Have you been contemplating starting your own business? How long have you been thinking about it? Why have you not started it yet?
It can seem very daunting to figure out how to navigate the business of medicine. As physicians, many of our goals focus on taking care of patients. When tasks and duties cut into our time for patient care, they can cause stress and frustration. If you are not exposed to business owners growing up, the whole concept of owning and operating a business can be a foreign concept that creates even more angst. That is how I felt before starting my private medical practice. It is time to put your fears aside and look at the long-term goal you are trying to achieve. There is a niche that only you can fill and it is just waiting for you to bring it to fruition.
“But where do I start?” you may be asking. Great question!
First, write out what you want to do and what you want it to look like. This could be as formal as a business plan or as simple as jotting down ideas on a notepad. The main thing is to write your ideas down on paper. You will use these notes to build and/or modify your business plan. Business plans seem daunting but you can break them down into smaller tasks. It does not have to be done all at one time. It will change over time so it does not have to be “perfect.”
Then, talk with others who are doing something similar to what you want to do. There are tons of Facebook groups for almost any kind of business you may be thinking about. You may not be a Facebook fan but creating an account just to have access to the groups is worth it. You do not have to post on your page once you create an account. Your interaction can just be in the groups. Learning how to navigate Facebook will then help you to learn how to build a business page and advertise once you are ready to launch. Facebook is a great, low-cost advertising avenue!
Your local Small Business Association center is also a great resource to learn how to start a business. Each state will have different laws and ways to file your business as you determine if you should file as an LLC, PLLC, or S-corp. Having an experienced CPA and business attorney will also be important in the process of setting up your business and will protect you in the long run. Ask for recommendations from other entrepreneurs in your area. Networking with people in business, in general, is important. They will have a lot of insight they can share to help you avoid pitfalls. It may feel uncomfortable not being the knowledgeable authority as you are in medicine but just remember, you were once a medical student. You learned medicine and you can learn the business.
As you are researching, look for average start-up costs for your venture but do keep in mind what the costs are in your area. Assess your financial situation and plan for not only how you will fund your business but how you will take care of your finances until you become profitable. Small Business Association loans can be difficult to obtain for startups. The Small Business Association center near you can give you insight into possible options. If you have equity in your home, you might consider getting a home equity loan and then lending yourself that money. Mortgage interest rates are very low, and you have the flexibility of spreading payments out over 30 years. Your CPA can guide you on how to loan your business funds and account for them accurately. You will also need to determine if you need to have side gigs for income and what is available to you. You may find that side gigs turn out to be great to have even beyond when your main business becomes profitable.
Once you have learned the basics from others in business who are doing what you want to do and those who can give you general business guidance for your area, determine your business structure, learn state requirements for starting a business, assess the costs and determine financial requirements. Then you can add more details to your business plan and set a timeline for completing all the steps necessary to bring your vision to fruition. While it can seem daunting, remind yourself, ~you made it through medical school! Believe me, if I can do it, you can too!
Yes, you will have administrative duties to manage since you are the business owner. However, think about how wonderful it will be to have that vision fulfilled. Think about how many people will benefit from the unique perspective you have that no one else can give. So you want to start a business? Then, do it!
Crystal A. Maxwell, MD, MBA, FAAFP, is a board-certified family medicine physician with over ten years of experience. She is the Founder & CEO of LIGHT Family Wellness. She is also a wellness coach, author, speaker, wife, and mom. Her website is www.lightfamilywellness.com, and she can be followed on Instagram and Facebook at lightfamilywellness.