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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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Friday
Nov172006

Are physicians really THAT cheap??

 

11-17-06cheap.jpgI was invited to participate last night in a roundtable discussion with MBA students, from all the bigger Los Angeles schools, who were interested in entrepreneurship.

I represented the category of entrepreneurship and healthcare, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that several of the students were interested in learning more about healthcare opportunities, despite the siren call of much sexier sounding businesses like sports companies, fashion business and the liquor industry!

What stirred my juices was a question from a young man who, as a pharmaceutical sales rep now completing his MBA, had whiled away many hours in doctors' offices waiting to talk about his products. Instead of, as he put it, "reading Vogue or Sunset magazine -- the People magazines had invariably been stolen", or staring at the patients, he had chosen to strike up conversations with the office staff. In doing so, he had become aware of many of the challenges faced by physicians in private practice, as well as some of the good, and less-well performed business practices.

He wondered out aloud whether there was a viable business opportunity - figuring out ways to help physician practices reduce waste, increase efficiency and generally run more like great boutique or even larger service businesses.

It was his next observation that got me.

"Why are doctors so cheap?" he asked.

I gathered he was expressing concern that doctors wouldn't pay for the services he was considering offering.

I've heard this asked or remarked upon many times before, and I must have just dropped any pursuit of the question, perhaps because I didn't have an audience to blog about it to. Now I do - and you're it!

In trying to formulate a response, I realize that the questions behind this question need to be answered first.

Did he really mean: Why don't physicians understand that making an upfront investment in something can sometimes make them way more money later on? i.e. What do they know about Return on Investment?

Or, was he really asking: Why do doctors handle money so poorly?

Or perhaps: Why are doctors so arrogant about knowing it all and not paying for good help or advice?

Or, could it actually be: Why are doctors so miserly?

In his book "The E-Myth Physician", Michael Gerber has a chapter he calls "On the Subject of Money", where he describes the four factors of money:

   1. Income: what the doctor takes home as an employee of the practice or business
   2. Profit: what is left over after the practice has done its job efficiently and effectively
   3. Flow: how much money is there when you need it
   4. Equity: the financial value placed upon your practice or business by a prospective buyer of your practice or business.

This is, of course, a bit of an aside to my original question (just thought I'd take a moment to give you something meaty to think about!).

What Gerber says, and perhaps this is at least part of the real answer to our young man's question, is:

  • Doctors have studied medicine and NOT the economics and finances of practicing medicine - they lack knowledge
  • Doctors are really busy people, under a lot of pressure (getting worse all the time - my comment) - they lack the time to get educated about money
  • Doctors, for the most part, don't like dealing with money - they have an emotional reaction to money
  • Doctors don't think of themselves as business owners with responsibilities to teach all their staff to think like practice owners - they just want to be left alone to be a doctor and let the money take care of itself.

My reply to the ambitious and concerned sales rep MBA student was:

"Figure out what stresses the doctors most. Show them that you understand their headaches and their challenges - empathize from a sincere place of wanting to help.

Use the power of story to illustrate the ways in which your services could alleviate some or all of their most tedious headaches. Make it simple - no MBA jargon!

Intentionally design an experience that you want your customers - the doctors - to have of you and your business. Don't leave it to chance.

Share your knowledge - educate, without patronizing, because these are incredibly smart people.

And, do this with love in your heart, because it's a tough job running a practice or business in a low-reimbursement environment. By doing so, you will have created Meaning for your work - you'll be impacting not only the lives of many good doctors but also the thousands of their employees and patients".

Once you have accomplished this, I believe you will discover that physicians are not cheap - they are merely cautious. They want to trust you, because their work is, in many ways, a sacred cause.

And you must earn their trust!

Was I correct? What do YOU think?

 

Monday
Nov132006

On Becoming Published

PEJournal novdec 3006.jpg

I had mixed feelings when I opened my copy today of The Physician Executive, the American College of Physician Executives' bimonthly journal. 

I was very excited to have an article published - titled "Have Dream....Will Prevail". The article profiles the early business travails of Dr. Susan Reynolds, a former ER physician, who, almost despite herself, became a physician entrepreneur. It goes on to describe how, after a series of adverse events that caused the failure of her first business, she changed course to start and run the now successful Institute for Medical Leadership.

