Taking the Plunge

About 10 years ago I found myself in a career cul de sac. Not quite a dead end, but treading water. In other words bored, unfulfilled and frustrated. I wanted to be earning more money, working less, be less controlled by the authorities, and have more prestige and job satisfaction. But I just didn’t have the courage to do something about it

Well, I waited until I was almost  forty before I took the plunge and changed all that. Now that  I’m on the other side of that divide, I can confidently say: it’s been a trip well worthwhile.

I only wish I had done it sooner.

Mind you It was not easy. I think I made every mistake I possibly could have all the way, sweated the small stuff when I didn’t need to, and generally made life much harder for myself that I needed to. There was no training, formal or informal, at that time, and I learnt it all the hard way, alone.

Now on the other side of that fast flowing river, I run a successful specialised skin medical practice employing eight doctors, several staff and earning multiples of what I used to as a family physician. All the while whilst working less than I ever did as a general practitioner, and now wholly in control of my life and thoroughly enjoyable career.

In the past few years another interesting thing has happened. As I go to conferences and meet other doctors, I find myself increasingly approached by other doctors, some younger, some older, who wish to follow my entrepreneurial path. They’re medical experts in their field, but somewhat frustrated, fearful and confused about what to do next. And over time I have issued various snippets, or larger tranches, of information in order to help these doctors on their journeys.

Before you start your journey- let’s cover some overarching mistakes to avoid.

Firstly, a correction to the title above. Even though I’ve labelled this post as “deadly mistakes to avoid”  – they are of course not all that deadly, and you will be guilty of all of these from time to time. I made all these mistakes in abundance, and have survived and  prospered nonetheless. However, there is no reason why your journey should be as difficult as mine. So, if you find yourself making these mistakes, just try to recognise them as they occur, and correct your course.

Mistake 1:  The Grass is Greener Over There….Let’s Move!

Although the grass may appear greener on the other side of the fence, it probably isn’t. And even if it is, don’t jump over. Simply water your own grass instead.

Don’t jump over to the other side of the city/ country/ continent/ world unless you have to. Its expensive, stressful, time consuming  and  you will be starting out all over again, as an outsider at the bottom of the pile. Most medical systems are likely to be largely much the same – hierarchical, the old boys network and somewhat exploitative of new blood. There are no free lunches in life – so a new job, new city, new country or new system is not likely to be that much help.

How did I learn all this? The hard way. As you may know, I trained in the UK, then went travelling and working in Australia for two years, returned to the UK to finish my postgraduate general practice training, and then emigrated to the East Coast of Australia. After two moves,from Sydney to the Central Coast, I then went across the continent to end up in Perth.

Each of these moves was seeking grass that was greener somewhere else, or opportunities that were apparently better elsewhere. But in reality, had I stayed in the same place at any stage of my career, I would had achieved everything I have achieved, sooner, with a lot less stress, expense and upheaval to myself and my family.

Mistake 2. Waiting for the Perfect Time (aka Analysis Paralysis)

All the traffic lights don’t have to green before you start your journey.

Just get going. Like most of the doctors out there, I was, and still am, a perfectionist. Everything had to be researched to the nth degree before I was prepared to make my launch to private medicine. I studied, got myself diplomas, researched, drew up business plans,etc etc

By the time I was ready to start my business I was almost 40 years old. However, I could have done that all this at a much earlier stage, and should have. By all means plan and prepare and get yourself ready. But there is really no substitute for action, and learning as you go along. So get started. Just do it!

Mistake 3 : Paying too much Attention to your Peers’ Opinions.

A very common trait amongst  doctors is the strong need to be respected and liked by our peers. There’s nothing wrong with this, but, remember, when you step out on a limb, as you will have to to achieve your goals, your peers may be somewhat unkind in their opinions.

Professional relationships are frequently driven by envy, suspicion and sometimes plain paranoia. And doctors are especially good at giving unsolicited opinions.

Truly, you only really need to be loved by your family, liked by your friends, respected by your patients, and most importantly, liked and respected by yourself. No other person’s love or like is really required, nor will be likely forthcoming, so don’t plan your career around that particular need!

Mistake FourTaking Ethical Shortcuts with Others

Treat everyone as you would be treated yourself. Be as good and as ethical a medical doctor as you can, and be as good and as ethical  an employer and business partner as you can. It may cost you a little bit more in the short term, but if you follow that these practices in your business, you will soon have more patients than you can possibly cope with. And you will also find that life carries on far more smoothly in the interim.

