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Physician Entrepreneurship

Updated: Dec 19, 2022


Note: transcription provided by Otter.AI, which is a technology company that develops speech-to text transcription and translation applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning.


Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Today, we have Dr. Mike Woo-Ming. He's got a really interesting story. He's a digital marketer. He's a digital entrepreneur. He is a Physician, Entrepreneur, and he's the founder of BootstrapMD. So welcome, Mike.

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: Chris, thanks, pleasure to be here.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I think I got my career started on your podcast and a bunch of other physician podcasts. And my podcast was launched a year ago. It's grown so much, and I'm happy to have people that helped me, and to return the favor. So tell us all about your story. And how did you get started?

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: Well, well, first, that's awesome that your journey has grown. And kudos to you, I remember seeing your name on Amazon, with your books, and then seeing you on Facebook, and I really, I'm really happy that you've really grown. My story is pretty interesting. I'm a lot older than probably most of your audience. I started with entrepreneurship in medical school. And I started actually, in residency, I started in medical school, just learning about computers in medicine. And I started, I wouldn't call it a business, but I started to learn about the web. So this is back in the 90s, mid 90s, when there was a lot out there. And I wanted to study for the boards. There's a lot of expensive USMLE software out there. And I created a page where I would review different educational software. And I don't really call it a business, but I was able to get a lot of free software just because I had a webpage. And then I was able to review the software.

And that's actually how I got started in entrepreneurship, although money wasn't being transacted, I saw the power of just having a voice. And there was something to this, this web where I could in my pajamas, talk about my message about what I wanted, was interested in and how I could help others. And then in residency, I started a business that was based on how to study for the USMLE. I created a product on that, a product on how to get into the residency of your choice. So I started this business with my wife, where we would review, like different personal statements from people. And my wife had a librarian background and she was really good in grammar and in cleaning all that stuff up. And we started a business helping doctors and a lot of our business was from non-US doctors, so foreign medical graduates who wanted to come to the United States and get into residency, but they didn't have the greatest command of English, and we helped them to do that.

So that was kind of my first business that I started back in the 90s. And then entrepreneurship just continued to go from there. Once I graduated residency, I went into primary care, and I was in Family Medicine, so I went to Mayo Clinic for my training. But I've always been entrepreneurial doing something on the side, whether it be doing some writing, medical writing, writing questions for board reviews. And I remember getting my first check as a primary care physician and I had a guaranteed salary. And what I learned from that is, I like to joke, that you're guaranteed to get the same salary, no matter how much more you work or how much less you work. You're going to get the same amount. And I wanted to generate more revenue.

And I learned about startups and I got involved in an internet startup back in the day, and then basically started creating a little online businesses. Everything from magical education to developing ebooks that I, I wrote and then later had hired a bunch of freelance writers to publish these books, then eventually getting on to Amazon, to then getting involved in consulting. And then I got involved in digital marketing, as you mentioned, and eventually came to the point where I had to decide between staying in my job, or if I wanted to grow and scale, to leave my job. And that was a pretty scary decision. But in retrospect, I'm glad that I've done that, because it really opened my opportunities to expand when I did. I eventually got into business software. I sold that company, and now my business right now is in medical clinics. And I own a web spa, and I own equity in several other medical clinics, and just kind of continuing to expand that.

And I think what I love about entrepreneurship is that I'm not a fan of substituting time for money, and you're not a big fan of that, either. And I realized that for most doctors, the only way that we make more money is we see more patients. And going to meet entrepreneurs around the world is making many times more than what doctors are making, but they're not really working an integral part in the business. So, what they work is not based upon how much, for example, for a doctor seeing patients, it's about leverage, it's about using your knowledge and then deploying that. And my thing is, one of the things that I like to be a part of is just getting a little bit of a piece out of a lot of different things, so that it builds more multiple streams of income. That was a lot there. So I'll end it right there.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Well, that's awesome. That's a brilliant story. And you touched on so many points. The first point was the power of the internet. So what you were describing when you were doing software reviews, and then getting free products, that's almost a sort of a system of barter, know that you can translate into sponsorships or affiliate marketing. So, a lot of doctors, they think, Oh, they missed the internet, or they miss social media. Yeah. What do you think? Do you think that it's too late for doctors who are interested in becoming physician entrepreneurs? That they missed the internet? And what is the power of the internet?

