Tips for entrepreneurial doctors
What it takes to start your own medical business
Doctor Stories
September 14, 2020

Inspired by her father, Dr Johanna Ward dreamed of becoming a plastic surgeon. Based in the UK, she put in the work and became a doctor in England’s NHS.

But managing the pressures of working in an increasingly underfunded health system alongside being a mum pushed Dr Johanna to make a positive change.

Talking to fellow doctor, entrepreneur and founder of Medworld, Dr Sam Hazeldine, in this podcast, Dr Johanna explains how (and why) she gave up her job in the NHS to start her own business – despite having no business background or training.  

“I just love doing procedures, but the problem for me was that I have three young children and it became very difficult to juggle hospital life, on-calls and family life,” she explains.

The award-winning cosmetic doctor and GP built up her own business from scratch, sold it, wrote a book and then launched a skin care and nutritional supplements business.

Don’t have time to listen to her incredible story? Here’s some top tips from Dr Johanna’s talk with Dr Sam on starting a medical business.

1/ Don’t listen to the doubters – go with your gut

Dr Johanna decided to give herself two years to set up her own business.

“I suddenly thought: I think I know what I want to do and I think I’ve found my calling. All my friends and family said: you're crazy! Don't leave a guaranteed job in the NHS.

“You've got an NHS job for life in England, normally, but I didn't listen to any of them. I knew in my heart that I was destined for something different and I wanted to give it a go and I did.

“I went to the bank and tried to get a loan to open my first business. They wouldn't lend me any money, so I sold my car and set up my very first practice.”

Dr Johanna’s first practice started with just two rooms. It grew to become a very successful skin and laser clinic which she sold, eight years later.  

2/ You don’t have to ditch medicine

After selling her first business and taking a break to spend time with family, Dr Johanna wrote a book on nutrition and started a skin care and nutritional range. Medicine is at the core of her business and though the route she has taken is unconventional, Dr Johanna says: “First and foremost, I'm always the clinician […] that never changes.”

“Working for myself and setting up my own business has just been phenomenal. It's been an unconventional medical career, but I do still practice, two to three days a week.”

3/ Find the balance

Like many doctors, Dr Johanna has sometimes struggled to find a healthy balance in life. Doctors are often dedicated to their work and things like personal health and relationships (particularly family relationships) take a back seat.

Dr Johanna’s first business began to encroach on her family time as much as her NHS career did. So, she focused on what was important to her and made another change:

“It became enormous, very successful, but it took all my time. My children noticed it, they were always like: mummy you're always working. […] It really took over my life.”

“I realized that I had drifted away from my focus on my family and became really consumed by work and a workaholic in many ways. And so, for me, what I did then was I started looking for a buyer. I knew that the time had come, that needed to go. I needed to be back with the family. I sold that business and took three years out, wrote my first book and was there doing school drops, school pickups […] and with the kids on their summer holidays.”

4/ Teamwork makes the dream work

It’s a cheese-y old saying, but teamwork really does make the dream work. When she started her second business, Dr Johanna knew she needed to build something that would enable her to spend time with her children.

She’s surrounded herself with a great team who “fill in the gaps” when she can’t be there. Dr Johanna has also taken the opportunity to create a great team culture.

“The most important thing is for my team, there's no hierarchy. I surround myself with positive, passionate people. They inspire me, I inspire them. And it's all about the team. It has to be, in business, all about the team.”

5/ Don’t be afraid to dream big

When asked what she’d like to be remembered for, Dr Johanna replies; “Somebody who loved life – because I do – and dreamed big.”

“I'm always teaching my children that. I always say: it doesn't matter what you become. Just love it. Get involved in everything, put all you have into it and be happy. That's all you can do.”

She adds that doctors should remember that there are always options. There’s a lot to love about medicine and a lot to be proud of, but if it’s not serving you, go and find “your calling”. It could be a medical business, it could be something completely different.

“If you are unhappy, explore, there is a whole world out there. Doctors have an incredible skill set. Most are incredibly articulate. We have a wonderful mindset and there is a lot out there.”

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Article by
Dr Johanna Ward

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