Wouldn’t be great to have a time machine and go back and give advice to your younger self! I discovered an old episode of a previous podcast where I gave “words of wisdom” before I started my business that really resonated with the audience at the time. 5 years later, I asked myself these same things, and whether they had the same impact as a physician entrepreneur.
When Elon Musk invents that time machine and I just so luckily get to be one of the first 10 people to get on it, these are the top 10 things that I would tell my younger self before starting a business adventure.
Before I started this podcast, I was actually on another podcast with a business partner of mine. It ran for about a year. And when I was cleaning my Dropboxes and looking at some old audio, I came across an episode that was actually one of our more popular episodes that we did. It was an episode where we asked the question, if you could go back in time, what would be the top five or ten things you would say to your younger self before getting involved in your entrepreneurial journey.
As I was looking at those ten things, I really didn’t change any of those things. So what I thought would be kind of cool is to kind of go over these ten things, and I thought I would share it with you. So without further ado, let’s get started.
10. Invest in things you understand or you know. Invest in things that you understand or you know. And I know this one all too well. You may be guilty of this as well. A couple of businesses … I’ve been involved in a lot of different ventures. I’ve been involved in really successful multimillion dollar launches, to those that are not as successful.
Looking back at the types of businesses that really kind of tanked, one of the reasons, it may not be the only reason, was I got involved in businesses that I didn’t understand. So on an upcoming episode, I have an interview with the Passive Income MD, and he talks a lot about real estate. If you notice on that podcast, I don’t really say too much about my own real estate experience, and that’s because I only like to talk about things that are helpful to you, unless you want to hear the failures.
Several years ago, I got involved with a friend who was a real estate entrepreneur, and involved in buying some houses in the Midwest. This was an area in Missouri that supposedly this factory was going to come in, and it was going to revitalize the area, and unfortunately, that factory never came through. I ended up losing a little bit of money on it, so to speak.
Luckily, I was able to sell those houses. I still have one house, just for, I don’t know, sentimental reasons, but it helps with some tax reasons. But it was because I really didn’t involve in it, and I put some money, and I thought I would do well, and I didn’t do my due diligence.
Another one that was, where I was involved in a business, was … Currently I have a clinic with a medical spa, but several years ago, I actually invested in becoming a medical director for a medical spa that I helped create in Belize. Now here is the thing, I’ve never been to Belize. I still haven’t gone to Belize. I hear it’s a wonderful country. And it was an island that apparently is well known for diving, and we were going to build a medical spa. I bought a hyperbaric chamber for diving purposes, and it was one of those things where I trusted somebody and he made promises that, let’s just say he couldn’t keep. Where it was actually done, the island, it wasn’t even well developed, it wasn’t fully developed. There were some lawsuits that were involved, and everything like that.
Suffice it to say, that medical spa never opened. It was, again, one of those things where I didn’t directly go there. I was doing everything from the West Coast in the states. Nothing had really happened, and it was lesson learned.
I think it was because of these failures that it helped me to propel me to learn from my failures that got me one step closer to success.
9. Write your own checks. I’m not sure where I read it from, maybe it was a multi-millionaire or billionaire biography I was reading, but what really struck me was even though this guy was really successful and he had a lot of different enterprises and businesses, for the big checks, he was actually writing the checks himself.
What I mean for you here is that you have to specifically write each check. I’m a big fan of debiting and all that kind of stuff, but for the bigger purchases, I want to be aware of what are the big purchases. Basically, if there are any vendors that I am not familiar with, or we’re purchasing something and I don’t see the ROI of it. I mean, there’s been many a time where I’m actually looking at my monthly what’s going in and what’s going out, and I’m going, “Why are we still with this vendor? What have they actually brought about?”
I take the time to do a monthly, business monthly, and just kind of look at all of our different services. And if I’m still using it and it’s still making money for our business, then I’ll keep going at it. But if it’s not worth it … and the things is, even thought it’s smaller services that you may have, you don’t realize, those all add up. Whether it be you’re writing a check or you have an assistant writing your own checks for you, just be aware of what’s going on with your finances.
