Not everyone can do what it takes to become a doctor, but you did. From graduating medical school to completing your residency, each step has gotten you closer to living the life you’ve envisioned since first completing that med school application but, are you living the life you want?
You signed up to save lives and help change the world, not to build a brand and become an entrepreneur. Still, to succeed, you need a plan for navigating the business of your profession. In The EntreMD Method, pediatrician and entrepreneur, Dr. Nneka Unachukwu provides a roadmap for strategizing your business, building a successful brand that reflects your goals.
Whether you’re interested in coaching and consulting, running a product-based business, starting a non-profit, or opening a private practice, leveraging proven sales and marketing practices will help lay the financial foundation you need. Learn how to tackle this next challenge head-on and take control of your life with Dr. Una’s roadmap for living life on your terms.
This is the Author Hour Podcast, and I’m your host, Frank Garza. Today, I’m joined by Nneka Unachukwu, author of a brand-new book, The EntreMD Method: A Proven Roadmap for Doctors Who Want To Live Life and Practice Medicine on Their Terms.
Dr. Unachukwu, welcome to the show.
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Frank Garza: To kick things off, could you please tell us a bit about your background and how that led to you writing this book?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Yeah, I went to my pediatric training — I was going to be a pediatrician — I graduated, it was so exciting, became an attending, had my first real job, getting ready to earn real money, and then I remember walking in and seeing my first patient and it was really exciting.
The first patient — ends with me and all that stuff but, I walked out of the room and I felt a level of dissatisfaction that is really hard to explain. It was almost like anticlimactic like, “Okay, I’ve been trying to achieve and trying to become better and achieving goals and doing all these things for all these years and that’s it? What I just did, I’m going to do this nine-to-five every day till I retire and die?”
I couldn’t explain what it was, I was just like, I know there is more, I want more, I have no idea what more is but I want it but the option of starting a business or writing or doing a podcast, none of that, it was not even in the realm of possibility for me. I just knew that I wanted more.
Through a series of events, I did go on to start my own private practice and it was more. I was excited, I was like, “Oh, we’re going to do this” and when I started it, my philosophy was, hang the shingle and they will come and I hung the shingle and they did not come.
It really felt like I was a deer caught in headlights. I rolled in the school of hard knocks, I had no idea what I was doing and it dawned on me that I have a medical education but if I’m going to do a business which, a private practice is a business, then I need a business education. One day, I was listening to Brian Tracy and he made a statement I’ll never forget, he said, “All business skills are learnable.”
I was like, “All business skills are learnable?” I was like, “I’m a physician, if there’s anything I know how to do, I know how to learn” and that’s when I started on my quest to learn business skills and all of that, the practice went on to be very successful, we’re about to celebrate our 12th year actually.
I then realized, well, there are many Doctor Una’s out there who don’t necessarily know that business is a struggle, running a private practice is a struggle, whatever kind of business they’re doing is a struggle but it’s not because anything is wrong with them, it’s not because anybody is better than them, they just don’t have these skills, you know? That’s when I started informally helping doctors learn business skills.
Then, 2016 hit, and in 2016, I had this “aha moment” that medicine as we know it is gone. Now, you have investors in the healthcare space. I never knew that CVS and Walmart would be my competition. I never knew a time will come when doctors will have such high levels of burnout and loss of autonomy and dissatisfaction and the entrepreneurship is the answer.
That’s what puts us back in control of our careers, that’s what helps us build profitable businesses and so that we can live life and practice medicine on our terms. So my mission, the second phase of my career really, is helping doctors learn how to build profitable businesses.
Adjusting the Mindset Towards Promotion and Selling in the Medical Industry
Frank Garza: I want to talk more about your target audience and who you wrote this book for. Is it all doctors, is it a certain subset of doctors? Can you talk about who is the perfect audience for your book?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: It’s all doctors. Every doctor should be an entrepreneur as far as I’m concerned but, it’s all doctors because even if you think about it this way — this is the way I think about it. Even if a doctor is like, “I love my job, I want to work my job” I don’t advocate for doctors leaving medicine at all.
I’m like, even if you do, you run a company called Dr. You Incorporated. You need to learn how to run that company. Even if you work a job, you’re an entrepreneur and in the EntreMD world, we call you an intrepreneur. For everyone else, I mean, if you have a private practice, sometimes the private practices we think they’re not businesses but they are and you need to learn how to run that.
