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About Philippa Kennealy

 

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC is The Entrepreneurial MD Business Coach who wants to help you build your business!
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Tuesday
Jan162007

Becoming an entrepreneurial physician partner when you have few alternatives - Dr. Bender's story

1-16-07chrysalis.jpgI love hearing the stories from physicians, who for many differing reasons, have changed careers midstream. A special story, written for me last year, comes from Dr. Bruce Bender who, mid career, discovered he could no longer practice medicine because of a disability.

Instead of wallowing in "woe-is-me" victimhood, he and his wife Laurie, a Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, chose to view this experience as an opportunity to become an entrepreneurial team. From being a pathologist and then hospital executive, Dr. Bender transformed himself into a partner with his wife, Laurie, in a franchise business. After some trial and error, they found the business opportunity that most closely matched their Life Plans and professional needs, and have not looked back ever since.

Because we were unable to conduct the interview in person and record it, I offer it to you in its full written form. 

I would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Bender for taking the time to write out his responses, AND for the candor he expressed about his challenges, as well as his successes. My fondest wish (as I know it is his wish too) is to offer physicians faced with oncoming physical disabilities both hope and encouragement that they, too, may emerge into the next phase of their careers in ways that prove equally if not more professionally satisfying.

Philippa: Bruce, would you be willing to share your story with the audience about how you came to own and operate your first franchise?

Bruce: Certainly. My wife and I were disenchanted with the increasing focus on finance in healthcare and our inability to provide the type of care that we thought people needed. We had also made several moves over the preceding 20 years and did not want to do so again. So we made a decision to look into other opportunities.

Philippa: How did you transition from your clinical practice to your entrepreneurial venture?

Bruce: I had obtained a Masters in Administrative Medicine degree from the University of Wisconsin –ACPE degree in 1990. My positions subsequent to that were all very administrative. This gave me a sense of what business was like, as well as some basic tools.

My wife and I discussed what types of businesses we would like to try. We came to the conclusion that doing something that would help the growing population of seniors offered the promise of providing the kind of fulfillment we were missing, as well as having very significant growth potential. A franchise seemed like a logical possibility. There are a number of books about how to select and start a franchise and many resources offering and rating franchise opportunities.

Philippa:  What made you choose a franchise as opposed to any other kind of business venture?

Bruce: We believed that a franchise organization would provide significant support and make for a less stressful environment. They provide such things as software, Operations Manuals, Office Staffing Manuals, etc. They also develop relationships with vendors for items such as stationary, brochures, etc. We thought association with multiple other owners who would face the same issues as us would be beneficial. The ability to participate in and benefit from national branding was important.

Philippa: How did you get your education about franchising? Who did you turn to for advice?

Bruce: We did it on a wing and a prayer with some “how to” books.

Philippa: You mentioned to me that you could no longer practice medicine because you had developed significant hearing loss. As I feel sure there are physicians in our readership who have had to leave clinical practice for various disabilities, can you tell us how this affected you?

Bruce: Having a disability can make a significant difference in outlook. As a physician and executive, young and in good health, I felt reasonably in control. To suddenly have a disability that might or might not be career threatening made it clear that things are never in control.

Although most people are really thoughtful and kind, some act like a disabled person is mentally deficient or somehow a drag on society. That made me both very angry and much more tolerant of other people. I really wanted to do something useful, and suddenly helping people who are slowly losing their ability to function seemed like a very worthwhile endeavor.

When we decided to purchase our first franchise, I had left a job and was very discouraged by the environment within the health care system. Our kids were in their teens and we did not want to move again. I did not consider myself to be disabled.

We purchased the franchise and opened it in March, 1997. However, it was apparent as soon as the office was open, that my hearing would make it impossible for me to make it a success. We almost lost our first client because I could not hear her on the phone. It was very frustrating to finally realize that there were things I just could not do, no matter how hard I tried or willed it. I was no more used to failure than most physicians. Accepting the need for help was extremely hard.

