Doctors make great entrepreneurs

Doctors make great entrepreneurs. How do I know? I’ve worked with hundreds of physician entrepreneurs. Almost every single one of them first thinks that they don’t have it in them to become an entrepreneur and then surprises themselves by being pretty good at it.

Here’s what I’ve found is the common thread between physician entrepreneurs:

  1. They are masters of delayed gratification.
  2. They are natural problem solvers.
  3. They are good at marketing.

Masters of delayed gratification

Did you spend countless hours in the library during undergrad while your friends were out enjoying life? Did you spend at least 80 hours working during residency?

Well, if we went back to your childhood, we’d probably find that you’d ace the marshmallow test. The marshmallow test was done by putting a marshmellow in front of a young child. She would be able to eat that one immediately or get two if she could wait ten minutes.

After the marshmallow was put in front of you, the adult would leave the room for ten minutes. Parents love to do this test to their children. Take a quick look at YouTube, and you’ll find thousands of such videos.

The test is passed if the child could resist for the ten full minutes. It showed that you were able to resist instant gratification for something better in the future.

We in medicine are experts in delayed gratification. We’ve been in school for what, about 21 years before residency? Then we finally become an attending.  Then we can splurge a little. But still, we were told to hold back. Live like a resident.

This is a great skill to have as an entrepreneur. Their world is tough. Countless working hours, low pay, myriad emotions, and a light at the end of the tunnel. Sounds just like residency, right?

Now I know the idea of doing another residency doesn’t sound that great, but it’s possible. You’ve already survived one. Many even more than one or a fellowship. You have the power to do another if you wanted.

Doctors are natural problem solvers

Remember board questions? The one nice thing about them was that at least you knew that you had all the information you needed to answer the question.

Real-life isn’t that simple. To get to a diagnosis and treatment, there are countless steps. You have to talk to the patient. Somehow get a good enough history and do a physical. Most importantly, document it so that you get paid.

Order lab tests and possible imaging tests. Talk to consultants. Interpret the tests you ordered and synthesize it all to come up with an assessment. Then finally come up with a treatment plan. All that work for one patient. Now repeat this for 10 to 20 patients or more per day.

There are countless issues that could pop up between each of those steps, and we need to figure out how to get around them.

We solve problems. Everyday.

Doctors are good at marketing

I have the firm belief that marketing is a fundamental skill that everyone needs. There isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t have to do some marketing.

Trying to convince your spouse to go to Mexican food? Marketing.

Explaining to your patient the benefits of controlling their sugar? Marketing.

Talking to the parent of your patient the importance of childhood vaccinations. I know. I know. Still marketing.

We’re actually pretty decent at marketing because we have to do it every day. We explain the benefits and downsides of our treatments. And most importantly, why we think someone should do one or the other.

We try to give the facts and then our recommendation. That is marketing.

Now being good at something and being willing to do it is another thing altogether. Doctors hate to market.

One of the earliest issues that doctors run into when starting an entrepreneurial journey is the limiting belief around marketing.

We want to fit in. The essence of marketing is to stick out. It goes against what we are taught.

To become an entrepreneur means to introduce a new product or service to the world. Do you believe in your product/service? Do you believe in yourself to bring it to the world?

Then it’s your duty to let the world know about it. You can do that through marketing. Just like being an entrepreneur, you may realize that you’re better at it than you thought.

Pranay Parikh is a hospitalist and can be reached at his self-titled site, Pranay Parikh.

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