I realized that until recently, I’d never asked myself that question! And yet here I was positioning myself as someone who helps others start their own businesses.
Yes, I’ve been a business owner in previous lives – once in practice in a small bush town in Zimbabwe and the other in private practice in Santa Monica. But I was never truly in business for myself back then – there were either sponsors (the construction company that backed my practice in Zimbabwe) or partners to provide a safety net.
This time it’s different – it is just me. No backers and no partners. What keeps me thriving, and loving what I do, is the mindset I had to develop.
Let me explain ….
When I opened for business as Oya Consulting in 2002, I was under the impression I was creating a job for myself as a coach and speaker. I also believed I was escaping from the dictates of bosses, insurance companies and patients.
I was a good couple of years into my business when I read Michael Gerber’s book “The E Myth Revisited” . The thunderbolt struck – until then, I had viewed myself as what he calls a Technician (a trained coach), struggling to find a way to find people to deliver my service to. I had failed to grasp that I was an Entrepreneur, employed by my company, with responsibilities to manage and grow the business.
I began to understand that, as an entrepreneur, I needed to think about the purpose of my business beyond providing myself with an income and something to do.
To develop the mindset of an entrepreneur, I had to answer these questions:
What problems does my business seek to address?
What is the business opportunity?
And how must my business work to accomplish the results it seeks?
I had to consider how to leverage my time and avoid bogging down in administrative trivia (which can fill a 26-hour day!). This meant dissecting each of my business activities and documenting the steps to accomplishing them, and beginning to identify repeatable processes, simple enough that a college-age student could do many of them for me.
I needed to focus on who I truly wanted to serve (finding “my people”), what problems intrigued me, and how I wanted to help solve those problems. I’ll confess that, as much as I loved coaching and speaking, it took me until late 2005 to get crystal clear about who the clients were I most loved working with. It was physician entrepreneurs, like myself!! I saw how closely I identified with their aspirations, the forces motivating them to start their own businesses, and their fears – of failure, of changing “identity”, and of taking unquantifiable risks.
Once I made that connection, the joy and excitement of being my own boss returned. I discovered a new passion - working on my business. I love it as much as I love working with my clients!
So how do YOU uncover your “entrepreneurial mindset”? – the one that will free you up to become your own boss.
Understand what motivates you. Are you thinking of starting a business as a refuge from a clinical practice or an executive position you hate? Or are you genuinely fascinated by a problem you’d love to solve?
Even if you are running away from something, as I was, be sure that there is sufficient pull towards another career opportunity to justify the sacrifices and hard work.
Know what you love. It isn’t enough to no longer love clinical practice or sitting in another committee meeting (‘scuse the double negative!). To run a successful business, you must feel strongly about what you are trying to accomplish. Not necessarily moment by moment – who can love balancing the books or making a cold call to a prospect? – but week by week and month by month. If the word “passionate” feels like overkill, then settle at least for intrigued, fascinated, truly interested!
Be quick to explore, and slow to “fix it”. As docs, we are expected to arrive quickly at diagnoses and solutions to problems. The pressure is on to come up with a rapid solution.
As entrepreneurs, you’ll benefit from slowing down a little - being curious, experimental, and even playful with your approach to a problem. Rushing in with a premature solution may deprive you of the real opportunity to provide business value, to be different, and to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Make nice. Dogmatism and entrepreneurship mix like oil and water. To be successful in your business venture, you’ll have to give up those worst physician traits – like throwing instruments, making snarky comments at junior staff, and barking orders. Obviously I’m being extreme and provocative, but this is the time to consider really honing those emotional intelligence skills of tact, persuasion, empathy, good listening, self-awareness and self-management.
Talk and listen to other physician entrepreneurs. It surprised and delighted me to keep hearing from other entrepreneurial physicians that, overwhelmingly, their mindset was still one of needing to contribute and to do something meaningful. The original idealism that had inspired them to become physicians had not dimmed – it just needed a new lamp from which to glow. Yes, bigger income prospects played a role, but far less so than flexibility, freedom to set their own schedule and knowing that they were creating something of their own “invention".
In the forthcoming audio interview series “Conversations with Trailblazers”, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from many highly successful physician entrepreneurs about how they got started.
What mindset do you need, to get you fired up as an entrepreneur?