Mistake 5    – Lacking Confidence in your Resources and Abilities.

You may not realise the enormous advantages you have right now. Compared to the average person starting a business, you are in an incredibly strong position.

Think :  Brains, Income, Education, Position in society, Respect, Goodwill, a guaranteed fallback position and multiple other resources. A medical degree is an enormous barrier to entry to your non medical competitors. Ask any fellow entrepreneur starting up a business –  they would give their right arm to be in your position at startup.

And compared to many other projects you have successfully completed in your life – getting to medical school, getting through medical school, maybe getting married, maybe starting a family and being a young parent, getting through internship, registrarship and further –  after these, the sort of project we’re discussing is small in comparison.

If you’ve managed to achieve any of these aforementioned projects, setting up a niche medical business is going to be pretty easy in comparison. Especially if you study this website, digest my content and avoid the mistakes I made.

Mistake 6. Thinking Small

Believe this right now: If you put your mind to this project, you’re likely to be far more successful than think you can be.Truly. Do yourself a favour and think bigger than you currently do. Spend more money on advertising, get professional help in terms of website development, social media marketing, graphic design, IT etc . Employ the best staff you can and get the best premises you can afford. It really will facilitate your advance in the medical business world, and will end up costing a small fraction of what you’ll earn eventually.

Mistake 7 : Doing it all Yourself

You cannot do it all yourself. Outsource and delegate. From the start!

Don’t make the mistake of being a cheapskate and trying to do it all yourself. You are the CEO, so learn to outsource and delegate to good people. Be prepared to pay for their services, even if these people are more expensive than average, because it’ll be a small fraction what you earn eventually. Almost invariably their hourly rate is going to be much less than yours once you are set up,established and running. And people who are being paid well know it, appreciate it, go the extra mile for you and only rarely leave. Better results with much less upheaval.

Mistake Number 8 –  Sweating the Small Stuff

Don’t sweat the small stuff – it won’t make any difference. And also Lesson 8b- it’s ALL small stuff anyway.

Learn to take things as they come, and realise that business, rather like life, has an unpredictable flow up and down, and side to side. Things will not always go to plan, and in fact is guaranteed not to do so. Don’t sweat every little detail, as you cannot control it anyway. Most things tend to work out for the best in the end, and worrying about it rarely ever helps.

Mistake 9: Doing yet another Medical Course or Diploma

Learn Business skills and burn forget your medical textbooks for now.

If you have your niche already, you almost certainly know more than enough medically to practise competently . If you don’t, you will have to initially learn and study, but don’t do this to the exclusion of your overall business education. Remember, you just need to be clinically competent, not an academic professor. Extra medical courses, exams and diplomas are comfortable and familiar, but are frequently a way of avoiding leaving your comfort zone

What you are sorely lacking in is business skills. So don’t even think of doing another medical course or diploma unless absolutely necessary. Instead, work on your weakest area – your business knowledge and skills.

It’s not that hard. Remember, all the business skills you will ever need are, at most, about 10-15% in quantum of what you already know in your medical field. Conceptually and intellectually, they are much easier to understand than medicine. Best of all – no exams!

In other words, you are almost there already.  But you won’t get there without acquiring this knowledge and skill – the final pieces of the jigsaw. So get to it.

And finally, Mistake 10: Forgetting your Family.

You, your Family, and your Lives Together are the point of all this.

Remember to enjoy the journey with your family. I frequently didn’t, and I regret it now. Life is the journey, not just the destination. Your children are growing up, life is passing by, you and your partner are getting older, and may not be guaranteed good health forever. So do try and enjoy the journey, and remember how lucky we, as doctors, are compared to the vast majority of the remainder of the population. Smile and have some fun along the way to your destination….

Starting Your Journey

There still isn’t an effective “one stop shop” for medical entrepreneurs to break free into the private medical niche space. A site with all the necessary business training under one roof, and presented in an easy, step by step format. So I decided to set up this website to help other family doctors with entrepreneurial aspirations to achieve what I have, with a lot less stress, and a lot more ease and effectiveness.

My website : www.privatemedicine123.com

Good luck, and join me on the other side!

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