Dr. John Nguyen | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Dr. John Nguyen


Dr. Nguyen is a double board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in surgical and non-surgical enhancements. 

The Mistake:

I took a risk and started my own business in the depths of the 2008 recession. People advised me against it, but I knew a lot of successful businesses have grown out of recessions. Contrary to what you might assume, that wasn’t my mistake.

A lot of doctors fail at business. Everyone knows that. Part of the reason is that while medical school and residency are grueling, they don’t teach you the business of being a doctor. I’ve had to learn through trial and error and reading a lot of business journals.

As a surgeon, I’m very meticulous and detail oriented. For the first two years of my practice my life was consumed with managing the business side of my practice. I was involved in everything from paying bills to opening every single letter that came through my office. Add that to the duties of operating on patients and taking care of them.

Having gone through surgery training I was used to being tired, but this was a different level. I was getting up at 5 a.m., doing reconstructive work at the hospital, reviewing paperwork and setting up my schedule for the day. If it was a clinic day I would see patients throughout the day and line up all their charts and surgeries. There was a lot of back and forth as far as patients asking for a quote for the cost of an elective surgery, and it’s not something a doctor should do when engaging the patient. The mechanics of getting to the operating room should be handled separately.

Although I was still young at the time I was getting stress ulcers and wasn’t sleeping properly because my mind was always going. I never took a vacation during those first two years. I had this need to control everything at the office but I knew I couldn’t continue to do things that way.

As long as we’re headed toward the same goal, I can give a lot of leeway on how we get there.​

The Lesson:

I’ve learned that with responsible people in charge, as long as we’re headed toward the same goal I can give a lot of leeway on how we get there. Simply put, the people who I've put in charge do not necessarily see everything the way I see it, but they see the same direction I see. On most projects, most topics, most ideas we’re headed toward the same target.

I don’t think there was a real “light bulb” moment that caused me to change. The process was fairly gradual. As the practice grew, it attracted a wider pool of people to choose from and I had someone join who I felt was responsible and is the current office manager. Her success was the impetus that made me realize we could do this in a different way and take the stress off of me while having the practice move forward.  

Today we run our business like a real corporate company. We have monthly meetings, take minutes and give everyone a chance to voice their opinion, address problems or acknowledge accomplishments and that’s why I truly believe we’ve been so successful.

Follow Dr. John Nguyen on Twitter at @mybodysurgeon.

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Nguyen.

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