There’s usually a type of background that comes to mind when you picture an entrepreneur. One involves an MBA or, at the very least, a few management classes. Well, my crash course in entrepreneurship stems far from the business school and instead is rooted in eight years working in nuclear medicine.
I can see why my time in the radiology department at a hospital may seem unrelated to what I’m now doing as the founder of an Internet startup. But my time working in the medical field has been invaluable to my success as an entrepreneur. Why? Because more often than not, it’s life experience that makes or breaks a business. Working in medicine is nothing if not a large dose of life experience.
From the art of strategically communicating with doctors to the attention to detail needed when taking a brain scan, working in medicine unknowingly set me up to win over investors and prepare for even the most unforeseeable difficulties. Below are five entrepreneurial takeaways from the medical field.
1. Things change quickly.
This is perhaps the single most important lesson I took away from the medical industry. Working at a hospital means working under circumstances that are constantly changing, and oftentimes, not changing in the direction you would like. However, I adapted to this particular situation by learning to read into any possible warning sign and then react accordingly. This ability to read and react to potential problems has given me a forward-thinking approach to business, allowing me to head off problems that could have been fatal to my company.
2. You can’t teach passion.
Nor can you plan on someone having the same passion and enthusiasm for work as you do. In medicine, there is a distinct line between those who do their job well and those who have a true passion for what they do. I learned to spot the difference between the two early on, and now as a business leader, I can spot it a mile away. I use this skill to find the right people for my team — people who are as passionate and enthusiastic as I am.
3. There will always be someone second-guessing you.
In the medical field, it could be a doctor who thinks he knows more than you or the CEO of the hospital who doesn’t understand your job. It could even be a patient who did a few Internet searches. No matter what field you’re in, there will always be someone there to challenge you. Have the confidence to fend off the second-guessers and defend your opinions and ideas. If you won’t, who will?
4. Choose your battles wisely.
This could seem contradictory to the lesson above, but let me explain. Many assume that if they’re right, they’re right, and they shouldn’t stop until everyone knows it. However, that’s not a strategic outlook. While working in medicine, my department was often challenged, and even though I knew my peers and I were right, I would sit back and listen rather than arguing until I was breathless. Why? Because you don’t need to win every battle to win the war. My ability to gauge when to speak and when to just listen has been a big part of my success in both medicine and business.
5. There’s a difference between knowledge and pride.
Some leaders tend to have more of the latter than the former. Once a leader has the experience to prove that his sense of determination stems from valuable knowledge versus blind pride, it’s amazing the kind of attention and respect people will give a leader’s ideas. This respect is both invaluable and irreplaceable.
The bottom line is that there is no replacement for life experience. Every challenge in life lends the opportunity to develop new skills, like handling stress, managing people, and communicating ideas — all of which are crucial to running a business.
For me, these challenges took place in the radiology department at a hospital, and now I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to my business. However, I’m sure there are plenty of other successful entrepreneurs who earned their leadership skills from places far more obscure. It doesn’t necessarily matter where you get these valuable experiences; it’s what you do with your experiences and how you apply them that will decide your success.
Image credit: CC by phalinn