University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 29: Oliver L. Sims III

Oliver L. Sims III is the Americas Technical Sales Leader at Broadcom Inc. He is a business executive with a proven track record in starting, transforming, and growing businesses, sales, and technical sales organizations.


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Episode Transcript

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00:06 Matt Waller: Hi, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of Sam M. Walton College of Business. Welcome to Be EPIC, the podcast where we explore excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality, and what those values mean in business, education and your life today.

00:27 Matt Waller: I have with me today Oliver Sims, who is an alumnus of the Walton College of Business and he works for Broadcom Inc. And for many years, he worked for Computer Associates, CA Technologies, and he's also involved in startups and all kinds of things. But first of all, Oliver, thank you for taking time to visit with me.

00:53 Oliver Sims: Thank you for the opportunity, Matt. Appreciate it.

00:55 Matt Waller: And where are you from originally?

00:55 Oliver Sims: Originally from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

00:57 Matt Waller: How did you decide to come to the business school?

01:01 Oliver Sims: I was originally, I had my eyes focused on Cornell University. I wanted to get out of the state, I had taken some classes at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, or AM&N, and grew up on that campus, grandmother lived across the street from it. So, I was looking not to go to school there at home, and looking to get out of the state, so I had applied and been accepted to Cornell University. But finances got in the way. So at the end of the day, my mom said, "Where do you wanna go, if you can't go to Cornell?" I said, "I might as well go to the best school in the state." And that was the University of Arkansas. And as fortune had it, my grandmother worked for Lewis Ramsey, who was the former chairman of the board of the University of Arkansas, so I applied, I was accepted, ran into one hurdle that was housing and Mr. Ramsey, a long-time family friend, was able to help me get a place to live and that that's how I began in Fayetteville.

01:54 Matt Waller: Awesome.

01:55 Oliver Sims: Yes, yes.

01:56 Matt Waller: And you graduated in '85.

01:58 Oliver Sims: '85, exactly.

02:00 Matt Waller: When did you move to...

02:01 Oliver Sims: To Dallas?

02:01 Matt Waller: Dallas?

02:02 Oliver Sims: I moved to Dallas right off the bat. I had a job, my first job out of college was with Allstate insurance Company. And at Allstate, when I was at Walton, one of the things that I studied was information systems and technology, and we had to do a lot of programming. Well, I'd learned that I wasn't going to be a developer, but I loved the field, and I've got education in the field. And I was fortunate to land a job with Allstate insurance company, and Allstate had one of their information processing facilities in Irving, Texas. So, I came, had a job. They actually hired me, they gave me three months off and said, "Hey, you'll start later in the year." And it was a fantastic experience. A lot of folks were migrating from Fayetteville to Dallas, even back then.

02:50 Matt Waller: And you were there for 11 years.

02:52 Oliver Sims: Yeah, yeah, I did a lot at Allstate. It was a great experience. I'm a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Arkansas managing a computer operations that had adults, 40 and 50 year old adults in it and it was a tremendous learning opportunity. Allstate afforded me the ability, they paid for my MBA. I progressed through the Allstate organization to the level of director. I founded a company too outside of Allstate because our organization, we had very talented people, and I had excess time. I'd gotten my MBA, I was looking for something else to do, and it was a really great run. I still have a lot of friends at Allstate, and Allstate is a customer of mine at this and have been for a long, long time.

03:33 Matt Waller: Wow, then you went to work for Computer Services, for a time.

03:37 Oliver Sims: For a time. Yeah, actually, I started a computer manufacturing company back in the early days of PCs, with an engineering graduate, Denishio Colman, out of the engineering school at Arkansas. We started that company, PC Upgrade USA, matter of fact, we're very comfortable on this mic because we had a two and a half year run on a radio program locally where we educated the community about PCs and things.

04:00 Oliver Sims: So, Allstate to working for our own company, PC Upgrades, sold that company, went to work for Computer Associates because I'm like, "Well, if I gotta work for somebody, I might as well go sell it." And the income opportunity was great there. And I started in my software sales career back with Computer Associates in the, was the late '90s, I think it was.

04:19 Matt Waller: Wow.

04:19 Oliver Sims: Yeah.

04:20 Matt Waller: So going into information technology was really good for you.

