Doctors looking for nonclinical careers often think of consulting for medical-device, delivery-platform or pharmaceutical companies as a viable transition career option. Some doctors favor working with smaller, startup or early-stage companies because they want to avoid the rat race they are trying to escape and want some freedom.
But, what do advisors, consultants and chief medical officers for tech companies do anyway?
If you are thinking of consulting to a startup or early-stage company, serving as an advisor, on the management team or board of directors, just having initials after your name won’t mean much. You will have to deliver the value that startup CEOs are looking for: money, marketing, making something, management, manpower, mentors, monitoring the environment and mergers and acquisitions.
In most instances, the company has already crafted its plan of attack, has validated it with a few customers and is moving along according to its business plan with a management team that is experienced, but at this stage of the game, needs capital to get to the next level. Unfortunately, when approaching private-equity or venture capitalists, the usual response is “too early and too much technical or regulatory risk.” The team scales back its expectations for raising capital, reducing it to about $500,000 to $1 million, and seeks investments from high-net-worth individuals such as doctors or angel investors. That’s where you come in. The team wants you to use your network to raise money from colleagues, friends or others who might be interested in the idea or who practice in the specialty.
In addition to money, they also want you to use your network to connect them to potential customers, strategic partners or other advisers who can help place the product, reduce barriers to use or lend a favorable ear to the product offering. Your job is to bypass the gatekeepers, connect the leadership team to the decisionmakers and put in a good word. You are also expected to use your brand equity to create buzz on the internet and inform and educate stakeholders.
Once you have earned your stripes, then—and usually only then—will early-stage companies be interested in your being on a scientific or business advisory board, or more certainly, the board of directors. They want to test whether you can deliver, whether you are someone who plays nice with others and whether you can help them meet their next critical success factor.
New product development requires an intimate understanding of the problems customers face when doing their jobs. Doctors are in a unique position to provide that intelligence and know where to go to identify those affected.
Monitoring the environment
One of your jobs is to be the eyes and ears of medicine and biotechnology and report threats and opportunities to the leadership team. Telling truth to authority is a required skill.
You were hired because you are connected. That means you have access to a big network of talented people looking for jobs and eager to work for companies that come recommended from trusted resources. Winning the war for talent is an insider’s game and you are in the right place to help win it.
Perhaps the most valuable but least rewarded contribution is the clinical and business judgement derived from years of experience. While difficult to measure, instincts and that gut feeling are invaluable if they contribute to preventing the wrong move or step.
Teachers educate. Coaches teach a skill. Mentors help with personal development. Advisors help with business strategy and execution. Sometime you have to act like all of them depending on the situation.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Companies grow organically or through mergers and acquisitions. One role an advisor can play is to connect the management team with potential strategic partners or M/A targets and help with the due diligence process.
Sometimes you can provide education about innovation and entrepreneurship, acting more like a tutor than a coach. Innnovation and entrepreneurship information is alway evolving , and if ,for example, you can provide updates or suggest books, blogs or commentaries, it can add value to your clients continuous learning.
Consequently, when you are interviewing for an advisory role, be sure to cover these bases:
- Whether you are a good fit
- Whether and when you can help achieve the company’s next critical benchmark
- What role you will play in the company and for how long
- Whether you will have any conflicts of interest
- Approval from the other founders to participate
- Metrics attributable and trackable to your contributions
- Expectations about timelines and benchmarks
- How you will work with other members of team, particularly in communications, business development and engagement tactics
- Tax consequences of any equity arrangements
- What will be your onboarding process, particularly if done remotely.
Another consideration is whether a given company is a startup, a scale up or a grown up company. The goal of a startup is to find a scaleable and repeatable business model that typically generates less than $1M in revenue. The goal of a scale up is to generate revenue from about $1M-5M or 10M. The skills required to do so are different in one situation v the next. For example, startups need people to create the right product-market fit and a minimall viable product or pilot. Scale ups mostly need management, money and marketing. Grown ups need monitoring to avoid being left behind by other startups that will steal their market share or technologies that make them non-viable.
There are significant gaps in the knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies of doctors who are interested in working with companies, whether it be as a part-time consultant or full time chief medical officer. Some of those are:
1. Product development
2. Strategic thinking
3. Sales and marketing
4. Financing new ventures
5. Integrating digital health solutions into existing workflow
6. Legacy EMR integration and basic technical aspects of health information technologies
7. Overcoming the barriers to clinical dissemination and implementation
8. Measuring the scaleable impact of an intervention
9. Business development
Here are some things to think about before joining a startup
Here is CMO School for Dummies
Boards of directors have a fiduciary responsibility, unlike advisors, and governing AI and innovation in the 4th industrial revolution has taken a front row seat along with compliance, compensation and competitive strategy.
Bioentrepreneurs can be in independent practice, be part of a startup team trying to build a scalable company, be social entrepreneurs, work for someone else (intrapreneurs), or more recently, be an independent contractor working as a 1099 consultant. If you decide to be the last of these, then deliver the seven M’s. Unlike medicine, you won’t get paid just for effort. You will get paid for execution and delivery. Here are some ways to monetize your network.