If you decide to start a podcast or a blog or there’s something you want to have a bigger impact outside of the exam room, well, you need entrepreneurial skills to pull that off and so far every physician really needs that. These physicians that come to me, some of them are like I was when I started my practice. They’re like, “I just know there’s more and I want more” and I’m like, “I know what that is and I can help you.”
Then, some others are really like, “I started this business, I have no idea how to get patients or clients. How do I attract people, how do I figure out money? Me wanting more money, is that greed?” and all of that, you know what I mean? It is for the physician community and every physician needs it.
Frank Garza: The book is broken up into four parts and part one is called, ‘The Dawn of a New Era’ and you talked about some of these changes that have happened in the field that have made you think entrepreneurship is a must. Do you have any more to say about what some of those changes are, what some of the biggest shifts are that you’ve been seeing?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Yeah, so there are a lot. One of the changes, if you look at this from the physician’s perspective, four out of five physicians report being burned out, four out of five. There are a million physicians in the US, so that’s 800,000 people. 800,000 people. If you think about the numbers and we need — you know, there is no successful society without health, these are our healers we’re talking about, right?
If we don’t get a handle on that, that’s a problem. It’s a problem for the physician community but it will just become a problem for the nation, really that’s what it is. Depending on the numbers you look at between 20 and 70% of physicians want to quit. Again, if you look at that, let’s take the lower number, that’s 200,000 doctors who are like, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Who’s going to take their place, right? Who’s going to do that?
The healthcare space is a place where competition is required. Well, maybe not competition but competing is required. I alluded to not realizing that CVS and Walmart will ever be my competition but it used to be, we had a monopoly and not because we’re like, we want to have a monopoly, that’s just the way it was.
Now, you have so many other people that have a huge interest in medicine and so at the end of the day, the loudest voice wins. The person who markets the most wins. That’s just the way it is and so, if you have all these doctors who have high levels of education, high levels of expertise but they are not aware of how to get their message out there, they’re not aware of how to let people know we’re here and this is what you should be doing, they’re not aware of how to — think about the misinformation out there, right?
They’re not aware of how to dominate the space with the right information, then we’re at a big loss, you know what I mean? It’s not optional. A lot of people don’t know this but if you get into let’s say, the hospitals, the clinical space, doctors are told you can only spend 15 minutes with this patient. They’re told you can’t prescribe this kind of medication even though with the evidence, that’s the best medication for the patient. It’s almost like you’re a cog in a wheel.
Not being able to negotiate, not being able to advocate, not being able to do any of those things is such a — it’s a problem. We’re not in a space where entrepreneurship is optional anymore, it just isn’t.
Frank Garza: Part two of the book is called, ‘Redesign Your Mind’ and you go over three mindset myths that doctors can have and you start to debunk some of those. I’d like to talk about number three, which is “Selling Is Not Professional”.
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Yeah.
Frank Garza: Can you talk about this myth that doctors have and how they can get past that?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Well, I mean, for the most part, when I think about or what I thought about selling, I would think about the used car salesman with the slimy tactics and the pressure and the by in hour, stuff like that. I’m a professional and so when someone’s like, “Well, you have to sell” I’m like, “I’m not going to do that.” because that’s the picture that I have. In the medical world, it’s not intentional but in a way, we’re taught not to sell, right?
Not to promote ourselves, not to put ourselves out there. So, a lot of the time when doctors start businesses, it’s a huge problem because if you don’t sell, the business doesn’t work, in the end. I talk a lot about the fact that we do sell. For instance, I’m a pediatrician. Someone may come up to me and say, I am not going to do any vaccines. I’m a pediatrician, I’ve seen the power of vaccines, I’ve lived in a world without vaccines and I’ve lived in a world with vaccines, and the world with vaccines is so much better.
I can talk to that parent very passionately, very convincingly like, “This is what your child needs” that is selling. That’s exactly what selling is. Someone may be an oncologist and someone has a diagnosis of cancer, maybe like leukemia that’s a very treatable cancer. The person’s like, “Well, I don’t want to do chemo.” Well, that person is going to sell them on why they should do chemo even though they know they’re going to lose their hair and they’re going to have a number of — they may have complications but they’ll solve them because the benefit outweighs the risk.