We hired a person to be in the office, and my wife became more involved in the company. I got my last job in August of 1997. The company had been growing nicely. My wife left her position as a Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist and took over the operations of the company.

Philippa: How did you decide to turn your hearing loss into an opportunity to do something different?

Bruce: We wanted to do something different irrespective of hearing loss. However, we thought that I would run the company and my wife would keep working. Ultimately, I had to leave my job due to hearing disability and could not run the company either. That meant a change in plans.

I was finally declared disabled by Social Security in early 1998. So I started receiving disability payments. It really hurt not to be able to earn a living through my efforts, but having the income made things easier financially.

Now I had the time and the motivation to find fulfillment in helping others. I have participated in many Rotary and Habitat for Humanity projects. These included National Immunization Day in India for Polio, building an orphanage after the tsunami, two Jimmy Carter Work Projects for Habitat for Humanity and a Habitat project in Equador. It is amazing how therapeutic it is for an American worried about his own misfortunes to visit a school for rescued child slaves, or visit tsunami orphans, or just see how life is in most of the rest of the world. These projects have really helped me to replace what I lost with my career and probably led to a much more satisfying life.

Philippa: It seems Laurie, your wife, now essentially runs the current franchise you own and operate and you help out. How has it been working with your wife? What have been the highlights? And the struggles, if you care to name any?

Bruce: It has been said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It was very difficult in the beginning, particularly since I was resentful of her ability to do what I had set out to do. Over time, though, we became much more aware of how each person works, what our strengths and weaknesses were and how to get along. I think that has translated back into our personal lives.

Philippa: What about your identity as a physician? What, if anything have you had to let go of to move away from being a practicing physician?

Bruce: I am a third generation physician. So, my self esteem was hit hard. It took years to overcome that. However, I think my world view has broadened quite a bit. I still miss the world of medical practice, bitterly when I allow myself to. I don’t miss the bureaucratic nightmares that had become my existence. I have discovered that I can make friends, influence people and gain respect without being a physician. That was a very pleasant revelation.

Philippa: Looking back from your vantage point of now, what are two to three key things you have learned about going into business?

Bruce: First, you really need to know what you want to do and evaluate the opportunities carefully.

It will probably cost a lot more money and take a lot longer to build a real business than you will be told, or can imagine.

After a few years, you may be lucky or blessed enough to realize you made the right choice and should have done it years ago.

Philippa: What one thing would you do differently if you were to do it all over again?

Bruce: Acknowledge my degree of disability earlier.

Philippa: For those reading your story who might be interested in your product, could you briefly describe what its benefits are and how it might be used? How could they reach you?

Bruce: We own Home Instead Senior Care franchises. Home Instead Senior Care was the first to provide in home non-medical assistance for seniors. We bought the 51st franchise. Now there are over 500 around the world. Our CAREGivers are our employees, with worker’s compensation, unemployment, bonding and criminal records checks. We train them and provide supervision and replacements when necessary.

As was recently acknowledged by a study out of Purdue University, non-medical support can make a huge difference in the quality of life for seniors and others who are losing their ability to function either physically or mentally. We provide assistance with the tasks of daily living such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and incidental transportation. Often companionship is a very big part of the help, since many of these clients are very isolated. Having the assistance is also a major relief for family caregivers who may be overwhelmed and depressed.

The Home Instead Senior Care web site offers a directory of all franchises. Each office is individually owned and operated. Each business has posted a short description of themselves. They can be reached by phone or over the internet. A Service Information Request form can be sent directly to the appropriate office.

What an inspiring story - right?

In what ways do you want to "reinvent" yourself, stay challenged and live your life "on purpose"?

I'd love to hear from any of you who are either obligated or inspired to reevaluate your professional existence. Do you have a story to share with your colleagues?

And if you are seeking further inspiration from successful physician entrepreneurs, check out Conversations with Trailblazers Volume 1 here.

Monday
Jan152007

Listen to the Insights of a Medical Marketing professional

1-15-07insight.jpgOne of my favorite ways to learn about a new topic is to pick the brains of professionals from other industries - to probe into how they think and work. I hope to walk away with a nugget of information that educates me about 1) what I might do next 2) what I didn't even know that I don't know, and 3) where I can turn for help.

