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10 WAYS to BE a Successful Entrepreneur in Veterinary Medicine

Reprinted with permission from Advanstar: Jun 30, 2014, By staff. DVM360 MAGAZINE

All of us have been or will be entrepreneurs at one time or another. Maybe we’ll start a new business or veterinary practice. Perhaps we’ll lead a team or a committee or even a family. As I grow older, I’m surprised by how often the opportunity for entrepreneurship presents itself. New business visions aren’t limited to the young. For example, you might know the story of a man named Harlan Sanders who, in 1955, at the age of 65 started KFC and launched 100 fried chicken franchises in his first 10 years of business. Few of us will model that success, but trying to embody that entrepreneurial spirit is where it all begins.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly smart. But I’m smart enough to surround myself with smart people, watch them and read what they say. A while ago I came across an article in my local island publication, The Anguillan, that discussed the skills needed to be an entrepreneur. The piece was drawn from ideas presented by American Express, and I thought they were worth sharing.

1. Be passionate.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t care what you’re passionate about, but I do care that you’re passionate about being excellent. Be passionate about being the best you can be, then do your best to ignite that same intensity in others.

2. Focus intensely.

This is especially important in the beginning, as opportunities rarely present themselves twice. Don’t worry what others are saying. Focus on the things you can control. You don’t have to give 100 percent of your time, but you must be dedicated to giving 100 percent of your effort. This means being wholly invested in your commitment. When you play, play hard. When you work, work hard. And when you commit, commit entirely.

3. Enjoy the journey.

There are very few shortcuts to success. Focusing on the goal is one thing, but you need to focus on and celebrate every step, every small achievement. I am a believer that if you can’t enjoy the journey, you should probably consider another goal.

4. Listen to your heart.

Trust your gut. Spreadsheets and financial statements are important, but listen to your amygdala, your “lizard brain” that processes emotional reactions. Pay attention when you hear yourself and others talk about their instincts, that something smells fishy or “just doesn’t feel right.” The line between success and failure is sometimes very thin. A big part of entrepreneurship is knowing when to step back from the ledge and when to take a leap of faith—and I don’t mean tying a towel around your neck, yelling “Watch this!” and stepping off the roof.

5. Be persistent…

…but not too stubborn. Be flexible enough to ask for input and stubborn enough to reject the wrong advice. Also, know when to stick to your guns and when to put them away.

6. Assemble a dream team.

No one can be good at everything. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and surround yourself with smart people who complement your strengths. Don’t choose people who think exactly like you. Instead, find team members who contribute a fresh perspective and are good at what they do.

7. Execute.

While you may have a great idea, chances are someone out there has had the exact same idea. Success is not about a breakthrough idea as much as it is about execution. Don’t overthink a plan. You accomplish a lot more by doing than by planning. Sometimes it’s better to be wrong than to wait too long to act. If you make a mistake, back up—but don’t give up.

8. Be honest.

Integrity must be at the core of everything you do. Never lie. And if you have to ask if something is wrong, it probably is. Listen to that little voice inside your head that helps keep you honest and on course.

9. Appreciate and share your success.

Few successful people succeed on their own. There have been countless others who have taught, encouraged and supported us along the way. We may not know who they are, like people who opened doors that we didn’t even realize were closed. So how do we return the favor? Of all things, I’m reminded of the Four-Way Test, an ethical code followed by members of the Rotary International service organization:

Is it the truth?
Is it fair?
Will it build goodwill?
Will it benefit all concerned?

In other words, how can we pay back those who encouraged us and pay it forward? Success involves community, society, family and, yes, even government. The only way we can pay back our debt is to do good things for those who need help and support just as we did. In the end, we hope they too will pay it forward.

10. Find a mentor.

Truly successful people relish the success of others. Find the most successful person you know and invite him or her to a nice dinner. Ask if he or she would serve as your adviser and sounding board. There’s no sense in making mistakes that others have already made and learned from.

Dr. Michael Paul, @mikepauldvm on Twitter, is a nationally known speaker and columnist and the principal of Magpie Veterinary Consulting. He lives in Anguilla in the British West Indies.