Is There An Entrepreneur Hiding Within You?

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I never planned on owning a dermatology practice. Especially not right out of residency. But that’s what happened. My number one goal when I finished my program in Miami was to make it back to Austin. If I had to work at Burger King, so be it, I was coming back. I’d assumed I would find a thriving practice to join in Austin. Wrong. Turns out, dermatologists like to hunt alone. No one was hiring. So long story short, by making a lot of cold calls, I found a dermatologist who’d just decided to sell his practice, in Austin, right down the street from Burger King!

I was scared and excited at the same time. My “extensive” business experience was having a paper route at 13 and selling greeting cards door-to-door (that was a royal flop). What did I know about running a medical practice?

I calmed myself down with the thought that this retiring doctor could show me the ropes and we’d have a nice, lengthy mentoring process that lasted for months. Wrong again. Turns out, dermatologists also like to climb mountains. This doctor told me Mount Kilimanjaro was calling, and good luck! So there I was, like an awkward new parent, with a medical practice, some gumption, and not much more.

But it turned out OK. Much better than OK. And after having my own practice, and then starting The Doctor’s Crossing, I’m an ardent believer that anyone who has an urge to start a business should give it a try. If you have even the smallest, tiniest whiff of a desire to see what you can create on your own, I’m here to encourage you with my pom poms a waving – Go for it!

Before your inner critic can jump in with all the reasons why you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur, consider this:

I didn’t have any real business experience.

I didn’t have an MBA.

I had no idea if I would be successful or fail, especial with the coaching.

No one in my family or extended family had any business experience.

And then ask yourself these questions:

Would I like to have more autonomy?

Would I like to be able to set my own schedule?

Do I dislike other people telling me what to do?

Do I have good self-management skills?

Is there something I want to try and create for others?

If you answered YES to even two of these, you may be ready to step out of the entrepreneurial closet – or maybe you already have! I talk with doctors who want to start businesses in organizing, interior design, real estate, event and travel planning, and other exciting areas. Some want to have a B&B, a wine bistro, or a bakery. A number of my clients have started their own unique medical practices. One physician just bought a food franchise. Another has launched her speaking business.

And those of you working as independent contractors doing chart review, medical writing or consulting are already in business for yourself. There you go!

Because I’m so passionate about the joys and benefits of creating your own business (small or large), I want to show you how you can get started even if all you have is some curiosity and a boat-load of doubt.

To see what any one of you, with no prior business knowledge could learn in 2 hours, I asked my agreeable virtual assistant, Dr. Ashley Antony, to play a kind of entrepreneurial beat-the-clock game. I gave her two hours to search on the Internet and find out as much as she could about starting a business.

I’ll be honest; it can be rather confusing to research a business start-up. I can see why people throw their hands up in frustration. LLC? EIN, DBA? It’s not intuitive. But Ashley rocked it and found a logical way through the maze. Here she reflects on her 2-hour search mission:

“The Small Business Associate (SBA) site was super duper helpful. I originally started off doing research on individual points of starting a business, like choosing a business structure, etc., but I still felt kind of intimidated by the topic. The topic felt too big to grasp and I was afraid of missing something important. I think the pressure of limiting my research to 2 hours really pushed me to eliminate what wasn’t helpful and to keep moving until I found what I needed, because sure enough, my research led me to the SBA 10-step guide to starting a business. Having all the basic information I needed in an easy-to-read guide with a simple illustrative example made it just so easy!”

The SBA was a great resource Ashley found, but I wanted to put her knowledge to the test. So her next challenge was in two hours to create a business plan for a fictitious enterprise of her choosing. Having recently enjoyed planning her own wedding, Ashley came up with “Puptial Nuptials,” a company offering pet weddings!

I read her business plan, which was fun and funny. But it also had a lot of impressive detail, with all these steps such as forming an LLC, getting an EIN, choosing a credit card processing service, paying self-employment taxes and many other things. I had to verify again that she had no prior knowledge. Really? Really Ashley? Nope. I was pretty darn impressed.

I think Ashley surprised herself too, as she commented afterwards,

“Before I did this project, entrepreneurship felt like it was only for cool, risk-loving salesmen, like it required something mere mortals would never have. After doing the research for this project and creating my own fictional business with a budget and plan, I realized that anyone can start a business. Starting a business requires desire, planning, and execution, things physicians know a lot about from their own medical careers. You don’t have to take a big risk if you do your research and get practical advice.”

I agree with Ashley on the importance of doing research and getting practical advice. I am also a big fan of the lemonade stand approach, which is to think about the simplest and least expensive way you could run your business – just to get going.

