THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

The Perfect Imperfectionist – Step 8 of 11

“One of my favourite quotations from Michael Gerber (Author: The E-Myth Revisited) is that, “there is no performance without accountability and no accountability without measurement”. One of the key reasons that small businesses fail is that they fail to implement robust systems to orchestrate the actions of their people and ensure consistency in the delivery of all aspects of the business, from dentistry to the customer service experience. I have worked with over 400 UK dental practices in the last 7 years and have seen for myself that a practice with systems evolves more rapidly than one without – it’s as simple as that.” So said my good self many moons ago, when writing for Stephen Hudson’s useful web site GDP Resources. It’s 14 years now and probably 1000 practices – but the message is still the same. As a trainee business coach, I was taught an important lesson: “the client does the work, the coach doesn’t do the work” And so I’ve made it a rule that 80% of the time, when I leave a client meeting, it’s the client who has tasks to complete, minutes to write, actions to implement. 20% of the time I will promise to send some information, do some research, make some connections – and that homework will be right at the top of my “to do” list the following day. Done and dusted. Over the years I have also created various “coaching gym” environments. Clients can:

  1. email me whenever they want

  2. ask Phillippa to arrange a phone call whenever they want

  3. respond to a request for a weekly progress report

  4. attend a monthly conference call

  5. complete a huge variety of self-assessment checklists

Here’s the rub. The reason that a gym can open with maybe 100 fitness stations and sell 5,000 memberships? Because they know that less then 20% of the gym members will be regular attenders, the rest will pop in occasionally or not at all. So the maths work from a business perspective but people don’t get fitter. Many of us pay the membership – and then have to hire a personal trainer to hold us accountable for attendance and progress. Realising that you want to be fitter is the first step, joining the gym is the second, showing up is the third (and most difficult). I noticed my first post-Christmas Weight-Watchers advert on TV a couple of nights ago. A great organisation and a clever programme, because they create tribal accountability within each group. The same applies in business. A desire for better financial, marketing, CRM and operational systems is the first step. Hiring a trainer, consultant or coach is the second step, doing the homework is the third (and consistently the most difficult). You would think, wouldn’t you, that if a client invests £250, £500 or £1000 a month in coaching, then they would be chomping at the bit, eager to immerse themselves in every aspect of the relationship? Not so – here’s a dark secret from the world of coaching. Less than 20% of clients make ACTIVE use of the majority of my coaching methods. Its the same with other coaches, I’ve asked them. They sign the bankers instruction, the money hits my account every month and then the client only shows up (like a toothache patient) when the going gets tough. Madness. So I can no longer tolerate this. In 2011 I’m going to do something about it. I’m currently in conversation to bring a new level of coaching to the UK dental market – a level of accountability that has NEVER been seen on these shores. Accountability that will scare the client at first. Accountability that will stretch business muscles that may have atrophied over the years. But believe me, if you can stay the course, it will create a dental practice that looks at finance, marketing, CRM, compliance, ops and teamwork and just exclaims “bring it on”. I estimate that it will be three months before I can reveal the system – I have to get some time, money and people in place. But I’ve caught the spark of the idea and I intend to burn it bright. Along the way, I’ll be holding myself much more accountable using the same system. I want to take my own coaching practice and my clients dental practices to a whole new level – using 21st Century technology and communication in a breath-taking new way. I also want anyone reading this to consider holding themselves (and those around them) much more accountable in the year ahead.

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