Last week, I enjoyed interviewing Rudy Svezia, president of DocGrow.com, a company that specializes in help physician practices market their services effectively.

Rudy revealed that his marketing company has been working with physician practices ever since the time he was first engaged by a physician 8 years ago - he loved the work, had fantastic results, and has been hooked on helping doctors' practices grow ever since then!

Some of the questions I asked him were:

1. What do you mean by the term “marketing”?

2. Why should physicians be paying attention to marketing?

3. Given that many physician practice incomes are shrinking due to declining reimbursement, what are some of the less expensive or even free ways that physicians could make people aware of their services?

4. What are the key moves physicians should be making to market themselves better?

5. What changes have you observed in the past few years about how physicians are successfully marketing their services?

6. What do you see as up and coming trends in 2007 for physician practice marketing?

Rudy's basic message! "You have to cut through the clutter" and "there is a huge uptick in the willingness of physicians to recognize that marketing is a valuable business strategy, to offset the negatives of the increasingly stringent regulatory environment and reimbursement cutbacks - it's a way to take positive action to grow and sustain a thriving practice".

Listen here to the whole interview (it's 25 minutes long), and discover new ways to think about marketing your business or practice!

Thursday
Jan112007

How to make powerful pitches for your entrepreneurial ideas

1-11-07communication.jpgI received a thought-provoking email this week from an aspiring physician intrapreneur (someone who seeks to undertake entrepreneurial activities inside an organization or larger business), that read:

"I’m looking to start a new business line in my existing organization. The start-up costs are nominal (less than $200k), but the line is specific to my specialty. Since I’m the only one in the organization with the specialty, I have to convince the “powers that be” of the worthiness of the endeavor. I’m fairly certain I will be successful at it, but I’m always in the market for salesmanship tips to help my presentation."

This inquiry got my marketing juices going, because I now understand that an idea gets traction NOT necessarily because of its inherent worthiness, but because it is presented in such a way as to conclusively answer the basic question of "What's In It For Me/Us?" (also called the WIIFM/U question)

In the Fast Company online magazine issue of June 2004, Seth Godin (one of my delightfully contrarian marketing heroes) wrote an article called The Best Things in Life are Free in which he says the following, on the topic of persuading the higher-ups about the merits of your idea or product (I've excerpted one main point and added my own emphasis):

My Boss Won't Let Me! (How To Make Something Happen)

If you decide you want to make something great, more often than not your organization will follow you. And if it doesn't, there are a hundred organizations waiting for you that will. I call the person who makes an innovation happen a champion. And without a champion, nothing happens.

My goal is to sell you on your ability to champion an innovation in your organization. And then to do it again. No free prize lasts forever, which is why it's essential that we get better at making new ones.

Guess what? There's no correlation between how good your idea is and how likely your organization will be to embrace it. None. It's not about good ideas. It's about selling those ideas and making them happen. If you're failing to get things done, it's not because your ideas suck. It's because you don't know how to sell them.......

Without a champion navigating these obstacles, most projects will slow down and eventually stop. Someone who cares too little won't put in the effort to overcome the obstacles; she'll give up and walk away. The forces of mediocrity will band together to water down your innovation. They'll try to make it more popular, easier to understand, easier to build, easier to fit within the existing retail/factory/media business model. Well-meaning folks will water down your edgy idea into something safer, without realizing that their contribution makes the idea riskier. (Riskier? Yes, because now it's less remarkable.)

Champions turn "no" into "yes." Champions understand that the internal sales process is at least as important as the idea itself. Champions are able to bring together all of the elements they need to turn a soft innovation into a free prize, creating a remarkable product that reaches the market and potentially transforms an industry......

To get leverage from your organization, you'll need its willing help. Regardless of what you do and whom you do it with, the steps to generating leverage remain the same. As people consider your idea, they will ask themselves three questions:

Is it going to be successful?
Is it worth doing?
Is this person able to champion the project?

