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5 Lessons I learned as a Physician Entrepreneur


(That Have Made Me Successful Today)

Eleven years ago, I jumped off a cliff and into the world of entrepreneurship.It was the scariest decision I made in my career (given that I had tried before and failed). It also ended up also being the most exhilarating growth inspiring decision I'd ever make in my career.Being a physician and thinking I could do anything anyone else could do, I decided I was going to start an integrative medicine cash practice from scratch in 3 weeks (after getting notice that my locums job was giving me the boot due to financial constraints).Turns out owning a business wasn't as easy as I thought.It was also very rocky and painful.There were many tears and sleepless nights.But 11 years later, the success of building a well-known integrative wellness center in Atlanta made all of the ups and downs worth it. I often tell the physicians I coach that I failed so others don't have to.Here are 5 BIG lessons I learned along the way.

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,"

Jumping off a cliff is only good when you have planned how to land

Many times (like mine) the decision to jump into the world of business ownership or entrepreneurship comes from the need to step away from a bad situation. As such it can create the pressure to "start something now".Combine that with the drive, determination, and high performance of our training and you have the set up for impulsivity that can lead to struggle and even failure. "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," The worst thing I did the first go around as a physician entrepreneur was that I didn't take the time to really plan my course.Even the second time, my planning was abbreviated and much of my success was learning on the job. It was like I was building a plane after it was already in the air.I would not recommend that at all.

If you don't know where you are jumping, it's hard to land in the right place.

The first time I started my practice, I had an idea of what my vision was, but it wasn't very clear. Consequently, it took me some years before I was able to streamline my message and marketing in a way that allowed me to attract the kind of patients that most fit my sweet spot (which also were the patients that got the best results because the really wanted to be there). Jumping without a vision of where you are going will lead you on unnecessary and costly detour to your destination. While there are some who have money to blow on experimentation, most business smart owners know that money saved is money that can be re-invested in the places most needed. If you are thinking "well, I'm not trying to start a business, I'm just looking for a better job", this is even more applicable here. If you are searching for a job and you take what "looks better than that last one.." then the likelihood of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire is extremely high. When you stop, get still, and actually create the vision (the ideal), then you have an clear picture of where you are going and thus can create a pointed road map with check points to get there.

"Ultimately, you want to always look at the big picture for your patients, your job or business AND for your priorities." 

Creating a Strategy is a Team Effort

Once again, when I started my practice the first time, there was only one person involved… me. Sure, I looked things up online and downloaded checklists, but I failed to consult with or even run things by my predecessors. Even though what I was doing was fairly unusual (semi-partnering with a chiropractor), I still should have looked for some guidance on best practices for office setup and marketing. What I did RIGHT the second time around was to get a business coach, a marketing coach, and run my ideas by lots of my friends who at the time were my closest entrepreneur mentors. While I was still late to the game in taking these actions (I recommend doing these things BEFORE starting your business not AFTER the fact), doing this helped me to push past the challenges, find new creative ways of marketing, and helped to continue to refine my processes.

Sometimes You Have to Be Willing to Pivot

I believe another thing that has made me successful as an entrepreneur is the ability to be flexible and pivot when necessary. While in some ways you need to be able to stick to the strategy you create, in other ways you have to know when a pivot will benefit the business. Being blindly attached to an outcome can ultimately block new potential opportunities and growth. There were aspects of practice that I never considered I'd enter in integrative medicine when I began that I now absolutely love (and that became profit centers for the business). Ultimately, you want to always look at the big picture for your patients, your job or business AND for your priorities. Are your values in alignment with the shift? If you are in business for yourself, will this pivot benefit the business? Will it benefit your life? Is it a permanent or temporary solution? Does the ends justify the means? Will it benefit your clients or patients? Will it benefit your life? (Yes that question is there twice on purpose).

Mental preparation is the most important preparation

Of all the things I've learned as an entrepreneur, the biggest lesson is that it takes a particular kind of grit to be in business for yourself. I used to say I couldn't be in real estate investing or the stock market because I didn't have the stomach for it. It's too unpredictable in my eyes, and I can't stand unpredictability. Today, the irony of that statement is not lost on me given that being a serial entrepreneur carries with it just is much uncertainty as the industries I claimed to be afraid of. In business, even with the most solid strategies, structures, and the best teams in place, things can be unpredictable. Knowing this ahead of time and preparing yourself mentally, emotionally, and financially are the key to making these changes more palatable.

Now, here I am; 11 years later, stepping out into new territory again.It is the life of an entrepreneur… always "leveling up". I now take the lessons I learned over the last decade, and not only re-apply them in this new venture, but also teach and coach other physicians. Like I said, I fail so that others don't have to. Being an entrepreneur comes with a particular mindset, but being a physician entrepreneur carries a unique level of boldness that if not careful could end up in disaster, depression, and lots of debt. You must remember to, 1) Know where you are going before you jump, 2) Make a plan for how you are going to land and move forward after that, 3) Prepare your mind for the mental and emotional rollercoaster ahead and know that you have the grit to handle it, 4) Have people around that can empower, support, and bring new ideas and perspectives to the table (like a mentor, coach, or accountability partner), and 5) Be flexible and willing to pivot if necessary.If you lead with these lessons, you are more likely to be well prepared for the journey.

Did you enjoy this article? Let Us know! Please leave comments on this article with your insights and opinions about this topic, and let us know what other topics you'd like to hear in the future.

Physicians Reclaim Your Time, Freedom and Live a Life YOU Design. Learn more about our physician coaching programs at www.stressfreemommd.com and our physician entrepreneur curriculums at www.nextlevelphysicians.com. To invite Dr. Clairborne to speak at your next conference, event, or retreat visit www.drmaiysha.com

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Tuesday, 27 February 2024