Most small business owners are used to giving answers, not asking questions. If you followed around some of the world’s top CEOs and leaders, you would find the exact opposite is true. The best leaders are great at asking questions, so that the best ideas win and the best answers quickly become evident, even if they arise from the least-expected team members.
Management expert Peter Drucker was well-known for asking smart questions like, “What changes have recently happened that don’t fit what everyone knows?” Read that question again and let it sink in for a minute.
Most leaders start their meetings with assumptions, biases and beliefs about their market. They see any change in the market as something to be dealt with based on their existing talents and tools. They almost never assume the solution is entirely out of their wheelhouse. They simply go about fitting every “nail” to their hammer. Drucker’s question, however, forces you to stop and ask what you don’t know.
If revenue and profit are up this quarter, why? Start with what you might not know. Maybe there’s a new employer in your area offering excellent audiology coverage. Might that be the unknown source of your good fortune? Perhaps the referral campaign you did 60 days ago is finally catching up with busy schedules and spouses who want to get their loved ones into the hearing health care provider before their vacation. Maybe consumer confidence has a lot to do with your growth, etc.
The list should be long of possible reasons why something different is happening in your business, but you’ll never articulate the actual reason if leadership insists on giving answers instead of asking smart questions. If things aren’t growing as quickly as you would like, here are five of Drucker’s questions to ask of your team at your next meeting:
Too many small business owners can’t articulate a powerful and meaningful reason why they exist in the marketplace other than the fact that they want to earn a living and they like what they do. I’m sorry, but the market doesn’t care that you like to boost clarity or perform surgery or help clients with legal problems. The market only cares how much value you can deliver in solving problems for consumers.
Too many small business owners are unclear about exactly whom they serve. We were crystal clear years ago when we stopped treating children and cochlear implant candidates. We’ve never looked back and have continued to grow, even by dismissing 25% of our previous new patient flow. We know exactly whom we serve and we know precisely what they value.
Finally, what is your plan and how will everyone in your organization know if you’re making progress? Drucker says, “Progress and achievement can be appraised in qualitative and quantitative terms. These two types of measures are interwoven – they shed light on one another – and both are necessary to illuminate in what ways and to what extent lives are being changed.”
Know what your results are and how to measure them.
If you need some inspiration in making your next quarter one of your best ever, stop coming to the table with all the answers and instead start asking better questions. Set the framework and keep asking, “What more can we do to delight our patients?” Your team will have answers. Give them the freedom and motivation to pursue them in service of your mission.
Advertisers wasted $5.8 billion last year on digital ads that were viewed by bots and fake accounts. According to the Association of National Advertisers and fraud-detection company White Ops Inc., “Ad-fraud schemes have quickly risen and been much more difficult to measure.”
No kidding. If ad fraud was easy to measure, we advertisers would fix it quickly. But it’s not, and here we are, wasting $5.8 billion (with a B) each year on fake ads. This kind of makes “fake news” seem not all that bad. At least you can see fake news. Fake ads go nowhere, to walls of phones in China, called click farms (see photo below) that visit your site and click your ads but without human accounts attached to them.
Advertising platforms get rich. You get screwed.
This brings me, quickly, to one big, hairy obstacle in your business. Whether it’s marketing, managing your employees, running your clinic, overseeing your retirement accounts, etc.:
can only measure what you can see.
If you don’t understand how the money is made in an investment opportunity (i.e., if you can’t see it) don’t invest. If you can’t oversee your employees taking cash across the counter, then don’t take cash. If you can’t accurately predict and then count how many appointments a certain case type will require for your associates to treat in your clinics, then don’t have associates or don’t treat those cases. If you can’t count the number of people who received your advertising campaign and then measure how many raised their hand and came to your office as a result of your marketing, then don’t do it.
This all sounds simple in theory but, as the $5.8 billion in waste last year illustrate, very difficult in application. You can start by insisting everyone around you count. If your web design firm can’t show you how many unique visitors you had last month, how long they stayed on your site, which ones clicked where and how many of those clicks resulted in webform submissions or phone calls to your business, then fire that firm and call my friends at Jimmy Marketing.
