The keynote speaker at Business Growth Summit Spring 2021 was Dr. Ken Jeong.¹

After starting his career as a licensed physician, Dr. Jeong made his way into the entertainment industry, appearing in films like The Hangover and Knocked Up, as well as TV shows like NBC’s Community. More recently, he’s been a judge on the hit show Masked Singer, played a supporting role in Crazy Rich Asians, and starred in his own Netflix comedy special.²

Dr. Jeong was interviewed by Weave’s own Kortney Osborne, VP of Marketing. Their conversation covers topics including work/life balance, maintaining a personal connection with your audience, and the parallels between show business and medicine.

Finding balance

Dr. Jeong wears a lot of hats. He’s a comedian, actor, writer, producer, husband, and father. When Kortney asks him how he’s able to juggle all these different roles, Dr. Jeong says it’s all about prioritizing in the moment.

For Dr. Jeong, prioritizing in the moment involves a combination of long-term goals, short-term goals, and daily activities. The pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns has made this type of prioritizing even more necessary. Dr. Jeong is constantly bouncing between his larger goals, current projects, and the demands of his day-to-day life. He achieves balance by organically thinking about his priorities.

The art of capturing attention

Dr. Jeong considers developing the aptitude of learning to be essential in every field. Capturing the attention of an audience requires both art and science. As a physician, he discovered that he was able to practice the art of medicine only after he’d mastered the science thoroughly.

“You can’t get to art unless you master the science,” says Dr. Jeong. “Once you’ve mastered the science, you have a flow, a personality, a sense of self within the science, and that becomes an artform.”

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Attracting an audience

At the start of his career, Dr. Jeong’s goal wasn’t to establish an audience. He just wanted to work as an actor. He thought he wasn’t the right fit for lead roles, so he focused on finding a place as a character actor.

Dr. Jeong didn’t set out to get attention. He aspired to make himself happy with personal growth and fulfillment. Only after he landed a role in The Hangover did Dr. Jeong realize his full potential. His team and his manager embraced this success and turned it into other opportunities in show business.

“I think of my life as a series of pivots,” says Dr. Jeong. “Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad. You have to always be ready to pivot.”

Maintaining a personal connection

As Dr. Jeong became more prominent in the entertainment industry, he went through the process of scaling. In his profession, scaling involves hiring people like endorsement agents, publicists, and agents specializing in other types of acting.

How did Dr. Jeong maintain a personal connection with his audience throughout this process? He says his friend once complimented him by telling him that he has the ability to both expand and contract. Some might say Dr. Jeong knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. The awareness has enabled Dr. Jeong to maintain a personal connection with his audience over the years.

Expanding vs contracting

Kortney asks Dr. Jeong about how business people can know when to expand and when to contract. For him, the entertainment industry makes it readily apparent. He simply pays attention to the opportunities that present themselves. And sometimes they don’t.

For example, Dr. Jeong found out his sitcom Dr. Ken was being cancelled only two days before filming his most important scene in Crazy Rich Asians. Dr. Ken was basically his small business. He’d created and starred in it, and understanding it was being taken away from him and his team was a tough pill to swallow. Dr. Jeong only managed to cope with this loss by relying on his strong team and family.

Medicine and comedy

Growing up, Dr. Jeong was a gifted student and always believed he’d be either a biologist or a physician. “I thought I was wired that way,” he says.

In fact, Dr. Jeong was never involved in any theater arts or comedy until he took an acting class while at Duke University. Since then, he’s learned the merits of taking artistic risks. He encourages his children to stay on top of their studies, but also not to be afraid of thinking outside the box.

Making medical practices attractive

When Dr. Jeong was interviewing for a residency position at a hospital in New Orleans, he met a nephrologist that told him to blend the lessons he learned from both comedy and medicine. This conversation gave Dr. Jeong the clarity he needed as a young doctor. He understood that comedy and medicine were not incompatible.

“Healthcare and entertainment are both fields where you’re trying to communicate with an audience, with the person listening to you,” says Dr. Jeong. Doctors can learn from the efficient and clearcut communication of entertainers, and entertainers can learn from the team mindset exhibited in the medical field.

Capitalizing on your uniqueness

Dr. Jeong thinks medical professionals should mimic entertainers’ ability to capitalize on their own uniqueness. He recommends finding non-medical characteristics that make you unique and streamlining them into your business model.

He also tells doctors not to listen to what others think about their uniqueness. You know what makes you different. Amplify that authenticity in your communication with patients and potential customers to enhance your marketing.

Advice for small businesses

“Anything is possible,” says Dr. Jeong. “Don’t be afraid to admit you’re scared and don’t be afraid to fail.”

Dr. Jeong knows the fear of failing from personal experience. As an aspiring actor, he knew he had talent and passion, but he was still uncertain about how his career change would go. Still, he says, he would have been at peace without having his career launched by The Hangover. You have to try and you have to fail if you really want to succeed.