'I've Had It With Medicine!' 16 Options for Second Careers

Leigh Page

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July 10, 2014

In This Article

10. Get Involved in Retail or Manufacturing

Some physicians enter businesses that have little or nothing to do with healthcare and do quite well, thanks in part to skills and temperament learned in practice. In business, "you need to be a smart, hard-working person who can stay focused," Babitsky said. "Those are things that physicians do quite well."

Babitsky recalled a doctor who opened a bagel shop near him on Cape Cod. It was a shrewd move, because there were still no bagel shops in the area. The doctor worked hard and the business flourished. It wasn't a sure thing, because many restaurants and other retail businesses fail, especially when the economy sags.

Similarly, Daniel E. Kohn, MD, an emergency physician in Baltimore, switched from practicing in an emergency department to running a manufacturing company full-time. Like many physicians, he had for many years been investing in real estate, buying old buildings and rehabbing them, when in 1997 he came across a dilapidated factory.

The factory housed a shirt company that was about to go out of business. Dr. Kohn decided to buy the company, called Aetna Shirt, and bring it out of bankruptcy. "It was kind of a fire sale," he said. "The price was reasonable, and there was a book of business already there."

As an emergency physician, Dr. Kohn had experience bringing back patients from near death, but rescuing a whole manufacturing concern proved to be a greater challenge. "I didn't understand how relentless the financial needs of this kind of enterprise can be," he said, "but I was determined to make it work."

He left the emergency department and introduced a new product he knew intimately: white lab coats. "I never found a decent lab coat," he said. He set about producing a sturdier product that could also be custom-tailored to create a more fashionable look. The lab coat business, called On Call Medical Coats, now makes up 70%-80% of sales.

After 17 years in business, Dr. Kohn still hasn't recovered his full investment, but the company is firmly in the black. To find customers, he used to go to 20 medical meetings a year, but he cut back that schedule as business improved. "It's still a work in progress," he said. "I want to continue to grow this company."

Pluses: A successful business can provide a great deal of satisfaction and financial rewards.

Minuses: You'll have to work hard, and failure is a very real probability.

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