04:26 Oliver Sims: Yes, yes, it was very good. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, Matt. What do a lot of people do? What did I do? I looked at the salary surveys. It said engineers were getting paid the most and I'm like, "No." And then it said, computer scientists were next, and I said, No." It said there was a business information system end of that, that did well coming out from a salary perspective, compensation. So that's how I got there. So it was really by happenstance, but it's been a tremendous thing. I had no idea the technology was going to continue to be such an integral part of all our lives and as you walk around with your phone, and I walk around with two of them every day, it's omnipresent now, right?

05:07 Matt Waller: Right.

05:07 Oliver Sims: It was a great decision, even if I fell into it.

05:08 Matt Waller: Of course, you worked for Computer Associates for quite a while.

05:10 Oliver Sims: Yes.

05:11 Matt Waller: And you were involved in global business with them.

05:15 Oliver Sims: Yes, yes.

05:17 Matt Waller: And then a part of Computer Associates got acquired, is that right?

05:21 Oliver Sims: Yes, it did. Well, what happened was I actually left the company, I took a VP of sales job with another software company in Detroit for a little bit and then I took an assignment to London that my wife and I were moving over to London. My son says today that he could have been born British, he wished we had have stayed, it didn't happen, but I took another assignment. I went to a couple of startups in the late '90s, early 2000s, I was the dotcom boom, I did several of those. I still have stock certificates at home that are worthless but that have big numbers on them. So I did that and then I went to work again for Computer Associates.

05:53 Oliver Sims: And we were recently acquired by Broadcom. Broadcom is a $24-25 billion chip manufacturing company, they compete with Intel, Qualcomm, those guys. And they look to diversify their business because they're in the hardware space. They saw the fact that a part of CA's business had long-term, highly profitable contracts, big mainframe systems that still run, are the backbone of many of the information processing companies, the information intensive companies like banks, like insurance companies, medical, government. They saw that as a real opportunity for them to diversify their business out of just strictly the chipset, four or five that are in each one of our phones, to get into another business and to get into the software business infrastructure. So they acquired us. So now we're officially Broadcom.

06:42 Matt Waller: Interesting, so you've been in information systems your whole career.

06:46 Oliver Sims: Yes, yeah.

06:46 Matt Waller: Because your education was in the business side of information systems and you're involved with some startup.

06:53 Oliver Sims: Yeah, absolutely. About 10 years ago, I thought, "I've got a young son. I need to make money for a number of years, I've gotta fund his undergraduate and graduate degrees. What area of technology should I go into that has a long tail on it? That I can work in, sell in, start a business in that'll give me another 20-year run." And this was about 10 years ago. I'd look... It boiled down to security or healthcare, and I decided to go healthcare, because I'm thinking, "Wait a minute, healthcare, there is a great need to automate that process. The 43, 44 components of healthcare supply chain, many of them are not connected, loosely connected, inferior, old, out-of-date systems. I want healthcare and I said, "It pulls at my heart too because I can help somebody."

07:39 Oliver Sims: So once I decided to do that, I started focusing on the Dallas startup community and how I could build some skills related to startups. I started advising startups. I started investing in startups in Dallas. I got engaged in some of the incubators locally, some of the funds locally, I started again, advising those firms and then independently, I've got a company where I invest in startups and advise them.

08:05 Oliver Sims: About a year ago, about 18 months ago, I decided it was time for me to go ahead and do something on my own. Investing is one thing, starting a company in the healthcare space is another. I wanted to marry healthcare with technology. We decided to... I interviewed a couple of folks that were in the population health space that experience told them what I wanted to do, marry healthcare and technology and I wanted to partner with another Arkansas alum, Kevin Dedner. He is not out of the Walton College, but he is in the University of Arkansas Fulbright graduate. So I wounded up starting a company with him called Henry-Health. That company, in case you're wondering what we do, we are focused on delivering mental health services via teletherapy, curated mental health services via teletherapy to African-American men, a population that's significantly underserved, a population that arguably has more stress than any other population in this country, but because of the phobias, the stigma, whatever various reasons there are, we don't seek mental health services, that's one side of the business, just teletherapy.

09:12 Oliver Sims: The other side is curated self-care, self-health information where we provide insight to the top 10 stressors of life. What drives you to seek and need therapy? Death, job loss, divorce. Those types of things have been proven to drive people, ratchet up their stress levels. So we're providing free services for self-care, we're providing teletherapy. We train therapists. We trained our first group of therapists beside of John Hopkins, talked to the Veterans Administration, because they say there's a need there. I've talked to other underserved population groups and target population groups and so we're just beginning with Henry-Health.

09:49 Matt Waller: That is impressive.

