Dr. Phil on starting a business: passion is currency, patience is crucial

2 minute read

Dr. Phil says passion and patience are the keys to success in starting your own business. The celebrity mental-health professional should know. His 10-year reign as the popular daytime-television life coach might make him seem more entertainer than entrepreneur, but Phil McGraw is a small business success story.

The former clinical psychologist spent 25 years in private practice, including more than a decade running a Texas forensics litigation consultancy that won Oprah Winfrey as a client, before switching gears to devote himself to a startup media business. Today Dr. Phil has more than 1,500 hours of national television programming to his credit, as well as numerous awards, and 21 Emmy nominations. He has also penned six New York Times bestsellers, which he markets alongside 30 more books and audio products as a Yahoo! Small Business customer with Dr. Phil’s Online Bookstore.

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Small Business, which you can view in its entirety below, or see here, McGraw takes his legendary tough-love approach to advising would-be entrepreneurs. “If you’re doing it for money, don’t do it…it will never work,” he says.  

Dr. Phil on Starting a Small BusinessDr. Phil talks about the passion and patience needed to start a small business.

A confessed workaholic who became anxious and felt like he was wasting time if he wasn’t working on his venture, McGraw says passion for the work, or for the freedom it will give you, is crucial. In the early days, when the hours you work and the income you generate don’t translate to a living hourly wage, passion will be your reward, he says.

“Whether it’s a lawn service or an architectural firm, if you’re passionate about it and you love the work, that’s currency just like money. And when you get that full feeling, when you get that sense of achievement and accomplishment because you love what you’re doing, it recharges your batteries every night,” McGraw says.

A need to see firsthand the outcomes of his efforts is what drives him to be his own boss. “It’s great to be part of a big organization. But I always liked that immediate gratification of being able to see something moving forward,” McGraw says. “Even in the early times when there wasn’t income… I felt like I was moving, I knew I was achieving something.”

McGraw says he learned quickly “why people say that the two big reasons you fail in business are that you underestimate the commitment and you underestimate the capital needs.”  He admits to being overwhelmed by the discovery that “you’ve got to do everything—you’ve got to unlock in the morning, you’ve got to sweep the place out at night, and you’ve got to do everything in between.”

He was also caught off guard by the cost of doing business. Before launching his company, McGraw says he built staying power: “I had cut my expenses, I had arranged things in such a way that I had the ability to live really supercheap, so I knew [I would] keep going and going and going until finally I got some traction.” Still, he says, a lack of foresight about the cash required to fulfill a significant deal almost sunk him. “The business I was working so hard to get almost pulled us under because it cost so much to service it. You’ve got to think about that. I would do that differently the next time around.”

Above all, McGraw says, be realistic. “You don’t go from A to Z in one giant leap. You gotta take steps and you gotta be patient. But if you believe in it and you’ve got a good model, it’ll come.” It sure worked for him.

Also see: Ming Tsai: How to set your Business up for Success.