrepreneur is the person who is able to see the difference between having a problem in search of a solution versus a solution in search of a problem.”

Get your priorities straight. “When all is said and done, will your legacy be about the fleet of fancy cars in your garage or those impressive vacation homes around the world? Don’t get me wrong, those things are great and I have enjoyed them. But in the end they are just things. Wouldn’t you rather use your financial success and ambitious goals to improve the life of someone in your community?”

For more about what went on during Day 1 of the conference, check out Knack Factory’s video wrapping up the day: