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Episode 28 - The Physician Entrepreneur

Sep 30, 2023


Episode Notes

Dr. Kevin Mailo interviews fellow Physician Empowerment co-founder and co-host, Dr. Wing Lim about entrepreneurship. Wing is an accomplished businessman, entrepreneur, and real estate investor in addition to being an excellent doctor, and he talks with Kevin about what it took to make his journey from Med School to where he is now.  


Wing recalls how risk averse he was when he initially graduated from Med School thirty years ago. He looks back and see how dramatically he has grown and changed and a lot of it had to do with mindset and learning how to develop the entrepreneurial side of being a physician. What physicians aren’t taught is how to manage the clinical side, the business, the “dark suit” side of their careers outside of patient treatment, often to the detriment of personal fulfillment and smooth-running clinics.


In this episode, Dr. Kevin Mailo and Dr. Wing Lim address how physicians can encourage their entrepreneurial sides to grow. They talk about not being the know-it-all and becoming comfortable with being “the dumbest guy in the room” in new situations because it offers a chance to learn. Failure is part of growth as much as embracing dormant dreams and learning to feed other aspects of smarts besides simply intelligence. Kevin and Wing share their ambition to help all physicians realize their entrepreneurial sides through mentorship and Masterclass advice of the sort Wing offers in this episode.

Resources Discussed in this Episode:


Contact Information:

Physician Empowerment: website | facebook | linkedin





Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:00:01] Hi, I'm Dr. Kevin Mailo, one of the co-hosts of the Physician Empowerment podcast. At Physician Empowerment we're dedicated to improving the lives of Canadian physicians personally, professionally and financially. If you're loving what you're listening to, let us know. We always want to hear your feedback. Connect with us. If you want to go further, we've got outstanding programming both in person and online so look us up. But regardless, we hope you really enjoy this episode.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:00:34] Hi, I'm Dr. Kevin Mailo, one of the co-founders and co-hosts of the Physician Empowerment podcast. And on today's episode, I'm going to be interviewing my fellow co-founder and host Dr. Wing Lim. Wing is, as many of us know, is a very, very busy, ambitious dreamer within our profession. And it's truly admirable what you've done, Wing, over the years. And I thought that today we should explore a little bit about your journey, because when we look at you as, you know, an entrepreneur and a real estate developer and a highly successful clinician, there is a lot there. But I have the feeling that it hasn't always been the case, that you were something else when you started 30 some years ago. So with that being said, Wing, why don't you tell us about how you journeyed from being, you know, a physician to becoming a physician entrepreneur because we see that a lot in our Masterclass attendees. So a lot of our attendees in the Masterclass with Physician Empowerment are entrepreneurial. They're trying to build something, whether it's something they're building in real estate, building in their practice, we even have some that are kind of working more in a tech space. So it's really, really interesting to see how physicians come to this point of moving from being strictly a professional to being a professional who's also an entrepreneur. So tell us a little bit about your journey, Wing.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:02:02] Yeah, sure. So yeah, so I go to a local med school, went to U of A like 30 some years ago. And I just finished my 30th year of practice in family practice. So the journey is torturous. There are ups and downs and if you have a time machine and just bring me back to the me 30 years ago and just the present Wing and the Wing that is just out of practice, I think if you say this is going to be you in 30 years, I say that it's a lie. I couldn't even believe that, the metamorphosis is like unbelievable. Right? I was at a larval stage.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:02:41] You were just a little grub.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:02:44] I was just crawling on the space. Right? It's like the primordial soup. So where I was was I was risk adverse. I was diligent, hardworking, medical graduate, just like anybody else. But then life, life has its twists and turns. Right? Yeah. So to recap one of the stories is my preceptor had a really good faith in me more than I had faith in myself. He actually spent the money. He wanted to build a clinic. He spent all the money to put me in a clinic to start one, and I was just finishing my R2, right? And so he says, okay, Wing, I'll set you up. And then I told my wife, my newlywed, said, No, this is too, too scary, too risky. Starting a clinic from scratch, what if there is nobody coming in? Then we don't even have money to pay rent. And my very astute and pragmatic wife, some of you know her, Kitty, said that look your boss gave you - oh, there's a Chinese dish, famous Chinese dish called the soy sauce chicken - she said your boss gave you the chicken and asked you to cough up some soy sauce, and you said that's too risky. So that was how risky, how risk adverse, and I actually said no, believe it or not, I said no. And then went and find a locum instead. So that's where I was. Right? And then so fast forward 30 years, yeah some of you heard my story, right? We developed one of the largest clinics in Alberta and we developed a wellness center that processes 2000 patients a day, more than half a million visits a year. And we just launched a senior home that is six storey high, 156 units, and it's 90% full. So there's a lot of other stuff that I do and I look at, Wow, how did we end up here? So is this nature? Is it nurture? And I would say somewhere there are some pivotal people. We call them mentors. They disrupted my world. How dare they, right?