I just did a webinar with Jimmy Nicholas a few weeks ago where you learned how I generated 15 new case starts in two days and 9 of those came from Google. I updated his team this week to show that it wasn’t a fluke, as we just did 10 case starts last Wednesday and six of them were from Google.
Jimmy and his team are the only firm on the planet that help audiologists and hearing specialists control and count what we can see. If we can’t see it and we can’t count it, we don’t do it. We want results we can take to the bank. Everyone else in digital advertising is lying to you and it’s costing the economy billions.
I find it highly enlightening and hilarious that Google had two full-page ads as a centerfold in the main section of the New York Times last weekend. Couldn’t Google just run more Google ads to tell us how great their platform is?
Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle didn’t write an eBook or a blog post or a series of Tweets or Google hangouts to share their message. They didn’t use Instagram or SnapChat. They killed a bunch of trees and spilled a ton of ink, then they glued all the pages together into a book-book and shipped it all over the world via carbon-spewing trucks, planes, trains and ships.
Because the executives at Google like to count. They wouldn’t be caught dead wasting $5.8 billion of their own precious Silicon Valley dollars on stuff that doesn’t work, but they are more than happy to oblige if you’d like to behave poorly and waste your own dollars on their platform.
Pay attention to the irony in all of this. It’s so thick you can cut it with a knife. And, for the love of all things good, just because everyone else is wasting money online doesn’t mean you have to.
Get in touch with Jimmy or get to one of my masterminds as a “fly on the wall” where we can teach you how we count and how we’re quickly doubling and tripling the size of most hearing and audiology practices very quickly.
We’ll show you how to count and control what you can see. Everything else is a mirage.
Join me and Jimmy Nicholas in Boston on Saturday, November 16, 2019 for a small-group mastermind where I will show you all of the latest consumer marketing funnels and online ads that can help you double or triple your new patient numbers this year. Seating is limited.
The latest online shopping craze has a unique twist. Instead of sitting in front of a web browser or flipping through items on a smartphone, millions of Chinese consumers are obsessed with live-stream shopping.
ShopShops employs real people to go into real stores, like a T.J. Maxx in New York City, and stream their visit to as many as 10,000 people live watching from China. These shopping trips are some what of a cross between live home shopping network and game show, where buyers race to get great deals on items that are unavailable in China or often counterfeit.
Buyers can interact with the hosts, asking them questions or making requests to hold up items or model them at a “selfie” distance to see what they might look like in person. The company streams about 220 live shows each month, with an average of $6,000 in sales per session.
ShopShops has employees in multiple cities throughout the U.S., Dubai and London. Easily generating $1.2 to $1.5 million per month, this is a brilliant example of selling it differently.
Skin cream, perfume, popular items and vintage products all sell quickly and buyers often stay for the entire duration of the live streams, unable to resist the fear of missing out.
What might the live-streaming shopper or her assistants find next?
One jewelry store owner in Manhattan paid attention to this interesting trend when a live-stream shopper came into his store. Now he opens early one Saturday and one Sunday per month, so he can live-stream at 9pm local-time in China. In three hours, the jewelry store does more than 10% of their sales for the entire month.
There’s nothing new under the sun, but combining popular elements from existing media channels or techniques can often produce tremendous results.
Wrap your SUV and take a tent to every live event in your town. If you don’t schedule an extra 50 patients this year from those efforts, I’ll eat my shorts.
Find a local high-quality restaurant or jewelry store that will do an endorsed mailing to their house list, promoting your office and a special offer to their customers if you’ll do the same for them. Often you only need to place a small coupon or offer in your new patient welcome bag.
There’s nothing new about live-streaming, personal shoppers or exclusivity and scarcity, but a very smart company has combined them and is quietly churning $15-20 million per year in online sales. They aren’t even selling their own products. They are simply selling them differently.
