Perhaps one of the most important consequences a doctor should consider when thinking of delving into entrepreneurship is their potential ‘area of effect’, or rather the increased overall impact they can have through their work.
Doctors and entrepreneurship work well together primarily because of the overlapping skills and strengths required. Whilst not all aspects of care, (emotional, spiritual, physical or otherwise) can be scaled well beyond a single person or clinician, there are many levels of support and compassion that can be amplified by an entrepreneurial mindset.
This perspective is perhaps best encapsulated in a quote from Dr Ritesh Malik, Forbes 30 under 30 recipient, serial entrepreneur and investor who said:
“I just feel as a doctor I could just reach about 100 patients a day, but by leveraging technology I can reach 100 million a day”
This sentiment happily marries with our motto over at The Medical MBA – ‘Teaching Hundreds to Reach Millions’. Doctors give an extraordinary amount each day and modern, digital entrepreneurship allows this to be magnified and scaled to a global level.
With levels of burnout at an all time high in the medical profession, entrepreneurship is an excellent creative outlet that allows doctors to create an impact far beyond what many themselves believed possible.
To support those doctors on their journey, perhaps only initially curious about whether they really can build their own business, we have outlined below some of the many transferable skills that make doctors and entrepreneurship the perfect mix.
Ultimately, although there are various points in the below list, doctors make excellent entrepreneurs because of the need to make fast, accurate and balanced judgements with the minimum of emotional distraction.
Entrepreneurship takes a monumental amount of research, organisation, effort, experimentation and grit. What many don’t realise is that these are the very skills that they have been building throughout medical school and their clinical career.
- Patience and Perseverance
Whether it be getting through medical school or pushing through a particularly punishing set of night shifts, doctors get more than their fair share of perseverance training. This bodes well when entering the world of business, especially for those with an entrepreneurial spark.
While passion and spirit do help on the entrepreneurial journey it’s grit and perseverance, over failure after failure, that makes successful entrepreneurs who they are today.
Whilst having a world-changing idea is the starting point of any great business, the long unpaid hours, mistakes, obstacles and creeping doubt weed out what would have been amazing physician-entrepreneurs.
By understanding that getting great business ideas off the ground takes much of the same blood, sweat and tears that are required within medicine doctors can be better prepared when launching their own start up.
- Experienced Risk Takers
When it comes to formulating a diagnosis, when time is up and the patient’s status is urgent, doctors need to weigh vast amounts of knowledge against a fluid situation in order to act in the patient’s best interest.
Between history, examination, blood tests, discussions with the team and relatives and more, formulating a cohesive treatment plan is not a simple task. When you multiply this up by the number of patients seen per day, you begin to see how many crucial risk-benefit analyses a doctor can make.
Being agile in business is vital, even more so since COVID, and start ups thrive exactly because their founders are able to take this flexible and dynamic approach to running their business.
- Communication and Sales
Whether with a patient’s family or organising a team on the ward, communication skills are at the heart of medicine. Sales may seem far away from medical practice but of course it is builty upon good communication.
Every time we have explained a consent form to a patient or argued our case for an intervention or scan, we are holding our opinions up and making our case, attempting to make someone else agree with us and change their behaviour accordingly.
This is sales through and through, although we more likely say discuss, educate or inform in the clinical setting. Without the same steadfast belief in your business idea that you have in your clinical acumen, your business will never grow into anything meaningful.
Do you believe that you have the ability to provide your service or offering?
Are you able to communicate that belief to potential clients or customers?
Doctors need to break through their usual way of communicating, assuming appropriate parties will listen because we have something of importance to say. In business ‘build it and they will come’ is a long dead phrase in our new attention economy.
Entrepreneurial doctors need to keep this in mind and leverage their advanced communication skills to bring their ideas to market in a way that cuts through the noise and hype.
- Operating under pressure
As a business owner there are a thousand different priorities competing for your attention at all times. Being able to keep a clear priority list is one thing, but there are times when you can’t achieve all that you wanted in the time that you have.
This of course leads to sacrifices, increased stress and a destabilised work environment. Doctors have plenty of experience making crucial decisions under time and moral pressures. Keeping a clear head when you hit an obstacle or when everything seems to be falling down around you is a key trait of any successful entrepreneur.
- Creative Problem Solving
Many extol the virtues of medicine as being a mixture of science and art, but where does the art play its part in modern medicine? One way creativity plays a role in medicine (and there are many) is through meeting a novel task and being able to solve it without prior experience – an all too frequent experience in the clinical setting.
With the rise of protocol-driven medicine some may feel that the career has its ‘colour by numbers’ moments, but any doctor who has practiced for a few years will know that on-your-feet creativity is vital in dealing with complex patients in need of urgent care.
Business at its core is really about one thing – finding and providing solutions to other people’s problems. While it may seem obvious what problems there are, solving the problem of actually generating the solution is a task that entrepreneurial medics come well prepared for.
- Natural Networks
Networking may seem business orientated but medics have been networking since medical school. Whether joining a new clinical team or meeting and greeting at conferences, making new connections is second nature to the majority of doctors.
While networking isn’t a cure all for potential marketing woes, meeting like-minded people, especially entrepreneurial medics, can be a great motivator in seeing how much potential your own business has in the near and far future.
All that time spent unknowingly practicing networking pays dividends when you start out as a business owner – what you know is useful, but who you know can make all the difference.
- Helping Others
The desire ‘to make a difference’ underpins all doctors and indeed healthcare staff. It’s also the basis of our motto at The Medical MBA – ‘teaching hundreds to reach millions’. Without helping others there is no healthcare, medicine or doctors. This is why doctors not only make great entrepreneurs, but they make great entrepreneurs for the world at large.
As physicians we live on one of the front lines of humanity, seeing the whole landscape of physical, mental and societal ills and contrasting celebrations. Being so close to the frontier equips physicians with the insight into how best we can fix these existing problems and help both the individual and greater society.
- Split Testing & Pattern Recognition
Aside from consuming large amounts of anatomical and medical knowledge, medical students are taught and build their own internal framework on how to process and think. This critical thinking allows us as doctors to find the right solution quickly in a sea of possible answers.
The skill of quickly evaluating complex data and then moving quickly towards the right decision allows physician-business owners to stay ahead of the curve and keep the big picture in mind when the complexities of the day muddy the water.
When faced with a difficult decision this in-built pattern recognition lets us ignore unhelpful information and quickly test out new ideas instead of blindly sticking to one course of action. Doctors are natural ‘split testers’, remembering the results of multiple courses of action and implementing a change only when it has proven its relative worth.
Although we have covered 8 points in this article, there are many more reasons why doctors make great entrepreneurs. We hope this is some form of inspiration to those medics who may be toying with the idea of starting their own business but are unable to take the first step. Medicine and business are not easy by anyone’s standards, but the overlap and transference of skills between the two puts doctors in good stead to realise their entrepreneurial aspirations.