Common ways to get stuck starting a business

  • Having too grandiose of a plan – “Unless I can do my business to the 9’s, I’m not going to do it” (the opposite of the Lemonade Stand)
  • Having to see how it’s all going work out A-Z before getting starting
  • Telling themselves they are not the “entrepreneurial type” and not creative

As children we were inherently creative. We were born knowing how to play and create – no one had to teach us. We haven’t lost our creativity, it just may have gotten covered up, neglected, or denied. A good way to get those creative juices flowing again is to allow yourself to be curious about something. Curiosity naturally leads to creativity and imagination.

Don’t wait for “THE PERFECT IDEA” to start getting curious about a business idea.

This one-page business plan with prompts from bplan.com is an excellent resource for fleshing out a business idea. Note – you do have to give your email, but you can always unsubscribe.

Their article on choosing a business structure (Sole Proprietor, LLC, S Corp, etc.) was one of the best I have read on this confusing topic.

So if you have a business idea you’re keeping all to yourself in some shoe box, high up on a shelf in a dark closet, why not take it out, dust it off and give it a chance to see the light of day? Who knows, you might start the next Apple, develop a killer App or a better EMR. Or maybe just a better muffin! Regardless of the end result, you will know you had the faith to bet on yourself, and why would you not deserve that chance?

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Sue Zimmermann on November 29, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I loved this post – very inspiring and helpful! Especially the part about ALREADY being in business for oneself – I often don’t realize what skills I have unless someone points them out. Thanks Heather!

    • Heather Fork on December 2, 2017 at 1:35 am

      Thank you so much Dr. Sue! I really appreciate your support and enthusiasm. It is a great perspective shift to be able to reframe what we do that may not seem entrepreneurial, but really is! With the employed role of the physician these days becoming increasingly prescriptive, we need avenues where we can have more autonomy and express our own creativity – and reap the benefits. Enjoy being your own boss Sue, and marvel where it takes you!

  2. Lynette D. Charity MD on December 1, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    So very timely for me, Dr. Heather! And to be “mentioned” in the article made it even better to read! So true about the “Negative Nancys out there, as well as that Mr. “You Aren’t Capable” Inner Critic! I continue to struggle with them, but I’m also moving forward despite the struggle. It’s part of the process to find my purpose. And you are so right about the feeling of being in control, rather than marching to the beat of someone else’s drum. My sense of rhythm in my role as an Anesthesiologist has evolved over the years and I must admit that I am out-of-step with today’s healthcare revamping, so finding my new purpose was critical to my re-education, taking baby steps at first, but now I’ve got the “cha cha” almost down. And learning something so “out-of-the-box” for me was challenging (still is), but totally worth it! So again, thanks for your motivation and inspiration. You are truly a beacon of hope for beleaguered, broken, burnt out physicians. You guide them toward a new path within or out of clinical medicine. As you know, I still practice, but on my terms. Well back to my speech preparation!

    • Heather Fork on December 2, 2017 at 1:49 am

      Hello Dr. Lynette! Yes – I was thinking of you when I put in the part about developing a speaking business! You are a shining example of a physician who is daring to live her out-of-the box dream of being a professional speaker. I’m so glad you are forging your own path and finding how to tango with the changes in medicine, and your own desires for fulfillment and purpose. You, and anyone who is willing to strike out into the unknown and see what is possible, see what can be created from an idea, provide great inspiration for all of us. Thank you kindly for your energy and involvement, and all the best with your upcoming speeches!

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Tim O

The coaching I have had with you has been life changing."

You helped me find the courage to seek out leadership positions and become a medical director as well as a physician advisor. I am grateful we crossed paths and am a different person because of it. You have inspired me to "believe" in spite of my inner skeptic. I consider you one of my most important mentors and am proud to also call you a friend. This says a lot given the apprehension I felt when I took a chance with our first coaching session. Even though I have already made a successful transition, I still value your ongoing mentorship and can enthusiastically attest that the value of your services is tremendous!

- Tim Owolabi, MD

Family Medicine
Lynette Charity

“I was at a crossroads in my medical career. I asked myself, "Do I stay or do I go?" 

I met Heather at the SEAK conference. She and I revisited this question.  Did I want to quit being medicine completely? She helped me to identify my needs, wants, and my vision for my FUTURE, not just in medicine, but in life!!!

She was able to listen to my "ramblings" about becoming a stand-up comic, lounge singer and voice-over actor and translate them into action steps.  I chose to become a composite of all of these. Now I am a more confident, healthier, happier person. I credit this in its entirety to the tutelage I have received and continue to receive from Heather.  She cares. She listens. She was there for ME.  She will be there for YOU!

- Lynette Charity, MD

Anesthesiologist
Gail Miller

“I am forever grateful to Heather for helping me to recognize, I am more than just my M.D." 

Heather helped me understand that I am more than just a doctor and that my experiences in clinical medicine are valuable in so many arenas.  As a result I realized that there are other ways to use my background, still be able to help people and continue to challenge myself and grow.  To that end I discovered coaching - specifically health coaching.  I am on my journey becoming a health coach and truly loving it!

