Thursday, November 23, 2006

Life from the perspective of a self-made business owner....

Yes, and that's basically what I am. I've created a medical practice from scratch. That's right, from maybe 2 patients in the first week, to a flow of 40-60 patients now after 2 1/2 years. It was no easy feat, and required a lot of faith that one day it would work. I had the privilege to build this in one of the most competitive markets in this country, because I wanted to live there and nowhere else. And after having worked for an insolent boss, I decided I never wanted anyone breathing down my neck again. Maybe that works for some, but not for me.

But as a self-made business owner (because no matter which way you cut it, a medical practice, especially nowadays, is a business) you find yourself connected with the struggle and hard work of other business owners. Never before did I really get how much sweat and hard labor it takes to be the head of a business, get if off the ground, and make it successful. You don't learn this sheltered working for a hospital during residency, nor taking on a job with a large group or for a hospital after residency (as most of my friends did). That may be for them, but not for me. And now, having experienced the creation of my practice, I would never go back. But what I truly have enjoyed this week is the shared connection with other business owners and managers I see getting their businesses to work. Whether it be the manager of the salon down the street who's involved in a legal mess because the new landlord is trying to evict probably to build a multimillion dollar condo, or the manager of the Jamba Juice around the corner who's there making shakes on a Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving with only one staff member at the registrar because she could probably not find employees who would work today (or possibly called in sick) even though it's fully staffed on other days -- I look into their eyes and feel a connection I never felt before. Underneath that connection, is a new level of understanding and appreciation of what they're going through, because I've gone through it (albeit in different ways) myself.

And, in truth, in spite of what has happened to the medical-legal-insurance-driven medicine machine in this country, I am proud to be a part of this community of small-business owners that make up the backbone of America's job market.

This was taken from the White House website (Disclaimer: Source does not imply agreement with political decisions of current administration. I'm merely quoting statistics, which I have no reason to believe were altered).
  • America's Small Businesses Are Thriving. Small businesses create two out of every three new jobs and account for nearly half of America's overall employment. They have played a vital role in helping our economy add more than 5.1 million new jobs since August 2003 and have helped reduce America's unemployment rate to 4.7 percent, below the average rate of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Small businesses are also vital for supporting our communities.

  • Small Businesses Create New Opportunities - Especially For Women And Minorities. Women own more than a quarter of all businesses, and the number of women-owned businesses is growing. Hispanic Americans are opening their own businesses at a rate three times the national average.
I am particularly proud of this last sentence, because not only am I first-generation American, but I am also Hispanic. This is the spirit for which this country was created: to allow the individual to create his/her dream.

However, the truth is that in spite of how many small businesses are created, it is well-known that they have a high failure rate: 40% fail in the 1st year, and of those who survive 1 year, 80% fail in 5 years, and of those who survive 5 years, another 80% fail. Wow! My dad really did well then, not having even been born in this country, but having a strong command of the English language (which he learned as a child because his parents thought it was wise for him and themselves to learn the language of the world's most dominant country), his small business thrived year-after-after for 31 years, when it was sold (and continues under a different name). I could have taken my dad's business and built it into a national conglomerate, but instead, I decided to follow my dreams and become a doctor. 31 years? I wonder how many make it that far? I don't know.

America should support it's small business, because you know what, they might be creating a new job for that family-member that's been unemployed for 6 months. Small businesses should get additional tax breaks during the 1st 5-years when they most tend to fail, probably because of cash-flow issues. For any small business owners who need some pointers, connect with local business owners through your local chamber of commerce, or look up a BNI Chapter near you. You might even pick up a copy of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber.

And remember, that no matter how tough the going gets, the tough get going. There is one true thing I've learned: the business market is tough (no matter what business you're in), but it will respect hard work and the genuine desire to bring a good product or service to society. After all is said and done, small businesses fill a void and provide a level of service that corporate America cannot. Who isn't tired of the multi-multi-multi-tiered phone answering services?

If you do have to call corporate America, which unfortunately we all do from time to time, use the GetHuman 500 Database to bypass all of those annoying "press this, press that" choices to get straight to a human being. Thank you!


Blogger Flea said...

I agree with 99% of what you've said, Shaman. For all the heart-ache and struggle, sacrifice and uncertainty, I would never go back to working for someone else.

I too feel kindred spirits with small businessmen and women in this country. It's especially poignant to have them as parents in my practice. I confess feeling a little closer to them than I do to other parents.

The1% difference is your apparent political demurral. Say what you will about the Republicans with respect to the war in Iraq, but who are the guys who are less likely to take your "store" from you?

Happy Thanksgiving,


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