Dr Greg Makris graduated from the Medical School of Athens with a distinction before moving to the UK to do a PhD in vascular surgery and imaging at Imperial College London. This was followed by an Academic Clinical Fellowship at Cambridge University and a National Training Number in radiology. Greg is the Founder of Medynamic, a career consulting company that offers a range of services to enable Greek doctors to have a smooth transition to train and work in the UK.
At the moment I am an Academic Clinical Fellow at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Radiology. I’ve been running Medynamic for the past 2 years, and it has been a very interesting experience so far.
Greek doctors have been coming to the UK for many years because of the exceptional training opportunities provided here. Because of the recession, there has been a significant increase in the number of doctors interested in leaving Greece to come and work in the NHS. So I thought someone should help these people, and why shouldn’t it be us?
We started with what seemed to be the simplest thing, which was to organise courses for doctors who wanted to come to work in the UK. We ran our first course in Athens in December 2012 and it went well with very good feedback from our participants. We now aim to provide a full careers service guiding these doctors through the entire process from writing a CV and an application form through to GMC registration and going for a job interview.
Not really. As most doctors, I had to work hard at school to be able to get to University, so I was quite focused on that. Before I came to the UK, it never crossed my mind that I would do something else. Coming to the UK, especially London, and seeing what other people are doing and all the available opportunities, it was really an eye-opener that helped me to realise that there is another world outside Medicine.
I had a couple of friends who were very good doctors trained at Cambridge and Oxford. We were working together at Ealing Hospital. One day they very casually told me “Greg, we are leaving Medicine, we’re going to start our own business”. That showed me that if these doctors can do it and if they are willing to risk so many years of training, then maybe I should give it a go if I develop a good idea.
Doctors are well-known to be hard working, ambitious and committed to what they decide to achieve. I felt that I should try to expand my horizons and try to be a bit more creative than just passing exams and ticking boxes for my ePortfolio. Creativity for me is the main thing, and as a practising physician I felt it was lacking from my life.
Oh, where do I start? (laughs) It’s an exciting new world! There are so many new things you have to learn, starting with basic things like registering a company, basic accountancy, building a website, how to prepare contracts. When you start your own business, you have to build many things on your own. I had to read about marketing strategies, how to advertise through Google and how to maximise promotions through FB and other social networks. There are many small things that look very easy to do, but when you actually get to doing them, you can see there is a massive difference between doing something well and doing something professionally.
Time is the main problem that we face as practising doctors and aspiring business people. Being a doctor in the NHS is a very demanding job, especially when you are a trainee and you have to maintain high standards of practice. I really want to finish my training, as I am the kind of person who liked to finish what has been started – I don’t like leaving things in the middle. The future will depend on how the business goes and if I keep being happy with hospital work.
We had to find the funds to support our first steps. Fortunately our project wasn’t that risky from the financial point of view. We didn’t have to spend much on this company so far, but still we are spending a few thousand pounds every year. It is a significant amount of money for the NHS trainees. So far we don’t have any direct investors but we are working on this at the moment. For us the first year was mainly to see what it would be like, how the team was going to work together.
As a trainee doctor in the NHS, you basically have to follow orders and tick boxes. At times it can get monotonous and creativity is lost. Imagination is not something that we use that much, because we are used to evidence-based medicine. The NHS doctors are so occupied with all the other things they have to do that there is not much time for creativity. It’s different in business.
The similarities… you need to be dedicated to what you want to do, you need to believe in yourself, you need to be able to put all the time in what you are doing and go the extra mile to succeed. You need to be able to deal with disappointment. As doctors, we sit a lot of exams in our lifetime and we don’t quit, just try harder. In business it is similar. In the beginning it is always difficult: you are probably more likely to fail in the beginning. Failing first time is a good thing as it makes you stronger, tests your will and shows you if this is really what you want to do.
I think I have become more open to new ideas and I have allowed myself to be more creative and try to think more outside the box. Many people talk about “thinking outside the box”, but how do you actually do this? You can’t really do this when you are working for someone else and just following instructions, which can feel like ticking boxes. Starting your own business is about creating something new and finding own solutions to the problems.
It depends on two things. It will depend on how my business is going and how my clinical career is going. I am the type of person who likes combining things. If I can combine both careers, I’ll happily do that. I really like research and academia and I am still thinking whether I should go down that route. Busy people are usually the people who do things and get them done.
