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Interview Series: Physician Entrepreneur Dr. Eric Tait MD MBA

So one of the Facebook groups that I am in is all about investing, for physicians specifically. There are a lot of physicians giving each other advice in this group, but one of the individuals whose response I always look for is Dr. Eric Tait's. He is a both an MBA and an MD (smart guy no doubt). I have even posed tax questions for my friends in this group for him to answer because he knows everything! Since I have always wanted to learn more about investing, entrepreneurship, and life in general, I just knew I wanted to learn more from him.

Begin Interview:

1. Tell me a little about yourself, your journey, and what you do? –

I am originally from Mount Vernon, NY, just outside New York City, I attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. where I studied biology. I came to Houston, Texas to go to Medical School at Baylor College of Medicine and Business School at Rice University for a dual degree M.D./MBA program. I realized in college that I wanted to do an M.D./MBA program, and my junior year I knew that Baylor and Rice were just creating their program. And with it being a new program if figured they probably would just accept my MCAT scores and I wouldn’t have to take the GMAT, and that is what happened.

The reason I went to business school was twofold: 1) To understand the healthcare system and (2) to learn how to invest our own money. I was able to accomplish both but not necessarily in obvious ways.  The healthcare part is straightforward, but the investing part, not so much. What I didn’t realize was that business school basically teaches you to become an upper middle management cog in a machine with some sprinkling of entrepreneurship. And what they taught me about investing is that the stock market is supposedly safe and rational; it really isn’t, but we all just pretend that it is.

With that, I decided that I did not want to invest the bulk of our hard-earned capital into the publicly traded stock and bond markets. So I went in search of other places to grow our money. If you look at most financially independent people in the world, they achieved their independence in either one of two ways 1) Private business ownership (non-service based) and/or 2) by owning real estate.

Since I planned on being a practicing physician, I knew that I would not have the time to run an operating business, so that left real estate. My wife and I started to invest heavily in passive income generating real estate projects. And as we had success, many of our physician colleagues asked to join us. That is how we opened our personal investment company up to other physicians who wanted more control over their investments while creating passive income for themselves at the same time.

2. What was your motivation for creating Vernonville and ThePhysiciansroad.com? Can you tell us about each of those in detail?

Vernonville Asset Management was created as our personal property management and investment firm. Because we knew that we were going to be investing in real estate and private businesses we set up our asset protection structures at the beginning of our investing journey.

As we purchased more and more assets, Vernonville is the company that oversees all of the operations. So instead of investing in our names, we have used corporate structures to operate in a professional way.

This made it very easy to allow outside investors to join us because we had already created our corporate structures.

After accepting many physicians into our different investment funds, we had many of them come back to us for help with non-investing issues in their lives and careers. We realized that there is a much larger need to help physicians navigate their lives in the medical field.

In many ways, we as physicians experience arrested development in our lives. We have been cloistered away since college trying to get into medical school, and then we spend the next 7 – 12 + years in a state of suspended animation somewhere between student and apprentice. After that point, we emerge into the world making a 6-figure salary with no guidance or instruction.

So many of us have missed some of the maturation and experience milestones that our non-physician friends take for granted. And it was at that point that we realized that we failed to transmit WHY we invested the way that we did.

Our why was that we wanted to have the flexibility and freedom to practice medicine on our own terms. We didn’t want to be controlled by the government or insurance companies in how we treated patients. We also didn’t want to practice medicine in an assembly line manner, with patient after patient being rushed through each visit to reach some arbitrary “productivity” goal.

And while creating financial freedom through investing makes sense, it is only a means to an end, it is not THE end. The point is to create a meaningful life inside and outside of medicine.

So we created The Physician’s Road to do just that for others. We opened our Rolodex and built a repository of information and resources to help physicians and healthcare professionals construct a life that they want to live.

We call our process the 5 Paths to Happiness and Personal Fulfillment. Through our website resources and podcasts, we focus on 5 areas of life – Wealth, Professional Practice, Health, Relationships (with others), & Personal Development (relationship with yourself). With the end goal of having physicians feel that they are in control of their lives, even if we can’t control the structure of medicine.

There’s a lot of talk about physician burn-out, but what I think most people do not understand is that we as physicians will not change the healthcare system as it is currently constructed. It is an external force, and all we can do as individuals is control our inner response. As such, our goal with the Physician’s Road is to guide doctors in how to construct a meaningful life where the profession of medicine is a PART of who we are, but not the totality of who we are.  

3. Have you had experience in the financial industry before?

That is an interesting question, we think of ourselves and our investment firm as financial strategists. When I hear “financial industry,” I think of Wall Street and the traditional financial services industry and we are definitely not that.