I returned from a great meeting with clients recently and met my assistant to go over our plans for the coming week. If I’m in one of our offices, I like to go walking around and say hello, let people know I’m still alive and, occasionally, like I observed today, I get to see a new employee or two in training.
At our departure desk today, there was a new smiling face in training and a handful of patients checking out, all under the careful guidance of two administrative employees and their supervisor. If this new employee was paying attention, and it appears she was, then she learned a powerful lesson today about what patients and spouses want when it comes to hearing appointments.
Most of these patients were coming back in 1-2 weeks for prescription changes and two were coming back in three months for a cleaning or observation appointment, I’m not sure, I was only in the area for 20 or 30 seconds. 100% of these patients said some variation of the same thing. When asked which day of the week works best for them, they all said, “The day and time that is least likely to make me wait.”
Steve Jobs has a famous quote about the customer not knowing what they want until you show it to them. This advice is cute and different. It flies in the face of consumer surveys and focus groups, but it assumes you face the same daunting task of inventing the next great technological revolution, like the iPhone.
You need not reinvent the mobile phone. Your job is not that complicated. You simply need to listen to what patients want and give it to them.
Pouring over 20,000 new patient appointment requests from last year alone for our clients and our privately-held practices; reading the transcripts from over 1,000 secret shopper tapes, the data are crystal clear: your patients and their spouses want appointment times that are convenient to them, and don’t make them wait on you.
If you ignore this and fail to provide your new patients with convenient appointment times (think 5pm, 6pm, 7pm or later) within 7-10 days, they will go somewhere else and/or, if you can get them to show up, they are 400% less-likely to start treatment. * Don’t shoot the messenger.
In a new study from researchers at MIT, the journal Marketing Science reports that consumers make much simpler decisions than most marketers assume. Our brains are really good at deploying an “index strategy” or a straightforward ranking of our options. The advantage of making only slightly better decisions wouldn’t be worth it, in most product and service categories, so we quickly rank the options we believe are available to us based on simple factors like price and quality, finalizing our decision when there is a clear winner. However, when consumers are not able to clearly index their options, they get stuck and delay the decision until there is a clear winner, if ever one appears.
As the only practice owner on the planet paying attention to this research, and as someone who fully understands its power and importance in the consumer markets of hearing aids and treatment, I acutely implore you to pay attention as well.
Stop pretending like patients and spouses care about the technology you use or the level of training you received as a specialist. They don’t. That might bother you but it doesn’t make it untrue. Start recording your new patient phone calls and checkout desk. You’ll hear the same thing all day long. “What’s your appointment time that won’t make me wait on your?”
Pay attention and give consumers what they want, or go work for someone who will.
Adam Phillips is a brilliant writer, psychologist and regular contributor to The London Review of Books. The closest I can come to the kind of people who think at this level, is that they let me subscribe to The London Review of Books. Barely.
Although I don’t agree with Phillips on a lot of issues, I take particular delight in his assessment of couples who come to him with a desire to change something about their partner. He says, “It is not unusual for each member of a couple to know exactly what is missing in their partner; and to know, by the same token, how their lives would be different, that is, so much better, if their partner would change in particular ways.”
I see this with clients and the relationship they have with their businesses. They live as if they know more about the experiences they haven’t had, than they do about the experiences they have had.
They speak in great detail and with great longing about more new patients, employees who perform better, patients and colleagues that respect their work; how life would be easier and how it would make them happier. And yet, when I ask about the existing data in the practice, they can’t provide it. Think about that for a moment.
Smart doctors sit across the table from me and pay me tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege to do so and for my assistance in helping them achieve what they want to achieve, but they are completely disconnected from the reality of the situation, while simultaneously recounting to me in vivid detail all the benefits and pleasure they will derive from something that has not yet happened and might never happen.
Make your list tonight. Where in your practice and in your personal life are you overriding something important in the present, so that you can day dream about what might happen in the future? Freud might label many of the things on your list as “repression,” or the burying in oneself of what one prefers not to know or feel.