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: Yeah despite COVID I like to attend conferences, and I don't attend a lot of medical conferences. I do attend a lot of entrepreneurs, conferences, business conferences. And most of the time, I'm usually like, the only doctor or maybe there's a handful of medical people, and even then it mostly would be chiropractors, or perhaps like a nurse practitioner or something like that. There's not a lot in there. And I think if you want to, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you first need to hang around more entrepreneurs, because there's a different way of thinking it's like, if you want to be the best surgeon, you want to be around the best surgeons right in the hospital, but if you want to be financially successful, hang around people who are much more financially successful than you are. And that's why I think that there are a lot of opportunities out there, it's just that you have to spend the time to do just that. And I think it first starts by networking, whether it's joining different entrepreneurship groups, maybe things like EO or Vistage locally you could start doing, or even just starting digitally going on a Facebook group and just just networking that way. I mean, that's what we've kind of connected through online. But there's a great opportunity. The thing is you need to have your eyes and your ears open for it when it comes.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: You said it so correctly and then yeah, I remember when I was first starting out I was like, just cold emailing and just like on LinkedIn and just messaging people, their ideas and trading ideas and sharing posts, and getting on podcasts. And the other thing you mentioned is this idea of trading your time for your money. And what you're describing is scalability. So as an entrepreneur, educate the audience about what it means to be too scalable, versus just like where you're discussing a fixed salary, and just a fixed income every year, your income is the same.

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: So right now, in medicine, most physicians are employees, so we're working for a big hospital or a big group, like that. And right now, there's less people owning their own practice, and there's less doctors setting up their clinic and just working for themselves. And the reason why they're not successful is because they're there, they're the person who makes everything work, right. So if they're not the one seeing patients, if they go and take a vacation, they're not making any money, unless they have a colleague who can fill in for them. And eventually, that business will not scale, because you're there, your revenue is dependent on you working, the way that things will scale is if you start owning more clinics, and you hire doctors, or mid level providers, that can do the same service you can. And for many doctors, that's a, that's a very difficult thing to do, it's very scary, they don't trust people to do that. See that all the time. And that's, but the most successful like, practice owners are the ones who, they have a model that it works. And then they'll just replicate that 50 or 100 times.

I did some work back back in the day with a company called Massage Envy, or worked with a company that worked with Massage Envy. And if you're not familiar with that, it's a big massage franchise where you pay a membership fee, and you pay so much to get so many massages per month. And if you're just the masseuse, you're the employee, you're just making money from that, but the ones who are really making money are the owners, right? Because, that's what I learned about scaling it, because you won't have just one person just owning one franchise, once they find out that it's profitable, they'll just replicate the system, right? And then there'll be five or 10 of them, right? It's just like McDonald's, right? You could put McDonald's anywhere in Moscow compared to LA, it's still the same system. And you already have a model that works everything down to like, where do you position the french fries, the person working the french fries. But that's all they're doing is just replicating the system. And once I understood that the business is a result of just systems at work. That's when it really just boggled my mind, like, what the possibilities were out there.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. Yeah. So you, you mentioned a lot of, like franchising. And so what you're describing is severing the relationship between time and money. So you mentioned you wrote some books, and those books are on Audible, they're on Amazon, you can go to your bookstore, people can go and it generates recurring revenue, you’re a business owner of a practice as well. So, and you also mentioned franchisee, what are some other ways that physicians can leverage their time and scale their efforts without actually having to trade their time for money?

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: Yeah, so I get this question asked quite a bit. And it really comes down to what you're looking for, what is your goal? What is your financial goal? And so Bootstrap MD is my consulting firm. I've got a podcast associated with that, where we talk with physician entrepreneurs. We usually have more time or we usually have more money. As a physician we were in an occupation where we make pretty good money, we have a good net worth. And if you're someone who has more money than time, I focus on different ways of creating wealth. And I think for me, entrepreneurship is the best way. But if you don't have the time to be an entrepreneur, because I don't want to sugarcoat it for you, it's a lot of work and there's a lot of sacrifice you have to make as an entrepreneur.

