Is it wrong for doctors to be in business?
For many people there’s a disconnect between being a doctor and being in business. If you watch Netflix health documentaries or read social media comments you’ll hear ridiculous claims about medicine and money making, evil schemes and tin-hat conspiracy theories.
Many see business as a pursuit that’s all about the money, that it’s all about screwing people just to make a buck, it’s dishonest and greedy.
So then a doctor, who is someone who cares for the most vulnerable and needy of the community should not have anything to do with business or entrepreneurship, right?
Well, wrong. Completely wrong. Business and doctors go together like gin and tonic.
The main problem here is the view of business as some evil pursuit, and the real culprit is sales – asking for money in exchange for a valuable good or service – even (gasp) expecting payment for it. If you do this then you’re somehow evil.
Most people see sales as a dirty thing, and doctors are no exception. Sales brings to mind images of the sleazy car salesmen or hustlers like the Wolf of Wall Street who sell things to people who don’t want it. However, this view of sales is 100% completely wrong.
The truth is, sales is the heart of any business and without it you’re not running a business, you’re not even running a charity because charities also need to make sales (selling donors on why they should hand over their money). It’s just an expensive hobby that steals from you and your family.
One of my business mentors, Gulliver Giles, has an amazing definition of sales. He says that true sales is a combination of love and self-respect.
That’s vastly different from the usual view. The love part represents love for your clients – wanting to help them, give as much as you can, change their lives for the better, provide a product or service that will give them what they want and need. This is love.
While at the same time having the self-respect to draw a line and ask for the sale. To respect your time and knowledge; to respect your family (because you’ve given up family time to help your clients); plus your blood, sweat and tears because getting to a point where you can offer this type of help to your clients cost you dearly and it’s worth something. You deserve to charge for it.
This second part is where most doctors struggle. We’ve been conditioned in our training to give and give and not ask for anything in return – which leads to resentment and burnout – and then you can’t help anybody.
However, we need both love and self-respect to be great at sales. In fact, I would extend this definition even further to say that business itself is a combination of love and self-respect.
Business is about love for our clients because if you don’t love them, it’s only a matter of time before it all starts to fall apart. A business allows us to extend the impact we can have on the world. It allows us to employ people, systems and strategies in creative ways so that we can change the world in a way not possible anywhere else – especially within medicine where you see one patient at a time.
And then there’s the self-respect of charging for what you do, being OK to charge and more importantly, to charge a fee that reflects the benefits of the service you offer. Instead of underpricing and undervaluing what you do, giving it a fair value and standing by it when people challenge it. This is essential to be able to sustain a business so that it can continue to have a positive impact. Without the self-respect part there is no business.
With this is mind, doctors are perfect for business. They’re deeply caring people (usually). They have incredible skills and passions that can help their clients and make a huge positive impact on the world. While business allows them to amplify the effect they can have.
This is why I decided to go into business. As a doctor I could only help one person at a time. As an entrepreneur I could help hundreds if not thousands at once and make a real change in the world, while at the same time living the life and having the adventures and experiences that I craved.
The biggest challenge most doctors in business will have, is the marketing and sales part. After studying this topic for many years and teaching doctors how to do it, we’ve found that marketing and sales are teachable skills like any other, and if it’s done right, it is aligned with the values of being a doctor. That way doctors in business can live the lives they want and enjoy making a big impact. It’s a win-win situation.