The Way Off the Practice Treadmill
We talked about the first four stages of practice ownership in the last podcast. Check out that podcast if you haven’t yet. Today we’ll address Stage Five Success, Stage Six Significance, and Stage Seven Succession.
Maybe up to 95 percent of practice owners never experience anything beyond Stage Four, because we simply don’t intend to build a mature practice that gets to Stage Five and beyond. We never thought it was possible because being a hostage to your practice is just the price you pay for “success”. But you get what you intend, not what you hope for…. So, what intention is needed to get to Stage Five and beyond?
Stage Five is the beginning of a whole new way of doing dentistry, where you stop being a hostage to your practice and the practice starts serving you on your way to Freedom. For the first time, your practice is now regularly producing both time and money, not just money.
First, we’ve got to get The Big Mindset Shift right from making money, to building a practice that makes money. The overwhelming majority of practice owners never figure this out. Not because they can’t, but because they have a one-track mind for making money to pay this month’s bills. They are focused on short-term gain.
In Stage Six, the practice is thriving and the owner is now free to invest time in the things that make a practice truly great; the practice and the owner can begin to have a real impact in the community and world around them. Charities are benefiting, the stakeholders are involved in the community, and the owner is thinking about both their own legacy and the legacy of the practice: “What will I leave behind? What statement will this place make about me?”
You’ve finally made it to Stage Seven! You’ve invested the time to move from leadership in place (Stage Six) to leadership in charge, from giving both vision and guidance to only vision. The leader has the reins and can now also guide the ship, as long as you communicate clearly where you want to go. In Stage Six you were giving both vision and guidance (how to do it). Now all you have to do is communicate the vision, because the leader knows how to execute.
In Stage Seven, the practice owner has a number of options: They can stay on as a strategic leader, enjoying the fruits of years of labor, continuing to give vision for the future, and choosing how and when they get involved (in other words, Wealth). They can also decide to sell the practice, sell it to associates, or use it to start acquiring other practices.
I can’t think of any reason why you can’t get here, except for one—you really don’t intend to.
This is not a gifted person’s game; it’s an intentional person’s game. Ask the right question and you will figure out the answer. I’ll say it again: you get what you intend, not what you hope for.
The right question is, “How do I build a mature practice, and when do I want to get there?” This isn’t about building multimillion-dollar practices with dozens of Stakeholders, unless that is what you’re shooting for. This is about creating the lifestyle that you want for you and your family. You can do that with a practice of almost any size.
You use a GPS to get to where you are going right? Whether it is dinner reservations, a sporting event, or your kid’s state championship, understanding where you are going and where are, are monumental! What about with your practice?
Dr. Matthew Norton has been improving the quality of life of countless individuals as well as coaching business leaders and their teams to deep success breakthroughs for more than 35 years. He’s the co-founder of Mindfluence Revolution and the co-leader of the elite Dental Experts Network.
Over the years Dr. Norton created a highly successful practice and became a passionate speaker, thought leader, and author of the breakthrough book Where Does It Hurt?
Dr. Norton is professionally-trained as a Behavior Style, Motivators, Stress Quotient, and Emotional Intelligence analyst. He has evaluated the insights of thousands of assessment reports and applies this knowledge to expand the awareness, communication skills, and success capacity of practice owners and their teams.
Dr. Norton guides dental professionals to become stronger and more emotionally-intelligent leaders of their team, their patients, and their community so they can contribute at the highest level and achieve their most ambitious dreams.
Begin with the end in mind.”
Seven Stages of Practice Ownership
There are seven stages in the maturity cycle of practice ownership. Why seven? Okay, there might be five or twelve, but I’ve found seven that seem clearly different enough to call stages of a practice.
In this podcast, we take a good look at the first four stages, because these are the four that teach us how we got on the treadmill. Stages Five through Seven are the ones that get us off the treadmill, so we’ll walk through them in Part II of this podcast next week.
Stage One: Concept & Startup
This is the stage everyone dreams about. We envision the future with bustling streams of patients coming in and out of our practice, creating rosy spreadsheet projections. The operative emotion in Stage One is a sense of euphoria for having pushed your dream to reality: “What fun!” It’s a great stage and should be relished, but not for long. Startup isn’t something you want to drag out. Get through it as quickly as possible.
Stage Two: Survival
Why should you get moving fast in Stage One? To avoid as much of Stage Two as possible! The problem right out of the gate here is that Stage Two is where you begin to train yourself to spend thirty years on the treadmill as a hostage to your practice. Already at this early stage, your practice is training you in a very bad habit: making money. As you focus on patient acquisition, you get patients and money starts to come in. It’s working, or so you think.
In Stage Three, your accountant comes to you and says, “Good news – you’ve broken even for the last 3-4 months.” The first time this happens you slump in the chair and stare at the wall with a mixture of disbelief, exhaustion, and growing excitement. This practice might be viable after all. The euphoria you had in Stage One but lost in Stage Two is back!
But the euphoria doesn’t last long. Subsistence looks great having just emerged from the Survival stage. The practice is too fragile. It seems that if you even sneeze, you might lose patients.
So in Stage Three, your lifestyle is still on hold, but at least you’re breathing easier. It’s all about the basics, but the basics look great because they’re finally paid for.
Stage Four: Stability
Your marketing, your reputation and referrals finally start to kick in. For the first time you have money left over at the end of the month—actual profit. A new and wonderful question forms in the practice. What will you do with that “extra” $2500 this month?
