CARBONDALE -- A professor emeritus from the SIU School of Medicine is now the chief financial officer of an international medical software company. The Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU Carbondale played a major role in that transition.
Hurley Myers, co-founder of DxR Development Group, launched his business in 1992. The firm sells software that uses interactive, problem-based case studies to help educate health care professionals, giving them the opportunity to make clinical decisions using virtual patients to prepare them to make decisions with real patients. Myers said his business success is largely a credit to the counsel and assistance he received from the SBDC.
“I’m an academic. I knew nothing about business,” Myers said. “In some respects, it was naïve of me to think I could start a business and grow the business enough to pay employees.”
But, it worked. The SBDC connected Myers with a place to start his new business, a location secured through the Small Business Incubator program. The center also helped Myers create a business plan and advised him on funding options and revenue streams. The staff also helped Myers navigate the international marketplace as his business grew and he moved to a commercial location.
“If it had not been for the SIU economic development staff members, and particularly the help of the SBDC/International Trade Center, I would have had no guidance in this area. They have been tremendously important,” Myers said. “Without their guidance and insight, this business would not have survived. I guarantee it.”
The concept for DxR originated in the 1980s when Myers was a medical school professor. He used booklets to teach students, but Myers and a colleague began to think of using interactive software to make learning more hands-on and efficient. The software he developed tests knowledge application as well as critical reasoning skills. He spoke about his learning tool concept with other professionals at medical conferences and soon found other schools interested in the software.
“Everyone in medicine is looking for any type of interactive medical program that can evaluate performance, rather than just content,” Myers said.
The growth of DxR has not come without challenges. One of the biggest hurdles, according to Myers, is convincing international schools of the need because traditionally, schools outside the United States have been slow to adopt the idea that being able to use what you know is as important as knowing facts. Spending time with faculty members to address their concern helps overcome this issue.
Myers said that finding the right distributors, traveling frequently and ensuring employees are financially compensated have also been challenges.
“Every bit of it has been worth it though,” he said. “The challenges are there, but I think anyone who starts a business faces things they can’t imagine happening.”
DxR has expanded its market throughout North America and beyond, with software translations in several languages. Myers licenses his software in Australia, the Middle East, South America and Southeast Asia, and he is working on growing the market in China.
Myers said new entrepreneurs benefit by starting their quest to become business owners with the SBDC, where help is available to overcome challenges. He encourages people to not overanalyze risks but get valuable advice and assistance like that available with the SBDC.
“If you have an idea that you believe will make things better for those people who buy into that idea, then by all means explore that because there is no better reward than seeing something you believe in get into the marketplace,” Myers said.
The Illinois Small Business Development Center/International Trade Center, is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and hosted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale.