With a computer in installments, where the box the computer was delivered in was used as a desk, the company Erlandsson & Bloom took its first stacking steps towards what has become one of the Nordic region’s leading media companies in health and medicine. One of the founders, Johan Bloom, talks about challenges and moments of joy that over the years have followed the company that is today called Add Health Media and now celebrates twenty years in the service of knowledge.
Johan Bloom originally comes from a town in Södra Dalarna. A strong drive and a constant curiosity is something that has characterized his entire life and after studying chemistry, Johan began a career in the pharmaceutical industry. In the 1990s, it was a thriving industry with several major launches and seemingly infinitely deep pockets of money. As an employee in the “industry”, it was easy to get caught up in the high pace and the constant growth speed that characterized the industry. But there was still something gnawing.
– My colleague Göran Erlandsson and I, who were a few years older, started talking about how it felt so frustrating not to be able to control their own. The thoughts eventually began to be shaped into concrete ideas and after a while we had the first seed for Erlandsson & Bloom, our first service that we came to call Läkemedelsbud, says Johan.
Pharmaceutical delivery was a service where the pharmaceutical companies received help to reach out with information and marketing towards healthcare. Like all good entrepreneurs, Johan and Göran believed in their idea so much that they chose to leave the pharmaceutical industry and instead offer their services to the industry via the new company.
– It is clear that it is a challenge to go from permanent employment to own company. Initially, we struggled a lot with liquidity, we sold the service, got paid in advance, implemented it and then we stood there without having sold any more. It became very stressful for long periods and at the same time we put a lot of money into the company, money that came out of our own pocket. We did not pick out any salaries either and the company’s first computer and telephone had to be paid in installments. I mean, there we were sitting in an apartment in the Globe, had started a company and used the box that the computer came in as a desk, Johan laughs.
Being constantly up to date and creating services for which there is a need is one of the challenges that Johan Bloom has seen as most attractive with life as a self-employed person.
– It is always about finding new challenges and solutions. Finding services and products that you can, one day, hand over. What I discovered early on was that you need services and products that also run for longer periods so you do not have to run all the time but also have something that generates a more constant inflow of cash.
Drug delivery quickly became popular and only two years later came the next service, patient information in the form of brochure stands where they wanted to coordinate brochures that are out in the waiting rooms.
– When you see a need, you of course want to solve it and we thought it was a good idea, when we were still out in care, to also make sure that the patient environment became more pleasant. With the help of the brochure stand, the waiting rooms could be more organized instead of having brochures scattered everywhere. For the same reason, we started the following year, 2002, the magazine Doktorn, which today is only called Doktorn. We saw magazines of mixed quality that could have both months and years on our necks and thought that we could just as easily produce a more current popular science journal.
Erlandsson & Bloom continued to develop products and services for the waiting rooms and was out early with what is today called out of home in the media industry. It is outdoor advertising and store media but actually includes all types of TV screens with information, advertising and messages that are not in the home.
– At that time, we sent out DVDs with our own TV channel, we even had our own hello. Today, it is much easier with the technology that is available at the same time, it is fun that we have been out so early with different media that are now considered self-evident.
At that time, Erlandsson & Bloom consisted of several own bids, finance staff and of course the two founders Göran and Johan. The fact that they came from the pharmaceutical industry and started with print and distribution as their major channels also meant that they were a little late in digitizing themselves.
– It was only in 2008 that we started on the web, first with the site Patient.se and then came Doktorn.com At first it was primarily intended as an extension to the magazine, but today Doktorn.com is our absolute largest channel. In the last ten years, the site has had over 30 million visits, which is absolutely fantastic considering that we have always been a small private company that valued quality, knowledge and seriousness.
After a while, Johan and Göran chose to go their separate ways and Johan was left alone by the two founders, then as a salesman combined with the CEO. His time as an entrepreneur has also demanded his prize from the father of two, Johan.
– As a self-employed person, it is you who supports your business. It has meant long days, late nights, that it has been difficult to take a vacation or even get sick. The family has meant a lot to me and thanks to my wife I have had the opportunity to work as much as I have done. The goal when you start something is always to create such a strong and solid business where it is possible to hand over both parts and the whole over the years. Life is about handing over, whether it is to new colleagues or to our children.
Over the years, Johan has navigated the company through tight regulations and parried changes in both the industry and his own company.
– Our editorial staff has always had high integrity and credibility even though we are private and ad-financed, with that said, we have of course had to adapt the organization to what it looks like on the world market. From the beginning we had our own bids, today we no longer have it but we have a larger staff in the office. More and more is about the digital, which we must also be prepared for and today we have also broadened our advertiser base. Today we are also in the Nordic countries, which meant that a few years ago we decided that Erlandsson & Bloom would change its name to more reflect the business and then became Add Health Media.
Even though there have been challenges along the way and both setbacks and successes, Johan does not regret anything but looks with pride at what has become his life’s work.
– During the years, so much has happened, big and small, that has affected me positively and helped the company to grow. It has been everything from starting a trade fair for doctors and the general public to the fact that today we have a digital stomach test that more than 200,000 have completed. When I get positive feedback from patients, doctors, advertisers and of course the staff, I feel proud. I’m sure the company will be back in twenty years, how remains to be seen. The constant change in human behavior is one of the great challenges. There will be everything from artificial intelligence to robots and voice-controlled solutions, at the same time we must not forget that traditional media such as the newspaper and brochure stands are still popular. However, the future of the company feels secure and it was with a warm hand that I handed over as CEO a couple of years ago. You also need to move on to new challenges, Johan states.
For Johan is not the one who sits by a shore with a fishing rod and gnoles on some show from Dalskogarna, on the contrary. Something has to happen and today, in addition to being the main owner and member of the board, he also has a position within the company which means that he works towards the constantly innovative e-health industry.
– Personally, I think that, if I am allowed to maintain my health, in twenty years’ time I will still be working and looking for new exciting challenges that I can share further. All experience and knowledge that not only I possess but also the entire company will need to be managed and that management will never end. Then in the future I will find more time to enjoy life, wife and children and other interests something it was difficult to find time for when the whole company rested on my shoulders. But I will never be able to sit completely still, it’s not me, says Johan.
Add Health Media, formerly Erlandsson & Bloom, founded in 1999 by Göran Erlandsson and Johan Bloom. Initially, the company ran an information service via courier. Today, the company operates some of the Nordic region’s largest media services in medicine and health. Among other things, the magazine you now hold, the website Doktorn.com in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Several of the services that have been involved from an early start, including Läkemedelsbud and Patientinformation are still in the company, albeit under a different name. Recently, Praktisk Medicin also added www.praktiskmedicin.se, a patient support that has been aimed at healthcare staff for over 40 years.
Family : Wife, two children 12 and 14 years
Age : 51 years
Bor : Sollentuna
Education : Chemist
Hobbies : Exercise
Last read book : John Grisham, The rouge lawyer
Person who inspired : Antony Robbins, Dalai Lama