I was, however, distressed by the title of this issue - "Special Report: Discouraged Doctors". The report summary (it's a PDF) is a sobering indictment of a health system that is failing not only its "clients", namely patients like me and you, but also one of its main "worker" groups - the doctors! There are several other excellent articles that underline the deteriorating condition of doctors' morale, as well as those that offer prescriptions for relief.

I felt a small measure of satisfaction ("yay - I think I am on the right track" - the eternal quest for validation of one's ideas and impressions!!) when I saw the first bullet in the "Physicians Sound Off" section - Lack of Creativity! Yup - that is what I have been observing in my work as a coach, and I believe it is the sheer creative, innovative, alive-making joy of business-building that is one possible antidote to the poison of declining reimbursements, 7-minute patient visits, and onerous regulations. 

Unfortunately, the online version of my article is available for ACPE members only, but if you go to the Physician Executive Journal page here, you can signup to receive an initial free copy. I hope the one they send you is the current November-December issue, as it is filled with food for thought!  And I, for one, would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday
Nov082006

Coming soon.... an opportunity to learn from the pro's.

8-29-06sneakpeek.jpgAnother sneak peek!

One of the most exciting and fun parts of my job is to interview physician entrepreneurs who have "made it".

I use that term broadly because some of them have made it financially, some are successful because they are exercising a latent talent that is deeply satisfying, and others feel great because they have stepped away from their version of the treadmill and are engaged in meaningful work.

I value their insights and hard-earned wisdom - they have all, to a fault, been candid about the challenges and mistakes that have plagued their decisions. And they have generously shared tips - the "I wish I had done this sooner or differently" stuff.

Now it is my turn to share their discoveries with you!

Within the next two weeks, I shall be releasing the first of The Entrepreneurial MD Audio Series - "Conversations with Trailblazers, Volume 1". This audio series contains six interviews with our successful entrepreneurial MD colleagues, each of anywhere from about 15 to 30 minutes long, plus the transcripts for you visual learners who prefer to read. 

Amongst the interviews, you'll hear from a physician whose family pain led him to a career as a pharmaceutical company owner, a physician whose greatest key to success as an entrepreneur was to partner with the right person (a fellow physician) and a physician who was restless with the status quo in residency and who was driven to co-develop one of the most widely recognized and used pieces of software amongst physicians.

Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday
Nov082006

Ten Laws to help you thrive as an Entrepreneurial Physician

11-08-06scientificlaws.jpgThe November 2006 issue of The Entrepreneurial MD Newsletter is now available!

The most common lament I hear from my clients is "how can I be sure this...or that.... will work?" Well, as most good doctors know, there are no perfect solutions or panaceas - there is just the commitment of the person to making an effort, and following some suggested guidelines based on sound principles!

This month, I have chosen to focus on ten "laws" that, if respected and enacted, will contribute significantly to your success in business or practice.

Here are the Ten Laws (does this sound rather biblical?) from the article. Unlike the law of gravity which works ALL the time, these laws have been tested in many different situations and work most of the time. I offer them in the spirit of "here's what works for most successful people - why don't you give them a whirl as well?"  

 Read the details by clicking on this article link:

1. The Law of Clarity - be clear about who you are, what you want to accomplish and where you are heading.
2. The Law of Small Successes - break gargantuan goals into teeny tasks and take pride in crossing each small task off the list
3. The Law of Momentum - once you get started down the path, your small efforts snowball and the snowball rolls with increasing ease and speed
4. The Law of Hunger
- acknowledge and indulge your passions or abiding interests - they will sustain you when the going gets tough. Really want it!!
5. The Law of Habit - practice and preparation make perfection unnecessary 
6. The Law of Focus - what you put your attention and focus on happens 
7. The Law of Experience
- You CAN learn from your "oopses" and failures. Just rename them "experience"!

8. The Law of the Trail - the success of others leaves a trail for you to follow, so follow it!
9. The Law of Modeling
- find someone who is doing, or has done, what you want to do, find out how they did it, and model you activities on theirs. Most people love to share their knowledge and acquired insights!

