How to start your own business
by Lisa C. Wadsworth, RDH
Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883−1950) stated, "Entrepreneurs are not necessarily motivated by profit but regard it as a standard for measuring achievement or success." Schumpeter believed that entrepreneurs (1) greatly value self-reliance, (2) strive for distinction through excellence, (3) are highly optimistic (otherwise nothing would be undertaken), and (4) always favor challenges of medium risk (neither too easy nor ruinous). Does this sound like the way you approach your clinical career? It's probably how you would like to approach starting your own small business. If so, there are a few tips that will make your journey a bit easier.
Before we delve into the steps necessary to transform an idea from a concept to fruition, it is important to note the definition of entrepreneur and entrepreneurship. Simply stated, an entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture, or idea, and is accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome. A unsuccessful entrepreneur must look in the mirror each morning and calmly state, "It is all my fault!" This does not have to be the case. If you surround yourself with the appropriate network and mentors, the road will be easier to navigate.
Entrepreneurship is the actual planning and execution of work done by an entrepreneur. The act of entrepreneurship is often much harder than the brainstorming of the initial idea.
Some think true entrepreneurs possess higher aptitudes and ability to succeed, qualities that only a small percentage of the population possesses. Others believe that entrepreneurs just want to work for themselves. Accepting total responsibility for an idea or enterprise does not mean going it alone, however. Taking risks, and knowing when and how to build a network of support is imperative.
Identify your entrepreneurial profile
Your profile depends on your personality and what drives you to start a business or bring an idea to market. There are three classifications of entrepreneurs: social, serial, and lifestyle. None are specific to the field of dentistry, but certainly one will have more interest and meaning for you as an individual. You may start out as one type and morph into another, but from the start one will feel most comfortable to you. Pay close attention to your inner profile. If your goal is to make as much money as possible but your passion draws you into an area of no funding, do not be disappointed; just reconsider what your goals are for the business.
● Social entrepreneur – The social entrepreneur is motivated by a desire to help improve and transform social, environmental, and economic conditions. Social entrepreneurs are driven to make an impact on the world around them, and do not tolerate the "status quo" view of the world. Full of ambition and emotion, social entrepreneurs are driven to "make a difference" rather than by the desire to make a profit.
I think most hygienists who venture out of the operatory to enter the next stage of their careers fall into this category. We are driven to make a difference for our patients, so it is not a stretch to envision making a difference for those we try to teach, direct, or influence.
● Serial entrepreneur – An active thinker and inventor, this class of entrepreneur is willing to take on a high level of risk and carries the ability to recover from business failure. It is not uncommon to find these individuals constantly starting new business endeavors, leaving the last to someone else or selling it to focus on the creative part of building the next. Such a profile does not seem to fit hygienists. We are usually busy branding our name as the cornerstone to our success. Donald Trump is an example of a serial entrepreneur in the corporate world. Although his name is plastered for all to see, his fingers are in many companies that do not carry his name. This business model finds one or more people working on the journey rather than the end result. However, financial gain is at the root of this business model. High risk and high reward fuel the fire for the serial personality.
● Lifestyle entrepreneur – These individuals march for the love of freedom. The lifestyle entrepreneur plots a business plan that will allow for freedom of choice, working for him- or herself, and nurturing projects or passions that are close to the heart. Often drawing from raw talent and absolute passion, these business owners launch onto the stage with much gusto. If not first, this class definitely comes second for hygienists who venture into speaking, writing, or striking up the cause for a product or protocol. This profile may also fit your model if you are moving away from clinical practice due to health reasons, yet want to remain in the loop of clinical activity.
Pick your passion truthfully
Speaking from personal experience, I wanted to be all things to all people. Mostly, I just wanted to work! I implore you not to follow in my footsteps. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. During the discovery stage of the business, take personal stock of what you are good at and enjoy doing. If the goal is to run a successful consulting business with a focus on clinical coaching, one would hope your expertise in this aspect of dentistry will precede you. Do not try to be all things to all people. Just as dentists and hygienists specialize in clinical practice to achieve the ultimate result for their patients, so should you.
If your clinical expertise is grounded in perio, don't try to consult in pedo! This is not to say that clinical protocol cannot be taught, but I advise you against handing out tips for managing children if you rarely encounter them in the operatory! Become the expert in what you love. People will look to you for valued experience and professional advice.
If you are interested in consulting, gain accreditation from national associations that specialize in your topic. For example, become a fellow in an association that focuses on dental implants if this is your passion. Should you want to lecture on a national platform, start by watching and listening to as many speakers as you can. Listen with the ear of a critic. Notice what you like or would change about each delivery. Take notes!
► Find a mentor and join a network – Creating a network may look easy, but it takes skill and is very time consuming. Should you be a novice to the art of "working a room" or do not envision yourself ever feeling comfortable in that role, joining an established group can serve as your platform to fabulous friendships and leadership. Study clubs serve this function for clinical team members by providing a safe haven to share ideas and success stories. Budding speakers and consultants, rest easy; there are several high profile organizations that will more than fulfill your expectations for meeting mentors and rounding out your skills.
