Third in a series
John Olajide wants to “Uberize” home health care.
The 39-year-old founder of Dallas-based Axxess Technology Solutions Inc. offers cloud-based technology services to help home health care companies manage their back-office operations, customer relations and electronic medical records.
Now he’s building an international network of health care professionals his clients can send to your doorstep.
“Our home health care organizations can post an update and say, ‘We have this patient at this place and time, and these are the skills that are required,’ ” said Olajide (pronounced oh-LA-gee-day). “On the flip side, our platform has tens of thousands of health care nurses, therapists and doctors who can respond and say, ‘I’m available, and I have the right skills to see that patient.’
“Then the health care organization can select the person they want.”
Just like Uber or Lyft drivers, clinicians can specify the parts of town they’ll work in so that they don’t waste time in traffic.
“It’s a revolutionary concept in health care that we’ve developed,” Olajide said.
He tested this staffing and scheduling tool in Texas three years ago and has it operational in 20 states. Because the concept is so radical, it was met with skepticism, he said. So he’s currently offering it as a free add-on for existing clients as Axxess slowly rolls it out nationwide. He says the market buy-in is growing exponentially.
Head in the cloud
It’s the latest innovation by Olajide, who founded the company in 2007 at just 26 to free home health care companies from endless paperwork.
He spotted this technology black hole while getting his degree in telecommunications engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas. He paid for his tuition by helping home health care companies convert unreliable and fraud-prone paperwork into streamlined, automated and verifiable online records.
He used $8,000 in savings to hire an assistant, build his first cloud-based platform and launch Axxess from his two-bedroom apartment near Medical City.
He recouped his start-up money in his first month and never looked back.
2020 is on course to be a banner year of record sales and double-digit profits, said Olajide, the company’s majority shareholder. He estimates that this year’s revenue will be in the neighborhood of $65 million.
Axxess employs 500 people and has 7,000 clients in all 50 states and a growing international presence.
In addition to home health care and hospice companies, clients now include hospital systems — UT Southwestern Medical Center to name a big one — that are expanding their home health care services.
“I believe the future of health care is in the home. I believe that deeply,” Olajide said. “If you want to improve access to quality health care, you have to leverage technology to get that done.”
The pandemic has reincarnated the house call.
“I’ve heard of doctor offices that did zero telemedicine appointments before and now they’re doing thousands of them,” he said. “COVID has changed the way people think about health care and how technology can bring it to them in their homes.”
There has also been a spike in families moving their loved ones out of assisted care facilities. “Home is where people want to be,” he said.
Last year, Interim HealthCare Inc., the nation’s oldest and largest home health care company, designated Axxess as a preferred vendor for its network of 300 independently owned franchises throughout the United States and in nine other countries.
Jennifer Sheets, president and CEO of the Fort Lauderdale-based company, says Interim is gradually adding Axxess offerings to its network here and abroad.
“We’re getting a superior product for our companies,” she said. “But we’re also helping Axxess develop their international strategy.”
The companies have worked closely to make improvements to suit Interim’s needs, she said. “We get the teams together. We brainstorm,” she said. “He’s an absolute great partner. You want someone who truly cares about their client’s experience.”
Changing the chamber
Olajide credits his company’s rapid growth to his manifesto called “The Axxess Way” that outlines how clients, employees, client partners and shareholders should be treated and defines expectations.
Among the key elements are: “May the best idea win.”
“Business as a force for good.”
“Culture is a big thing to me,” Olajide said in a virtual interview. “We’re building an organization that’s welcoming to everyone, no matter where they’re from, no matter what they look like. We have employees from over 40 nationalities. That’s exciting to me.”
This combination of entrepreneurial success and cultural inclusiveness was just what the Dallas Regional Chamber had in mind when it chose Olajide to be the second Black person to chair the 111-year-old organization and its youngest ever, said Dale Petroskey, chamber president and CEO.
Olajide took over the chairmanship of North Texas’ largest business organization in January, shortly before all hell broke loose.
Petroskey says Olajide’s leadership has been transformational.
“There’s a youthful enthusiasm and curiosity to John,” Petroskey said. “He’s interested in everything and everybody. There’s a twinkle in his eyes. In some ways, he’s very boyish. And yet, he’s got this incredible wisdom. It’s a rare combination.”
Early on in the pandemic crisis, Olajide, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Lagos, Nigeria, announced on one of the board’s Zoom meetings that he and his company were doubling down with an additional $50,000 in contributions to support the chamber and urged others who were still doing OK financially to follow suit.
“John’s leadership led many other companies to increase their contributions to the chamber,” Petroskey said. “I’ll be forever grateful to him for that.”
Olajide also personally kicked in $100,000 to the Revive Dallas Small Business Relief Fund.
“I believe in collaboration, and that is how I operate with my work at the DRC,” Olajide said. “Let’s create a culture. Let the ideas bubble up, and may the best idea win no matter who comes up with it.
“As I work with all the chamber leaders, they find that refreshing. People tell me over and over again that that’s uncommon. I’m amazed by that.”
Michelle Vopni will take over the chamber reins in January. She says she’s honed her meeting skills by watching Olajide.
