As of November, Nike no longer sells directly on Amazon. Nike is not alone. Birkenstock, Louis Vuitton, North Face, Patagonia, Asics, Ralph Lauren, Rolex and Vans do not sell directly on Amazon either. Nestlé Nespresso dominates a huge direct-to-consumer channel and paid Starbucks $7 billion to take over the sale of coffee and capsules for Nespresso machines. The new Disney+ streaming service cut out the middleman and kicked Netflix in the shins on the way out the door.
These smart firms want to own the data and chart their own course into higher lifetime customer value, margin and sustainability in a world where 85-90% of retail purchases are still done in physical stores. Sure, Amazon dominates the online retail world, capturing more than 50% of all online sales, but don’t forget that 85-90% of all retail purchases are still completed in physical stores.
These firms know, in order to survive the Amazon apocalypse, they must shed inefficiencies and middlemen, deliver more value than the competition and delight their customers, so that everyone else is forced to follow in their wake. In business, you’re either making waves or getting splashed in the face, by the way. The deeper the water, the bigger the waves. This has been true for a long time.
Conrad Hilton, founder of the famous hotel chain, made waves when a family friend told him in 1920, “if you want to launch big ships, you have to go where the water is deep.” A serious student of success stories of Rothschild, Carnegie, Girard, Cooper and many artists, scientists and philosophers, Hilton saw a bigger vision of what might be possible with his first hotel and he started chasing his “blue ocean” strategy before anyone else thought like this.
Two important questions leap to mind as they apply to your practice: (1) Are you sailing in deep or shallow waters? (2) What must you shed and what must you control and leverage in order to reach deeper waters?
What five things must everyone in your market know about you? Do they know them, or are you hiding your unique selling proposition under a bushel? Can patients and spouses pass along these “talking triggers” to friends and family, making it easy and a pleasure to refer to your practice?
What five things need to be continued in the business and what five things must you stop doing in order to get to the next level? What five things are you not doing that you must start doing? Who or what seems to keep pushing you back into shallow water? What vendors are tying you down and need to be removed, have their contracts renegotiated or brought in-house?
These are difficult questions. They require time and patience to implement. They force you to zoom out and see a much longer runway. They push the horizon further out and they give you the time and space to attract the proper talent and strategy, in the right market at the right time.
The good news and opportunity, like Hilton realized, is that hardly anyone thinks like this.
Most new clients I meet with want to grow the practice rapidly. Like yesterday. Few possess the ability to take their dreams and vision into much deeper water and then painstakingly pursue the hard work, investment and frustrations that are required in order to implement a “blue ocean” strategy. The most-successful think like Hilton and these other smart firms sailing to deeper water
Indian spiritual leader, Sri Chinmoy, explains that peace begins when expectation ends.
Perhaps the most dangerous trait I see in perfectionist doctors and business owners is the attachment to their expectations on how things should be; how a certain result should be achieved. They are attached to a very specific outcome.
You know this sets you up for disappointment, frustration and failure.
Instead, attach to nothing other than your belief that you can be the best at getting better, adapting and solving complex problems that others avoid. When you hit a wall, go around, over or under it. This sounds simple, but how often as a business owner do you throw your hands up and surrender?
“My employees won’t do it, my patients or customers would never appreciate or respond to that, my town is too small, my town is too big, people here just want what is cheapest, the competition is too difficult, etc.” I’ve heard these excuses for years and they tell me everything about the person who makes them and their expectations in life.
I’m not kidding when I say that I wake up every single morning expecting something or someone to massively disappoint me.
This way, everything that goes well is just a bonus. It’s icing on the cake.
Before I learned and honed this skill, employees that quit, referring colleagues that dumped on my practice and even the smallest bump in the road or business disruption used to distract and frustrate me for days. Now, I give myself about 90 seconds to be disappointed and upset and then I get back to work. Literally. 90 seconds.
AuDExperts membership is up 48% year-over-year, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have clients call and cancel their membership from time to time. Years ago, this would frustrate me to no end. “How can this doctor be so stupid?” I would say to my team. “Do they have any idea the pile of gold they’re sitting on with access to my best stuff? Do they have any idea how hard and expensive it was for me to create, test and then share such powerful and profitable marketing templates and actual campaigns that work all over the world? What are they smoking?” I would rant.
Now, I operate entirely differently because I’m not attached to a specific outcome. I put my head down and do my work. I create more value than any other advisor or consultant on the planet and I have the results to show for it. If someone cancels, that’s on them. This is still a democracy. They have the right to be wrong.
The same goes for your patients, employees and referring colleagues. How attached are you to achieving your results in a specific way, with a specific outcome in mind? Money doesn’t really care how you acquire it, only that you do it with honesty and integrity; building and delivering more value than your competition, for all stakeholders involved.