[laughter]

09:51 Oliver Sims: I learned it all at Walton, what can I say?

[laughter]

09:56 Matt Waller: I mean, you must have lots of energy to be able to do all this.

09:58 Oliver Sims: Well, well, yeah, and I got a family, I have a family too, and I've got a son who I'm very proud to say he'll be going up to the University of Arkansas, be a member of the Walton College of Business, be majoring in finance, and I'm excited about that, but there's a lot of things I get excited about. Making money is one thing, giving back to the community and to the university is another thing.

10:20 Matt Waller: Well, and... Of course you're on my advisory council.

10:22 Oliver Sims: Yes.

10:23 Matt Waller: And you've been extremely helpful to me. You're always there.

10:28 Oliver Sims: I enjoy it.

10:28 Matt Waller: Willing to help.

10:29 Oliver Sims: Yes.

10:30 Matt Waller: Enthusiastic about helping...

10:32 Oliver Sims: Yes, yes.

10:33 Matt Waller: What drives you in that way?

10:35 Oliver Sims: Well, the University of Arkansas has been good to me. I look back over my life. Some people say, "How have you been so successful?" I owe a lot of that to my experience at the University of Arkansas, not only the education but the lifelong friends, the ability to be... Remain connected, the ability for it to continue to enrich my life. I wouldn't send my son to Fayetteville if I didn't think it was a great place for education.

11:00 Oliver Sims: And I have a passion for helping all students. I'm also on your office of diversity and inclusion advisory board, so I'm very, very interested in diversity and inclusion, to make sure that everybody at the university gets exposure to all the flavors of the rainbow of experiences and of individuals and where our university is, continues to be a leading university and I just love giving back, because the university has been good to me and it's amazing that... I guess it was two or three weeks ago, the Arkansas... The alumni association gave me an award. I'm not in it for the award, I'm not even thinking about recognition, but when I came to the Leaders' meeting, they asked me to come and they gave me an award because they said I've done a lot of work. Well, I enjoy the work. And it's amazing how when you enjoy doing something, it doesn't seem like work. And that's truly my relationship with the University of Arkansas.

11:52 Matt Waller: Well, thank you. Now, starting a company, like you started. It's always a tough thing.

11:58 Oliver Sims: Yes.

12:00 Matt Waller: Even if you've got a great market defined, it's full of change and pivoting. It can actually be very stressful.

12:09 Oliver Sims: Absolutely, it is stressful.

12:11 Oliver Sims: Of course, you've been involved in the startup community for many, many years. You've been involved in the dotcom era. To say yes again to something like that, that takes a lot of tolerance for risk.

12:26 Oliver Sims: Yeah, yeah, tolerance for risk, takes a lot of passion, it takes a lot of... It takes a cooperative spouse and family. But when you have something you believe in, you're willing to go the extra mile for it. And Henry-Health is something that I know... It's just like they're on a rock in the pond, Matt. When that rock hits in the pond, that initial ripple spawns a number of other beautiful ripples, right? Our perspective is this, we know that the target population, we will go Hispanic male, we will go other targeted populations, we know that the targeted population, if we help one man deal with his stress, deal with his issues, it helps his family, it helps his community, it helps the city, state and country. So we can't fail. We may fail financially, but we will not fail in the impact we have on lives, because the moment we deliver the first tele-therapeutic session by a trained therapist, it's all accretive, that's my opinion.

13:29 Matt Waller: If I were to guess, I would guess that some of your biggest obstacles are around regulatory.

13:35 Oliver Sims: Absolutely, the healthcare space is overly regulated, severely regulated, but the other side of the space is that the Department of Health and Human Services is actually looking for innovation. We had someone to come to Washington DC, a meeting that we were in, specifically looking for us from HHS. He is an innovation leader for them. He came looking for us because he said, "You guys are doing something nobody else is doing with this market. We have grant programs for you to apply for, we love to support you. You can get up to 1.7 million in funding." And he encouraged us to apply for this grant, the Small Grant. I'm happy to say we were awarded the grant, and now...

14:15 Matt Waller: Congratulations.