10. The Law of Enjoyment
- chuckle, smile, giggle, laugh, soften, ease up while you do it. Otherwise it isn't worth it!

For the curious, the calligraphy image I selected today is a Chinese symbol for "learning".

May you learn well and share your learnings here with your colleagues!

Friday
Nov032006

How my acting debut provided lessons for becoming an entrepreneurial physician.

11-03-06theater.jpgI'm in chilly St Louis at present, attending the International Coaching Federation annual conference. It's wonderful to be surrounded by colleagues and breathing the air of intellectual stimulation and enthusiastic learning - it's been a while since I have participated in a continuing education setting, and I am realizing how much I have missed it.

We have been graced with two wonderful keynote speakers so far - Dan Pink, author of Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind (see my review of the latter book here), and Lynne Twist, philanthropic fundraiser and author of The Soul of Money. Tomorrow I get to listen to Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur and author of Art of the Start

The power of Dan's presentation came from his persuasive analysis of the forces affecting the 21st century workforce, (including doctors!) and the compelling argument he made for developing the right brain's ability to synthesize, see the big picture, do simultaneous processing , create context and engage in empathy and artistry. His skill with words (he was a political speech writer after all) and his lively self-deprecating humor and quick wit had us laughing and oohing - a consummate actor on the stage.

Lynne, on the other hand, spoke with a deeply moving sincerity and conviction born of her lifelong commitment to making the world a better place and her touching experiences with some of the most "resource-poor" people of impoverished areas. She evoked tears and loud sniffing from the spellbound audience. I have seldom been both a witness to and a participant in such an ovation as she received. I envied and admired her ability to hold the emotions of her audience so completely.

Which brings me to my main topic - acting for non-actors like me.

I participated in an acting class this afternoon - it was offered as an "opportunity to play in the sandbox".

Why would you bother with that? you may ask. 

I felt that I could benefit from the loosening up such a class might entail, and, feeling daring, I wanted to put myself into a potentially challenging and unfamiliar situation to see what I could discover about myself.

Well, I had a lot of fun! I learned that I could let go, be playful in a crowd of largely strangers, and give up the need to put forward a "correct face". I also picked up some valuable tips that I hope will serve me well as a presenter and public speaker.

It got me thinking about how what I learned in acting class might be applied to physicians in transition to a new business or career stage. Here's what I came up with:

1. The ability to think quickly on your feet and to improvise are valuable and learnable skills. It didn't take much effort for us to pick up techniques to express ourselves and our thoughts articulately in response to rapid-fire questions. In fact, it was hard for many of us to shut up once we got going!

2. Realize that you communicate a great deal through the non-verbal use of your face and body. Duh, you might say! But I believe we are largely unconscious of the effect we have on others when we are feeling a lot of emotion. Perhaps you might be agitated about a decision you are struggling with about leaving your practice, or you're excited about your impending but still secret departure from your group. Be aware of how your emotions are detectable and even palpable. It was a fascinating exercise to decide on an emotion we wanted to communicate to a partner, without the use of language, and have them perceive the emotion accurately.

3. Be willing to take risks and put yourself "out there". You might be surprised by how much fun it is to escape the prison of your usual way of being, and to experiment with previously unexplored possible selves!

4. You always have your breathing to return to and to help center you in times of stress. We did several of the breathing exercises that actors are taught, and we were universally struck by how present and calm these exercises made us feel, despite the anxiety of having to "go public".

5. Your ability to visualize and imagine make your actions possible. To my amazement, I did not have to fake sadness or a choked-up feeling when it was called for. All I had to do was picture, with the engagement of all my senses and with my eyes closed, the memory of a sad event, and my "acting" just happened. Likewise, I was able to imagine feeling intense excitement and enthusiasm, and a genuine bounciness and energy emerged
What if you were able to visualize a desired outcome, with the attendant sensual experiences of touch, smell, sight, sound and perhaps even taste, that was sufficient to energize you - past your procrastination and hesitation - to Just Do It? 

Remember the saying "fake it until you make it"? I suspect there is a lot more to that sentence than meets the eye!