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:04:48] So yeah, the first thing I'll just highlight here that's resonating with me is the notion of mentors, right? Those people that come into our lives and carry enormous meaning and kind of push us to the next level, help us grow. I mean, you know, you're one of my mentors and I can certainly recall a lot of those kinds of moments. So continue, continue on with your story.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:05:10] And the mentors are not didactic. Like we went to med school eight hours per day for four years, right? Or three years. And then 100 hours of rotations. But mentors are the ones that open doors for you and they open doors by disrupting your status quo, by asking you some pivotal questions or give you like a light bulb. And one of my mentors, we just spent an evening with him, Dr. George we call him. He's in his late 80s and he asked me a question. He says, Wing, what if time and money were no object? What if success is assured? What would you like to do? And that's when we started this dreaming session, writing it down, and we called it The Power Page. You write down first 20 items and you think, Oh, I want to have this car, this boat, you know, this trip, you know, all these bucket lists. But then very soon you run out of steam. And then and then they say, don't stop. Keep going. Don't question it. Don't, don't disqualify. Keep writing. And if you last 20 minutes later, there's some more notable stuff that are coming out if you don't stop your pen, some of these bigger, more noble dreams come out. Right? And some of that would be your life calling, your life's destiny. First time emerging and calling your name.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:06:25] Wow.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:06:26] And all of those you need to break out of your shell. And that is where entrepreneurialism comes.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:06:33] Yeah. And and it is about that personal growth. And we see that so commonly in the physician community where, you know, it's this brilliant mind of a physician. And, you know, I'm not going to try to toot our horn too much, but truly, the selection pressure within the profession is so high. You know, we have this collection of brilliant minds who are incredibly hard working and industrious, but at the same time, the profession can be somewhat constrictive in that it's not necessarily a creative space or a space for our dreams.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:07:05] It's not. In fact, it's the opposite of creativity. It's called conformity. We are bred in extremely purebred, incestual kind of purebred environment that we don't question whatever has been agreed upon, right? The clinical practice guideline or whatever the college says, right? Whatever your profession says. And then you're locked into there and you're supposed to be better and better and better. So there's a concept called white coat versus dark suit. So I came across this a number of years ago. We went to school to become white coat. But then as soon as we got our billing number, our practice license, we started work in the department, got the first paycheck, first billing, depending on fee for service or your stipend, wuddenly your first year's income is bigger than your last many years. No, sorry. Your tax bill this year is better than your income last year and then you start to become dark suit, right? Suddenly you have to adopt the business side, especially those of us who are in private practice. Or you are noncommissioned too, you have a research grant or you have the whole department funding. You suddenly have to manage it like the dark suit. And of course, we didn't go to business school, right? So this is where we fumble. We struggle.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:08:15] For me, my journey, I bought my practice right off the bat after I said no to the preceptor. And then we borrow money that we haven't got. We got evicted by the landlord within two years. Our son was just one year old, barely in the car seat. Right? And there are a lot of hard lessons to learn. And so a lot of this dark suit side, we never went to school, right now I went to school a long time ago, but I heard my recent colleagues that there is hardly any business education, any entrepreneurial side of the business, about the medical practice, the practice side of the medicine, right? The nitty gritty detail of it. We don't, how do you run a clinic, right? I have some great clinician, some of my own doctors. I love them, but every time it's a solid two hours wait at the office and just looking at their workflow, it just aches my heart. And hospitals be waiting for 12 hours, 14, 26 hours, right? There's so much wrong in the practice of medicine because we are clinicians, we're white coats, we're not black coats, black suits. And so it is a journey and a half to evolve.