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Many doctors don’t think of themselves as business owners. As Dr. McCoy might have said in the original Star Trek series, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not an entrepreneur!” But doctors that own a medical practice are entrepreneurs. It may not seem like the two demanding careers would go hand-in-hand, but they often do.
As the co-founder of a medical spa franchise I’ve worked with quite a few physicians who have started their own businesses, so I understand how attractive running a business can seem to people in the medical profession. There are a lot of reasons you might want to consider stepping away from the daily grind of a hospital or general practice to run a franchise, start your own business or just do some consulting work.
But it isn’t necessarily easy to start a new business. You know that, of course, and I think most people would agree that starting a company is like a walk in the park compared to the agonizing studying you endured to become a doctor, nurse or another medical professional. Nevertheless, here are a few things to be ready for if you’re considering rejuvenating a medical career via entrepreneurship.
1. Don’t expect your hours to stabilize right away.
This will (or should) happen eventually. It isn’t like you’re setting up a 24-hour fast food restaurant. (Well, unless you are, in which case my hat is off to you because those hours are absurd.) But while most non-medical businesses don’t have a graveyard shift like a hospital does, just like a doctor you still may find yourself on call more than you’d like. You might find that you’re working late or before dawn during the startup phase, which can last several months. That said, you’re doing all of this for your future. I don’t think you’ll ever feel like it wasn’t worth the time and effort.
2. Be prepared to go from a stable income to one that’s likely less predictable.
If you’ve been drawing a regular salary from a practice or hospital, you may find that you can’t quite generate that exact salary figure right away with your new business. All businesses are different, of course, and it depends what type of company you’re starting. But it can take time to bring in customers. You may spend a few months preparing for a grand opening, and during that time, you may be bringing in … nothing. So you’ll want to have plenty in the bank, possibly enough for six months of living expenses in case you decide it isn’t prudent to draw a salary for a while and direct incoming revenue toward payroll. But if you are no longer working with insurers, going without a salary for a little while may seem like a small price to pay.
3. You may be going from one labor shortage to another.
As you know, doctors are overworked. Not only are more doctors leaving the field than they used to, but new doctors aren’t coming in. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that, by the year 2030, the country will face a shortage of 42,600 to 121,300 physicians. There is also a huge nursing shortage. By 2020, it’s expected the country will have a shortage of half a million nurses. But there are a lot of other businesses that have labor shortages — trucking, for instance, and construction. The unemployment rate is currently 4%. All of this is to say that, like everybody else out there, if you want to hire quality, competent staff, you’re going to need to be prepared to offer competitive salaries or wages. On the plus side, the more you invest in your employees, the better job they’ll do and the more revenue your business will earn.
4. Your time management skills will need an adjustment.
You were probably always a bit frazzled as a doctor. As a physician, with all of the growing administrative tasks and insurance companies running the show, doctors often report feeling as if they never got much time with their patients. If you’re a doctor running a general practice, you probably see an average of four to six patients an hour.
It’s likely that not much will change as an entrepreneur. Depending on what type of business you have, you may only meet with a customer for a few minutes — but that’s probably all that’s required. You also may be coming from a very structured environment where you have physician’s assistants, nurses and receptionists helping you. With your own business, it may just be you at first — or you could be joined by a handful of employees, some lacking experience. None of this is a bad thing. It’s just something to keep on your radar.
In fact, you should be excited. If you’re a doctor starting a business, you probably want it to be different than the current medical system. One thing is for sure: The health care system, with hospitals and medical care involving insurance, is pretty sick. Doctors are frustrated. Patients are equally vexed, and they’ll often let doctors know it. While I often hear doctors vent about the current healthcare system, I rarely hear them gripe about starting a new business — maybe because they’re finally unshackled by red tape and regulations.
So, if you’re thinking of doing something new, maybe it’s time to heal thyself. You’ve spent your life treating patients. Maybe it’s time to treat your career.
March 5, 2019 at 08:30AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs