A willingness to try new things. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to learn tons of new things and try out a lot of different approaches until you find something that really works. So it helps if you embrace that mentality from the beginning.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Tanner.
Ben Tanner is a Physician Assistant / PA (similar to a doctor). He’s been working in emergency departments at a few Las Vegas hospitals since 2014. He runs a blog about medical Spanish and created an online course that teaches emergency room providers the Spanish they need to communicate with their patients.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’ve been a PA (physician assistant — similar to a doctor) since 2014, mainly working in the emergency room. I’ve done a little family practice and urgent care on the side as well. I currently live in Las Vegas, but I grew up in Northeast Missouri.
Back in 2016, I created a website about learning medical Spanish. The idea was to publish resources to help healthcare providers improve their Spanish skills, so they can communicate more easily with their patients.
It’s been a long and winding road, but ultimately the extra income I’ve gotten from this venture has allowed me to switch over to part-time at my hospital job, and have a lot more time to focus on my online business and more free time in general.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I have some extra student loan debt because I attended podiatric medical school for a while before going to PA school. So even though I make decent money at my regular job, the amount that I needed to pay back still seemed really burdensome.
After a while, I started brainstorming ways I could make some extra money on the side. I lived in Guatemala for a couple of years when I was younger, and took a lot of Spanish classes and high school and college. So I’m fluent in Spanish.
Eventually, I settled on the idea of creating a medical Spanish course. That way, I could combine my Spanish skills with my emergency medicine experience, and create something that was kind of unique.
It’s required a lot of patience, but eventually, after about 2 years I was able to get the course accredited and launched. Since then, I’ve had a pretty decent income from my business.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I definitely developed it later on. Ironically, one of the reasons I decided to become a physician assistant instead of a podiatrist is because I didn’t really want to run my own business. Most podiatrists have a clinic, which they usually own or run as a partnership with another physician. And that didn’t seem very appealing to me. I kind of just wanted to get a job with decent pay and let someone else handle the overhead.
Eventually, I kind of changed my tune. But there are still things about entrepreneurship that I don’t always love. There’s a lot of responsibility, and a lot of details to keep track of. However, the dream of becoming financially independent and having a somewhat passive income continues to drive me forward, along with my goal of helping people improve their medical Spanish skills so they can connect more easily with their patients.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My other brother Nathanael is a serial entrepreneur, and he’s been running a real estate investment company for the last several years. When I first mentioned I wanted to start a business, he recommended reading “The E-Myth”, to get a little more familiar with what would be required.
Since then, I’ve often run my ideas by him as I’ve worked my way through the process of starting a business. He’s provided a lot of useful insights. He’s also really enthusiastic about entrepreneurship in general, which has been motivating.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My website & course are the only ones out there with a focus on medical Spanish for emergency room clinicians. Before I created the website, I did a lot of research about medical Spanish resources that are out there. And while there were tons of books, and a few websites and podcasts, there weren’t any online courses geared towards emergency medicine. So it was a niche waiting to be filled, and I happened to have the right skill set to do it.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
One characteristic that has helped a lot is paying close attention to detail. For example, when I created my medical Spanish course I spent a lot of time researching and talking to people, exploring what they liked or didn’t like about existing resources, and what I could do better. When I put the course together, I paid a lot of attention to those details and also had to carefully work with the other people who helped me to make sure I got the details right.
Second, patience. I had to be really patient while working with a partner company to get my course accredited. It took over two years, and while I was working on the course during some of that stretch, some of the time I simply had to wait (and follow up periodically in a friendly, cordial way). I suspect a lot of other people in that situation would have just given up and moved on to other things.
Third, creativity. As an entrepreneur, I’ve had to create a lot of things from scratch. Sometimes that’s figuring out the right phrases to include in a blog post or course, or the visual design for some of my content. The list goes on and on. So I think being creative about creating things and about solving problems is a really important character trait.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
A lot of people told me to build up my audience before I tried to sell anything. But it turned out, doing the opposite was a lot more effective in my particular situation. That’s because the audience was out there — there are tons of emergency medicine providers interested in improving their Spanish — but it would have taken years for me to attract them to my website, or my email list, and so on.
Eventually, I flipped the script and simply created my course, and figured out how to market it to the right people. I didn’t really need to build an audience in advance, and maybe not everyone else needs to do that either.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
“Architect” your day. This is some advice I got from Marie Forleo, and it’s really been helpful lately.
Basically, imagine how you can structure your day to maximize your energy, focus, and well-being. Take a step back and remember that your long-term success is contingent on taking care of yourself each day. That’s what’s going to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed or “burning out”, so you can keep doing good work.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Treat people the way you’d like to be treated, and be a “normal human”. In other words, don’t be one way in your everyday life, and a completely different person when you’re “online”. Exhibit the same politeness and cordiality you would with people in the real world, even if it’s someone you disagree with on social media.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
I think with the tendency towards extreme and polarizing positions, people who are rational and down-to-earth will stand out more and more. At least for me personally, anytime I see someone taking an extreme and unreasonable position, they lose all credibility. People are getting more notoriety these days by criticizing and being angry, but I don’t think that’s a sustainable or pleasant way of doing things.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
An easy mistake to make is burning the candle at both ends. You can only keep it up for so long, and eventually, your health will take a hit. So in the long run, it’s counterproductive.