Stage Four is the “American Dream”, isn’t it? But something is missing. You keep thinking about that one practice owner you know who seems to have a light heart and a quick step, who can get away from work regularly. And when she does, she seems to enjoy the time rather than spending it trying to recover from work. You keep dismissing her as an exception—that’s exactly what she is, but that doesn’t make her a freak. She’s actually quite normal, and the overwhelming majority of practice owners who have stalled in Stage Four are not normal at all. They are just average. She is normal.
Let’s become Freedom Doc. You can escape the Tyranny of your practice and become normal too, if you’ll just change the question in your head. That’s what the Part II of this podcast next week is all about.
We have separated work and personal life since the Industrial Age. How do we reintegrate them and USE our practice to build our Ideal Lifestyle in support of our Lifetime Goals?
Let’s dive in and figure this out!
Two Step Decision-making is this simple:
Step One – Whoever has to execute/carry out the decision should make it.
Step Two – Whoever is affected/impacted by the decision should have input.
Yes, it is utterly simple, but we have found that in many companies steeped in Factory System hierarchy it takes a few months for people to actually work it out in daily life at work.
Understanding why you are doing what you are doing, and how to allow it to pull you through adversity are both essential to establishing your culture, and thus grow your practice. Your BIG “why” needs to be something that can never be checked off as completed. Once something is checked off, you are done with it, something like “having a million dollars in the bank” simply isn’t strong enough to keep you going. The importance of this often gets over looked due to the chaos of the immediate.
Most experts say fifty percent of businesses fail in the first five years and eighty percent within ten years. Don’t believe them. It’s not true. Very few businesses truly “fail,” probably fewer than five percent.
What really happens? The practice owner gets tired because they are focused on the Tyranny of the Urgent, reacting to their practice and living on a treadmill. They become hostages to their practices. When you’re a hostage and you’re tired, you stop paying attention to Important things, and that results in your failure.
A treadmill is very exhausting and demoralizing if you don’t know how to get off of it.
Time and Money
One of the fundamental mistakes we make is to measure our practice against itself instead of against what it provides to us as practice owners. We focus a lot on how it could provide us money but rarely think of how it could provide time for us as well. And it is this separation of the two that keeps us from having enough of either.
Building a Mature Practice
You get what you intend, not what you hope for. What are you intending? To get a lot of revenue? My definition of a “mature practice” is from the point of view of the people in the practice, not from the viewpoint of the practice itself. A mature practice has at minimum two attributes:
- The practice owner is not the major producer— the produce by choice.
- Because of number one, the practice regularly makes money when the owner is not there.
Thinking Differently about Business Maturity
Let’s change our intentions from creating revenue and/or profit, to building a practice that serves our Ideal Lifestyle, and then we can figure out how much revenue and profit we need to do that. It’s a very fine, but very important distinction.
You might be thinking, “But my practice is unique.” Listen to the podcast for the The 1000 to One Principle to get you started, and remember what Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t…
The host of the Dental Heroes Podcast, Paul Etchison, DDS joins us to help understand how important the Participation Age is to our practices. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Does everyone know what our values are, and could they describe them?
2. Do they talk about it? DO they bring them up to me, and others within the team?
Core values, mission statements, do they really matter?
This is the simplest, most impactful and practical principle in the quiver of Participation Age arrows.
The Mission Centered Organization
We should teach everyone that “The mission is the only boss we all have.”
Everything lines up when you fully embrace that simple, but powerful “rule”. To build a great practice and create a happy and loyal patient base, the Mission is the boss.
Following are a few implications of being a Mission-Centered Practice:
- To be Mission-Centered is to not be centered on other things.
The average Factory System dental practice is either Boss-Centered or Department-Centered, or a combination of both, many times with no connection to the practice’s objectives.
- To declare the Mission as the boss is to place ourselves under it.
If the Mission is now the boss, I’m not. I work for, and serve at the pleasure of the Mission Statement.
What Else is Affected By Becoming Mission-Centered?
Following are a few other implications of the power of being Mission-Centered:
- Functions vs. departments. In the Factory System hierarchy, departments and their boundaries are very important. In the Mission-Centered organization, functions can replace departments, both in your language and in a practical sense. Let’s stop guarding fiefdoms and work together to serve the Mission Statement.
- Roles and responsibilities Instead of Titles
We can also emphasize roles and responsibilities, instead of power titles (supervisor, manager, etc.). This helps keep us Mission-Centered; I’m not a supervisor in the marketing department, I’m a Creative Writer in the marketing function that only exists to serve the Mission.
- We must all know the Mission Statement intimately
If we all exist to serve the Mission Statement, that is now the one boss that can hire and fire anyone and everyone. We must all become as intimately acquainted with the Mission Statement, and spend as much time socializing with it as we did before with our human bosses.
When we all serve at the pleasure of the Mission, it levels the playing field in a way that nothing else can, and invites everyone to keep us focused on accomplishing the only thing that really matters, our Mission.
Getting to Know the Mission Statement
- The podcast suggest six extremely practical things you can do to get started.
Our Mission, the one result we want to get for our patients, should be the driving force behind everything and everyone in the practice. We all serve at the pleasure of the mission. We don’t build departmental fiefdoms, but we use our functions to serve and support each other to fulfill the mission.
Episodes featuring Chuck by himself (with no guest interviewed) will include the title along with, in the bottom of the episode image, the book that the content relates to:
MMIKYB (Making Money Is Killing Your Business)
WEAAABI (Why Employees Are ALWAYS A Bad Idea)