Pat Iyer, MSN RN LNCC is a legal nurse consultant, coach, author, ghostwriter and editor. She built a large and successful legal nurse consulting business which she sold in 2015. Pat is a prolific author. She has written, edited or coauthored more than 800 chapters, books, case studies, online courses or articles. Her websites include Editingmybook.com and Legalnursebusiness.com.
In this interview, Pat shares how her early experience as a nursing expert witness made her start a legal nurse consultancy that helps lawyers and their clients in malpractice cases. She also shares about the hardest decision she's ever made, leaving her job and the security of its paycheck.
Her advice for new entrepreneurs:
I recommend looking before leaping into a business. Make sure that what you have to offer meets a need that others have. If at all possible keep the security of a job and start the business part time.
What motivated you to start a business as a legal nurse consultant? How did the idea come about?
In 1987 when I was investigating ideas about how I could use my nursing expertise to become self-employed, I attended a one day program about career alternatives for nurses. The speaker’s description of nursing expert witnesses captured my attention. Once I learned how to find attorneys who handled medical malpractice cases, I approached some offering to review their cases and got a steady stream of requests.
Two years after I started reviewing cases as a medical surgical nursing expert witness, I received a request to review an emergency department case. “I can’t review that case myself, but I have a well-qualified ER nurse colleague I can recommend,” I told the attorney. He hired her. I suddenly realized I could be billing for the services of nursing expert witnesses who covered specialties within nursing. That insight led to the creation of my independent legal nurse consulting business.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you're most proud of?
Like many entrepreneurs, I love the opportunity to learn about and implement new ways of doing business. There is a heady freedom in recognizing the way you can improve on your business and put that idea immediately into action. When I was a nursing administrator, I chafed under the need to get approvals and the slow process of implementing change.
I am most proud of being able to build a solid business, which at the time, I sold it in early 2015, had 200 expert witnesses under contract to review cases for my company. Instead of watching the business fold when I was ready to walk away from it, I see it continue to function, helping attorneys and their clients.
When you started your independent legal nurse consulting company, how did you plan everything out? Any resources you used to write a solid business plan?
I’d like to say I planned everything out, but I responded to the changing market conditions, the needs of my attorney clients, and what I learned about marketing. I have never written a business plan. I have modified my informal, unwritten business plan countless times.
What is the toughest decision you’ve ever made when starting a business? How did it make you better at the end of the day?
One of the hardest aspects of starting a business is making the decision to leave a job. It felt a little like stepping off a cliff. Would there be a safety net? Would I fail? I knew I had to stop driving 1.25 hours one way on crowded highways to my job. It was burning me out. But what would happen if I left the security of that paycheck?
Ultimately, you realize there is no security in a paycheck. Your position could disappear overnight. If you don’t decide to start a business and take the first step, will you regret it? I did not want any regrets.
Most businesses evolve over time. Is there a way that you slowly evolved the mission of your legal nurse consulting business to serve your customers better?
My business took a quantum jump when I moved from me doing all of the cases as an expert witness to working with independent contractors (other expert witnesses).
Before I started my business, I spent some time with two multilevel marketing companies. Although I learned I wasn't destined to sell soap and skin care products, I never forgot the pyramid model. When you are the sole income producer, your revenue is limited by the number of hours you can work in a week. When you hire others, you build a base of wealth.
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you have hit with your business? What was the biggest thing you did to get there?
At the time I sold my legal nurse consulting business, we were billing over a million dollars a year for the previous 5 years. We focused on making sure attorneys were provided with well-qualified experts.
We took complaints very seriously, did an investigation and informed the disgruntled client of how we resolved the issue or changed our system to eliminate the problem from recurring. We practiced with integrity and did the right thing instead of the expedient thing. Attorneys trusted us.
What does your day-in, day-out look like? Is there any specific habit that has helped you become a better person?
Since selling the company, I coach and educate other legal nurse consultants, and have an opportunity to fulfill my other passion, which is editing, writing and ghostwriting. On a weekly basis, I hold coaching calls, talking to people who want to build their businesses and are considering working with me. It is so exciting to me to see people putting into action what I recommend they do for their businesses, and getting results.
Blogging is the habit that has helped me the most in terms of demonstrating my expertise to prospective clients. I have written thousands of blogs and re-purposed them for tweets, books, podcasts and webinars.
Who has been your greatest influencers along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape your legal nurse consulting business?
I am a perpetual learner. Probably the 2 biggest assets for my success in business have been learning how to manage a business using 2 resources:
National Speakers Association: This group focuses on two parts of being a great speaker: platform skills and business management. The business management concepts are applicable to many types of small businesses. I have learned so much by attending conferences and listening to the recordings of all of the presentations.
Marketing conferences and coaches: I’ve invested a lot of time and money learning how to market, and applying the principles to my business activities. The connection to other entrepreneurs has enriched my life.
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones? Any advice for me?
Currently my husband and I divide our time between our homes in NJ and FL. Each offers cultural and recreational activities. I feel I have the best of both worlds.
But I was not always so balanced when I was intensely building my business. It is so easy to self-righteously tell children that you are busy with the business and cannot give them attention, particularly when you work at home. If I could do it over, I would have hired assistants sooner instead of trying to perform all functions myself.
I would have stopped work before dinner and not been lured back to my computer after dinner. When you have small children and people tell you they will be little for a short period, it is easy to ignore that advice. The advice is true.
Both of my sons have entrepreneurial streaks and appreciate what they learned from being the children of two entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in New Jersey today? Where should they start?
I recommend looking before leaping into a business. Make sure that what you have to offer meets a need that others have. It is far easier to meet a need than to create a demand when people don’t feel the need for what you want to offer.
If at all possible keep the security of a job and start the business part time. Then pull away from the job when you have consistent, reliable cash flow from the business. Learn as much as you can about running a business, network, make friends of other business owners, and watch your business soar.