And if you have more money than time, I would look into doing more investing, perhaps real estate syndications, perhaps those kinds of things. But if you have more time than money, I can't think of too many businesses that you could get 10x 100x 1,000x with your money. So I'll give you an example of one of my clients who started a physician consulting business, so you are just leveraging his knowledge. And there's not a lot of upfront cost to become a consultant. Other than your knowledge, maybe you'll take some courses or sometimes take a certification or something like that. But in general, all you need is your knowledge.

And a Zoom account, which is free. A phone, a website, which costs $20 a month, if not less, and just go out there and say, hey I've got some knowledge that I can share, and then he was able to take this, so his business probably cost less than $500. And now he's making six figures this year, he's in line making over 100,000, in addition to his regular work as a doctor. So there's not a lot of investments that you can do, which brings that back $500, or turning into 100 grand, if there is let me know how long, that's what that is. That's why I love businesses. And that's why I often when I'm talking to doctors about things like, what's my first business to start? I always talk about, like, what assets do you currently have now? And I know, you've learned this too with your consulting, it was your knowledge of your experiences. And that everybody is a bit different. And then if you have something that people will want, people will pay for it. And that's a great business to get into.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Physicians, we're multifaceted, and we're multi talented. And we tell all my clients you have to go through so many different steps, and just for that privilege to treat patients, but we have a variety of skills. So, as you mentioned, entrepreneurship is hard. It's not easy. Some months you'll have zero, some months, you'll be negative, some months you'll be 2x 3x. So you have to be ready for that roller coaster. So, what are some of the pitfalls and challenges as a physician right now in the COVID area, he or she is really burnt out or just looking for alternative things, what are some of the steps that they can start to take to free up their time and emotions and where they are from their job or from the income?

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: Yeah, I think the first step is just like, deciding that you want to start a business, that you want to be entrepreneurial, I think that's a big decision. So if you do have more time than money, then I think that's a great question to ask. Do I have the time to actually do this? And then decide what type of business you want to do. Do you want to do a coaching or consulting business on the side? There are other factors you need to be aware of, too. If you're an employed physician, if you work with a big hospital, they may or may not need to know that you have a business on the side. So first, you have to make sure that that's taken care of, because I've seen a few too many doctors who got in trouble, they started a business and then they got successful, and then guess who comes running and asking, like, Okay, how did you start this business? Working on the side?

So then there's so many different factors and I can take this conversation wherever you want, but it's, it's dependent on like, what do you what do you want to do, like, what is your and I don't want to sound like kind of woowoo but what is your like, your mission in your life, like, what do you want to make, you want to be most known for? And that doesn't necessarily have to be The End All decision of what type of business you want to be. But you probably want to be in a business where you want to feel comfortable talking about that business.

Some people just want to go into businesses that are lucrative. Well, drug dealing is lucrative, but it has a lot of pitfalls in doing that. So, when you're looking at the type of business it doesn't match with you ethically, does it match with you legally? Is it something that you are proud of? Is it aligned with your mission about what you want to do? For me, my mission was to help 1000 doctors to help them get to where they want to be. Because a lot of doctors have more doubts, a lot of doctors are frustrated, and they've lost autonomy. And for me, business owning entrepreneurship was my way out of that. And so I kind of want to pay it forward. And that's what we do at bootstrap MD.

But so it has to, like, kind of align with what your mission is. There are other businesses that you decide let's say you want to get into. We talked about franchises. If franchises cost money, if you want to open a Dunkin Donuts franchise, I think it's like 250,000, it's only in certain states, you can do it. And maybe that doesn't align with what you want to be in, let's say your interest is in doing a weight loss clinic or something, you're in weight loss, and then you went in to Dunkin Donuts, might not align. So all of those factors, you need to take into consideration, I think that whatever business that you want to do, first you have to have interest in it. And then you also have to look into it, are there people that you can shadow or get into or get involved with?

