8 Tips for “Second Career” Healthcare Entrepreneurs, Part 2

Light bulb on a napkinIn Part 1 of this series, we covered some important first steps to take as you embark on your second career: your foray into healthcare entrepreneurship – these steps included self-education, tapping into your passion, solving a real problem with your idea, and surveying the competitive landscape.  What are some of the other critical things you should do to set yourself up for success as you launch your new venture?

  • Check your runway.  Having attained a long-term career in the healthcare field, you may have the means to invest in your new idea with your own funds.  However, launching any startup involves risk, no matter how sure you feel about your idea’s viability, so ensuring that you have a solid runway of at least 6 months (preferably more) to get rolling is key.  In contrast to many first time entrepreneurs, who are at a different life stage, are often single, renting their place and willing to “eat ramen” until their business, most second career entrepreneurs have a mortgage and other liabilities such as their kids’ education, plus a general expectation about maintaining a certain lifestyle to consider.  How “lean” are you willing to live and work in order to give your startup enough time and operating capital to have a successful liftoff?  Questions like this are much better answered before you officially adopt the Founder title.
  • Aspire to “humble confidence”. In the words of Mike Baum, successful serial entrepreneur (former founder/CEO of Splunk, a now-$10 billion company, and current founder of Founder.org,  a non-profit Silicon Valley accelerator), the best startup founders embody “humble confidence” – in other words, they have enough self-esteem to hold their own when pitching or having tough conversations, and also know how to hold their egos in check (both inside their company and out) as well as holding themselves accountable for their own mistakes.  As you start to build your core team of co-founders, and then scale the company, humble confidence is one ingredient that will serve you well during every stage.
  • Don’t go it alone.  Some entrepreneurs try to “wear all of the hats”, from CEO to CFO to Product Development and Administration.  While this may feel like a sure-fire way to be able to call all of the shots and maintain control, in reality it ends up being a guarantee for burnout and also repels investors – it’s a rookie mistake.  Seek and find co-founders who share your values and mission but bring complementary skills and abilities to bear – and at the same time, plan to learn enough about others’ responsibilities to, at the very least, ask probing questions and audit their work.  Think “mind diversity” among trusted partners – the more well-rounded your team, the less likely you will be blind-sided by some obstacle or competitor.  Seasoned, health-savvy advisors and mentors can be invaluable at this early part of the game.
  • Finally, create a vision of success.  This might sound like a ridiculously obvious step to some of you, but you would be surprised how ill-prepared some startup founders are when it comes to not only defining for themselves what success looks like, but sharing that vision with others (even their co-founders).  Are you creating a company that you plan to run as long as you can and then pass it on to your children?  Or are you more interested in rapid development of a medical product or solution that can be bought or distributed by other parties, leaving you free to try something new or just retire?  Work on your vision now.  You’re wrapping up a substantial, most likely fulfilling role in healthcare, and you’re launching a new venture, which may be in the same industry but will certainly be dramatically different in numerous ways.  Map out what success means to you as clearly as you can, otherwise you might not end up where you want to be.

In summary, congratulations on moving into the exciting world of healthcare entrepreneurship.  There is no shortage of health issues to solve – may your startup journey be a great success!

Hilary Weber, founder, Opportu Startup Leadership.  http://opportu.com/

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