The best thing is finally having the freedom to do the things I want to do. You can design things the way you want them to be. If you have a vision then this can take you to a very nice place!
I’m not sure there are any bad things. You have to risk at some point in your life. I’m not saying you have to risk your entire life or your entire savings. You have to take reasonable risks. In my case this was investing some of my time, some of my money, but nothing that would destroy me if the business was not going well. Taking risks might sound a “bad thing” for some people, but as they say, “nothing ventured – nothing gained”!
It’s like when you do research – there are many good ideas, many hypotheses but at some point you need to decide which hypothesis you are going to go for. In our case, we had a hypothesis that people would be interested in consulting from more experienced people, so we said we should test it. So this was how we approached the whole thing – as a hypothesis. So we set aside a certain amount of time and decided that if it works, if there is interest, we would go to the next level.
There are different types of doctors. Some doctors can’t see themselves outside of Medicine, and that is fair enough. NHS is surviving because of these dedicated people. At the same time, there are doctors who can see themselves doing something else. I can see myself doing something else but still being of help by providing a useful service. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody. The main thing is to be happy with taking risks. As doctors, the way we are trained is to avoid risks, to keep it simple and to stay safe.
Everybody who starts a business has a vision and an idea of where they want to go. The main motivation for me is that I want to see my business grow and be successful. I don’t like the term “clients”, it sounds like you are selling something. I’d like to see ourselves as a business that helps people and we run our service with this in mind. We work with fellow doctors: they need some help now, we were there a few years ago, and we are being of service to them.
We are trying to attract investors. We are working closely with locum agencies that provide the jobs for doctors coming over from Greece. We find the right candidates and prepare them, and ensure that they have the right job ready for when they arrive.
In this day and age with Google and other Internet resources, I don’t think there are any excuses any more. You can research very easily if there is a market for what you have to offer, and what the competition is like. You can make a business plan very easily. The main thing is to look for a gap in the market. If there are 5 providers on the market already doing what you want to do, there is no point doing it, unless you are going to do it in a different way. If you can think of how to do something in a better way, you can really make a successful business out of it. You have to explore the market first and see where might be a gap. You have to think about your plan carefully and think of what you can offer. People will be interested in quality services, in something that is innovative and made with love and care.
They should join forums and blogs run by entrepreneurs. Richard Branson runs courses for entrepreneurs.
The main thing is to find a group of potential partners, people who you can trust and can work with. Trust is of paramount importance when you are starting a business. Although it is easier to start a business with friends, it is a double end sward as if things don’t go well: you could end up losing friends. Lots of people start like this – they approach their friends and discuss an idea. Usually it would be close friends so that they are not afraid to tell you that your idea is stupid. You should welcome criticism, because constructive criticism is important and can help you become better. You need to carefully think about what kind of people you want in your team and what everybody has to offer. My model was to keep the team small. Influencing and delegation skills are important. When you are just starting out, you need the energy and you need to convince your team that your ideas are worth their time.
Well, I thought of threatening them that I would fire them but they said that they don’t care! (laughs). You have to be very diplomatic about who is accountable for what. We are all grown-ups and when we say we are going to do something, we hopefully mean that. But people get busy, people forget to do stuff. I am the sort of person who also likes to do things on his own, so if I think something is important for the business and has to be done, I would do it myself. It is not always ideal, as I know I should trust and support my business partners in doing more things, but I think when an idea like this is your baby and is at an early stage, you should lead by example and give all your energy first before expecting from other people to do the same.
I disagree with this. If you don’t do what you love but you make money, it’s fine if it is your priority. From a personal point of view, what’s important is to be creative in what you do and having a vision about something that doesn’t yet exist but you want to create. That’s the whole joy about having your own company – having something that you have built on your own. It might be small and might even collapse one day, but it’s a part of the game. If you are ready to play, then you can share all the joys and all the ups and downs that any business has. It is a very competitive world and it’s very difficult to establish a business with many start-ups shutting down within the first 1-3 years. It may mean that the people have not thought about it enough or didn’t have the energy and commitment to wait 3 years – you have to be really patient with these things, just like in Medicine. You invest in Medicine 10-12 years of your life before you start getting something out of it. I don’t see why building a business should be very different: you can’t expect to make a million in your first year. You will probably lose money in the first few years, but I think the sign that you are on the right track is not about the money but, rather, if the others are still interested in what you are doing.
You’re welcome – my pleasure!