Succeeding as a Physician Entrepreneur

May 14, 2015

Being successful as a physician entrepreneur has little to do with how clever an invention or service is and everything to do with how useful it is to others.

As a healthcare executive, physicians have pitched me on hundreds of ideas, inventions, products, services, and schemes over the years because I am one of the lucky ones to have succeeded and failed enough times to not only know what to do, but far more importantly, what not to do.

I am going to share the essence of what I have learned over the past 40 years in business; not to dissuade you from following your dreams, but, to give you a chance if you are so inclined.

Many of the ideas I have looked at have been quite good. The majority, very clever. And, I have passed on virtually all of them where they required partnering with a physician or lawyer, and for very good reason - see one, do one, teach one is perfectly aligned with science, medicine, law, and business management where cause and effect is primarily determined by finite rules and variables. Entrepreneurial business, however, is as close to business management as surgery is to psychology.

To have any chance at all of success, every entrepreneur must be a skilled business manager or have one, and, even then, virtually all entrepreneurial companies fail within five years and only one in 10,000 is a success.

That's because it is not the innovation, invention, product, or service one brings to market that attracts investment or leads to success. It is, with rare exception, vision, experience, and leadership.

Successful entrepreneurs focus on how they will succeed, not on how the product or service will make them successful, and, they have a science of their own. But, it is messy, subjective and requires creativity, experience and adaptation at almost every turn. Here are four of the formulas that I use to assess the potential of an entrepreneurial opportunity:

• Risk = Probability + Consequences

• Value = Need Fulfillment + Quality - Cost – Effort

• Results = Capability + Application

• Opportunity = Value + Results – Risk

The baseline metrics for these formulas are subjective, but can be estimated by determining what your customers, stakeholders, and investors are looking for. If the formulas show opportunity, then each of the following needs to be compelling, convincing, and realistic:

• Solid entrepreneurial experience, expertise, and a proven track record of success;

• Realistic and fully developed financial projections supported by a credible business plan;

• Convincing market and industry analysis;

• Convincing business plan showing understanding of and differentiation from competition;

• A definitive plan and strategy to deal with competition;

• A solid plan and strategy for intellectual property protection and regulatory compliance; and,

• Most importantly, opportunistic leadership in full control of the process with the desire, experience, tenacity, and commitment to adapt because reality, market changes, and market challenges will shift priorities, needs, focus, plans, strategies, competitive advantages, and disadvantages.

Risk is directly tied to reward. The ability to manage opportunity is directly tied to business success.

Otherwise, it's just gambling, and, the house odds are exceedingly unfavorable to their customers.