In 2013, when I met my current business coaches, I knew I needed to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t rely on the industry insiders to grow my specialty practice. Yet, it had taken me nearly three years to come to that realization.
I was burying in myself the fact that I wasn’t the best at positioning, marketing, managing a business. I just wanted to be in charge. My coaches told me there was a simple solution: to get out of business and go work for someone who knew how to do the things that really mattered. Wow. That stung but he was absolutely right.
Some doctors are pissed off at the fact that their future hasn’t arrived by now, but I think they deserve everything in their lives, both good and bad. Harsh but true.
A powerful solution is to bridge the gap between what you’re looking forward to and what you’re burying in yourself that needs to be known and felt.
Get to work.
In the 1980s, Ross and Lepper published the seminal work on the perseverance of beliefs. This is the tendency for people to continue to believe something is true even when it is revealed to be false or disproved.
In one study, students took an aptitude test and were told they scored poorly. Later, when they learned the exam was miss-scored, most participants were unable to erase the experience. They continued to persevere in their beliefs.
What faulty beliefs do you have about your practice and what faulty beliefs does the marketplace have about you and the profession of hearing health care? These are million-dollar questions that you must answer.
If I had a dollar for each time an audiologist or specialist told me direct mail doesn’t work in their market or that they are doing a good job answering their phones, I’d be a lot richer than I already am.
It’s OK, I don’t coach and consult for my health. I do it to feed my Sound of Life Foundation. I make my money in my clinics, and in real estate. So, I’ve stopped taking irrational disbelief from audiologists and practice owners as a personal insult. I’ve started calling it willful ignorance.
Listen. If you’re honest with yourself, this isn’t a question about how often we commit this sin of perseverance of belief, but rather why is this tendency so prevalent?
Sometimes we make false correlations between events or we stay the course due to sunk costs. For example, our collections and production are up right after hiring a new treatment coordinator, so we assume a potentially false correlation between the new hire and our success in the treatment room.
Even if I show you proof that your TC is screwing up the new patient process, you’re likely to drag your feet on replacing or moving this employee to a different position due to false correlation and sunk cost bias.
Finally, consider the power of your beliefs and past experiences and their ability to limit your problem-solving skills. Most small business owners go to battle with important problems and challenges in the marketplace with little more than their own limited experience and false beliefs. This is dangerous and if you run a business where your past strategy is the only thing you have to deploy against new challenges, you put everyone around you at risk as well.
In my book I list critical core competencies I see missing in most audiology and hearing health care practices, not based on my own past experience and belief but on the secret shopper data from over 1,000 new patients.
You see, there are things you and I might believe about our practices and about our patients and their desires, but it’s hard to argue with the transcripts and video tape from a thousand new patients.
Solving problems for patients and delivering more value than everyone else in your market and in your price-tier isn’t rocket science, but it’s so powerful to get outside your own head and shed the biases, false beliefs and erroneous correlations in our industry that doing so will make you appear as smart as a rocket scientist.
At lunch this weekend, my 13-year-old stepdaughter told me “at dad’s house, we keep our opinions to ourselves.” I didn’t even finish swallowing my food before I said, “I completely disagree,” quickly stopping all conversation at the table.
I asked, “When should you freely share your opinion, even if it isn’t well-received?” All three of my kids at the table had good answers. When a friend is being a little too crazy on the trampoline or if you know something that could help someone, like telling them they are going the wrong way to the airport, etc.
We quickly boiled it down to a litmus test: if your opinion can prevent unwanted harm or facilitate something good, share it and don’t be shy. People who don’t have the guts to say what they think, especially when it can help someone or prevent something bad from happening, usually live quiet lives of despair.
“You’ll never get what you deserve in life if you keep all your thoughts and opinions to yourself,” I said, “Plus the conversations are a lot more interesting and you’ll probably learn something about the other person that can help you both in the future.”