14:15 Oliver Sims: Thank you. Now we're moving forward. Certainly, the administrative legal hurdles that we have to traverse, go through, every state has got their own regulating bodies with healthcare. The funding of the business is an issue. That's one of the reasons I got into advising startups and why I focus primarily on minority founders, because the stats will show you don't get funding. Well, now that I'm on minority funding I'm living that dream. I'm living that reality. It's not a dream, it's a nightmare. But I'm living that reality. So we've got to self-fund the business until we get the funding that we need, and we've got a lot of press. We've had a lot of people to support us. It's been fantastic social media support. But the funding is what we're seeking, but it doesn't matter, self-funded or via venture funding, we're gonna move the ball forward because we know we can have the impact that we will not regret, that we'll actually be really relishing in coming up.

15:11 Matt Waller: What is your business model?

15:13 Oliver Sims: Well, the business model is to sell to individual payers. It is to partner with other distribution channels, hospitals, primary care physicians have to ask about the mental side of the patient, community health centers. We've got a number of paths to men, and there's a number of ways to get to them. And it's amazing that without any advertising, working on this project that's very low key, we've got over 1000 men on our waiting list. We've got tens of therapists that have already signed up to be deliverers for us. And that's not even... We're not even trying...

15:50 Matt Waller: So you've already got customer traction?

15:52 Oliver Sims: Yes, we do, we do, and we'll be launching the service later in April.

15:57 Matt Waller: What would be the biggest challenges in terms of scaling this kind of...

16:01 Oliver Sims: The regulation in every state. The fact that you have to go state by state to the fact that absolute rock star therapists in Virginia can't treat a patient in California. All of these types of boundaries that will be the inhibitors of rapid scale. I see it this way, you can have a unicorn, as they say. You can have a very good business that's sustainable, and you build a business and you employ folks, or, or the exit could be a Talkspaces, that we have built a very nice business, targeting this population. Instead of them starting from scratch, they could just acquire us. That could be the path. So there are number of exit strategies; even if it's just a sustainable business, we'll go there. Or obviously you could fail, the financial models don't work. But we believe there's ample opportunity to do some good and to make some money in the business.

17:01 Matt Waller: We are of course proud of you as a Walton graduate. What advice do you have for students today that are in the Walton College?

17:11 Oliver Sims: What I would say is, certainly focus on learning what you can in school and focus on your education and do the best you can from the out and pick up as much as you can from the curriculum, the outstanding instructors that we have. Secondly I would say, be curious always. Always be curious. One thing that bothers me is when I see a kid and they ask a question, and they don't bother to even Google for the answer. Be curious always. Don't worry about failing, failing is just another step on the ladder to success. Try things, be willing to take risk, especially when you're young before the families are all in, it's time to explore. Also, don't necessarily be so focused on being 100% ready for any job you apply for. Okay, you've got skills, you've got abilities, apply for the position, you may get it.

18:04 Oliver Sims: Once you get in, those around you need you to be successful 'cause we've already made a bet on you. So don't be reticent about applying and thinking that you can do bigger and better things. And also continue to strive. You don't have to be the CEO to be successful. You can be a very successful small business owner as well. So don't just focus on corporate jobs, think about all types of opportunities because the US needs entrepreneurs, and we need great corporate executives and leaders.

18:32 Matt Waller: You had mentioned earlier that some of the friendships that you developed while you were in school continue to benefit you in the rest of your career, and I've observed that of our alumni. So do you have any advice for students around that while they're in school?

18:49 Oliver Sims: Yeah. Just relish the opportunity to meet people and realize that these folks who you're talking to are gonna go off and do great things as well, and it'd be great to have them in your life. Establish long-term relationships. It's funny, I really don't have a lot of friends from high school. I have a lot of friends from college, because there's something about being away from home in that environment that allows you to bond a little closer with people, and it just... Relish that opportunity to meet some friends, make some friends and continue to reach out to them when they go off, 'cause all of you are gonna experience similar things, wherever you go. It's you're gonna be new to the area, you're going to be new to the job. It's great to call a friend and share with and learn from each other, that would be my advice, relish those opportunities.

19:35 Matt Waller: Well, Oliver, again, congratulations on all of your business success, and thank you for continuing to stay involved in the Walton College, we really appreciate it.

19:44 Oliver Sims: Thank you, Matt, for all the hard work you're doing, I love the work you're doing, keep doing it, and I'll be here to support Walton and the University of Arkansas as long as I'm able, no doubt.

19:53 Matt Waller: Thanks for listening to today's episode of the Be EPIC podcast from the Walton College. You can find us on Google, SoundCloud, iTunes or look for us wherever you find your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and rate us. You can find current and past episodes by searching beepicpodcast, one word, that's B-E-E-P-I-C podcast. And now, Be EPIC.

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