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:09:27] And I would say that that journey can be deeply meaningful in our lives. I mean, we talk about dreams quite a lot at Physician Empowerment because they bring focus to what we're doing. And a lot of physicians, you know, that we've encountered over the years find it so meaningful to have that entrepreneurial outlet, that place where you can pour your energy and your passion and your creativity with the dream of making things better, whether it's within your practice or within education or other areas strictly outside of that face to face encounter with the patient. I think that's so important.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:10:06] Yeah. So this is nature versus nurture, right? Are these medical entrepreneurs, are they born with it? Is this a nature or is it nurture? Are they, did they go to school and become a business person? I'm going to say it's more a concept like epigenetics, right? You know, the genes and you get the environment can turn on and turn off the genes like uncle genes and other genes. So I'm going to say that we yes, of course, we deal with the brightest of minds, the highest GPAs, the high achievers. Those become our colleagues. Right? But we only breed them in their scholastic intelligence. Right? When people nowadays look at intelligence, they're like nine kinds of intelligence. IQ is only one of them. There's Adversity Quotient, there is a Relation Quotient. There's Emotional Quotient. Right? And if you have high IQ and low three of those, you become one of those department's delight. Everybody is scared of you, right? In my days, some grumpy surgeon would throw scalpels at the nurses. That's before the days of AIDS. Yeah. And so there's just these people with personality of doorknobs that run the department.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:11:10] But now things have changed. Everybody is more civil. But then I'm going to say that these brightest of minds, they got turned on one gene. The gene is the scholastic education. But now that they're thrown in a different environment, now the brain is saying, what else? Right now, with the money, with the influence, what am I going to do? What can I do? And we're fumbling because we haven't turned on those genes. Right? As we move on, as we allow people to talk about these things, their genes will be turned on. And so that's why when we do these Physician Empowerment encounters masterminds, we're like magnets. We're attracting people that either come out and say, Hey, I've got that gene, or people say, Hey, I think I might have that gene turned on. So when, let's say for you and I, Kevin, right, when we met, we thought we were X-Men. We're the Mutants, right? And now we find that there are more and more X-Men, X-Women out there.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:12:04] Yeah, there are just so, so many of us that are, yeah, are interested in doing something, you know, along the lines of an entrepreneurial pursuit. And it's really wonderful because although the thrust of the activity where specific projects someone is working on may be radically different, there's a lot to be said for sort of the cross-pollination that occurs when you get people together where they share their experiences, they share their perspectives, they share their advice with each other. And that's that's a very, very powerful part of the community experience that I've noticed over the course of doing our master classes.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:12:44] So this thing about entrepreneurship, so one time I was invited to speak at a religious context, right? These are congregants and we're talking about entrepreneurship. So compare what the the religious world would see as, let's say, a clergyman or somebody who is really good at running, let's say a charity or NGO. The list of attributes and skills versus a successful multi-billion dollar international enterprise, the skill set or the build - borrowing from people who are gamers - this character's build, it's identical. Whether you are a money driven, money hungry entrepreneur or you're an altruistic NGO builder, right? The skills are identical. So if you have a dream to run your department different, to run a new idea, new medical idea that could change the world, it all takes the same skill set, right? Same resources. So we just came back from Iceland at a CME trip and we met this dermatologist who discovered that he grew up in Iceland and it's a fishery country and they throw away the fish skin since he was a kid, and he discovered fish skin is the best for human skin regrowth. And so he created a product, right, that is selling everywhere and haven't got in Canada. And fish skin has the least amount of rejection compared to, you know, any other animals.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:14:09] Wow.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:14:09] This thing is going gangbusters. And you know what? I look at them, this is now, this thing is going public, they have like 20 plus million dollars of investors money. Right? And now this becomes, his dream became true because somebody kicked in with that entrepreneurial side. Right? Get together with him and make this dream come true. And now it's benefitting people all over the world.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:14:32] I love that.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:14:33] That's a good story, right?


