You may dream about being your own boss, but are you really ready to take the plunge into healthcare entrepreneurship? Besides having a winning idea or service to offer, you must be self-motivated, persistent and energetic, say successful healthcare entrepreneurs.
Faye Berger Mitchell, a nutritionist in private practice since 1988 in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and Thom Golden, a former emergency room nurse who founded Doctor Baby Proofer in 1986 in Dallas, offer eight tips to aspiring entrepreneurs:
Do What You Know
It’s easier to launch a business that builds off your existing knowledge, experience and professional contacts than to enter an entirely new field as an entrepreneur. Golden hatched his idea to open a baby-proofing business while working with pediatric trauma cases in the ER, where he recognized injuries that could have been prevented in a child-safe home.
Believe in What You’re Doing
If you’re going to invest your time and money in building a business, you must have confidence in your abilities and boundless enthusiasm about your venture. Berger Mitchell survived a few tough months right after quitting her job as a patient food services manager because of her enthusiasm about self-employment. “For the first time in my life I was able to take rejection and still keep going,” says Berger Mitchell. “It was because I loved what I was doing.” She now teaches a course for dietitians and nutritionists called “Be Your Own Boss: The Basics of Starting a Private Practice.”
Look Before You Leap
Trading career stability for professional independence is a worthy goal, but keeping a full- or part-time job while you get your venture going is wise. You’ll be able to see if you’re cut out for entrepreneurship while still earning a paycheck. Golden hung on to his ER job while his baby-proofing business was getting off the ground. “Within two years I was busy enough consulting and performing child-safety audits that I didn’t have enough time for the ER anymore,” he says.
Expect Some Ups and Downs
Most entrepreneurs don’t hit the jackpot overnight; they painstakingly build successful enterprises. Doctor Baby Proofer was a home-based business for 12 years before Golden moved into a 4,500-square-foot showroom two years ago. He now has six employees. According to Berger Mitchell, it takes most entrepreneurs an average of two to five years to build a successful business.
Berger Mitchell advises aspiring entrepreneurs to network, network, and then network some more. She drummed up business initially by joining her local professional association and volunteering for every opportunity to give a speech or work at a health fair. Golden says his most potent form of marketing is giving seminars to expectant mothers in settings like hospitals, health fairs and corporations. Berger Mitchell says, “You have got to sell yourself. No one is doing that for you.”
Cultivate Existing Contacts
Your connections to your former colleagues are worth their weight in gold, too. Golden says he still receives referrals from nurses and health professionals he worked with years ago while he was still a practicing nurse.
Recognize and Overcome Your Weaknesses
You may have a steady stream of happy clients or customers, but you need to gain some business savvy to stay afloat financially. Golden recommends that aspiring healthcare entrepreneurs take classes through their community colleges on how to operate a business and make use of community resources like the Service Corps of Retired Executives. The help of a good attorney, accountant or business advisor can also be invaluable, Berger Mitchell says.
Don’t Give Up
The road to entrepreneurial bliss may be bumpy. If it is, perseverance is the key to staying on course, Berger Mitchell says. “If this is something you really want to do, you need to be persistent,” she says. “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
This article originally appeared on Monster.com.