If you are a doctor who has ever wondered what it might be like to run own business but have not taken action beyond the day-dreaming stage, you will be familiar with at least one of the following 7 stumbling blocks:
1. Caring (a lot) about what others think
Fear of disappointing relatives and friends is surprisingly common amongst doctors. Many of my coaching clients, especially female medics, admit to performing best in the context of seeking recognition and a desire to please others. These doctors tell me that if anyone found out about their idea to start a business, they’d be reminded how lucky they are to be treating the sick and so they should get rid of crazy ideas incompatible with being a medical professional.
It is difficult to be true to yourself when you let other people decide what should be right for you. Trust your gut.
2. Fear of failure
When considering anything new, many of us give in to the “what-if-it-doesn’t-work” gremlin. This powerful self-protection mechanism tends to create excuses why change isn’t right for you at this time. How about asking your gremlin “what if it does work out?”
Fear of failure is closely related to two traits common amongst the medical profession.Perfectionalism and risk aversion.
When medics are thinking of starting a business, they should get comfortable with the fact that their first idea may not hit the jackpot. The second one may not either. The third one might be worth developing further. Entrepreneurs are prepared to share their work before it is completed to perfection and then use the feedback to refine and adjust. In business there is a saying: “Fail fast, succeed faster”.
3. Fear of uncertainty
Not knowing whether the new venture will bring fulfilment leaves many of us stuck in the “analysis paralysis” mode.
In clinical practice, we are making decisions based on incomplete information all the time. In the meantime, in your own life, time is ticking away. Waiting for the right conditions, the right moment, the right feelings, the right people, the right anything… it’s just waiting. Confronting the fear of leaving the “comfort zone” to explore an uncharted territory is the only way to grow. In the end of the day, if you don’t try, you will never know.
4. Fear of financial insecurity
This fear can be crippling, especially if you have dependants and a mortgage. Starting a business or changing careers is often a long and slow process that requires careful planning. Some doctors who run their own businesses share HERE what they learnt about managing finances when starting out on their entrepreneurial journeys.
5. Fear of “burning bridges”
There are various mechanisms to take career breaks and return back to clinical practice. For those doctors who leave medicine without a plan to return but who subsequently realise they do want to return,it is usually possible to do so. It may feel like “hard work” to get back but it is not impossible (and at least you will have scratched the itch by trying something else before deciding that only medicine is “the thing” for you).
6. Limiting beliefs
At one point or another we have all had thoughts like “I’m too young / too old for that”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m just not like that”. Many doctors fear that a lack of an MBA or another business degree or qualification will make them underqualified to run a business. These are all “limiting beliefs” that are true only in our heads.
Theodore Katz MD reassures: “Someone who has successfully become a doctor has already demonstrated their skills, dedication, hard work, and desire to excel. An inventory of all those skills and qualities that enabled one to become a physician are no different than those that will make them successful in any new endeavour”.
7. Perception of limited resources and information
Not knowing where to begin and (even more importantly) what you really want can turn initial curiosity and excitement into disappointment and lack of motivation.
Your first step should be exploring your motivations for wanting a change as well as learning about yourself (your talents, values, strengths, dreams and limiting beliefs). Most doctors who are successfully running businesses have said that they got to where they are by developing a clear vision and creating ‘road maps’ with the help of mentors, coaches and inspiring role models.
Many physicians are exploring new, different business opportunities by stepping into the entrepreneurial arena. While they offer a very specific and dynamic perspective clinically, the transition might not be as easy as one might think.
Arlen Meyers, Co-Founder, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, shared his point of view on the subject recently in a blog post titled ” Don’t Throw Away Your White Coat.” While he clearly has a strong association with the transition, he does find that there are some distinctions concerning why this isn’t always a good idea.
Here are his ten reasons why the doctor turn entrepreneur might have some additional challenges (beyond the usual hurdles anyone comes across in the world of startups).
1. Most doctors don’t have an entrepreneurial mindset.
2. Doctors are trained to be risk averse.
3. Doctors are more interested in being problem solvers than problem seekers.
4. Doctors tend to be unidimentional, unwilling to expand their networks beyond an inner circle.
5. The culture of academic medicine, where almost all doctors are trained, tends to be anti-entrepreneurial and sees “money as dirty”
6. The ethics of medicine frequently are at odds with the perceived ethics of business.
7. While things are changing, most doctors are independently minded and not team players.
8. Some are “know it alls” who are not receptive to new ideas
9. Doctors spend a lot of time, money and effort becoming doctors. The opportunity costs or leaving clinical medicine to pursue an entrepreneurial venture is high.
10. The cost to society of losing a clinician at a time when there is a predicted doctors shortage is high.
Some of these points are vague, but in general they seem to be well thought out. Everyone is different, and some physicians surely have a real grasp on business. In fact, some physicians might even be better suited for business than practicing medicine. But maybe clinical training can detrimentally affect the way a person approaches the entrepreneurial environment. Worth considering and evaluating before taking off the white coat, indeed.