Where Einstein Meets Edison

10 Reasons Why Doctors Make Great Entrepreneurs

10 Reasons Why Doctors Make Great Entrepreneurs

Apr 8, 2013

Conventional wisdom has it that “doctors are lousy businesspeople,” and they should just take care of patients and leave the business stuff to someone else. In my opinion, these beliefs are no longer sustainable if doctors are to thrive in the new US healthcare environment. As someone who works with physician entrepreneurs, I know that doctors have the potential to make great entrepreneurs. Admittedly, only a small percentage of the 625,000 actively practicing physicians in the US have an entrepreneurial mindset and even fewer are innovators.  However, it only takes a few innovators to disrupt the system and add substantial value.

Here are 10 reasons why doctors have the potential to be terrific entrepreneurs:

1. The know how to build clinical judgment. The process is the same for business. Learning from mistakes is called experience. Learning from experience is called clinical judgment. It’s the same with entrepreneurship. Very few entrepreneurs have not had their share of mistakes of failed startups. The successful ones learn from those mistakes and have judgment about pursuing the next opportunity.

2. Entrepreneurship is about research and experimenting, something doctors do well. Doctors do this every day, day in and day out, with their patients.

3. Doctors are used to dealing with uncertainty. Like businesspeople, doctors make decisions with incomplete information. Sometimes they have to do things based on their gut. In fact, they do so more than they would like to admit. Only about 25-35% of medical decisions are based on scientific evidence.

4. Doctors have a bias to action. While obtaining a patient’s history, doing physical exams and tests are a routine part of care, they are all a means toward an end of solving or relieving the patient’s problem. Doctors are trained, admittedly sometimes unsuccessfully, to not do things that won’t make a difference in how they treat patients.

5. Doctors are excellent at pattern recognition. Doctors basically do three things: They make decisions, communicate/educate, and do procedures. Decision-making, whether in dermatology, pathology or multiple other specialties, relies on pattern recognition skills.

6. Doctors know how to question, observe, connect and associate: core entrepreneurial skills. In The Innovators DNA, Christensen et al. noted the core skills of innovators are: questioning, associating, connecting, experimenting and observing (credit hannibal). Doctors have them all.

7. Doctors know how to assess risk and make on the spot cost-benefit decisions. Every medical decision is based on the risks versus the benefits.

8. Doctors can fulfill core entrepreneurial roles. They can be technopreneurs, market perceivers, managers, and/or investors.

9. Doctors have access to patients and understand the clinical issues more than anyone else. They live in a world of market opportunity.

10. Doctors have the courage to know when something won’t work or should be ended.  Doctors deal with such circumstance on a routine basis when dealing with patient’s treatment.

So, the next time someone raises their eyebrows when you tell them you are a physician entrepreneur, hand them a card with this list on the back of it. Maybe they’ll offer to invest in your idea.

Arlen Meyers originally published a version of this article on his blog for the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org

Arlen Meyers

About

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and director of the Program in Bioinnovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School. He is a serial entrepreneur, consultant and CEO and President of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

21 comments

  1. Dr Bhaskar Rao /

    Dear Sir,
    Real boost reading your column.
    I am an consultant surgeon from India, working for a cor[orate hospital .I have been trying to put up my own hospital for queit sometime but have been on a backseat till now.
    Your column is truly inspiring.
    Dr M Bhaskar Rao
    Consultant orthopaedic trauma, arthroplasty and arthroscopic surgeon

  2. Arlen,

    I couldn’t agree more but what doctors lack is non-clinical business experience. For starters, getting to the right people and arranging the best strategic partnerships can be a challenge. If you’re aware of any courses that cover these business skills (i.e. crash MBA course), I’m all ears.

    Barry

  3. Kudos Arlen. Great article. Very inspiring for what I am contemplating next!

  4. Arlen Meyers

    Hope to see you at http://www.sopenet.org providing education, networks and resources to members who want to get their ideas to patients.

  5. Anita Ampadu /

    Hi,
    I 22 year old, a recent graduate from University. I have thinking about life and i were i wanted. I have big dreams of being a medical profession and i business owner.However,things have been hard because it seems i may not have enough time to complete it. It is possible to run a business in medical school? or start after residency.As a doctor, can i still run a business with my practice given the hours? Are there specialty in which i can have balanced life with a business,be a doctor,having my own ngo and volunteering around. please help give me some advice

    • Arlen Meyers
      Arlen Meyers /

      The answer to all of your questions is yes. However, like most things, it depends on 1) you, 2) the kind of business you envision, and 3) your career goals.

      My advice is to focus on medical education and residency and gain the entrepreneurship knowledge, skills, abilities, mentors, networks and experience you will need as a foundation to grow as a physician entrepreneur.

      Once you have some clinical experience, then add your career portfolio and gradually supplement or transition.

  6. Dr Amrut Raje /

    Thanks Dr
    very inspiring article,
    i am doing residency in orthopaedic surgery in india and have some plans in mind of being an enterpreneur, please guide me if there are any courses . so that i can fulfill my dreams
    dr Amrut

    • Arlen Meyers
      Arlen Meyers /

      Suggest you join us at http://www.sopenet.org In addition, there are many free online courses and MOOCs available to students like you. However, the education is the least important part of the equation. Networks, mentors, access to resources and experiential learning are more important.

  7. Thank You Dr.Arlen Meyers,
    i am an entrepreneur and a student with a great passion toward medicine and wanna bring a transformation in peoples health and serve them to experience the complete health(physical,mental, spiritual and social well being) and hence to create better world.the above article is deeply inspiring. would like to connect to you sir to learn more from you.
    thank You again,

    with regards,
    Suman Pattar.

  8. Hello Dr. Meyers,

    What if the entrepreneurial endeavors I would like to pursue are not related at all to the field of medicine. Can I pursue becoming a physician and entrepreneur and realistically do both? this has been a long standing battle that I have been in with myself. I have wanted to go to medical school for quite sometime now, but am naturally a creative individual who would like to pursue my entrepreneurial idea.

    • Arlen Meyers
      Arlen Meyers /

      Depends on your “entrepreneurial idea and your goals. Is this a life style business?
      In general, medical school is all consuming and leaves little time for much else.

  9. Hello again Dr. Meyers,

    I would like to speak to you further (if it’s not too much trouble), just to inquire further from someone with much more experience then I have. Is there an appropriate email address for you. If not I understand.

    With appreciation,
    Brenda

  10. Excellent article and inspiring.I am a Dr for 6 years now but I haven’t specialized.I am more interested in Entrepreneurship. By not specializing, do I limit my chances for medical entrepreneurship?

  11. Arlen Meyers
    Arlen Meyers /

    For more about physician entrepreneurship, join us at http://www.sopenet.org and chapter meetings
    I can be contacted at ameyers@sopenet.org

  12. Have you ever considered about including a little
    bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say
    is important and everything. But just imagine if you added some
    great photos or videos to give your posts more, “pop”!
    Your content is excellent but with images and video clips,
    this site could certainly be one of the best in its field. Excellent blog!

  13. Your blog is definitely so exciting! Thanks for another great blog post!

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