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:14:35] Yeah. And you know, again, one of the things that that's so important as well is this notion of margin, right? That there has to be some balance in our personal and professional lives to create space to come up with these ideas and to develop them and then to actively work towards them. Right? Like, you know, if you're working 80 hours a week and you've got a big dream, it's going to be frankly, hard to achieve. I don't know. What are your thoughts on that, Wing?


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:15:02] Yeah, exactly. So people say, where do you find time? But I think we always find time to think, do things we want, because time management is never rational. It's emotional based.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:15:12] Ooh, I like that.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:15:14] Were we supposed to do this, and supposed to do dictation, do charts, and you ended up watching six hours of Netflix, right? Because you're so, so dry, so burnt out that you got to pacify yourself with something, right? So I think what is more costly than time is headspace, right? So I tell people that I'm a serial entrepreneur. I build multi-million dollar corporate entities, so I'm a profit driven, some are for profit, some are not for profit. But it all takes time and effort. So persistent quality, part time effort, right? We could carve out from our calendar say, I want to, let's say you name a number, two hours, three hours, five hours, ten hours, whatever. Right? We just met a new person that we met through our Physician Encounter Endeavor. This guy now cuts out 15% of his week to do something entrepreneurial. Right? So as long as you can do that, well, it's no different than if you need to take a master's degree like MBA, MPH or whatever through your residency or through your clinical hours, you carve out the time to do it, right? So if you do that and nurture the entrepreneurial side and with the bright mind that you already got - you won't be a successful physician if you're not being bright - we just need to give ourselves permission that, okay, I'm learning a new thing, I'm starting from zero, right? From being like a pre-med student stage, right? And we just own that up and say, Hey, I'm an idiot outside of my own field. I'm going to start in the field and the time.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:16:44] I love that that, that powerful humility, that vulnerability.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:16:49] And the permission for us to say, okay, I'm learning a new thing, like learning a new language, go to yoga class, and knowing nothing like me learning dance, right? When could not even dance like Pinocchio, like my kid said, right? Start something new. You learn something new and that's about personal growth.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:17:05] And I was just going to add, you know, before when we started our journey together, and we've been at this for well over the better part of a decade now, but I remember being the type that used to be terrified of being the dumbest one in the room. And now I feel honored to be the dumbest one in the room because I feel like I'm learning. But that was a mindset shift for me, to realize that I'm being immersed in a field or a topic or an area of expertise that I have no background in, that someone else is going to know a lot more than me and this is my time to to quietly learn or not so quietly learn and ask my questions. But that takes a lot of personal work and personal growth that's very far from that medical student or resident on the wards who's getting ready to get thrown a doozy of a question by the senior resident or the staff or the fellow, and you're expected to know it. And God forbid you're not the smartest one or one of the smarter ones in the circle at the patient's bedside. So it's a big mindset shift.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:18:10] Yes, because contrary to our paradigm, the know-it-all does not own the world, right? And here's a paradigm that I've learned, that I embrace now, if you get the why big enough, the why, then the whats would come to you. The whats and the hows would come to you. Just like Mr. Ford, when he started this motor vehicle revolution. And he actually started with a dream. His dream is not to be the number one seller of cars, his dream was when he grew up he saw the countryside, he lived in the countryside, his dream was to have every American have a chance to have an affordable way to travel to see the countryside. And because of that dream, right, and he's not an engineer, he's not a technical person, and one time at a press conference, they say, Mr. Ford, how do you become so smart? Do you actually know how to fix this part of the engine? And then he picked up the phone and they said, wait a minute, what are you doing? He says, I'm going to call my engineer. They said, That's cheating. He says, No, that's not cheating. In real life, if the why is picking up, the hows would come to you. Right? So I think that is important, right? People ask me, how do you learn so much about so many things? You have your hands in so many different things. I said because I hang out with people smarter than me. Right? Always look to be the dumbest. And one day when we were building this senior home, I found myself downtown in one of the top architect firms. So there are a few of us surrounded by 3 architects and 15 engineers from different disciplines.