# 10 Lessons From My Experience As Doctor and Entrepreneur
"The textbooks say that 'debt is more expensive than equity', but according to me, debt is a sword hanging above your neck."
Over two decades ago, I set out to fulfill a dream: to set up an oncology center of excellence in India, that would deliver high quality cancer care with cutting-edge technology.Today, HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd (HCG) is a renowned cancer care centre.
I’ve experienced the exhilarating highs and inevitable lows of being an entrepreneur, or as I like to call it, a “Doctorpreneur”. Here are 10 of the most important things I have learned in my journey, which will be useful for anyone else setting off on this path:
It’s All About the Cause and Vision
Just like social entrepreneurs, it is the “cause”that you take up which is of paramount importance. In my case, I always knew that meeting the unmet cancer need in India was my “cause” – something I felt passionately about and was determined to address. As an entrepreneur, it is also important to have a clear vision to support your cause. This vision should be for both the short and long term, and you should never deviate from it. There may be temptations — for example, someone may say that they will buy you out, but once you have decided that you want to be a social entrepreneur, you know you cannot sell, and that should be the bottom line.
You Cannot be an Entrepreneur if You Are Not a Risk Taker
Some of us embrace risks as challenges, while others are afraid. Entrepreneurship means we must be willing to take the risk. Whether the risk is worth taking or not, is something you would need to assess based on your understanding of the situation. Once you have started, stay on course and persist despite the challenges.
Go with Your Gut and Listen to Yourself
You are your own “guru”. While it is important to take advice from other people, do not be afraid to make a decision that seems more instinctive, even if it is different from what the others are saying. As the saying goes, “go with your gut”.
There Are no Shortcuts to Success
It will take careful planning and years of hard work to make your dream a reality. In my case, I planned for over 15 years, before I came back to India. And with the planning came the questions: when was the best time to come? What infrastructure would I need? How would I measure success? From where would I get the funding? Asking the right questions and planning meticulously are the cornerstones to building a successful business.
Effective Communication and Execution are Most Important
Whether is it about your vision, finance-related, project-related, or an unexpected challenge — effective communication helps you tackle everything head-on and address the doubts that your investors and board members may have. When you communicate with people, assume that they know very little of what you are talking about. This is important. More often than not, we mistakenly assume that people know more than what we are saying.
Communication has to be accompanied with effective execution – your actions must reflect your words. This requires careful planning, and there is no short cut. A lot of times, projects fail because of a lack of execution.
Become a Financial Expert
The textbooks say that ‘debt is more expensive than equity’, but according to me, debt is a sword hanging above your neck. When it comes to funding, opt for a combination of debt and equity.
Do not worry about dilution. You do not need to hold on to a 70-80% stake. If you are good, if you know what you are doing as a promoter, you are likely to get more trust from your investors. In my opinion, it is always good to have multiple investors rather than one big investor.The whole idea is to be transparent about what you can deliver to your investors, so that the investors who back you are the right ones for you. This is my personal experience after dealing with 5 investors.
Be True to Who You Are
Personal integrity is very important. Have good work ethics and be transparent in all your dealings. Your colleagues, employees, and investors will trust you if they know you to be a person of integrity. You have to walk the talkand be a person of your word–it is action that will cause your colleagues and staff to respect you. In the financial world, it is very important to inculcate this attitude in every person in your organization.
Failure is Not Always “Failure”
Between having a dream, and realizing that dream, you will fail more often than you like. Do not be afraid of failure. If you are able to learn from those failures, then in my book, you should not even call them “failures” but “lessons” because they will take you closer to your final goal. As the old saying goes, failures are stepping stones for success. You can learn to celebrate these failures and lessons.
A lot of people have the entrepreneurial spirit, but they do not become entrepreneurs because they are afraid of failure. They are afraid of what may happen to their family, if they fail. Insecurity sometimes kills the entrepreneurial spirit. In my opinion, if you are able to fulfill a lifelong dream, or pursue something you are passionate about, you should consider it a success even before your financial statements say so.
Success is Amplified When you Share It
As a business expands, the team gets larger and includes many others beyond the core team. For that reason, when you do succeed, and you will, you must include others in your success. One of the ways to do this is to offer successful employees stock options and make them feel a part of the organization. Learn to praise and compliment the team that works with you. Even if something is your original idea, there is nothing wrong in complimenting the whole team involved.
One CEO, Many CEOs
Surround yourself with people who are smart and skilled in areas that you may not be. This is what will make a team complete. Encourage everyone to work as a team, and inspire them to have an entrepreneurial spirit. I am a CEO and I encourage others to become CEOs within the organization, and “wear multiple hats”. You have to constantly challenge your staff so that they do not find their work monotonous. This also gives them a sense of ownership.
As an entrepreneur, it is important to institutionalize your values and culture, so that it becomes the very “DNA” of your organization. The culture and core ethics of your organization will determine whether your business remains successful in the long run. We at HCG believe in value-based healthcare that delivers the same outcome, using the same technology, but at a lesser price. It is in our “DNA”, and we have stuck to that.