Photo by Artem Podrez

Everyone Says You Should Narrow Your Niche. But Don’t Do It This Way!

In 2012, after many years of clinical practice, I accidentally fell in love with the business development side of healthcare.

I always thought I’d spend my entire career as a clinician. But when I found myself in charge of a failing stem cell clinic and somehow managed to turn things around, I was hooked. So in 2018, when I was offered a C-Suite, non-clinical position at a related company in California, I took it.

While that particular job was not at all what I expected –or hoped for–, taking it taught me a valuable lesson.

Despite being in the same industry, I had to start from scratch.

After years of building my personal brand as a regenerative medicine physician, I suddenly found myself at the bottom. Nobody I now spoke seemed to know me or about me.

“But I have been in the industry for several years! I am a faculty member at the Stem Cell Fellowship… I’ve lectured on this at x and y…” I remember moaning to my wife one evening.

Turns out I had spent the previous years building my thought leadership around what I did, instead of who I was.

What I did could not carry over to my next role.

For example, think of Steve Jobs. His thought leadership was not built around the iPhone, Pixar, or even Apple. Those are all a result of who he was: a visionary leader.

He could jump from industry to industry without losing much of his audience or credibility.

In my case, I made the mistake of building my entire “brand” around the stem cell therapeutics my team and I provided. Even more so, I focused my efforts on developing stem cell therapies for autism.

This narrow focus makes a lot of sense when marketing your clinic, but completely back-fires for personal branding.

Case in point? I built my thought leadership around what I did at one specific moment in time, instead of around myself.

If I could go back in time and talk to 2012’s Dr. E, I’d recommend two things:

This post was first published at



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Ernesto Gutierrez, MD

I teach online business to burned-out practicing physicians wanting to monetize their expertise on the side • Part-time MD. Full-time dad.