I'm in the aesthetics industry, and there's a lot of doctors who want to start like a botox clinic on the side or a med spa. And they're every weekend, there's botox training of some type, but they don't teach you how to, like, have a successful business there. So it has to be, One, you want to make sure that you like it. Two, you want to make sure that there are people who can help get you to the next level as a mentor, consultant.

My thing is, anything that I do I try to have like a mentor, because I'm not so smart to figure it out on my own. Any type of wealth building, I sign up. I signed up for real estate, I signed up for Peter's course. Kenji and Letizia teach a course on becoming a doctor in real estate, because I'm not so smart to figure it out. And I'd rather pay them the money because I have more money than time these days. And then sometimes I take it just when I figure out like, I'll do it, and there's like, I'll find out like, this isn't for me. And that's okay too. I just paid $1,000 for this course, I realized, nope, not for me. So I move on.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: yeah. Yeah, a lot of doctors, they look at the price tag, but they don't realize it's like an investment. So you can pay $3,000 for a coach, a mentor, but it saves you. Instead of stumbling around for a year, two years you get to your goals faster within six months, or even you spend $3,000, and you make $30,000. So I think physicians as a whole don't really look at it, from the long term, they just look at the price tag, and they're like, oh, it's a scam and all the rip off and all this stuff. So, but I know you do coaching, I know before the pandemic, you had a seminar, a yearly seminar where you brought in speakers, and you had a course as well. So feel free to let the audience know, like, what type of what type of resources they can look into and how they can get in contact with you and what sort of resources you offer.

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: Our most popular one is a free web class that we do. It's how physicians can become high paid consultants. And you can just go on to and the pop up will show when you can sign up for an on demand web class that talks about how to do it, and it lasts about an hour. And then like my journey into it and how I created it into a six figure business. And then after it, if you want to take, there's a course that we sell called ConsultingMD, if that's the path that you want to go to, that's probably my best example. As you also mentioned, I've got a podcast that is going on. We just finished our 150th episode where we highlight physician entrepreneurs, you've been on our podcast. And that's also a way where you can find out more information. I also own a company called physician coaches, and we have a physician coaches directory, if you're looking for physician coaches, you can go to And we have physicians in over 12 different categories from real estate, relationships, investing.

Back in the day we weren't really able to freely talk about the kind of stuff physicians who wanted to do something else was frowned upon having a quote, side gig, was pretty much non-existent. And so my thing is, I think it's scary to me, having just one source of income, I don't know, for you, Chris, but I would be pretty scared if I just had like, one source of income. Yeah. And who would have thought that there'll be a time where physicians could lose their job, or temporarily lose their job, because of a pandemic. And that's what happened: a lot of doctors lost them and permanently were laid off. And I'm just so blessed that I've got multiple streams of income to keep me going. I was joking about it. I own a little bit of real estate, and then my renter can't make rent for the last couple months but my income wasn't dependent on that. Right? Because I have other sources of different income. So I think whatever you do, whether it be an entrepreneur, or an investor my challenge is for doctors to build one stream of income, an additional stream of income in 2022, then do whatever it takes for you to to get that it's gonna help you so much in the long run.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Well said. And the final question is, how can guests in the audience get in touch with you? Your website, social media, email?

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: Yeah, the best site is I rarely am on social media, and try not to be on social media. I'm just like, I don't think anyone cares what I’m doing today. But now those are probably the best places. And if you've got a business you're thinking about getting into, I'd be happy to chat with you about it, to help you through it, but because I'm just a big fan of what you're doing in terms of like, letting more people know about the benefits of entrepreneurship. And yeah, I think it's an exciting time and it's never too late to get started.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, so well said. All the pearls in wisdom will be in the show notes for the audience. And thank you so much for being on the show. And thanks for helping me jumpstart my career as a social media influencer, a thought leader, and I owe it to you, John, Charmaine, Peter, Kim, and the White Coat Investor. So thanks so much, and we look forward to future collaborations.

Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, MD MPH: Awesome, Chris. Thank you.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!


Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.


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