1. Be curious. Ask questions.
Just like medicine, there is so much to learn when it comes to business and entrepreneurship. If you are curious about something, look it up. Take a class. Ask someone who knows way more than you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because those questions can lead to more interesting questions and a discovery path or ultimately, can lead to the answers you are looking for.
2. Be brave. Step outside your comfort zone. Work on the things that matter to you.
We all have ideas about how to make a situation better, whether we are on the wards, or sitting at our desks late at night. What you come up with could change the way in which medicine is practiced, outcomes for your patients, or even someone you know. Work on the things that matter to you, because they will likely matter to someone else too.
3. Get legal advice.
Before starting an endeavor it’s really important to understand what you are getting yourself into so you can avoid running into trouble down the line. Running a business can be complex and it’s important to invest in solid legal and tax advice. If you’re interested in joining a startup, it’s important to review contracts, non-disclosure and non-compete agreements, employment contracts, equity agreements etc. with a lawyer so that there is transparency and everyone knows what to expect. Never sign anything that you don’t understand and even if you think you do understand it, it’s always best to get a second opinion. Sometimes what isn’t stated in the documents is the most important. In medicine, we have a code of ethics and a code of conduct that we abide by, but some people still see business as a dog eat dog everyone’s in it for themselves type world. And when in doubt, trust your gut. Walk away from something if it’s not the right fit, goes against your values, or limits your future.
4. Be financially and mentally prepared.
Despite all the billion dollar valuations and wunderkind reports in the media, being an entrepreneur is hard work and there will be hard days. Make sure that your house is in order. Endeavors often cost more than you think and take twice as long. Most of us have mortgage payments, rent, student loans, health insurance deductibles, babysitter costs etc. to consider. Set up a budget and a plan that you can realistically live with before you make the leap.
5. Don’t let titles go to your head and be humble. We all could’ve gone to med school or business school or law school etc…
Titles don’t really mean much. I could call myself Mayor of Hot Pockets or Princess of Pork Fat. It’s about working hard. It’s about having integrity. It’s about being passionate. It’s about learning as much as you can.
6. Read. Read. Read. (Watch, listen, learn).
Take advantage of all the information that is out there on the Internet superhighway. Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business professors, marketing specialists, universities, all have blogs, books, webinars, videos that you can take full advantage of. MOOC’s like Udemy, Udacity, edX, Coursera, Khan Academy, Saylor, Code Academy, are free resources where you can learn almost anything. Use your favorite search engine to find resources that lead to other resources.
Scroll down my blog and I have a running list of books I’ve read and have found value in.
7. Say yes to coffee.
Some people only take coffee meetings with people because of their titles or what they see as an opportunity to move up in the world. Say yes to coffee to give someone else a handup or just because you find someone interesting or because they do something completely out of your wheelhouse. You could make a new friend, a network connection, or even better, be serendipitously exposed to something amazing.
8. Beware of the eyebrow raise. Many might not consider it to be a “real job”. Why give up a stable 6-figure income?
It’s really important to have a timeline and think about what you are doing, what you want to do and why you want to do it. People, often in the form of concerned friends and family, will challenge you, which actually can be a good thing cuz it’ll keep you straight and honest and/or motivate you to press on.
9. Get your feet wet.
If you’re thinking about starting your own endeavor or joining the startup world full time, it might help to take on a learning opportunity, be it an internship, fellowship, or advisory role that will help you gain some hands-on experience and also decide if going out on your own, or going out of traditional medicine is something you really want to do.
10. Enjoy yourself. Explore yourself. What you can do and what you learn about yourself might surprise you.
Sometimes when you are in the thick of things, be it racing towards a deadline or feverishly coming up with the next new product feature or idea, take time out to smell the roses. Let yourself explore. Draw outside the lines a bit. Sometimes you’ll discover you had talents you never knew you had. Letting go and doing something in spite of your fears can be empowering.