Episode 11 : Being an Entrepreneur When You’re a Doctor

dr benjamin burko



Co-founder of the first self-serve online medical appointment making software and former CEO of the Tiny Tots children’s clinics, Ben Burko is the true definition of a “Doctrepreneur”. His entrepreneurial journey started at age 13 and was definitely challenged at the beginning of his medical career. In this episode, see how he used lateral thinking and innovation to combine his abilities for seizing business opportunities to his profession as a pediatrician.

Ben’s Growth Story Book Title: 

Think Laterally and Write Literally

“Everything that crosses my path, everything I read, every patient I see, I think might be useful to me eventually. Things I’ll see in other industries, some other trade shows, lectures… I ask myself, is there any way to redo it and make it mine to make myself better and more efficient. My mind is always open to opportunities.” 

What you’ll learn:

  • Ben has a gift for photography. From age 13, he was running a small photography and videography business as his student job. By the time he graduated from high school, he was the first one of his friends to have a car.
  • Ben takes notes every day of the interesting things he sees as part of his efforts to think laterally.
  • In his early twenties, Ben lost the 20 thousand dollars he had invested in a car repair franchise. From this experience, he learned the valuable lesson of not investing in something you’re not able to control or don’t have knowledge about.
  • Having just started medical school, straight-A student Benjamin failed his first exam ever. The dean of students told him he would have to let go of his photography business in order to succeed in the program. Ben kept the business going and became extremely disciplined instead.
  • Throughout his successful career as a doctor, Ben’s videography career flourished as well. He did documentaries and plenty of other great projects.

Notable quotes:

  • “The entrepreneur part of my journey was a combination of talent, and luck, and desire to do something immediately.” – Ben explaining how he became such a successful entrepreneur… even though he was a doctor. 
  • “How do I do what I’m doing now, but better. How do I make more money at it?” – Ben’s business process re-engineering-a marketing success.
  • “A key point in my story is innovation: how do I do this better than the next person? What can I do differently to distinguish myself?” – Referring to the importance of lateral thinking and innovating in his life and success.
  • “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” – Ben’s late father said this to Ben and it turned out to be very true for him as he benefited so much from the great contact network he built through working alongside others in philanthropic endeavours.

Show notes: 

03:20 – Benjamin Burko is a doctor, former CEO/owner of Tiny Tots and Club Tiny Tots, renown children’s clinic in Montreal.

05:19 – Ben grew up in Côte-Saint-Luc, Montreal, raised by his father as he was a child of divorce.

05:42 – Ben’s father was a professional musician, so they had an amazing cultural life at home, but not a lot of money. Ben attended a private Jewish school thanks to tuition assistance.

10:40 – At only 13, Ben was getting paid to work as a photographer at various events. By the time he was 14, he had completed over 25 gigs.

12:54 – He got his first 35 mm SLR camera as a Bar Mitzvah gift from a cousin.

20:00 – Benjamin Burko attended McGill University.

20:36 – Ben volunteered in a project to create a multimedia show for his high school graduation. He produced it at a community center which had a lot of multimedia equipment that schools were allowed to use called the Education Resource Center. The executive director walked in there while Ben was working and saw his work… this got Ben a job at the center.

41:00 – Early in his medical career, Benjamin Burko worked at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. He was attracted to working in the emergency room because of the shift work schedule (which worked great with having side projects) and the fast-paced environment. After an initial 18 months, he realized he hated the hospital environment because it wasn’t efficient.

46:20 – After switching his medical focus to Ambulatory clinics, Ben launched a start-up division in Pediatrics at an established Montreal-based Adult clinic called Physimed

57:20 – When his software project started, Ben realized he didn’t have the skill set to bring the project to market and lead all the operations, so he took a 2-year Project Management course at McGill.

01:05:27 – Ben was mentioned in a medical journal that all doctors read called The Canadian Medical Association Journal in their 2004-2010 publication.

01:09:40 – Ben is also an associate professor of medicine at McGill.

01:21:20 – Even when the clinic switched to voluntarily financial contribution, 83% of clients still continued to pay the 10$ fees.