Don’t Use the Interns to Fetch Coffee

UPDATED: September 16, 2017
PUBLISHED: September 16, 2017

Tall Order“Don’t use interns to fetch coffee. Ever.”

It’s advice Elliott Holt, founder of MediCopy Services Inc., a Nashville, Tennessee-based medical-transcription company, would give anyone launching an internship program. He once thought interns would suck the productivity out of his office until he partnered with Vanderbilt University three years ago. Now interns are a vital part of his business.

A longtime member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Holt says interns can be a viable asset to your team and personal growth. “Invest time and resources into your interns, and give them meaningful work,” he says. “Think about training the perfect job candidate, and train your interns the same way.”

We sat down with Holt to learn about the struggles of entrepreneurship. Read the entire Q&A below.

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How did you conceive your company?

My mothers was a medical transcriptionist at a local orthopedic clinic in Nashville for 30 years. During her tenure, my parents divorced. At the time I was 15 and would hang out in the lunchroom at the clinic. I worked my way to their medical records department helping out until they eventually put me on their payroll, making $4.25 an hour. I worked in medical records there throughout high school. When I was a senior in high school, my father died. I was unsure of a lot of things including who I wanted to be. I attended a local community college for two weeks before dropping out and going back to my medical records job. My father had been an entrepreneur, owning a printing company for more than15 years before his death. I approached my boss at the time and asked her if I could take over the processing of medical records (we were using a nationwide company at the time, which is now one of my largest competitors). With $50 in my account, I asked my mother to sign me up for AOL at Best Buy so I could receive a gift card (I did not have credit at the time). In 2000, Best Buy was giving away $500 for signing up for AOL. I took the gift card and bought a copy machine. I would use this copy machine to copy medical records for the first two years of business as I grew. Over the last 17 years, MediCopy has grown to a team of almost 100 employees, more than 1,500 physician practices and hospitals in 44 states.

What challenges did you encounter when first growing your business?

Capital. I had experience but I did not have capital. I have always invested our profit right back into the company. Bootstrapping the company to date has been successful but at times can have some setbacks when you want to grow at a faster rate.

Related: 5 Tips for Running a Successful Business

What personal challenges have you encountered on your entrepreneurial journey?

Giving up control. Four years ago, I hired a director of operation, HR director, compliance director and an accounting director. I was all of the above up until then. I could not take it anymore. I was wearing thin and decided to create these roles within the company. I wish I would have done it sooner but being a stubborn, controlling entrepreneur who wanted everything my way, I held on for dear life. Looking back, it was the best thing I could have ever done. Surrounding myself with a smarter, more experienced team has catapulted this company more than anything else.

How did you first hear about the Entrepreneurs’ Organization?

Darren Metz, the owner of NovaCopy is one of our vendors. After one meeting with him, he saw how passionate I was about my business and about growing the business and suggested that EO would be a good home. It has turned out to be one the best things I did both personally and professionally.

Internships can be a negative experience for both intern and company, but you turned that stigma around to create a positive experience. Do you think you got lucky because of the dedication shown by your interns, or do you think interns generally get a bad reputation?

I would I agree with both. Interns = time. Small business owners are already stretched thin with time. I was able to carve out time for myself and my management team and I believe with combination of that and the dedication from the interns made this a perfect equation.

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Elliot Holt_mentorship

What challenges have you faced throughout building your internship program? 

Finding interns. We have partnerships with multiple universities in Nashville but communicating our exceptional internship program directly them to them has been a challenge.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who might be on the fence about interns?

  1.  Do it.
  2.  Don’t use interns to fetch coffee. Ever.
  3.  Invest time and your resources into your interns and give them meaningful work.
  4.  Always have an intern shadowing you as a CEO/entrepreneur as it will keep you on your toes.
  5.  Think about training the most perfect candidate for a job and train your interns the exact same way.
  6.  Have a score card for your intern and your employee training them. This is a good way to keep score on both sides.

What’s on the horizon for you and MediCopy Services?

MediCopy will continue to grow just as it has the last 17 years. This year we will be celebrating our 6th year on the Inc. 5000 list as one of America’s Fastest Growing companies, which is a huge accomplishment. It’s a great time to be in business in Nashville. We anticipate continued growth to our top and bottom line numbers as well as plenty of personal and professional growth for our team!

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Business Better Than the Competition


This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.