8. Go with your gut (or trust but verify). We all run into a lot of different folks who want to sell us a lot of stuff on … I’m not telling you anything that’s new, but even sometimes our colleagues, we think they have the best intentions, but they may not have the best intentions for you, maybe the best intentions for yourself.
I’ve gotten involved into some business I later found out that those people were not trustworthy, and it’s kind of lesson learned. And there’s always something. There’s always something where you’re like, in the pit of your stomach, you’re saying, “I’m not sure this is right for me. This guy seems cool, or gal seems great.” And then you realize that this isn’t the direction that you want to go. Or even they might have the best intentions, everything might be ethical and it’s just not time for you to go into that direction with what you’re currently doing. It doesn’t match what direction that you want for your business. It may take time away from what you’re doing. Those are the kinds of things that I’m talking about.
Every time I have involved in a business venture that tended to go south, I always had that feeling in the stomach, and sometimes I listened to it, and other times I didn’t. The other thing, too, is I try to take people at their word when we’re first meeting, but I also verify, whether it be background checks, whether it be talking with people who they’ve worked with before, you should always do that. Remember, they don’t always have your best intention in mind, no matter how much they smile or how much they seem cool on the inter web.
7. Work on your health as much as your business. So we’re doctors, of course health is a priority. When I actually left medicine for a bit, had a very successful software company, and we were really doing well, unfortunately, my health took a tumble there. I gained a lot of weight. I mean, weight’s always been something I struggle with, but it was the heaviest I had ever been, I was more sedentary. And you know, when you have a business, you’re going to have stress, you’re not going to have sleep, you’re not going to be eating well. Those all add up. And you got to treat your health like you do your business. It’s one of those things that I learned the hard way, and I continue to learn, especially as we’re in an industry where, of course, health is priority.
But it’s always a good reminder, too, if you can treat your … in our business, we know what’s coming in and what’s coming out, we don’t do the same things with our own bodies. Whether it be exercise, meditation, whatever you need to do to get you to be in tip top shape, and it’s so important for you, of course.
6. When things are going great, is when you need to work even harder. As I mentioned, I’ve had some really successful launches, seven figure businesses and such, and I remember, and probably related to my last tip that I gave you, is really successful launch, that’s what you need to do, and the next six months to a year, I really took it easy. Like I said, I gained weight, I played a lot of video games, I was traveling. But yeah, we were doing the day to day stuff, but looking back at some of the things, it led to some things that came aboard that really kind of impacted our business. We had new competitors, there were some cracks in our own team that I wish I would have known about. And I was really, to be honest, apathetic because of everything that was going on and everything was going well.
That’s the time where you need to be looking at, “Hey, we may be on top right now, but we need to have an unfair advantage over everybody else. We need to be aware that our competitors are going to come into the space. We need to be aware that there might be some new avenues that we may wish to pursue, and then other avenues we don’t want to go into.”
That’s what happened with us. We got into some areas that really wasn’t our bread and butter kind of stuff, and it really kind of fragmented it. Looking back, I wish I could have been more vigilant as I was.
So even when they’re great, even when things are going in, the money is coming in, you should always be aware. If you want to continue to grow, that’s the position that you need to be in.
5. When hiring, make sure your employee is great at at least one thing. As I’ve mentioned, I have worked with a lot of people, I’ve had many employees, and compared to some of my other colleagues and other doctors I work with, I think I’m doing pretty good. I’ve had employees who have been with me for nearly or over a decade, and they still put up with me, and we don’t have a lot of turnover in some of the businesses that we do.
I think one aspect that really worked well for me, you know, I’m not saying I’m the best boss of all time or anything like that, of course not, but I tend to find people who are good, they got a skill set, I find them good at like one thing, and I let them really take it to town with them, that I really want them to … Let’s say they’re really good, for example my manager, she’s really good at billing and making sure all the numbers are correct.
