Many of the small businesses or professional practice owners I meet are to some degree already in “burn-out” mode and would gladly leave (or at least reduce their active involvement in) their business or practice if their livelihood and future lifestyle were not at stake.
The problem? No amount of education or specialized degrees provide any basis of knowledge or resources on how to build, create or operate a truly entrepreneurial business… a business that is not solely dependent on the day-to-day activity of the owner.
Think for a moment about McDonalds. Walk into any McDonalds, go up to the front counter and ask to speak with the owner. The response? “The owner is not here.” No? Then where is the owner? The owner is where a real business owner should be; either taking time off to enjoy hobbies, travel or family, or working “on” the business, creating the vision for the business, building new marketing campaigns to acquire new clients or customers, to retain current clients, to re-activate lost clients, and to increase the value of all clients through additional services or products offered.
Is this ‘you’ in your business or practice? Probably not. And don’t feel ashamed… it’s not our fault. You see, we were never told or even given the permission to think about our career, our profession, or our business as being anything entrepreneurial. Rather, we were taught that our value rested in our technical skills and that is why all of the years of training and education were focused on the technical or the “doing” activity side of our business. Systems, operations, and marketing? Not necessary. We were entering a highly respected “serving profession” – not a real business. The words “sales, marketing or advertising” were never spoken in the hallowed halls of academia. “Build it and they will come.” Provide ethical and competent service and the rest will take care of itself. That advice and that model might have been valid 50 years ago, but it has long since become an antiquated dinosaur and woe be to those who would still believe it!
The other problem with the traditional model and mindset of the small business professional is the lack of leverage. Leverage is the key to real freedom. Leverage can be, and should be used in multiple ways in all aspects of life. Trying to go solo, trying to be the person who is good enough, strong enough and smart enough to do it all by him or herself is very short-sighted and a certain road to failure, burn-out and frustration. But we aren’t given permission to even think about not doing what we were specifically trained to do… that is, the technical work… each and every day.
We believe that we have to be at the office or the world will stop… or certainly the income will stop. I believed that my patients or clients would never tolerate seeing another provider or another doctor… “it’s all about me”… at least that’s what everyone has told us.
Even though I had the foresight to start working on my net worth and capital asset accumulation via real estate while still in dental school, it wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I was harshly, but fortunately, awakened to the fact that the practice did not have to be “all about me.” But until that time, some twenty years in practice, I continued the traditional professional practice model of going to the office everyday and providing the best professional treatment that I could. The problem is that this is a linear, time or personal labor exchanged for dollars. This is the definition of a “job,” even though it might be a well-paying job, it is not a real business.
Very few professionals understand or have the background or training to be able to systematize the practice or business, create and manage the operations, delegate and outsource, and handle the human resources department. We can’t, but we try, because that is what we were told was the correct model of practice. Hiring a manager, like McDonald’s would have running a franchise, is not typically acceptable for the small business owner who instead is expected to wear multiple hats and provide the fulfillment of services and/or products.
Once I experienced the epiphany that a professional practice could be owned and operated as a real business, independent of the owner, I found a freedom that until that time had been only an afterthought of some fuzzy future date called “retirement.”
I learned that it had been ME who had created most of the blockages in preventing my practice from expanding and allowing for other dentist-associates to take on the major portion of the production. The staff stepped up and began to handle operations instead of relying on me for virtually every decision that had to be made. And my patients, who I thought would not be happy or satisfied unless they were able to appoint with me, found any one of the associates to be perfectly acceptable. A slap against my ego? Perhaps. But the freedom made up for any loss of my own self-esteem.
I continued to own and manage the practice remotely for several more years, earning a very solid return on my practice equity (as any real business should afford the owner) and eventually sold out to one of the associates who had the credit and ability to make and all-cash buy out.
It’s not that it can’t be done. I am proof-positive that it can, with a very average dental practice in a lower economic demographic. The problem is that we don’t believe it can… because we have a deeply rooted mindset that is very difficult to break.
I was forced to make the decisions that I made due to severe health issues that my daughter had suffered. I was willing to do what it would take to change my practice model and free up my time to be with my daughter. I had a true “reason why.” What will it take for you to be willing to take a calculated risk for a potentially life-changing reward?
Are you ready to Break the Chains?