Pros and Cons of Working at a Healthcare Start-Up Firm

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Should you work for a start-up company? Working for a start-up company, particularly in the healthcare field, Health IT, or medical technology field, can be both financially and intrinsically rewarding. However, there are career risks, and possibly financial risks involved as well.

How do start-ups happen in healthcare? Sometimes, a clinical provider (doctor, nurse, medical technologist, etc.) may invent a way to improve patient care based on a challenge he or she experienced while practicing medicine.

Other healthcare start-up companies may be formed by technology innovators who happen to develop a product or technology that solves a clinical problem or medical issue for patients, providers, or hospitals.

Some start-ups are self-funded, while other companies find investors or partners to help build their growing empire. Additionally, online funding campaigns are also growing in popularity as a way to get projects or inventions funded. If all else fails, you can always pitch your invention to the sharks on Shark Tank!

If you are thinking about working at a start-up company, here are a few things to consider:

1. Viability of the Product

Is the product or service innovative, in demand, and realistic? Does it solve a key problem, meet a need, or provide a benefit that no other product does? If there are competing products, how does this product compare and exceed its competition? Use your clinical experience to check further on whether the medical application for the product is likely to be successful.

Explore who else may be developing similar products.

2. Financing/Funding

How is the company funded? Are the founders investing their own money? Is it largely funded by outside investors? Is the company positioning itself for acquisition? If so, how would this affect your career? You may or may not want your medical professional reputation allied with the other investors.

3. Short-term / Long-term Goals and Projections

What is the growth plan of the company? How to they plan to market their product? How will they meet demand and respond to market fluctuations, competition, industry trends, etc.? Do they have a staffing plan of any sort? Do they know who will perform the necessary functions within the company to get the job done? You may be in a position to recommend medical professionals and technicians who are needed on their team.

4. Business Track Record of the Partners/Founders

Have the partners been successful in past ventures? Or are they continually opening and closing floundering companies with "fad" products? Do you believe in the capabilities, vision, skills, and drive of the partners to lead the company to success?

Pros and Cons

If the above factors seem to make sense, and you feel confident about the start-up, here are some of the positive and negative aspects of working at a start-up firm:

Opportunity to Try New Roles

At a start-up, getting things done requires "all hands on deck." Often at small, growing companies, people wear many hats, rather than being limited to one traditional role or job description. Working at a start-up enables you to stretch your wings and expand your horizons by using new skills and trying new tasks that perhaps your previous roles never did.

If your career has been entirely clinical, it can be refreshing to get your hands dirty in business and administration.

However, some workers who are highly structured may see this as a drawback, not a benefit, of working at a start-up company. Employees at a start-up may not have a clearly defined list of job responsibilities, which may be frustrating at times for those who need a lot of detailed direction and guidance. You may also miss your clinical duties and the more tangible aspects of providing medical care.

Flexibility

In addition to the flexibility in job roles, working at a start-up may also offer flexibility in other ways, such as work hours, schedule, telecommuting, dress code, and more.

If you've been working in clinical healthcare, you may be tired of the grind of the required hours, weekends, holiday shifts, and on-call.

However, sometimes, "too much of a good thing" can apply to flexibility - if a company's policies are too lax, or the hours too nebulous, the work environment could suffer. You may be expected to work ridiculously long hours to get the job done because start-up companies run "lean and mean."

Lack of Middle-Management

This is another characteristic of working for a start-up that could be a "plus" for some workers, and a "negative" for others. Some people may actually prefer not to report to the owner of the company - some people get intimidated by it, or need more guidance than a founding executive of a start-up company is able to provide. Depending on your role in healthcare, you may be used to being the boss yourself in private practice, or at the bottom of the chain of command at a large medical center. It will be a change to report directly to the top dog.

Start-Up Risks

Is it worth it to take the plunge? Only you can decide if the risks outweigh the rewards of diving into a start-up opportunity. Whether you're starting your own, or jumping in early, start-ups can offer unlimited potential. However, they can also flop in a big way. Therefore, it's wise to keep your network active and stay connected with colleagues outside the start-up, in case you find yourself in job search mode sooner than you expected. Additionally, according to Bowers, you may even lose your job without any financial assistance whatsoever - no severance, no retirement, or anything.

If you think working at a start-up company would be exciting, fun, and beneficial to your career, check out these lists of top healthcare start-up companies, and new medical technology for a few ideas for potential future employers! 

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