It was 2004 straight out of residency that I started my first business. I didn’t know a thing about business, much less running a practice. However, I jumped in headfirst without a life vest. The journey that began in August of 2004 became one the scariest and most exhilarating journeys of my career. Now, almost 15 years later, I share the knowledge, expertise, and learnings that I’ve acquired about stepping into physician entrepreneurship and what it takes to start, grow, and successfully maintain a business without pulling your hair out with other doctors wanting to do the same. I speak with women physicians and other moms in medicine daily who are thinking about quitting medicine, but aren’t sure they have what it takes to start their own business. They have this grand view that starting a business is this impossible mountain. Here are some of the top 5 myths I hear about becoming a physician entrepreneur and starting a business.
You have to have an MBA or have a business background
I have known many physicians (and non-physicians) who have had MBA’s who are either not utilizing the degree (meaning they have not started their own business), or who are failing at starting, growing, or maintaining a successful business. On the contrary, I know even more physicians (and non-physicians) who have no such degree and have started and grown multiple businesses. The point is, while having an MBA or business background is not a bad thing, it’s certainly not an indicator of whether or not you can start or be successful as a business or practice owner.
This is like saying to a newly graduated college student that they have to have experience in a position before they can get a job. While, the former helps, it doesn’t predict one’s success in the field. Having prior exposure to running a business (through family or other ties) is an added benefit, but not a necessity to be able to successfully run a business. What is required is the willingness to educate oneself, learn from mentors or coaches, and grow into the expertise. I grew up in an entrepreneurial household. However, when I first started my practice, it failed because I knew nothing about business. I knew I wasn’t going to spend $40K and 2 years on a business degree, but what I did know is that I could attend workshops, conferences, and seminars. I bought programs, hired coaches, and participated in masterminds. This willingness to learn is what has made me successful in my businesses.
Starting a Business is Complicated
Actually, starting a business is fairly simple. In fact, that may be part of the problem. It’s so simple that many people do it without taking the proper steps to create a strategy. When you have the right systems, structures, and systems in place starting a business is actually pretty easy. There can be a lot of moving parts, but if you realize that starting a business is not a “solo project”, and you get at least one other person to help you put the necessary systems in place, you can start and build a business fairly quickly. The physicians I coach are always surprised at how quickly they can go from idea inception to business setup, and how fast they can even begin having patients or clients once they get past the view that it’s too complicated.
Don’t expect to make a profit for 5 Years
While in some business models this may be true, there are MANY business models where you can see a profit within the first 2 years and some within the first year. For those who choose to go big at the very beginning (meaning they are embarking on large acquisition projects that require huge capital up front), it may take more than 3 years to turn a profit. But for the physician who wants to transition into something more virtual (like virtual online programs, courses, information products, coaching, consulting, etc), turning a profit can happen much quicker than one thinks. My first practice (a cash based integrative medicine practice) took about 5 years to mature to profit status (likely because it was started just before the 2008 recession). However, when I started my physician coaching and training company, it only took 10 months before I could fully transition out of my full time job. So, it depends on what type of business you are starting as to how long it will take before it becomes profitable, however most businesses can be profitable within the first 2 years and some much less.
I am the poster child for not letting failure define me as a business person. Not only did my first practice fail, I’ve probably had more failures in business than successes. However, it’s the failures that have led me to those major successes, and it’s the mindset that failure is feedback that keeps me in the game. If you are going to be a physician entrepreneur and be in business, you have to get that failure is just part of the game. If you are not willing to fail, then you are really not willing to succeed.
14 years after my first business adventure, I continue to step into new territory. It is the life of an entrepreneur… always “leveling up”. I take the lessons I learned over the last more than decade, and not only re-apply them in new ventures, but also teach my physician entrepreneur mentees and students everything I’m learning along the way. The most important thing for physicians who want to embark upon starting a business to know is that it’s not so much a destination but a journey. When you choose business ownership you choose the mountain with no top. It can be a scary journey, but the biggest failure in business is to not try at all.
Maiysha Clairborne MD is an integrative medicine physician and coach, who blogs at Stress Free Mom MD is the founder of the Next Level Physicians Entrepreneurs Institute. She is also the creator of Next Level Physicians Doctors in Business Facebook Groups