Is it time to change your expectations?
It’s fine to keep them high, but don’t be attached to any one particular way of achieving the outcome. If you do, you’ll be perpetually frustrated and disappointed in life. Learn to separate your intentions from your expectations and your results will soar. Be open to all possibilities and have faith in your ability to seek them out, receive them for what they are and always, always move the ball down the field.
Doctors and small business owners who don’t fundamentally grasp and deeply live these principles are going to be steam rolled by the new economy, algorithms, AI and intense competition.
Now is the time to take this seriously.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was a brilliant general. In the Second World War, he devised the “Eisenhower Box.” This is a matrix that ranks priorities according to importance and urgency.
Eisenhower didn’t want unimportant things coming to him in an urgent manner. He also didn’t want important decisions to be made urgently if time wasn’t a factor. Many business schools actually teach the Eisenhower Box, even though it was originally intended to help make strategic decisions in times of war.
Think about how much information comes to your desk or device. How often do you react quickly to non-urgent items? How often do you treat urgent items with a level of importance they don’t deserve?
Eisenhower forced his chain of command to be strategic instead of reactive. He wanted his team to go a mile deep on what mattered instead of an inch deep on a million things that were inconsequential. He wanted everyone around him to understand the difference between what was urgent but not important. He wanted them to realize that the truly important things are often not time-sensitive at all.
I’ll spend my birthday weekend in the midwest with two sets of great clients who are making excellent progress in their practices. Throughout our time together, my job is to not only provide resources, tools and tactical advice, but to consistently tie everything together in pursuit of a 3-5 year strategic plan. In other words, to focus on what was really important and to agree that the long-game is not as time sensitive as we think; to keep the non-important urgent distractions at bay.
You’ve heard me say here and elsewhere that we tend to overestimate what we can get done in a month but underestimate what we can get done in a few years. The reason this rings true with so many small business owners is that we are reactive versus strategic; we fret urgently over that which does not matter and pay too little attention, remaining too shallow, on the things that are really important.
In preparation for 2020 (it’s a new decade, after all), this is an excellent time to sit down with your “chain of command” and define the 3-5 big items you’ll be working on each year for the next 3-5 years, so that the year 2025 holds everything you deserve.
Eisenhower didn’t win the war overnight. You won’t 3X or 5X your business overnight either. If you go a mile deep on what really matters, however, you might wake up one day with a 10X practice. I’ve done it and helped many clients do the same. Everything you need to succeed is already within you. This is simply a matter of being strategic versus reactive.
Mark Twain wondered, “whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.“
His quote could have been written 1,000 years ago as easily as today or 1,000 years from now. This is one of many reasons I like Twain. He knew how to think accurately about human nature. He focused on things that never change.
This way of thinking is an antidote to the well-intentioned, even deeply thoughtful leaders around the world that lead our nations into pointless wars, drag our economies into and through idiotic trade negotiations, levy taxes on the core tenets of growth and prosperity and deceive themselves and, sadly, their voters.
Not because they are bad people, but because they are misinformed by scholars, ego and the status quo – promulgating nonsense.
Let’s unpack these three sources of hogwash:
Scholars have strong opinions, tightly held. We joke, cerumen deeply impacted, that the local ENT surgeon tends to be biased in the surgical outcome when the procedure is named after oneself.
Some scientists are immune to this nonsense. Many are not. Agendas are plentiful. Politics is played hard. Tenure and research grants are not taken lightly. Often, unfortunately, the science is.
Ego is perhaps the single-strongest destructive force on the planet. It blinds even the best-intentioned and most-disciplined leaders, like a dust storm blinds everything in its path. Ryan Holiday was right. Ego is the enemy.
Status Quo claims a close second place to ego in the potential to destroy truth and keep entire generations of people, scholars, leaders and industries stuck in neutral or slip-sliding in reverse.
Charlie Munger was right when he said professions and industries tend to change one funeral at a time.
What is the solution, you ask?
Great question. First, acknowledge and understand you already have everything you need to make a difference in your life, so that everyone around you thrives. The good news is that it has never been easier to take advantage of advanced economies and technology to build a great business, learn new strategies, impact change and control the sails.
The bad news: there are more distractions (more noise, more wind) tugging at your sails. There’s more out of your control and you’re more aware of it than ever before, so it seems like chaos at all time, if you allow it.
Imagine listening to 24 hours news for 30 days and then measuring your anxiety level, confusion and frustration at the “imbeciles” Twain references. Then, imaging extracting the news from your life and asking what changes. The answer: nothing, except you would have your sanity back.
Get into the habit of assessing each day before you go to bed. Review the day in your mind.