If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding no, it's unlikely your project will happen. Understanding how the three pieces fit together and what to do about them is a big part of choosing the right project and getting it done. Remember, these people don't care one bit about what your answers to these three questions might be. What matters is what they think the answers are, based on the evidence you give them.

If you think you're stuck because "my boss won't let me," what's really happening is that she has decided that the answer to at least one of these three questions is no.

The goal is to go through the steps necessary for your colleagues to believe (because they want to believe). It's an emotional ticket you need stamped, not an intellectual one. Here's a partial grab bag of tactics that will work some of the time for some champions:

Ask questions, don't give answers. Please don't think you have to know all the answers. You don't. You just need the posture of a champion and the guts to ask hard questions. My first real job involved informally managing 40 world-class software engineers in a bet-the-company launch of five major new software products. Everyone knew that I couldn't possibly have a point of view when it came to engineering issues, so they were happy to have me kibitz. I spent my entire day going from one team to another, asking questions.

Ask obligating questions. Generally, it's a bad idea to answer objections. If you spend all your time answering one objection after another, sooner or later the people you're selling to will find an objection you can't answer. Better to answer the objection with a question. Keep working your way backward until you uncover the actual problem--not the symptom of the problem.

Then, before you try to answer the objection associated with the real problem, take two more shots. First ask, "If we can solve this problem, can you see any other reason not to move ahead?" This obligates the person to speak up or put up. It means that the objection you're going to tackle is the real problem, not a stalling tactic. Second, work to get them on your side. "If I could convince you that solving this problem was really important, how would YOU do it?" (get the potential objectors to become co-conspirators instead - part of the solution!)

Build a prototype. The first time you see Reebok Travel Trainers, or the Segway, or the iPod, or the Nokia music phone, you "get it." But until you see it and hold it, it's merely a concept, a flaky idea, something that may (or may not) happen. A prototype makes it concrete. To hold it makes it possible, makes it likely, and reinforces your role as the champion, the owner of the vision.

Prototypes also help us get over our desire to make it perfect before we start. If it's easy to make one prototype, it's easy to make a hundred. Each prototype gets better, more useful, more real.

Walk into a meeting with a key power broker. Announce you have a prototype in your case. That's all she wants to see. Now you have her. Take your time. Lay out the vision. Then let her hold it. Put it on her desk. Leave it on her desk!

As the days go by, people will pass by her desk, see the prototype, and ask about it. As each person gets more and more excited about this cool innovation, word spreads. It becomes a reality. All that's left is to actually make it.

  • What questions should this physician be asking PRIOR to making the convincing case for the new service?
  • What might a "prototype" of a new service line or business look like in a healthcare setting? In what creative ways could he "represent" the new idea?

One great resource I turn to for the specifics of creating top-notch compelling and cool presentations (the actual events that are designed to illustrate and back-up your argument and claims) is the blog Presentation Zen written by the ever so stylish Garr Reynolds. He writes blog posts such as Presentations and The Law of Simplicity and From Design to Meaning: A Whole New Way of Presenting.

Finally, I'm in the middle of a new book by Dan and Chip Heath, called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, which is rich in ideas and techniques for making your ideas and concepts unforgettable (the six key principles are Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions and Stories). I'll blog about what I've discovered once I've finished reading the book. I am also convinced that this book will develop the stature of The Tipping Point, Blink and A Whole New Mind!! I know it's THAT kind of book when I have it at my bedside, instead of a novel, and I can't wait to get to it for some fun pre-snooze reading.

Tuesday
Jan092007

Ten Entrepreneurial Adventures for Physicians for 2007

1-9-07safari.jpg

One of my personal core values is Adventure/"the wilds"/unraveling mystery. This means that I thrive on not knowing what each day has in store for me, imagining all kinds of possibilities, and of feeling both stimulated and slightly apprehensive.

As most of us tend to do, I reflected on the good, the bad and the indifferent events of last year. I also spent time thinking about each coaching client I am currently working with - what he or she is engaged in. And it struck me that each one is willingly undertaking an adventure! 