I share this story because you own a business and you have a handful or even scores of employees who are afraid to share their opinions with you. The smartest and most-successful amongst us are really good at helping our employees be tactful, yet we do not surround ourselves with sycophants. Brené Brown calls it “getting comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.”
I had private clients in a few weekends ago who are very smart and capable, growing quickly and experiencing the challenges and complexities that come with growth. One of the challenges is stepping aside and letting someone else take the reins on projects and responsibilities inside the practice.
In determining who will step up to the plate and be their team leader, the only question I had for one potential inside hire was whether or not she could be blunt and honest yet tactful with you if someone needed to be fired. Their immediate answer was, “Absolutely not.”
“So, she’s not a leader,” I said. Keep looking and make sure you put people in positions of responsibility who are comfortable having uncomfortable conversations, who are not sycophantic in their approach with you, and yet, can still be tactful with subordinates.
My parents and grandparents taught me this skill when I was a child. I’m now teaching it to my kids. Never assume your employees and team leaders had this taught to them at a young age. Odds are, they didn’t and you must insist that you are surrounded by tactful leaders willing to share their opinions.
Most small business owners have scores of reports they check each month to help them manage their money. Expenses and revenue are tracked meticulously. Budgets are set and regularly reviewed before new investments are made in technology or human capital.
Even the average business owner has some idea of their production, collections and expenses this week or this month and how they compare to the same period last year or last month. The more engaged business owner receives these reports daily or even twice a day, like I do. Yet, almost no small business owner manages their time with the same care and consistency. Time in most businesses goes largely unmanaged.
Think about the number of phone calls, text messages, emails, meetings and unscheduled interruptions throughout your day. Very few doctors have grasped the huge amount of waste they allow into their day because they have failed to set clear rules on how they govern their time.
Leaders at The Disney Institute state it very simply: if you want better results, raise your expectations. Is there a clear understanding in your business about how you and your employees are to spend their time?
Do you allow your team to squander away your scarcest resource through ineffective use of email, unproductive meetings and constant interruptions? What would your practice look like if you could spend more time with patients and less time on activities that do not produce results? What would your overhead look like if you took time management as seriously as financial management?
A recent report from researchers at Bain & Company looked at the time management of 17 of the world’s top companies. What they found should not be surprising. Companies are drowning in digital communication. Leaders deal with hundreds of emails per day and spend way too much time in meetings. There is not enough formal control and employees are awash in dysfunctional meetings. There are few consequences for wasting time, less work is getting done and these firms are not as productive as they could be.
Your first job as the leader in your organization is to set the focus for the coming year. Steve Jobs was known for taking his top 100 leaders off-site each year to focus on the company’s 10 priorities in the coming year. After intense competition amongst the leaders to get their priorities on the board, Jobs would take a marker and cross out the bottom seven. “We can only do three,” he would announce. Jobs would not allow Apple to waste time on things he knew the company shouldn’t be doing. This allowed the firm to innovate much faster than their competitors.
Before your next meeting, ask how you can standardize the data you need in order to quickly set strategy and review performance. Do not allow new meeting time to show up on your calendar. Focus your team so they know the rhythm of the company is set and that they will be forced to operate within it, producing results and reducing wasted time. It’s possible but it takes discipline and your effort and attention in this area of your practice will produce big dividends. No amount of skill or money can buy you 25 hour days. If you want to beat the competition, start making the most of this precious resource.
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of social media and Facebook groups. Particularly for pathologic perfectionists (i.e., audiologists), this method of communication is dangerous for several reasons:
First, those who post in these forums assume they assert unique views and ideas, imagining themselves as individuals. Yet, to a great extent, the views espoused are heavily influenced by colleagues, friends in the group, childhood upbringing and society at large. If you could track the views and opinions of the average member inside these groups, as a function of time, you would see them bend towards the average, the longer the member operates and communicates within the group.