- What three things did you learn?
- Where could you improve?
- What are you thankful for right now?
- How will you make meaningful progress towards you goals tomorrow?
Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Marcus Aurelius, Munger, Buffett – any many other deep thinkers, have contributed tremendously to society because they were not ignorant to misinformation.
Smart minds know a lot of misinformation comes from “scholars” who have never tested their theories in the trenches of life and business. Smart minds know the destruction that comes from unchecked ego and make it their modus operandi to buck the status quo.
The next time you see something on the news that you think will impact you or your business, give it some time to breathe. Often, it will resolve itself, die from lack of attention, like a fish out of water, or self-destruct like a moth to a flame.
If it’s outside your control, let it do what it will. Pay it no attention.
If you feel it falls within your purview, ask what the experts and the status quo can tell you, seek how your ego might impact your decision and then ask what never changes.
Twain knew his assessment of the average leader could stand the test of time. Rank your most-recent handful of important business decisions. Can they stand the test of time?
Now rank your most-important and successful decisions in the last 10-20 years. What key components can you identify inside the decision-making process for those excellent decisions and what never changes, what scholars might have done, where your ego was at the time and what the majority would have done at the time.
This is how you become a better thinker – which is exactly what I’m tasked with doing here – helping you be the best at getting better, nudging you to continue growing. It’s an opportunity the average business owner wouldn’t fully appreciated, and so it’s the highest honor to work with you here each week.
Onward and upward!
I’ve been presenting on the power of patient gifting and marketing automation for many years. The most common question from audiences revolves around cost. I’m asked, “How much should I spend on a new patient welcome gift, shock ‘n awe package or new start ‘wow’ box?”
My answer has always been the same: whatever it takes.
Clearly, one of the top five reasons why patients don’t refer, which I review extensively in my writings, is that they aren’t welcomed to the practice in a BIG way.
I learned this principle from The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Development Center, The Disney Institute and by studying top producers in home and car sales. Everyone wants to feel special and important. Consumers want to know that you sincerely appreciate their business. They also want something to talk about.
A financial advising firm sends one of the nicest new-client welcome boxes I’ve ever seen. It’s not extravagant and it’s not that expensive, but it’s completely congruent with their avatar client and the message they want to send.
I’ve produced entire Loud and Clear marketing programs on this topic. If you’ve been hanging around for any length of time, you get it. This is all redundant. But, so are the Ten Commandments if you’ve been going to church or synagogue for any length of time. Repetition doesn’t make them any less important.
Yet, I won’t waste this entire article reminding you of the power of gifting and welcoming new patients, clients, customers or donors in a BIG way. Instead, I’ll stimulate some higher-level thinking on the dangers of cutting the small things in your business, like new-customer welcome gifts, birthday cards and marketing automation, when business slows or when the decision maker gets bored and wants to do something new.
Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, noticed that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people in Italy at the time, similar to 80% of the peas which were produced by 20% of the pods in his garden, so the story goes. Most know this phenomenon as the 80/20 principle.
What most people don’t know is that Pareto was famous for another smart economic theory, clearly applicable to your practice. In it, Pareto explains, if you were on a sinking ark, you wouldn’t throw a few cats or dogs overboard to save the ship, because it would have no impact and the boat would still sink.
Instead, you would find the elephants and throw them overboard.
And so, I find myself in the frequent position of talking clients back from the edge of cutting all the things that have made them successful: convenient hours, risk-removal, putting the best team on the field, investing in the relationship with gifts, marketing automation and referral strategies, only to discover 18 months later that they’ve thrown cats and dogs overboard when they should have thrown off the elephants.
Hearing Care Providers: how many hours of underutilization occurred last quarter in your treatment department? Physicians, retailers and attorneys, what are your biggest line-item expenses and how much impact would it make if you found alternative vendors or strategic business partners that saved you 10% or 20% on those line items alone?
You might have seen in the news recently that Southwest Airlines shut down their entire operation at Newark International Airport.
Southwest said this decision was due to the grounding of the 737 Max airplanes until at least 2020. It might have something to do with landing fees, terminal conditions, union negotiations with bag handlers or any of a myriad of things. Southwest didn’t say, “No more bags fly free and no more peanuts and no more drinks for the customers.”
Nope. They threw an elephant off the ark. No more Newark.
Kill the entire operation until we can make money there. Smart, smart, smart. I didn’t get rid of my new patient gifts, shock ‘n awe mailers, welcome boxes, earmold + brain training gifts, referral campaigns and live events. Those are small cats and dogs. Thrown off an ark in times of trouble, they make no difference.
I threw off the BIG elephants of Managed Care and 3rd Party Networks.
Food for thought.