Entrepreneurial Ventures: The American education system is set up to teach and train individuals to become experts and key thought leaders in the specific fields that they choose. Given the rising costs of education, rarely can students choose more than one area to specialize in. If and when the day arrives that one wants to start a business of their own, it is quite the challenge to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship later and confidently do so. Additionally, many people have been trained in the sciences or the arts, so finance and accounting seem like foreign languages to them. So how are so many specialized healthcare professionals creating booming privately-owned businesses across the country?
As a formally trained Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.), I had a unique advantage with an MBA in Entrepreneurship before enrolling in Pharmacy School. This opened my eyes and gave me the knowledge and inspiration to one day be able to start my own business. When most people hear of the Pharmacy profession, generally, they think about their local community Pharmacist at a nearby retail location. However, the skillset attained within school goes beyond the community realm and can be extremely useful in other areas. My career, post-Pharmacy School, began in industry where I learned more about the business of pharmaceuticals which gave me the knowledge base to co-found our own health and wellness company. My advice to all of the current students that ask is that they should focus on understanding the science and craft of therapeutics, as opposed to the specific job description that they think they may land after school. Once you are an expert in pharmacology, that skill set translates into many areas from community, clinical, industrial, and yes, entrepreneurial.
Many healthcare providers have taken a similar approach, including Dr. Akash Bajaj – a Pain Specialist & Anesthesiologist who is the founder of Remedy Pain Solutions in Marina Del Ray, CA. Dr. Bajaj and I work together with brands TIDL Sport and CytoCx, where he serves as the Medical Director and has dual degrees with an MD and MPH. Physicians like Dr. Bajaj, who has been featured on CBS TV hit series ‘Doctors,’ have had to build the plane as it is flying and have done an incredible job in the private practice space. No matter what the specialty, individuals can leverage these tips to make the most of their expertise and turn it into a profitable business while still serving the greater good:
1. Become a master of your craft
The first step is to immerse yourself within your training and specialty and have the confidence to be a key thought leader in the space. Do the extra research, spend the time to learn all of the new information and data in your field to truly understand the opportunity within. “I have been fortunate to be involved with several top academic institutions during my training. While the training was fantastic, there were areas that I felt could be improved for the ultimate outcome of increased access to high-quality healthcare,” says Dr. Bajaj. “Thankfully, this vision has resulted in great outcomes and happy patients.”
2. Identify the needs in your specialty that are currently not being addressed
The expertise and experience will help you identify specific pain points within the area. As we see more movement towards plant-based solutions in diet and general health, there is a need for true regulation and compliance within the industry. Taking a quality-focused pharmaceutical approach has become a core initiative of ours. It results in safe products for consumers and efficacious through the pro-quality approach that we take – a unique approach within the wellness industry.
3. Plan responsibly, but develop comfort with risk
“Ready. Fire. Aim!” as Dr. Bajaj puts it, “Time was not waiting for me to be fully prepared. Sometimes you have to take the leap.” In entrepreneurship, there are no guarantees, which is quite different from some of the career paths that we have trained for our entire academic life. Guaranteed salary, retirement plans, and annual bonuses are far from promised in your own business, and it is important to adapt accordingly. Everything will not go according to plan, and it is important to find comfort with that. As long the launchpad for growth has been established – patience is the biggest challenge, not security.
4. Be an expert in your craft, and a student of your business
One of the biggest challenges that many well-trained professionals face is going from being a teacher to being a student. Expertise in science does not translate to expertise in business. Entrepreneurs must be students of their business, regulatory bodies, and the market to be nimble enough to adapt accordingly. “Issues arise, and sometimes we feel like we have no idea how to deal with it, but it is important to be open-minded and learn from those that have gone through it. If they can do it, so can I,” says Dr. Bajaj. Additionally, it’s important to respond to the market and consumer base. Many experts may have a vision of what they believe is an ideal business, but no business is successful without consumer demand, so you must be open-minded enough to cater to that.
5. Part ways with traditional structure
Hourly shifts, call schedules, and a strict 9-5 are out of the window at the exact minute that you decide to start your own business. Instead of reading about drug facts or clinical guidelines, you will find yourself learning more about customer acquisition costs and digital marketing strategies – which can go well beyond traditional working hours. Any entrepreneur will tell you, be ready to work overtime until it is normal time week in and week out. This tends to be a large part of the struggle for professionals that have come from traditional work structures into the start-up space. Nights, evenings, and weekends are no longer blocked off. However, they serve as incredible times to get things done. In retrospect, as you build a business, these are the times you cherish, “I have learned to love the journey, not the destination. Even the bumps in the road are challenges that can teach you,” advises Dr. Bajaj.
We are fortunate to be a part of a generation where we see some of the most well-rounded people ever. The key characteristic that they all have in common is the versatility to not only specialize in different areas but also take calculated risks as they pursue new technologies and ventures. If you dare to think outside of the box, your expertise can carry you to places that you would have never imagined, and the best part? You are still, and always will be, the subject matter expert.