“Tales from the Troubleshooter #2”

Tales from The Troubleshooter – Case 1. Jimmy’s story.

Part 2.Where are you going?

The Seven Pillars of Dental Practice Management© are:

  1. Vision
  2. Financial Controls
  3. Sales
  4. Marketing
  5. People,
  6. Environment
  7. Systems

Last month I told the story of how Jimmy had got into a situation where he had a high income but was losing money and had no way of stopping himself sliding further into debt. That was an illustration of the second pillar “Financial Controls”.

This time I’ll go back to the first pillar “Vision”. If you don’t know where you are headed how on earth will you know when you get there? Or even when you’re half way there? The concept of a vision is a fundamental to every successful person.

Like a lot of dentists Jimmy had fallen into his path in life, putting one foot in front of the other and rarely if ever looked up to see where he was going. School led to A-levels which resulted in five years at university. In company with the vast majority of dentists of the pre-VDP generation an associateship in general practice was the next step. Marriage then children meant a need for an income to support a family. An opportunity to buy a run down practice presented itself so further debt came from an ever eager bank.

Absorbed as he was in the sheer busyness of life his 30th then 35th birthdays came and went before he knew it. With 40 looming he had a minor heart attack and decided to relocate away from his home city. This was an example of someone reacting instead of responding to a situation. Unfortunately this coincided with the realisation that he and his wife had never been really suited and they parted, she stayed in the family home with their children.

He found himself several hundred miles away starting again in a new practice and soon with a new wife and more children. Fortunately he was a very hard worker, a personable soul and a good clinician so the new venture flourished.

A road accident made him (probably for the first time in his life) take stock of his situation and he decided to sell his general practice and to concentrate on his first love, orthodontics. He was then aged 52 and he threw himself into the clinical elements of the business with relish and enthusiasm, building a “successful” practice for the third time in his career.

However, just like a soap bubble held in the palm of your hand disappears when you try to hold it, so it is that success, unless founded on sound principles, can prove to be an illusion that disappears before you eyes at the point when you most believe it.

What are the definitions of success? Well they are different for every single one of us. Each individual has their own buttons which, when they are pushed, brings them to the point of Maslow’s self- actualisation. It is never my place as a coach and consultant to decide these things for my client rather it is better for all concerned for me to help them to make the big decisions on their own.

The metaphor frequently used for life’s “journey” (a word devalued in recent times by association with Simon Cowell’s proteges) is a sea voyage and I’ll use that here.

Frequently when a client approaches me they say, “I don’t know what to do, tell me where I should be heading” I can give them the tools and I can help them build their boat, I can teach them navigation but I can’t decide for them where they are going to sail.

When you set off from home port you are affected by the wind and the currents and you’re immediately off course. With a good compass, regular readings of latitude and longitude (or these days a GPS) you can keep yourself on track. If you haven’t got a vision or a series of goals of where you’re heading then all you’re doing is pottering about in your boat which can be pleasant but it doesn’t take you anywhere.

With Jimmy, the crisis in the business had led him to the point of despair about the rest of his life and what he should do with his still young family. I encouraged him to take some time by himself to examine every aspect of his life, as you can not take “work” in isolation.

The suggested sectors are:

  • Career
  • Family & Friends
  • Money
  • Partner
  • Physical Environment
  • Health
  • Growth & Spirituality
  • Fun & Recreation

Try this for yourself, using the topics above sit down and write as if you are 3 years in the future and imagine where you will be and what will have happened to you for you to have made the most of the time. Then decide on the steps you have to take to get there. I am grateful to my first coach Chris Barrow for teaching me this technique.

When you have decided what it is you want share it with as many people as possible, particularly your partner and your team. This will make it real, make you accountable and will help to make it happen.

My friend the ocean rower Roz Savage (www.rozsavage.com) used another exercise where she imagined herself listening to a choice of orations being given at her funeral. The first one was how it would be if she stayed as she was; with the second one she visualised how her life could be if she grasped all the opportunities that were available to her. The result is that she is no longer a well paid management consultant  and rows oceans in order to bring attention to environmental causes.

Back to Jimmy. He has now made some very hard decisions about his future, a decision to sell the practice to his associate and, to allow a period of evolution rather than revolution, to remain as a part-time associate until the new owner finds their feet. They plan a return to closer to where he and his wife feel their roots to be in order to enjoy a quieter pace of life.

These days he still works very hard but now knows where he is heading. His vision and the steps he must take are clear.

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