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:19:38] Oh, wow.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:19:39] These are top notch engineers. And they were grilling us and saying, What do you want? What do you want us to build? Right? And I'm just not qualified. I'm just the dumbest person in the room. But I had a dream. But I had a dream.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:19:54] Exactly. Exactly. So I think we could go on and on in this area. But tell us, like, what practically have you done in terms of personal development to get where you are as an entrepreneur? Going from that very narrow technician to being this expansive entrepreneur who dabbles in so many fields. Tell us.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:20:23] Sure. So I think we already talked about some ABCs, maybe we just put them down more formally. A is to give yourself permission, right? That I don't know anything. I'm learning a new discipline. The second part is to carve out your head space, right? You got to dedicate some head space together as time and also quietness. The mindfulness that I'm going to learn this and then you got to feed it. You got to feed that part of the brain. You got to turn the genes on. You got to keep feeding it. And that's why listen to podcasts. And well, 30 years ago there were no podcasts, right? You can read books, you can listen to tapes. I grew up with tapes, right? And so for now, you can listen to our podcast. And actually, Kevin, you and I were just talking about we're going to start a new series, right, called the Medical Entrepreneurship. And let this be our kickoff, right? This kickoff session. We're going to interview a lot of our colleagues who have that mutation, that mutant gene of entrepreneurialism. And when you interview our colleagues, how do they do it? What started it? We're going to interview people's journey. And somewhere there is like a tuning fork where you go binnnngg and the guitar box, the rest of this box is going to resonate, right? So we put different tuning forks and then we're going to turn people on. We're going to turn on your gene, right? And those of you who have that gene, it's going to echo. And those of you who don't think you have one, maybe you would echo too.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:21:45] Take time to explore it. You know, and the other thing I'll reflect on is the goal is less important than you think. The journey is far more meaningful.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:21:56] That's right. Yeah.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:21:57] You know, because for me, just reflecting on my own journey as an entrepreneur, there's just been so much growth and it's been so much fun and so exciting and I think that's a real source of personal renewal is like doing more than just the 9 to 5 grind. And we know it's not the 9 to 5 grind, it's the 8 to 8 grind for doctors.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:22:20] Yeah, exactly.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:22:22] It has to be more than that.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:22:23] It's very hard for us. It comes with a price tag, right? It comes with a price tag. So it's an investment. It's an investment in your future and for unknown number of people's lives. Right? Because when I go to the wellness center that we built, there are patients who say, Wow, we're so thankful that somebody built this. They from two hours away, rural, they could come to Sherwood Park and downtown Edmonton. And I'm glad that when I want to go to this center, I'm not known. People don't know me. I have a very healthy ego. I don't need to be thanked. But it scares me sometimes to think about what if I did not activate on my dream? That reality today that everybody took for granted would not be there. We would be struggling. Our medical delivery would be a mess in our county. Right. So exposure. Exposure, right? And then learn the lingo, learn the mentality, talk to people. Allow yourself to dream. Allow yourself to take more risks. It's a metamorphosis.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:23:22] And allow yourself to fail.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:23:25] Exactly.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:23:26] This is a lot less stress than you think it is. If you can get past the ego component where you're worried about what people think or what you'll see in the mirror when you look. You know, when it comes to, you know, especially like, you know, sort of business and real estate and things like that, you know, there's money at stake, right? But it's not the same pressure as medical errors. And so, like, be comfortable failing, be comfortable having setbacks and frustrations and be comfortable learning from those. That was the other thing that I took from that is that it sounds so cliche to say that, you know, failure is the path to success, but it is. Every single highly successful entrepreneur, highly successful, not just entrepreneur, you know, whether it's a political leader, an athlete, a musical performer, an actor, an actress, that person has had innumerable failures on their path to success. And we don't know them, right?