We sell already. What we’ve just been sold this lie or we bought into this lie, that once money comes in, it’s kind of icky and weird and then in the book, I just walk them through it, you know? Selling is not bad, bad selling is bad and good selling is good. We talk about that quite a bit. It can be done professionally, it could be done in a classy way and one of the best ways you serve your people, your world is by selling to them.
Frank Garza: Part three of the book is ‘Re-engineer Your Actions’ and in chapter six, you talk about getting your daily habits right. In that chapter, you share what your personal daily habits are. Could you please talk about the importance of daily habits and if you’re willing to share what your routine is?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Yeah, absolutely. The thing about daily habits is, the principle is this, there are a few things that you can do that seem like small things that you can do as a routine, you can do consistently that create big changes over time. You can have a good day every day, even when the day doesn’t quite work out the way it is if you have a handle on your routine.
The way I developed my routine is I look at what are the things that are most important to me? At the end of a year or at the end of my life, what are the things that I want to make sure that I accomplish. So for me, my relationship with God would be one. My relationship with my family is another, my health, my personal development, and accomplishing my goals, those are like things that I want to make sure that I have a handle on those.
Life is busy, everybody gets busy. We don’t have time to do all the things that we want to do, we have time for the most important things though. What I did is I took a little bit, I took some simple actions I can take every day that will make sure every day I’m heading in the direction of my most important goals.
For instance, number one is my relationship with God so I pray every day. It may not be 17 hours but I pray every day. My relationship with my kids is really important and I’m very busy, I’m type-A and all that stuff, so I have this weird thing I call — it’s an acronym — it’s like MTWK, which is, “Meaningful Time With Kids” and I make sure that every day, I’m not just in the same room with them and I’m on my device and they’re on their device, but I’m actually having meaningful time with them.
Because I don’t want to build successful companies and then end up not having a relationship with my kids. The third thing I have on there is exercise. Some days, that’s a 15-minute walk, sometimes it’s a one-hour walk, sometimes it’s strength training but regardless, I have exercise that happens every day.
I read every day. You might go like, “But where is the time?” When I don’t have time, I literally set a timer for 20 minutes, that’s all I have for today. I set the timer, I read, even if I don’t feel like it, I’m done, boom. I’m done but what have I done? I’ve done something to improve myself. I listen to a podcast every day. You might say I don’t have time. Yeah, but you take the shower and you don’t take it with your ears, right? So I just pop that in and I’m listening to it every day.
I review my goals every day, I have it in front of me because out of sight is out of mind. I’ve done that thing where I’ve lived for years and my goals were the same. This is the way I don’t do that. These six things, sometimes they take an hour, sometimes they take a little more but doing it every day, make sure that every day as my head hits the pillow, I can say, “I did things to move my life in the direction of my most important goals.”
Now, someone may be wondering, “Yeah but what does that have to do with business? I thought your book is about entrepreneurship.” The truth of the matter is, entrepreneurship is a theme but we, as the entrepreneurs, are whole people. If our families are out of whack, we don’t have a self-care routine, all these kind of things, it kind of throws things off and we show up differently in our businesses.
When we know that everything is getting better, we’re able to show up better. That’s what I do and that’s one of the secrets of high achievers, they all have morning routines.
Frank Garza: Your tip there about setting a timer for 20 minutes to read a book really resonates with me. I do something similar in the morning and it’s amazing how many books you can get through in the year just doing that.
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Yeah.
Take Inventory and Utilize the Ideas You Have
Frank Garza: Let’s talk about part four, which is ‘Getting Down to Business’ and in one of the chapters, you call it “Find Your Idea.” What are some ways or methods that doctors can find a business idea?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: I mean, the first thing is realizing that man, you have business ideas in you, already, right now, you know? You do. It’s really about taking inventory, that’s the way I describe it. For instance, you have problems that you’ve overcome and you’re not alone. There are almost eight billion people on the earth and there are many people who have that problem.
There are many businesses, which are just people solving problems for others that they used to have. My company is called EntreMD and it’s all about helping doctors learn how to build profitable businesses but it comes from a problem I had that I solved for me. I know doctors who, one of them, she had a diagnosis of heart failure. They told her she’s not going to live to see her newborn baby turn five and she was really overweight.