► Run your business; don't let it run you – Set boundaries right from the start. Building a business can take over your life. The workload can be overwhelming. If you work 24/7 with no time for reflection about what you are creating, the outcome will suffer. As a mentor once shared with me, "It is not that you show up; it is how you arrive that counts." Ultimately, this means to be mindful of the time you spend each day on your tasks. Time management is critical.
Books abound on the subject of time management. Take the time to learn the skills of personal and business time management. For starters, keep a journal of your journey. I keep two: one for my thoughts and emotions, one for new ideas. Revisit the journal each month. Just as you reviewed production goals at the end of each clinical month, take the time to track your success and your challenges. The notes you keep should include what worked, what did not (you will make mistakes), and when were you most creative or able to make good decisions to keep your idea moving forward.
In the beginning you may have no idea what to write. Here are a few ideas: What keeps you motivated? What made you laugh? Who do you admire? What do they do to keep moving forward? What are your obstacles? Think about your idea or who you aspire to be. Build your own confidence through positive imagery. No negative talk! There are plenty of folks who will drag you down. Do not engage in this activity against yourself. Ask yourself, "How can I do this?" not "What is stopping me?"
► Volunteer – Volunteering as part of professional development involves showing up. Will you be attending UOR? This is not a plug for PennWell, rather an observation about becoming involved. Being engaged and open to learning and observing is the real step to helping your dreams come true.
► Product development – If you are developing a product, visit the booths of competitors. Come armed with questions. Strike up a conversation with the vendors. Boy, do they want to talk!
Listen, take notes, and think about your product. The concepts they share may shape your development plan. A difficult process for you may be a strong suit for someone else.
While in conversation, you may be asked questions too. Give honest answers. If not prepared to do so on the spot, ask if you may return at another time. Spend some time thinking about your insights into their products. You just might find it will help you to reflect on your product from a different vantage point.
Enlisting to become an ambassador for a product will open doors for you but brings with it responsibility and the absolute charge of honesty. Befriend a company that you admire and spend some time volunteering for the cause. What you learn about yourself and your budding product or personal credibility level will surprise you. Remember, if you show interest, so will they. Mutual admiration goes a long way.
► Write an article – Interested in writing? Ask a local hygiene club if you can write for their newsletter. If they do not have one, offer to write it! I was advised to be published should I want to speak and consult. I remember crossing "writing" off my list. I did not feel confident; I did not feel it mattered! Was I ever wrong! Writing brings visibility and credibility, and the wonderful editors are there to smooth over your grammar!
Writing is mostly done as a passion and as a means of personal marketing. Not many put pen to paper for full-time employment. However, writing will increase your visibility, which will lead to more speaking engagements or consulting clients. Believe me, I was adamant that writing was not for me, but it has brought me more clients than any other avenue.
Visit the magazine booths at the major trade shows. Find out what criteria is used to select authors. You may be pleasantly surprised. Do your homework ahead of time. If you have targeted a particular magazine, put the name of the editor to memory. You may be surprised to meet the editor at the booth! Once arriving at the booth, ask those greeting you if they write for the magazine. The more questions you ask, the greater feel you will have for the publication.
Almost every publication is looking for writers. Give yourself a chance! Got something to say? Write it!
► Speaking engagements – This is probably the hardest threshold to cross, but come on along! Start near home; rubber chickens taste good after a while! During this time of short evening courses, you will develop your craft, know your subject inside and out, and shake off the nerves!
Join Toastmasters. The old adage, "It is not what you say, but how you say it" holds true.
The arena of speaking is shrinking due to the Internet, but it brings with it Webinars! Webinars are a much more laid back way to get your feet wet because that pesky audience is invisible! Present every chance you get, find someone who will provide you an audience, and do it for free.
Talk to speakers. Watch others perform their craft. It is an art form. Speakers are human too; they need to know you enjoyed their lecture. It will make their day to hear from you. No one is too old or seasoned to accept an honest compliment. Do not be afraid; do not wait until you believe you are ready! Just jump off the curb and enjoy.
In closing, we all have talent. It may yet be untapped, but with a little push and lots of communication, you will find your path. The need for perfection has squelched more dreams than making mistakes. Reach out and go for it; there are mentors to teach you and companies to support you.
Follow your passion. Don't know what it is? Sit quietly and think about your career. What brightened your day? What can't you stop talking about? What would you like to give back to your community? Be honest with yourself and others. Choose mentors and take what they say seriously.
Should you wish to discuss how my business plan developed and is ever changing, feel free to write or call me. I would be honored to be your mentor.
Lisa C. Wadsworth, RDH, is a lecturer, coach, and president of Lisa C. Wadsworth Inc., a company focused on the integration of implant dentistry into your practice, and communication skills that lead to the acceptance of technical treatment plans. In her latest lecture series, Lisa brings life lessons to support the importance of "Ergonomics"for all of the dental team. Lisa can be reached at (215) 262- 6168 or [email protected].