What most people do not realize is that the people in the financial services industry are mostly glorified salespeople. They are not real investors, meaning they do not make their money from their own investing prowess, they make it by charging fees on your money. Most do not know how to actually run and operate a business. For them, it's about the fees and commission they can charge, not about what the individual investor is trying to achieve financially.

Our experience as investors is in actually buying and operating assets, not charging fees to investors.  

4. What do you see are the biggest challenges physicians face when trying to start their own businesses? How can physicians avoid this?

 

The challenges are not unique to physicians, but our profession and personality type may compound the difficulties. First off, starting a business, any business is hard. Let’s start there.

Most will fail, and few will generate the types of incomes that we make just being physicians. So the first big challenge (not unique to physicians) is the lack of understanding that you are there to serve your customers in the way that they want to be served and not yourself.

The next big thing is accurately identifying WHO your customer is and what problem you are looking to solve for them.

Next is underestimating the time and training that it takes to learn these two things, and this is hard for practicing physicians because time is such a precious commodity for all of us.

Then there is something that I think is way too prevalent amongst the physician population and that is the Superman/woman syndrome that says no one can do it better than we can. That manifests in us trying to do everything ourselves instead of building a team of experts and paying them to teach us or hiring them to do it for us.

It’s one of the worst traits that I see, and it contributes to burn out because dreams go deferred and frustration sets in when things aren’t getting done or success is not being achieved. The way to avoid this is to learn how to build a team that is expert in what you are trying to accomplish and listen to their advice and delegate tasks to them.

4. What advice would you give to physicians who don’t go into residency and want to immediately start their entrepreneurial journey?

Complete at least an intern year if you can so you can become a licensed physician even if you are not going to be board certified. To me, it doesn’t make sense to go through all that we went through and not be able to call yourself a practicing physician. It is the ultimate insurance policy and will open doors on the entrepreneurial side of the world. You can legitimately say that you worked clinically as a physician and it will give you invaluable experience that you can use in your entrepreneurial path. There is nothing worse than someone trying to solve problems from theory, never having dealt with real-life work issues as an adult.

Now, if you cannot get a residency position, you can play to your strengths of science and medical terminology, but I highly recommend that you take classes in accounting (financial accounting to learn what an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement are), social media marketing, one on one sales, and how to raise capital.

5. What if a physician wanted to be an entrepreneur, but have no idea where to start. What’s the first step to starting a business?

 

To me, the first step in starting a business is determining what problem you want to solve with your business. So you are mapping 3 major things in the ideation phase of your business:

  1. What do you like to do?
  2. What are you qualified to do?
  3. Who will you do it for that is going to pay you a rate that you are happy to earn?

It is at the intersection of these 3 things where you will find a business that you are passionate to run and fulfills you. Take as long as you need to figure these 3 things out because this is the most important part of determining if you will be happy AND successful in your business ventures.

6. Do you recommend finding a mentor? Do you have one and how did you find yours?

I absolutely recommend finding a mentor. If you think about our clinical rotations and residency, it was one long apprenticeship under mentors.  But for some reason, physicians don’t seem willing to pay for mentorship or coaching once we become attendings.

Personally, I have had or do have mentors in real estate investing, private business investing, podcasting, sales and marketing, public speaking, capital raising, and social media marketing to name a few.

I chose mentors based on the skills that I need to develop to successfully operate our business.  I sought out people who had successfully done what I was trying to do, not just people who said they knew how to do it.  The biggest thing is ignoring the nay-sayers and finding people who support your dreams.

There are always people who will criticize your plans, but they are really just projecting their own fears onto you. If there are other people successfully doing what you are wanting to do then it can be done. You must become the person who can do it. And that necessitates that you transform into a different version of yourself. And the only way to do that is to learn new skills and a new way of being, and the fastest path to that transformation is through a mentor.

7. It can be really overwhelming starting something brand new, what’s the best advice you can share with physicians thinking about, but feeling scared, about starting their own business?

What’s the worst that could happen? That is always what I ask myself when thinking about starting a new project or business venture. Few things are as nerve-wracking or high stakes as being a physician. Most of what we deal with in business is not life or death. So what most people are actually afraid of is failure and the ego fear of being ridiculed by others.  You must decide if what you have to offer the world is worth more than protecting your ego from potential failure.

The way I look at it is, either I succeed, or I learn, there is no failure.

8. Can our readers get in touch with you if they have questions? What’s the best way to contact you?

Yes, of course. I can be reached at:

Eric@vernonville.com

www.vernonville.com

http://thephysiciansroad.com/resources/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/thephysiciansroad/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/eric-tait-m-d-mba-b2581a5/

https://twitter.com/PhysiciansRoad

End Interview.