Another mistake I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs make is to focus exclusively on making money, rather than on what value they’re providing. Basically, they look for shortcuts and ultimately produce poor-quality content or services. And that may work for a while, but eventually, word will get around and you’ll lose trust with your customer base.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
One big difference as an entrepreneur is that it takes a while to make any progress at all. For example, you could run a website for a year or two and not make any money from it, but still have the expectation that eventually it will pay off. So the amount of work you have to put in sometimes before you see the results are astronomical compared to getting paid by the hour as you go along.
Another example of the ups and downs is that income is often sporadic. For example, when I do promotions for my online course, I might make a lot of money in just a few days. But then I could go months without making very much. I really have to keep the big picture in mind, and not just focus on a paycheck every two weeks or so like I would with a regular job.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
When I first launched my online course for emergency room providers, it was surprisingly successful right from the start. That’s at least partially because I partnered with another company that had a big email list, and we promoted the course to all of their followers. The people at the company were actually really shocked at how many people bought the course right away, and I think that’s because I was filling a niche that was basically empty before.
For the first several days after the course opened, I kind of had to pinch myself periodically, and I got pretty excited each time I remembered how well it was doing.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Back in 2016, when I was first making my website, I spent a ton of time trying to figure out how to design the site and get it to work properly. I tried several different tech options and just couldn’t get anything that really seemed right. Eventually, I kind of gave up on my original plan and went with an easier solution, but I still didn’t really like it. Over the next couple of years I had a lot of technological challenges with the website, had to spend a lot of time on the phone with customer service, and never really felt like it was making that much progress. A lot of times I felt really frustrated, and just didn’t know how to fix the problem.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Basically, I kept plugging away, and eventually found something that worked better. After a while, I went through online training that taught me some new tools and tricks, which ended up helping a lot. I didn’t have the skill-set when I started, and I wasn’t really sure how to get that skill set. But after trying a whole bunch of different things I found something that worked, and now I’m a lot more confident about my ability to create (or build up) a website.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- A purpose-driven business. If you have a real purpose, something you feel you have to get out in the world that’s really going to help people. I think that makes a huge difference, and helps maintain your motivation.
- A willingness to try new things. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to learn tons of new things and try out a lot of different approaches until you find something that really works. So it helps if you embrace that mentality from the beginning.
- Being able to say no. As I’ve worked on my business projects, I’ve realized there is a near-constant stream of stuff competing for my attention. If I tried to pay attention to all of it, I would basically never make any progress. So I’ve had to narrow things down by saying “no”, and trying to focus on the most important things.
- Taking time for self-care. As I mentioned above, to be successful in the long run you have to take care of yourself. Otherwise, you’ll just flame out and give up after a while.
- A long-term perspective. It can take years before you see any real progress as an entrepreneur, and a lot of people give up before they get over the hump. So you need to be able to zoom out and see the bird’s eye view, so you can keep everything in perspective and keep plugging away.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I think resilience is being able to reassess periodically and pivot, while still keeping your eye on the long-term goal. So resilient people have to be self-aware, and able to look at themselves fairly objectively. They need to be honest with themselves about what’s working and what’s not working, so they can make adjustments and keep improving. And they need to have the vision of the ultimate goal they’re trying to accomplish.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
When I was about 12 years old, I got my own paper route for the first time. At first, I found it really challenging, trying to remember the route and get it done in a timely fashion. I really didn’t look forward to doing it every day and felt like I wasn’t really cut out for the job. But as I kept working at it, I gradually got faster and things got easier. And after a few months, the holiday season rolled around, and a bunch of people left gifts or cards for me, including some monetary tips (which basically doubled my weekly income). That experience helped me learn to be persistent, and that things can get better if you keep working at them.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
I’ve noticed that in emergency-type situations, I tend to be very calm and rational. I guess that’s because I recognize that panicking doesn’t help, and my best chance of getting out of the situation is to analyze my alternatives and take decisive action. I can’t say I’m always that way, but when there’s something very pressing, and especially if lives could be at stake, I find it really helps focus my mind so I can move in the right direction.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
I have a personal assistant who sometimes gets frustrated or isn’t sure the best way to handle things at first. I’ve noticed that sometimes when I talk to her about it, it’s just some simple thing that she’s getting hung upon. And I think my positive and laid-back attitude about whatever the task seems to really make things easier for her.
I think keeping things in perspective, realizing that most business tasks or not really that important in the grand scheme of things, helps put people at ease and let them do better work.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“New goals don’t deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is a process, not an outcome. For this reason, your energy should go into building better habits, not chasing better results.” — James Clear
I often think about how I can improve my habits and my workflow, as opposed to just chasing short-term results. It’s an ongoing struggle, but I think in some ways I’ve structured my routine in such a way that it’s sustainable, and I can keep making improvements as time goes on.
How can our readers further follow you online?
I’d love to have them visit me over at my website, LearnMedicalSpanish.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!