This is only one reason why you’ll never catch me dead inside a Facebook group for audiologists. It’s also why you’ll never see a user group with this type of communication created for CEOs of publicly-traded companies. One of my friends and business mentors travels to New York City at the end of next month to ring the bell on the New York Stock Exchange, as the company in which he is heavily invested is finally going public and they invited him and a small handful of leaders to be present for the big day.
At dinner this weekend, I asked him why he thought people operating at his level (i.e., above $100 million in net worth) don’t waste their time on social media, and in particular, inside private Facebook groups, as more and more doctors seem to be wasting countless hours in these potentially destructive environments. His answer was pretty shocking: “Many people look for validation in groups because they are insecure. They flock together and succumb to the pressure to fit in and blend in because they are uncertain about their self-worth.”
I nodded in agreement because I’ve seen the damage of groupthink firsthand. You might be subconsciously unaware of the grip it has on you. If you participate in Facebook groups for audiologists or dentists, ask yourself how many times in the last year you’ve intentionally entertained an idea that is the very opposite of the group or conventional wisdom in our profession. Were you able to hold onto that view, and, if so, how long?
Only through awareness of the areas in which you conform, can you start to strengthen your ability to reason on your own. Take the opposite approach to your peers. Start with the assumption that you are not as much of an individual as you think you are. Deeply examine where your thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions are impacted by everything around you. Be brutally honest with yourself.
It’s one of many reasons why doctors fly from all over the world to meet with me and ask me to fix their practices. They’re really asking me to unlock them from the chains of groupthink, confirmation bias and inaccurate opinions about our profession and its place in society and free markets. Only then can doctors truly grow.
Business school gave me an entirely different view on elective healthcare. It challenged everything I thought I knew about management, strategy, finance, and marketing for health care facilities and procedures. One of the big reasons why I think it had such a profound impact on my ability to help doctors grow their practices quickly is that I was the only audiology practice owner in my business school class. Everyone else had entirely unique perspectives on both simple and complex issues in the business world. Because my professors and classmates weren’t entrenched in audiology groupthink, they helped me see clearly what could be done in our industry. I didn’t need the validation or attention of any other audiologists in order to create massive breakthroughs for my own practices, my clients and now for the profession at-large.
If you rely on your goals, outcomes, and progress to elevate your self-image, you won’t be held hostage to the ideas, attention and approval of others either. If you want to kill the groupthink in your life, this is a great place to start.
One of the most difficult tasks I face as a coach and consultant is helping doctors better understand what it is they want and who they want to become. It’s also the most rewarding part of my job. Erich Fromm said, “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become who he potentially is.”
I’ve spent private coaching days with hundreds and hundreds of doctors and small business owners from all walks of life. Often, these clients walk out of the room with an entirely different mindset and clarity of thought, able to implement new strategies with renewed energy and enthusiasm. They leave with a vivid image of what they want to achieve in life. Sometimes, however, doctors struggle to “give birth” to themselves. They can’t see their own potential.
I’ve been doing this long enough to understand the difference between the doctors who quickly double or triple the size of their practice, those who expand confidently and open new locations, hire more doctors, see a bigger vision for their world and achieve goal after goal and those who are stuck. Would you like to know the secret?
The doctors and clients who are able to achieve so much more than their counterparts in much less time are all very realistic about who they are, where their strengths lie and are completely honest with themselves about what that means in terms of chasing down their goals. They understand other people and human behavior not because they are more gifted, more charismatic, better leaders or recipients of good luck, but because they have taken the time to get acquainted with themselves.
They are able to work backwards from their goals and list 50 ways their own biases, tendencies and weaknesses will get in the way. Then, they never go there. They go around.
By knowing yourself, you can do the same. Spend some time this week somewhere quiet. Go for a hike early in the morning. Sit and watch the sun come up and ask yourself these two questions. “Who am I and what do I want to do with the rest of my life.”
The smartest and most successful people on the planet have extremely clear answers to these two questions. Everyone else cannot know and understand others, cannot leverage and organize human capital to achieve big things and will never understand why because they don’t understand themselves.