Do I need a MBA or business experience for my solo medical practice to succeed?

A common question that I’m often asked is: do you need a MBA to run a business or medical practice?

The quick answer to this question is absolutely not. Before starting our practices, neither myself or Ho Sun ever started a business or took a single business or economics class in college.

Considering that a MBA is a $100,000 financial investment and time sink, which I’d rather use to go hiking and traveling or watching sports, even if someone offered me free tuition I would decline. However, if you want to take a position in healthcare administration, in many instances it helps to have the degree behind your name.

You do need to know how to think analytically- for me it was the extensive math classes I took in college that helped me out. As Ho Sun likes to say, if you use google you can pretty much find the answer to everything you want. Although it might take a bit of time and research compared to it being directly presented in one of our blog posts.

If you feel you must learn the information that a MBA provides, read the book The Personal MBA I ordered it and read half of it, and found it to be common sense and boring. Not reading the second half hasn’t exactly made my practice suffer.

If you think as a startup you need 5 employees, four exam lanes, and 5000 square feet, getting a MBA isn’t going to fix any of your problems.

Some of you might be tempted to hire the best office manager- one with a MBA. This is complete overkill. Just because they have that degree may or may not mean they’re good at managing employees, filling in as a tech when needed, doing your billing, etc. The office managers in my group practice were completely useless at any of these tasks.

Most of us solo eye docs serve as our own office manager and start off with a few employees. Most of us don’t use consultants, let alone one with a MBA. In my opinion, unless you have more than three or four staff (seeing over 30 patients a day), you don’t need a office manager. Ho Sun and I agree that you can make a perfectly good living seeing significantly less than 30 patients per day, and never plan to hire a office manager, let alone one with a MBA.

The fact of the matter is banks will still loan $200,000 at a decent interest rate for a practice startup to someone who is in student loan debt and never took a single business class or ran a business before. This is assuming that you have written a reasonable pro forma, which Ho Sun learned how to do by reading the internet. The banks wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think think they could get their money back.

Do I need to have a outgoing personality and be involved in the community for my solo practice to succeed?

Some articles I’ve read suggest that a solo doc must have a outgoing personality and should get involved in the community and join the chamber of commerce, country club, run booths at health fairs, sponsor the uniforms for the high school football team, etc.

Most folks on our thread don’t do any of the above. They mind their own business, but are nice to referring docs and take good care of their patients. Even without joining every club in town and being involved in the community, word will get around, your reputation will grow, and you will succeed.

Of course, if you are located in a smaller town rather than a metropolitan area, it certainly helps to get to know people in town who can say something nice about you. And in the most competitive saturated urban markets, your practice will certainly grow quicker if you are a big schmoozer rather than if you keep to yourself. But even if you’re a big schmoozer, you still need to get patients in reasonably promptly, get good results, and send notes back to referring doctors. I don’t send holiday gifts nor do I bring gifts with my practice logo on it, but I’ve been extremely happy with my practice growth.

I took a personality test and am almost exactly halfway between extroversion and introversion. When I opened, I was somewhat worried that since I wasn’t more outgoing, it would take me forever to build a practice. Some folks in our google group describe themselves as introverted, but have still built busy practices.

One day I was talking with an anesthesiologist in the doctors lounge and told him I had to run back to the office to fit in a referring doctor who was coming to see me as a patient. He said he was happy he picked anesthesiology because he didn’t have to do any schmoozing. Guess what, I don’t go out of my way to socialize with other docs either, although I do go to the hospital social events for the free food. This doctor came to see me because he heard from his patients that I got good results with my surgeries, and because my notes demonstrate my competence, not because he’s my golfing buddy.

It is a myth that if you are introverted, or don’t like to socialize with other doctors or members in the community, that you cannot build a successful solo practice. If you do so, it’s certainly very likely that your practice will build quicker and get busier, but even if you are like me and you don’t, chances are you will do just fine.

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