I remember one time, she was going over the numbers, and she was counting our pay cash, and she was saying, “We’re $50 over.” And I go, “Oh, cool!” And she says, “No, that’s horrible. We should not be $50 over. I need to look back at everything I did.” That’s a great example of someone who is really good at that particular skill.
What I see is, just like as in any type, you want to find the specialists in your area. And if you find what that specialty is, whether it be the great customer support, or maybe they are great technically, they’re great at helping you with your medical procedures, or maybe they’re great on the phone, or they have an artistic eye, maybe they help you with your designs in your office or on your website, whatever that is, try to identify that skill and really nurture it. Really let them explore it, because they’re going to be more excited at their job, they’re going to be more likely to work harder for you, because it is something that they enjoy.
The ones in place where I don’t have, is I can’t identify a skill that they were interested in or wasn’t a skill that would benefit our business. So identify it, nurture it, and you’re going to have really cool, A+ employees.
4.Most of the time you need to say NO. On this one, I actually changed it. Before, I used to say “sometimes” you need to say no. Well, I’ve changed it, most of the time you should say no. Or the default answer should be to say no. And what I mean about saying no is if you’ve got your business, and you got your direction, and you’ve got your goals, and you know what you need to do, you’re hyper-focused, you’re going to get some people who will say, “Hey, can you help me with this? Or can you help me with that? Would you like to be on this board? Would you like to help my website here?” If it doesn’t fit that kind of prime directive, to give a Star Trek term, it’s okay to say now.
And it always kills me, because I love to help people. I think as doctors, we want to help people, we want to be pleasing people. But again, it just may not be the time or the place to help them at that time. And you may not be in a place … If you know your direction of where you need to go, going off on a side tangent could really derail your business. Again, we only have 24 hours a day, seven days out of the week. What is your focus?
Now, if it has to be something that you’re not sure where your goals are, and you’re still looking for new opportunities, and you’re in that position, then yeah, go for it. Go for it. But if you know what you want to do, you’ve got a direction, you’ve got your milestones and goal that you want to make, you got to be able to say no.
3. Use screencapture video to teach everything. I do not know what I would do without screen capture video. What am I talking about here? Things like Loom, L-O-O-M, or Camtasia, or ScreenFlow. These are basically where I am using my laptop, since a lot of my business is online, and I’m helping to teach a student, or I’m teaching a freelancer, or an employee, something, a part of my business. And it’s very difficult to just get on the phone and describe what you’re doing. I mean, have you ever had to tell your mom how to use the phone? Again, I’m not trying to age discriminate, but my dad doesn’t know how to, mom and dad don’t know how to use smartphones at all. But it can be very, very frustrating.
So some of the things that we do, for example, we use our click funnel software or builder software to help create websites, and there are some intricacies that I need to know that it’s much easier if I say, “Hey, just watch this video,” and it’s a video of me logging into my account, you want to take point A to point B, you want to download this, you want to upload this into our mailing software, and this is what you need to do to blast out an email. It’s a lot easier by just having them follow the screen, and they can watch it and re-watch it all together again. It saves so much time when you’re working with, let’s say you’re doing a project on Upwork, or again you’re working with a freelancer, or you’re working with your own employee, or you’re working with your students or your clients, definitely take advantage of ScreenFlow software.
2. Have weekly meetings with your staff. When I was in primary care, one of the last employee jobs I had is I worked at the Union Health Service. One of the things I had learned was they would have what they called morning huddles. This was with, I was working as a primary care doctor, and I would have my nurse and my medical assistant, and all three of us in that morning, for just about five minutes, we would go over, we would look at our patients, the patient list that we had today, and then we want to anticipate what they could be asking and what they would need to have, or what are some of the calls that we may be getting that day. It just let us be more strategic, led us to be more prepared, and we would have less random stuff happen to us.
Anytime that I have had a business where it isn’t as great as I would want to be, where a lot of the cracks happen is miscommunication, and that’s because we didn’t know where everybody was onboard. There would be people who they didn’t know where we were going, what our goals were, what were the new services or products we were offering. And that was on us as the boss, as the ones who were running the ship here. That’s when things really fall apart.
