During periods of growth, it is common to create certain complexities inside your business that, left unchecked, will stifle or even strangle growth. Consider this one of the great paradoxes of running a business. The more successful you are and the higher you reach for the stars, the more likely you are to get tripped up by the very things that brought you success.
I’ve seen this with nearly every brilliant chef, turned restaurant owner. They create something truly unique and rave-worthy. Customers start telling all their friends and family about this amazing new place they found and they encourage everyone to go try the restaurant.
Before you know it, the restaurant is over-crowded, the kitchen is bogged down with capacity constraints, long waits ensue, so corners are cut in an attempt to run on time and please the expanding customer base. The menu becomes a little less exciting and a lot less ambitious. The raving fans are no longer impressed. They stop coming, stop referring and the restaurant settles into a rhythm, form and function much like every other restaurant on the block.
I’ve seen this too many times to count. Why? Because small business owners fail to understand this paradox. That the things that made them successful will contribute to their downfall.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can predict these cycles of growth in your business and you can deploy smart strategies from the business literature to protect against the downfalls, securing continued growth and prosperity. The problem with small business owners is that they are too busy running the business to spend any time on the business. If they would only force themselves to take a moment of reflective repose before devoting themselves to the next wave of action, they’d prevent a whole lot of heartache and lost revenue.
The small restaurant owner, for example, would understand that there are only two solutions to a capacity problem: raise prices or expand capacity. The solution is not to cut corners and fail to delight the raving fans.
In your practice growth, especially during the great economic reset of coronavirus, how you reflectively repose and then actively respond is absolutely critical.
- Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business> by Gino Wickman
- Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath.
- Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish
In a recent course on passive income streams, while teaching the concept of leveraging one’s time, I quoted the author of Rework, Jason Fried, who also happens to be the co-founder of Basecamp.
Fried said, “40-hour weeks are made of 8-hour days. And 8 hours is actually a long time. It takes about 8 hours to fly direct from Chicago to London. Ever been on a transatlantic flight like that? It’s a long flight! You think it’s almost over, but you check the time and there’s still 3 hours left. Every day your workday is like flying from Chicago to London. But why does the flight feel longer than your time in the office? It’s because the flight is uninterrupted, continuous time. It feels long because it is long!”
Let this sobering fact sink in: every work week, you take the equivalent of five eight-hour flights to London. These days don’t seem so long because your time and attention are constantly interrupted.
Members report back to me, after I’ve demonstrated and taught it to them, that locking themselves away in their office with a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door for just a few hours each week on a Friday or Saturday, so they can work on the business, generates the equivalent of several days worth of interrupted time to work on the practice in between patients or other meetings.
Last week, I heard from one of our members, who used his quarantine time to get his book done. I’ve heard from other members who have finally plowed through their growing stack of reading materials and campaigns, strategies and samples. I applaud these smart members. Like you and I, they’ve probably realized how much time we really have each day.
The quarantine has reminded us that too many of our days were filled with attention-sucking activities that, when not controlled, conspired to drain us of productivity and fulfillment.
I read in the New York Times today that bird watching has become wildly popular since the quarantine, in terms of online activity, search data and purchases of books and binoculars. A few short months ago, how many people, if asked, would have answered in the affirmative that they have the time for watching birds?
If one silver lining of the pandemic and shutdown is that you understand the power of uninterrupted time, please carry it forward and start blocking it into your schedule henceforth.
The wealthiest and happiest people I know block their time into equal thirds in one of three categories: personal, productivity and planning.
Like most small business owners, when you examine your time blocks, you’ll find you probably have way too much productivity time and far too little personal and then planning time, in that order. When you get back to work, pay special attention to how many production days you really need versus how many you think you need.*
When you commit to blocking uninterrupted time, you’ll discover big projects get done quickly and without too much effort on your part. When you do the opposite and try to squeeze projects and planning activities in the gaps throughout a productivity (or even worse) a personal day, you’ll find the constant interruption is maddening and exhausting.
If you purchased the 2020 Planner, you receive monthly and quarterly reminders, tips and strategies via email that nudge you in the direction of blocking more personal and planning time. Be sure to go back and re-read those emails. They might seem even more applicable now that we’ve all discovered how much time we really have in each day.
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.