About 20 years ago, when I was a mad keen follower of soccer, George Weah, the Liberian International, was European and World Footballer of the Year with the all conquering AC Milan Football Club. I remember reading that Liberia was about to play a neighbouring West African country – Ghana – I think, in the next few days in the African Cup of Nations tournament. I assumed that Liberia, with the World Footballer of the Year in their team, would comfortably win. So it was with some surprise that a few days later I read in the papers that Liberia had lost by a whopping margin- about 10 -1 I think…

Now, what the hell does this recollection of an an obscure West African soccer international match from 20 years ago have anything to do with your career or this blog?

The answer is that business, rather like soccer, is a team sport. And regardless of how brilliant one individual is, if the rest of the team is not up to scratch, the team is going nowhere.

Liberia may have had the World Footballer of the Year in their ranks, but the rest of the team must have been very much sub par. Their opponents probably had an entire team of averagely good journeyman professionals, who as a team proved far better.

Your business team, initially, will largely consist of you alone. Within you reside the “players of your business team”. You will of course need to be a good doctor – the “Medical Director”, but you will also need to be good as a marketer, a human resource professional, an internet, social media and IT pro, a legal and accounting brain, and a captain all rolled into one.

There will be things that you know about medicine (lots), and things that you know about running a business (not enough). There will be things that you “know you don’t know” about running a business, and believe me there will be lots of things that right now you “don’t even know that you don’t know”.

These are the “known unknowns”, and the “unknown unknowns” of the business world, and they’re all waiting for you. Meanwhile, they are crippling your team performance.

So why, when faced with this “skills deficit”, do doctors insist on learning more and more about their medical niche at the expense of their business skills? Why are they not strengthening  the rest of their team, where the improvement required is most urgent and would yield the greatest effect?

I know of several colleagues who yearn to start their own businesses. How are they improving their skills to achieve their stated goals? By taking on more and more advanced Diplomas and Masters in the clinical aspects of their niche. As my teenage boys would say- ” Duh…..!”

Now, I am not going to be too harsh. I know exactly why this happens. I was there once and I too delayed for years, because the other world out there of business study was simply too alien and scary. Much easier to do yet another clinical course, a diploma or otherwise, and learn a few more clinical skills whilst treading water in my present employment. It was easy, it was familiar, and did not require me to leave my comfort zone or entertain scary thoughts of the future.

But, ultimately, I realised that in order to achieve my financial goals, higher income and a work life balance, I simply had to strengthen the weak members of my team. I did this by learning all the various business skills that are required to hold one’s own in the commercial environment.

And you will have to do the same. By all means, study and get expert in your niche so that you can comfortably and expertly carry out your professional duties. And do keep learning, that is a given. But, lay off the time consuming medical postgraduate treadmill, and start learning your business skills.

Before you consider doing yet more advanced study in your niche, taking on yet another Diploma, or God forbid, a Masters course, stop and take a deep breath. Think, what would Liberia’s coach have done if given a few million dollars and free rein to strengthen his team?  Would he have spent the money on coaching George Weah into be becoming an even better player? Or would he have tried to acquire better midfielders, defenders and goalkeepers to support his star individual ?

You too have a star individual in your team. It is the clinical skills you have  acquired from the many years of medical school, postgraduate education and your recent niche medical knowledge. Your star player does not require further improving. The rest of your team most certainly does. You will need to learn about marketing, assembling a business, legal and finance issues, hiring employees, motivating staff, and a whole host of other things you don’t even know about yet. You do not have to know everything about theses topics, but you certainly need to know enough about them all in order to run your business and delegate/outsource effectively.

Luckily, it’s not that difficult. Compared to learning medicine, it is much easier both intellectually and conceptually, and best of all there are  no exams to do. And the financial rewards are much higher – it is a sad fact that individuals with business nous will end up with most of the financial prizes in life, as well as a great deal more independence in their life choices.

So, please, avoid “Multiple Diplomatosis.” You don’t need to understand the molecular basis of everything. You don’t need to be a Professor in your field. Just be a very competent doctor, that’s enough.

And don’t try to be Superman and do it all. Remember there are only so many hours in the day for you to achieve your goals and live your life. You have already spent far too many years away from your life and family – studying, doing exams, internships, registrarships, on call etc.

When I was starting out in my medical entrepreneurial career, my goals ranged from:

  • Working full-time  to feed my family
  • Learning business skills to monetize my knowledge and vastly improve my choices and control in life.
  • Further high level medical studies-  Diplomas and Masters.
  • Spending time enjoying my life and my young family before even more time slipped away.

Having been down this road, let me tell you that there are only enough hours in the day to do two, perhaps three of the above.

If you’re going to continue working, as you most likely have to, and you are also going to attempt to build a business, you only get one further choice at most. Either do that further Masters in Medicine, or spend more time enjoying your life and your family. I know which I have chosen, and it’s not “Multiple Diplomatosis”.

P.S. Whatever happened to George Weah?  Although enormously successful in club football, he never had any chance of international success. Despite his best efforts, he was never able to singlehandedly drag his national team up to scratch. He is considered to be one of the greatest players who never played in a World Cup. Such is the influence of an unbalanced team….

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