“He’s incredibly inclusive,” said the 51-year-old Dallas office managing partner of Ernst & Young LLP. “He will call on me in various meetings and say, ‘Michelle, what is your point of view on that?’ ‘Michelle, would you like to say a few words?’ He pulls people in and makes sure that he’s hearing from everybody.”
‘I like to score goals’
So who is this deep-voiced, soft-spoken, imposing figure with a warmhearted laugh?
“It’s OK to call me tall, dark and handsome,” he quipped.
Olajide was the middle of five boys spanning 10 years in age. His parents, who finished their formal education by the sixth grade, used their entrepreneurial skills to create a successful business and provide a middle-class lifestyle for their family of seven.
“I was blessed with great parents,” Olajide says. “A lot of love. A lot of the right values. My parents stressed education.”
His father always encouraged him to do his own thing. “So I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and build my own enterprise if given the opportunity.”
Studies came easily for Olajide. He was at the top of his military boarding school class in almost every subject. “I just liked to learn for the sake of learning. I’m still like that.”
He also excelled in sports, notably track and the long jump, and soccer, where he played forward. “I like to score goals. I just like to get things done, you know?”
These days, Olajide doesn’t mix it up on the soccer field, but he shoots hoops, swims, plays tennis and jogs five miles at least four times a week. He’s also working on his golf game as a member of Bent Tree Country Club. Asked about his handicap, Olajide says, “I’m a terrible golfer, so let’s not put it in writing.”
‘MIT of the South’
From the time he can remember, Olajide’s dream was to come to the United States and get his engineering degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Unfortunately, while his grades were strong enough to get in, his finances weren’t.
Instead, at 16, he came to Dallas, where he earned his two-year associates degree at Richland Community College before transferring to UTD for his telecommunications engineering degree in 2004.
“I’ve heard people describe UTD as the MIT of the South. So that’s the closest I came,” he said.
Olajide is among the university’s most ardent supporters.
In 2016, he became the youngest recipient of UTD’s distinguished alumnus award. He broke the record for table sales when 50-plus friends and family members flew in from around the world to attend the awards gala.
“Good thing that Dallas is so far from Nigeria. Otherwise, our entire village would be here tonight,” he told the gathering.
3 Nigerian mates
Axxess is run by Olajide, his older brother and a childhood friend, who are both minority partners.
Ron Olajide, 43, became the chief financial officer two years after John started Axxess. Ron had been working at a large advertising agency.
“John said, ‘Why don’t you come join me? It’s a very small company now, but there’s a potential to build something big.’ He took me out to dinner, made sure I got drunk, and I said yes.
“It’s been a fun ride ever since.
“He’s very intense, smart, fun-loving, and we work well together. It’s like an adult day care. We just hang out every day.”
Andrew Olowu, Axxess’ chief technical officer, has known Olajide for 32 years. They grew up in the same neighborhood and were both boarders at a military high school.
Olowu oversees the software and takes care of product engineering and IT.
“[John’s] given me the freedom to run that,” Olowu said. “Part of the success that we’ve enjoyed is that the three of us are really strong in different areas.”
Last fall, Axxess donated $500,000 to endow UTD’s largest scholarship program for computer science students. In recognition of the gift, the central hub of its new engineering and computer science west building is now Axxess Atrium.
Olajide also created an opportunity fund to benefit the National Society of Black Engineers, which he belonged to as a student.
“I’ve lived in Dallas longer than I lived in Nigeria,” Olajide said. “I couldn’t have built Axxess in any other part of the country. I feel a sense of gratitude and responsibility to make Dallas better than I met it. It’s just the way I’m wired.”
AT A GLANCE: Niyi John Olajide
Title: Founder and CEO of Axxess Technology Solutions Inc.
Born: Lagos, Nigeria
Naturalized U.S. citizen: 2010
Education: Two-year associate’s degree, Richland Community College, 2001; bachelor of science in telecommunications engineering, University of Texas at Dallas, 2004
Personal: Married to Bukky for three years. They have a blended family of two daughters, 9 and 9 months, and a son who’s 2½
Boards: Dallas Entrepreneur Center, UTD executive board and chairman of the Dallas Regional Chamber
Honors: 2016 distinguished alumnus, UTD; 2019 Humanitarian of the Year from Grace for Impact, an international nonprofit organization focused on providing access to high-quality health care
Axxess Technology Solutions Inc.
What it does: Provides cloud-based software for home health and hospice organizations to run more efficiently by managing back-office, electronic health records, payers, scheduling and staffing.
Annual revenue: 2020 revenue approximately $65-plus million
Number of employees: 500
Number of clients: 7,000 home health care and hospice companies and hospital systems in all 50 states, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia
SOURCE: John Olajide
Read the whole series
Part 1: Two Black leaders are shaping the Dallas business community’s response to dual pandemics.
Part 2: Many local business leaders say they’re committed to inclusion and diversity. But will it last?
Today: John Olajide, CEO of Axxess Technology Solutions Inc., wants to make getting medical care at home as easy as hailing a ride.
Coming next week: Fred Perpall, CEO of the Beck Group, gives his unvarnished take on what it’s like to be a Black CEO of a $1.45 billion company in Dallas.