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Plan Your Non-Clinical Career Escape As A Physician: Building Your Team

Building your team to suport your non-clinical or non-traditional career moves.

I just finished reading a very interesting book entitled The Art of Non-Conformity by a guy named Chris Guillebeau.  I mentioned Chris' blog in a recent post on Lifestyle Design, and I thought I'd download his new book to see what I thought.

The book is an interesting read, mainly because Chris is an interesting guy and looks at things in a unique way.  The focus on the book is breaking free form our default patterns of living and stepping out into something more purposeful, more directed, and hopefully, more fulfilling.

At some point in the future I'd like to write an entire entry about Chris' book and give the Freelance MD crowd a rundown of my thoughts on this text, but suffice it to say I thought it was a good book and it helped refocus my energies on building Freelance MD.

If you've been reading much of Freelance MD, you know that we're offering various forms of career modification to physicians.  All life modifications-- regardless of their scope-- require a little risk, and it's this risk that holds many people back. The few individuals who do modify their careers or lives in some way often only do so when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying in the same place.  This push towards change is discussed in Chris' book and made me think some more about Freelance MD and what we could do to offer more practical goals so individuals who were considering change could begin stepping out in little steps.  Hopefully, these little steps would assuage their fear while at the same time help them make some forward progress with the hope that the inertia would eventually carry them through to something substantial.

It's in this spirit that I offer this post.  It's a sort of beginners guide to building a team that you will need once you launch out on your own.  You may see little need for the entire team right now, but once you go "over the wire" to a new life, these are the individuals you'll be tapping for expertise in a variety of crucial areas.

Team Member #1: Your Financial Advisor

The first person I suggest you recruit if you're going to move forward in your career is your financial manager.  A good financial manager is difficult to find since many are predators who do little to build wealth for you and lots to build wealth for themselves.  The unscrupulous in this field begin to salivate when they meet naive individuals with high incomes and little understanding of the financial industry (think, young newly graduated physicians).  However, a good financial manager can evaluate your financial situation and set you up with a plan to take you from where you are to where you want to be in 5, 10, or 30 years.

Freelance MD has recruited a great financial manager as an author in Dr. Setu Mazumdar who, in addition to being a board certified Emergency Medicine physician, also runs Lotus Wealth Solutions and specializes in helping physicians make good financial management decisions.  Another good outfit is Martin & Wight based in Hunt Valley, Maryland.  The folks at Martin & Wight have managed my finances for the past six years, and I've found them to be very approachable and honorable in their business dealings.  Both Setu at Lotus Wealth Solutions and the folks at Martin & Wight specialize in the financial management of physicians, something that is a huge help when discussing things such as disability insurance and other issues specific to physicans.

Please know that I am not a trained financial person and my experience with any financial management company is, at its core, anecdotal.  You need to use your own judgment when considering anyone to handle your finances, but these mentioned entities are a good place to begin. 

Red flags when meeting a financial manager that indicate you need to run screaming from the room?  Any sort of pressured sales job to sell you any products, especially in the beginning, or any requirement that you submit a large, up front cash payment to secure their services.  Either of these indicators are big warnings.  Maybe there are exceptions, but I would proceed with extreme caution and make sure I spoke to multiple references prior to signing anything binding.

Team Member #2:  Your Attorney

In medicine, when we think of attorneys we almost universally think of the profession in a negative light.  This is due to years of conditioning from hours upon hours of paperwork that we are required to fill out on every patient simply to make sure all the "legalese" is in its proper order, and the specter of a malpractice suit that colors every patient interaction.

However, once you begin to delve into business, you find that your attorney can be one of the most valuable members of your team.  You go to him (or her) for advice when you set up your company and when things need to be restructured as the company grows.  You also know that you have a dog in the fight if you ever do need to do legal battle, and in this day and age, this is a great comfort.

As you begin to broaden your career to do consulting, entrepreneurship, or even write a book, it's good to have an attorney around that you trust.  A good attorney can walk you through such issues as how you form your own company, writing or reviewing contracts, discussing ways to limit your exposure to lawsuits, and many other legal issues that might arise as your begin your new pursuits.

So how do you find a good attorney?

Well, you don't find one by asking your doctor buddies who they'd recommend.  They'll most likely end up recommending one of their golf buddies, or someone who they know who works in or around the medical field. 

The best way to find a good attorney (as well as the third member of your team that we'll be discussing very shortly) is by going to the best small business person you know and getting a recommendation.  A small businessman or businesswoman is an expert in the area you are just getting into, whether it's consulting, writing, or anything else-- small business.  These hardy individuals will recommend someone who also knows small business and can help you navigate through the mine fields of your new endeavor.

The culture these days is highly litigious and a good attorney is worth their weight in gold.  Get a good recommendation, build a relationship with an attorney, and listen to their advice as you begin to expand your career.

Team Member #3:  Your Accountant

This final team member is important because as a physician, your number one expense is your taxes.

As you begin to branch out from your current career into other areas, you should begin receiving income from entities other than your main source of income now.  When this happens, your tax situation can become very complex very quickly, and it is very important that you have a good accountant around to help you sort through the dos-and-don'ts of things like tax write-offs, expense accounts, savings plans, debt exposure, and the like.

A good accountant can give you advice on ways to invest your income into your business, and limit your exposure to unnecessary taxes.  Notice that I say unnecessary taxes since I want to be clear that I am not advocating for cheating on your taxes or not paying what you are legally bound to pay.  However, paying more than your share of taxes simply due to ignorance or laziness is not "patriotic" as some politicians have implied, but foolish and short-sighted.  If you believe you should be paying more taxes, fine, that's your prerogative.  I personally think it's wiser to pay what you owe and then take whatever savings your accountant can find and invest them into your company, or simply donate them to a charity of your choosing.

The point is that a good accountant is a huge help when you start expanding your career, and once you've found a good one (through recommendations from small business owners once again), listen to their advice.  Beginning a new endeavor is tough, and it would be incredibly unfortunate to take that first step towards freedom, only to have it dashed due to poor bookkeeping or foolish business practices.

So there you have a basic guide to building your team.  Start with a good financial advisor and as you get ready to branch out, find a good attorney and accountant. 

In future posts we'll be giving you some more specific tasks to take to your various team members, so you can continue to grow your competence little by little. 

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