So I think it’s important, if you can do it physically, that’s awesome. But I always at least try to have, if not a weekly, every couple weeks, have a meeting. I know there’s books out there that say meetings are useless. I don’t believe that for a second.
I know with online businesses, you might have a joint venture partner that’s on the other side of the country, or you’re working with freelancers, maybe even out of the country. It’s important that, for your team, your business, whatever, you all need to get together. And if there’s any questions, you need to make sure that those are answered.
One important thing that I do ask is to every employee at some point is, “Is there anything we could do to make it better? What are you seeing?” Because I’m not there all the time, I’m not there 24 hours, I don’t know. If there are parts of your business that you don’t know about, you need to ask, because your employees, you hired them, hopefully they like you or they like working with you, and they want to make sure that they’re involved something that’s going to grow and become successful as well. And sometimes, we may not think about it, so always try to have some type of meeting. Again, if it can’t be physical, use Skype, use Zoom, use whatever webcam software you’re using, make sure you do that on a regular basis.
And then we come down to number one. The number one thing out of the top ten things if I could go back in a time machine what I would ask myself before starting my business ventures is…
1. I would ask myself this question, ” What are you doing all of this for?” When I was involved, I left medicine back in 2003, 2004, I started a business, the business became really successful.And one of the areas that was involved in my business is I did a lot of traveling. I traveled, selling the software, to Australia, and Europe, and more and more time away from my family.
I still remember this kind of passive-aggressive … maybe not passive-aggressive, maybe just aggressive … She said, “I thought you wanted to leave medicine so you could spend more time with your family? And now you’re traveling every week, or every other week.” It really got me thinking. She was 100% right. Why am I doing this? Even if I was at home, I would hold myself up in my office or in my home office, and I was away from my family and kids. So even though, of course, we’re doing well, there was some resentment.
So when you ask yourself that question, what are you doing all of this for, you know, I still have to make sure that I’m saying that to myself. There was one phrase that my son taught me at the time, as a teenager, is he said, “Dad, sometimes you have to remember you need to enjoy the burrito.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. That sounds really strange and weird. But what the story is, is we were listening to a podcast at the time, and it was called The Nerdist, it’s kind of about pop culture and geek stuff, and Chris Hardwick, the host, he would end his call with, “Enjoy the burrito.” What that refers to is he had a friend who was a struggling actor at the time, and he would go through all these long hours, go through auditions, sometimes things would work, sometimes they wouldn’t. And his one benefit was he had this favorite taco shop, this one favorite burrito, and then that was kind of the highlight of his day.
His friend would say, “Why do you look sad?” He says, “Well, I already have gone through half the burrito, and I’m feeling sad because it’s about to end. It’s the biggest part of my day.” And his friend said to him, “Sometimes you need to enjoy the burrito.”
What that means is, sometimes you have to live in the present. Right? You can’t cry about the past, you can’t get anxious about the future. It’s all about having gratitude. It’s all about you’re breathing in oxygen, most likely you have a place to live, you got food on the table, you have hopefully friends and family that surround you, and hopefully are supporting you. I know everything isn’t always roses, of course, there’s always things going on. We’re only human. But sometimes, you have to sit back and enjoy where you’re at. Enjoy that, if you’re a doctor, you have gone through that training, you most likely are going to have a good paying job now until the future.
Even though sometimes it could be you could be burnt out, and sometimes it can be really distracting, and sometimes you want to strangle some people sometimes, sometimes you have to realize, “Hey, I’m in a pretty cool place right now. I am in a country of a lot of opportunity. I have technology that we couldn’t even dream about even a few years ago what we’re able to do.” I’m able to communicate with you, you may be in this country, you may be outside the country, who knows. You wouldn’t even imagine that there would be technology like this, at least when I was growing up as a kid.
So sometimes, you need to enjoy the burrito, so to speak.
I hope you took advantage, I hope that you learned something from this. These are my top ten things of what I would ask myself. What are some things you would ask yourself if you could go back? Feel free to put it in the comments.