She lost 60 pounds, she’s kept it off for 20 years and now she helps other people lose weight and keep it off, she calls it Losing Weight For The Last Time, right? You’d look at the problems you’ve overcome and those problems can’t — our pointer is to business ideas that could be your business idea, right?
We’re taking inventory, so you’re documenting all those. It doesn’t mean you’re going to do all of those. You’re also taking inventory of the training that you’ve had. There are people who have trained for leadership roles, there are people who have been trained in the medical world, states who onboard a hospital with a new electronic health system, and all of those things. Well, you’ve learned it, that’s portable wealth because you can then go on and set a company where you help other people do the same thing.
You can take inventory of that. You can also take inventory of the things that you really love and that you’ve always done and you would probably do for free. So my company is kind of a combination between solving my own problem and something I would do for free because all my life, I’ve always wanted to help people become the best versions of themselves, always. I am always trying to get people to read, trying to get them to listen to podcasts.
I mean, I am talking about as a teenager — so not podcasts as a teenager, it didn’t exist then — but always trying to help people be better. When I learn things, I find people and teach it to them because I’m like, “Hey, we can overcome this. We don’t have to stay stuck here” and those things are pointers as well to businesses that you can start and then others is just looking at what other people are doing and sometimes that sparks in you something that you could do.
So that’s kind of like the starting point. The starting point is taking inventory and realizing that you have a lot of business ideas already. The question is like after you do the inventory, then we have to analyze and see, “Okay, which one is the best one to start with?” Some people will say, “I have so many. I want to start three” and I usually say, “For the most part, babies are born one at a time and if for any reason you had twins or triplets, you’re very aware you’re going to do two times or three times a work.”
You are not thinking I will feed one baby and the other baby should understand, right? So in the same way, I usually tell people, start with one, you can absolutely do two or three but it’s so hard, so hard to do.
Frank Garza: As you’ve been through this EntreMD method yourself and [in] the process you are laying out on this book, is there a particular step that you found really challenging for yourself or potentially one that you see others continuously struggle with?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: I think the hardest thing was putting myself out there. Oh my goodness, I am an introvert. I am like an introverted-introvert and now people are like, “I don’t see how that’s possible” because you know, I speak on stage, I do all the stuff, I have a podcast. I am always out there but that was the hardest one for me but any form of putting myself out there whether that’s speaking, networking. I mean ugh, yeah, that was a tough one.
For physicians, a lot of physicians that I meet, I talk with or I work with, you know, that’s the bigger theme. We’re great at learning, we’re great at executing but the promotion part, that can be really challenging but very doable and you can find out you love it. For instance, I love speaking on stage. I love hosting life events, which is so crazy for someone who’s an introverted-introvert, you know? So yeah, that would be the most challenging one.
Frank Garza: Well writing a book is such a feat, so congratulations on getting this published. Is there anything else about you or the book that you want to make sure our listeners know before we wrap up?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Yes, for physicians, you know I will throw this out there that this is one of the most challenging times for physicians but I honestly think that it is what is going to lead to the best of times for us so, for anyone picking up the book and reading it, I didn’t write the book just to write a book. I wrote the book to make it possible for doctors to become the best version of themselves like MD 2.0, you know, take it and apply what is there because it works.
I started off as someone who — I mean, I was terrified when I started my first business and now, I’m a serial entrepreneur. Now I help a lot of people do the same thing and that’s the method I use and that’s the method I still use, so it works. Also, look out for your physician colleagues as well. Get them a copy or read it and give them your copy, I don’t know, but let other people know that it doesn’t have to be the way it is.
You know, this is what will give birth to the new era for physicians and it is going to be really good.
Frank Garza: Dr. Unachukwu, this has been such a pleasure. Thank you for putting this book out into the world. The book is called, The EntreMD Method. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: They can find me on my website, it’s entremd.com and they’re already on a podcast platform and I have a podcast by the same name. It is called, The EntreMD Podcast, so they can just search there. The conversation doesn’t need to end here, we can keep chatting.
Frank Garza: Thank you, Dr. Unachukwu.
Dr. Nneka Unachukwu: Thank you so much.