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:24:24] We only meet them when they're successful. Right? So I have kids who are musicians, right? So I understand that mentality. And then in our in our profession, there is zero margin of error. Right? So therefore, it's very one of the toughest thing is not A) every time you're successful, the first time you try, you got to fail. B) I'm not the know-it-all. Right? I need to be the dumb guy, right? And don't DIY, don't do it yourself, do it your way. If there's one way to do it, do it yourself. So I find it very difficult for us to delegate. If you want to be huge in this entrepreneurial world, you gotta learn to let go of yourself.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:25:02] Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:25:04] And we teach this concept of leverage. I have a talk on that in Mexico that we did about leverage. Right? It's leverage is the way to to build success. The time, money and talents, the three essential T's for success. All of those lessons are learned and you learn from your own mistakes or other people's mistakes. So it's better to learn from other people's mistakes. Right? And that's why it's good to join us. Join us on our podcast, webinar, Masterclass, fun conferences and our destiny trips. That's where we share our ups and downs.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:25:38] Yeah, and there are a lot of downs.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:25:42] Lots of downs. It was shameless. We share our failure stories, right?


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:25:46] It was no fun having a business built around live events during the pandemic. Yeah, that was a real struggle. Nobody seemed to want to come to our conferences while a pandemic was ravaging the globe.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:26:00] Or at a Mexico conference. The spouse showed up, but the doctor could not because of pandemic, the hospital would not let him go.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:26:08] Yeah. So lots of ups and downs, but still so wonderful. And so with that being said, why don't we wrap it up? Because we'll be coming back to this topic over and over again.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:26:21] Yeah, so Kevin, so we're going to interview people. So we already have a list of people. And for people who are our audience, if you have a good story to share about your journey of medical entrepreneurship, let us know. We would love to hear your story.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:26:36] Oh yeah, yeah. I was just going to say please and I forgot to plug this many episodes ago and I got to start remembering to do it now. If you are hearing this and you want to share something on a topic of wellness, practice transformation, leadership, finance, entrepreneurship, talk to us because we want more guests on the podcast. We want this to be a community of physicians who are sharing their story, sharing their journey. We don't want it to be the Wing and Kevin Show. So if you have something great, let us know and we'd love to have you on the show. Okay. That's it. That's it. Thank you.


Dr. Wing Lim: [00:27:13] Okay. Thanks, everyone.


Dr. Kevin Mailo: [00:27:16] Thank you so much for listening to the Physician Empowerment podcast. If you're ready to take those next steps in transforming your practice, finances or personal well-being, then come and join us at - P H Y S Empowerment dot ca - to learn more about how we can help. If today's episode resonated with you, I'd really appreciate it if you would share our podcast with a colleague or friend and head over to Apple Podcasts to give us a five star rating and review. If you've got feedback, questions or suggestions for future episode topics, we'd love to hear from you. If you want to join us and be interviewed and share some of your story, we'd absolutely love that as well. Please send me an email at [email protected]. Thank you again for listening. Bye.