In my January newsletter article, I have listed ten of the adventures that they're either in the midst of or are embarking upon this year.

They are not engaging in their first triathlon, going back to school for an MBA, or taking an African safari. At least as far as we yet know!

In place of pith helmets, cameras and binoculars, they are equipping themselves with curiosity, the desire to learn, and the willingness to break routines. 

Here is the list of their top ten adventures. They are:

  1. No longer tolerating the nonsense. Instead they're speaking up for what they want.
  2. Discovering what the people they serve REALLY want.
  3. Loosening up on that old identity
  4. Getting to know their own value.
  5. Getting serious about their hobby.
  6. Getting uncomfortable
  7. Getting tech savvy
  8. Discovering a treasure box of resources to support them out there.
  9. Thinking MUCH bigger.
  10. Thinking smaller but don’t lose sight of the prize.

Read the full article here.

What adventures are you planning for yourself this year? I'd love to hear more about them!

Sunday
Jan072007

What lessons did your newpaper route teach you about entrepreneurship?

10-31-06helpinghand.jpg

Business Intelligence Lowdown has browsed the childhood experiences of a number of successful entrepreneurs and extrapolated from their stories some common themes about the lessons they learned as young children "from the lemonade stand". Even though most of the lessons are common sense, they bear repeating. After all, it IS the season for starting afresh with the best intentions.

The 101 lessons are categorized as:

  • Self before service is the key here – Manage yourself first…
  • Time and tide wait for no man – Manage each moment …
  • The human side of resources - Master the art of managing men…
  • Make every penny count - Managing money pays…
  • Just do it – Managing tasks takes talent…
  • Sourcing sources – Manage resources resourcefully…
  • They are the reason your business exists – Manage customers confidently…
  • Change is inevitable - Manage critical and chaotic crises…
  • Aims and aspirations - Manage objectives objectively…

Here are a few of my favorites:

3. Ignore the naysayers. Remember the story of the frogs in the well? If you don’t…Two frogs fell into a dry well and the other frogs took it for granted that they would die in there. When both attempted to jump their way out, the frogs outside discouraged from expending their energy on a hopeless task. Listening to them, one frog gave up his attempts. But the other made it out through his determination and single-mindedness. When asked how he made it in spite of the negative attitude of his fellow frogs, the survivor replied that he was deaf, and that he had thought the other frogs were cheering him on as he tried to get out of the well. Shows what a profound effect a positive outlook can have.

34. Keep your eyes and ears attuned to the sight and sound of creative and innovative ideas; you never know when the mail-room boy might have a brainwave that could revolutionize the way you conduct your business.

57. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish – save costs where they matter the most. Look at the far horizon rather than just the immediate savings realized. When you compromise on the quality of tools and resources used, you end up paying more in the long run. 

58. A dollar saved is a dollar earned – spend only when it’s really necessary.

63. Make quality a top priority, even in the smallest and most insignificant operations. You don’t want to be faced with the snowball effect. Remember the "For the want of a nail" lesson? A whole country is lost because a simple nail was not available in the right place at the right time.

74. Invest in technology, not the latest and most innovative, but the applications and machinery that suit your organization’s needs.

75. Update your tools as and when needed; don’t get stuck with obsolete stuff that’s good only for the junk pile.

77. Impress them (your customers) not just with goods and services, but with value added to your offerings. Differentiate your products from those of your competitors and watch your customers coming back for more.

93. Dream big, think mountains, only then can you achieve at least molehill success.

94. Dreams alone are not enough, you have to work to make them come true. Chart out a course of action that will get you closer to your goal each day.

95. And it’s not sufficient to just plan and strategize, you have to implement your designs. Put that plan into action, it’s the daily grind that matters in the realization of the dream.

96. Know who matters and who does not, and what matters and what does not. Acquaint yourself with the right people who can assist you in achieving your target faster and more effectively.

101. Put in place an R&D plan, encourage innovation and creativity to stay ahead of the demand for newer and better products and services.