- Gail Miller, MD

OB/Gyn physician
Steve

“Thank you, Heather, for helping me transform my career, my faith and my life."

What started out as an initial thirty-minute consultation call turned into an amazing four-year journey that transformed my life, personally, spiritually and professionally. 

Heather helped me to discover my passions...by doing so, I discovered I still had a calling for medicine but it now came from a place of truth...

Today...my wife and I are opening our first concierge medicine clinic in a community we love. I’m actually excited to have the opportunity to practice medicine the way I believe it’s meant to be, with a focus on the doctor-patient relationship and an emphasis on faith. I know if I had not reached out to Dr. Fork, my life would not be where it is at today.

- Steve Lapke, MD

Papillion, NE
Sue Zimmermann

“Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart."

She is incredibly knowledgeable about the range of careers available to physicians and provided me with advice and connections which I would not have found on my own.  From the start she encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try different things.  I was laid off unexpectedly in early 2017, and Heather gave me the confidence to create a new livelihood by following my heart and making decisions based on trust, not fear.  Now I am enjoying working part-time in a clinical setting in addition to teaching and writing.

- Sue Zimmermann, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon
Devki Patel

After months of struggling to find a non-clinical career that matched my values and passion, I stumbled upon Heather's website which truly changed my life."

Heather's insightful and personalized approach to career coaching made me think outside the box since she took the time to evaluate my personality, values, interests, and preferred lifestyle.

Through her encouragement, practical advice, and professional connections, I was able to find a non-clinical position at a state Medicaid agency that aligned with my passion for population health and serving low-income communities. In addition to her coaching sessions, Heather has built a community of like-minded physicians through her blog, and I feel honored to recommend her to friends and colleagues who seek to make positive changes in their professional and personal lives.

- Devki Patel, MD

Pathologist
Jay Macregor

Working with Heather ultimately helped me leave my job in corporate healthcare and find a path that was much more fulfilling."

My career was going reasonably well but I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling I could do better; or at least find a better long-term career fit.  

I was able to find a surgery job that better aligned with my goals and professional interests.  Additionally, Heather helped me start a consulting business which has allowed me to pursue a true passion: helping medical students, residents, and attendings surgeons navigate the challenges of high-stakes standardized exams.    

If you are reading this as a “Type A” surgeon who doesn’t think coaching is for you, I would encourage you to give Heather a shot.  I’m very glad I did!

- Jay MacGregor, MD

Colorectal Surgeon
LI

“I gained the confidence in myself to develop an action plan that blended the best parts of my experiences and interests into a cohesive career." 

Through our work, I learned to trust myself to make good decisions for my own future – something I hadn’t realized I was struggling with because as an emergency physician, I make life-changing decisions with patients every day. 

By feeding my creativity and interests in other realms of my professional life, I’ve found renewed compassion for my patients and myself, making every shift an opportunity to actually care for people. Thank you Heather. I really couldn’t have made these changes without your help!

- Liz McMurtry, DO

Emergency Medicine Physician
Amie

The simple truth is - Heather Fork totally helped me change my life."

I never would have had the courage to make the changes I’ve made without her unwavering support, wealth of knowledge and commitment. 

When I first started working with Heather, I was downtrodden...I’d been practicing medicine for 20+ years and yet had never quite found my place.  During the first year I worked with Heather, I left the practice I’d been working at, and recreated an entirely new professional purpose.

I’m now an executive and leadership coach, a university professor, and a Brené Brown Daring Way facilitator, and I have never looked back.  I love what I am doing more than at any other time in my professional life and I credit Heather with seeing in me what I was never able to see in myself, until now.

Don’t hesitate, don’t doubt yourself, schedule your time with Heather as soon as possible- she can help you reconnect to your purpose and reinvent your life.

- Amie Langbein, DO

Family Physician
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"After 30 years in academic medicine, I wanted a career change but had no idea where to start. Medicine was all I knew."

I signed up for coaching with Heather and it transformed my life. She helped me get clear on what I wanted my life to look like. We reviewed my skills, values, and strengths. She instilled hope in me that change IS possible after 50 years! 

The outcome is that I have created a life I love! I practice endocrinology part-time and own a life coaching business! Coaching with Heather is one of the best investments I have made in my life. 

- Karen Barnard, MBBCh, MPH

Endocrinologist and Life Coach
modupe

"Heather’s approach was great! She would listen to me and helped me appreciate who I am."

I remember when she said ‘do your resume before our next meeting’, I was about to push back but she gently nudged me along and I’m glad I did exactly what she wanted me to do. We also did interview prep via Zoom and I was offered a great job in UM. She has continued to follow up even after I was offered this job, helping me with pointers about negotiating. I will totally recommend the Doctors Crossing and Heather to anyone feeling stuck like me and looking for a great coach! Thank you Heather!

- Modupe Oladeinde, MD

Family Medicine