The broken status quo
The hard, cold truth is that half of you will end up teetering on the same burnout cliff that I found myself looking at a decade ago. It’s a painful abyss, and many of you will experience it.
The status quo of resigning ourselves to accepting that half of the brightest and most altruistic humans on Earth will be injured and harmed by the current health care system is just not acceptable to me.
Nearly ten years ago, I made a discovery that saved my career from burnout and became the foundation for helping me holistically thrive as a doctor.
So let me share with you what I discovered because it provides a relatively hidden path for the next generation of doctors.
What’s old is new
An ancient poet once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Although they likely didn’t know about the internet and AI at that time, this idea still holds true for many of our human experiences. New discoveries are often just old ideas reimagined for the present.
Reimagined old ideas can be beneficial to doctors as well. Just a little over a generation ago, every doctor would have viewed themselves as a small business and likely either formed or joined a professional corporation (PC) as part of their professional journey.
Fast forward to the past generation of doctors, and PCs along with the mindset of starting a business have been replaced by employment and ceding the ownership and control of medicine to large corporations. Now, young doctors are more concerned with finding a predictable paycheck and not having to manage a medical practice than with protecting their professional autonomy.
In my view, doctors have underestimated the cost of losing their professional autonomy as employees of large corporations. It turns out that this loss is a foundational systemic driver of the burnout crisis. Thus, legitimate solutions must include its restoration and preservation in our lives.
The time is right to start your professional micro-corporation.
A fundamental component of preserving your professional autonomy—and the best foundation to build your career from the start—is to activate your unique power to incorporate yourself.
I am not talking about starting a private practice like in the old days. Instead, I am talking about starting an individualized micro-corporation that you can use with virtually any job structure.
Your single-member professional micro-corporation will act as a virtual business entity that can go anywhere you go personally. It will place you in control of the professional assets that you have labored to assemble throughout your medical training. These assets lead to the good life of a doctor and propel our tribe to be doers of good wherever we go.
Start from the beginning.
The status quo for most young doctors is to view themselves solely as an individual worker and then decide which employer to yoke up with.
However, when you choose not to start your professional micro-corporation at the beginning of your career, you are building your professional life on metaphorical land owned by your employer. This arrangement will result in an unhealthy codependency on them, entrench their control of you, and make separation more difficult as time goes on. Although leasing space from them for your professional life is not always bad, ownership of that space through your professional micro-corporation is far better. It keeps you more in control of your professional life, which has important implications for your personal and home life.
The modern professional micro-corporation
However, you likely have not considered the evolution of the modern professional micro-corporation into one that is no longer connected to a retail space or physical location. Instead, it is a virtual corporation built around your professional services and medical expertise. This version is not truly a competitor or threat to large corporations. Instead, it provides them with new opportunities to tap into your professional powers.
The old model of one doctor working one job in one location has given way to the modern model of one doctor working several jobs in several locations around the world.
In this bold new physician labor world that has been accelerated by the COVID pandemic, many physicians have chosen to become “1099 employees” rather than traditional employees.
The professional micro-corporation is the perfect business structure and model for this new landscape and will position doctors to thrive.
The new professional micro-corporation is a ubiquitous virtual structure that is uniquely “Dr. You, PC.” This modern version of a PC will help you flourish throughout your career. Due to your individualized specialty training, professional interests, and personal style, no PC will be the same as yours. This makes you a one-of-a-kind micro-business.
You are a business.
You have invested in yourself, created a unique style and identity, and earned the extraordinary power to cloak yourself in this highly individualized professional business structure.
You have the special right afforded to certain business professionals, allowing them to individually incorporate. Why not take advantage of this power?
Small business ownership has multiple other benefits, including supporting your well-being and enhancing your financial health. It places you in active control of your professional life, rather than passively letting your employer control it. Overall, the earlier you can start your professional micro-corporation, the better.
Changing your mindset
But in order to move in this direction, you must shift your mindset in three ways.
First, you must understand that starting your professional micro-corporation does not mean you are going into private practice. Instead, it means you are preserving and protecting your professional small business power.
The second shift is realizing that choosing employment does not mean you won’t benefit from a professional corporation. The truth is that you can use a professional corporation within virtually any employment structure. It is especially handy for the growing menu of side jobs that 40% of doctors engage in.
The third shift is understanding that starting a professional micro-corporation will not prevent you from enjoying the freedom to not operate a medical business. Your small corporation has a simplicity that makes outsourcing its management both easy and inexpensive.
Given the dominance of the employment model among doctors, I want you to know that choosing employment does not negate the benefits of forming a professional micro-corporation. This is a myth that needs to be dismantled. As I demonstrate in my new book Doctor Incorporated: Stop the Insanity of Traditional Employment and Preserve Your Professional Autonomy, the truth is that you can both own and operate your professional micro-corporation while also being employed by a large corporation.
Making you aware of your professional options, including the hidden PC-employment lite model, is a progressive new message that doctors need to hear.
Illuminating this newer business option to all doctors provides a needed alternative to the current broken physician labor system that represents our status quo.
I believe that professional corporation-employment lite is the new best choice for physician jobs because it allows you to thrive holistically while also working within the relative safety of a large corporate employer’s harbor.
It still supports an employer’s goal for physician alignment but provides you with greater control over your professional life. It is a win-win business arrangement that addresses a foundational defect in the employment system, which is the loss of professional autonomy for you.
This systemic flaw must change as a necessary solution for the current burnout crisis. The PC-employment lite model combats burnout by enhancing your well-being through the preservation of your professional autonomy. Quite simply, it puts you back in control of your professional life by activating one of your most important earned assets: your small business power.
Envision what is possible.
The real challenge goes beyond helping you visualize this space of starting a professional micro-corporation or knowing that the PC-employment lite model even exists. Instead, it involves helping you overcome the mental hurdle that you have the ability, know-how, and time to run your professional micro-corporation.
This mindset informs and reinforces your acceptance of your business illiteracy and your choice to allow your employer to manage the business of medicine. Even if you wanted to start a professional micro-corporation, this acknowledged business deficit causes you to fear that you don’t have the skills or time needed to run a business.
Thus, you relegate starting a professional corporation to those who are natural entrepreneurs or have an MBA. That is because you envision an older version of a professional corporation that includes running a retail medical business, managing employees, populating business spreadsheets, spending a lot of time overseeing it, and competing in the marketplace. Although this version is an option, it is not what I am proposing.
I am proposing that every doctor should consider starting the modern, slimmed-down micro-version of a professional corporation for individual use in association with your professional services. This personalized small business is very lean and relatively easy to operate because the only employee is yourself. It can be used in almost any job structure, and the business operations can be efficiently outsourced so that you are not bogged down with having to manage it.
Tod Stillson is a family physician and founder, of SimpliMD and can be reached at Dr. Incorporated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @DrInc9, on his regular YouTube and podcast episodes, a blog called The Truth, or join his Facebook community for doctors, Every Doctor Is A Business. Reach out to him for professional agency services at SimpliMD. He is the author of Doctor Incorporated: Stop the Insanity of Traditional Employment and Preserve Your Professional Autonomy. Book a free business coaching appointment with Dr. Stillson to discuss whether a professional micro-corporation would be helpful for you.