One of my favourite quotes is from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. ‘Ma’ is helping her daughter understand the ways of the world and I believe it provides some insight into the challenges of owning a business, particularly a dental practice. Although the quote is about the difference between how men and women might respond to the world, the perspective relates to how some practice owners handle the ups and downs of running a practice and being a boss.
“Women can change better than men. Woman got her life in her arms, man got it in his head. Man, he lives in the jerks; baby born or a man dies, that’s a jerk; gets a farm, loses a farm, that’s a jerk. Woman, it’s all one flow, like a stream – little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river it goes right on.”
Do you ride the ups and downs of running your practice in jerks? When one of your team quits or needs to be let go; when equipment breaks down; when there’s a break in; when a case goes wrong; when an employee is impacting others in a negative way; when an angry patient refuses to pay; when your tax bill goes up or your bank account is too low; when the roof leaks; when a patient won’t pay their bill – how do you react to those situations?
I hear a common lament from many of my clients who feel that they work hard and try to do their best work and yet they are faced with so many challenges that it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. I believe this is a symptom of being an ‘accidental entrepreneur’. I ask all my clients when we begin coaching to read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. In his book, Gerber describes different types of business owners; the technician, the manager and the entrepreneur. All three mindsets are necessary for any business owner, but the 3 do not think the same way or get along with each other. The E-Myth, or Entrepreneurial Myth is this; Just because a person knows how to do the technical work in a business (ie dentistry) does not mean they are equipped to make that business a success. This is very often true of my clients who pride themselves on being excellent dentists (technicians), and find themselves having to deal with managing and growing that business!
Often, I hear resentment and frustration that everything doesn’t just run smoothly with little effort; that they are constantly putting out fires or managing crises of some kind when all they want is to be chairside drilling teeth. I think it comes down to expectations, perspective and the choice of whether to react or respond. If we take the challenges of running a business with a jerk, we don’t make good decisions, we aren’t good leaders, and we lose some control over the direction of our business and we allow our emotions and frustrations to get in our way. If we accept that these challenges are part of being a business owner and we respond in a calm, philosophical, accepting way, we can ride the waves of these challenges as they come – and they will come, because they are part and parcel of being a business owner.
It is my belief that the major advantage that dentists who work with a coach have is the availability to engage a thinking partner to help work out these challenges and formulate their responses in a methodical way with intent. Seeing these issues in the bigger context of the health of the practice, their values, and their overall vision helps to soften those waves or jerks into ripples. The story begins to change from one of obstacles and interference into embracing the daily hills and valleys of being a practice owner and feeling in control. As Ma says in the Grapes of Wrath, “little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river just keeps on going”.
If you are interested in finding out how working with me can help you change your biggest challenges into little eddies, go to my website and book a complementary lightbulb session where you can ask your questions and discover how a coach can help you, with absolutely no obligation whatsoever.