By Tim Sawyer, president & co-founder of Crystal Clear Digital Marketing
Does anyone in the med spa industry think strong leadership can affect profitability?
If you had asked me this question a week ago, I would have replied with a resounding, “Yes, of course.” After my experience this past weekend, I’m not so sure. In fact, I am more convinced that the basic concept of leadership in this community is not just undervalued, but almost deemed irrelevant. While I have given many talks on the subject at dozens of shows—including The Medical Spa Show, Vegas Cosmetic Surgery, A4M and The Aesthetic Show, to name a few—my experience this past weekend cemented my belief that now more than ever, we need to keep this topic in the forefront of our discussion through our lectures, blog posts, podcasts and national meetings.
Why? As the co-founder of two separate marketing and software businesses appearing in the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing privately held companies, I am a firm believer in the very direct link between strong leadership and profitability. As a lifelong entrepreneur, I am constantly bombarded with books, seminars, podcasts and events touting the value and strategies for effective modern leadership. I get it. No leadership equals no sustainable growth. As a former business student, it’s one of those, “Duh, obvious,” things. For surgeons and med spa owners who have spent their lives focused on anatomy, clinical outcomes and patient safety—not so much. And I am not suggesting there is a lack of desire to be stronger leaders; I am suggesting there is diminished value and a lack of understanding.
Back to this past weekend. As I walked onstage to deliver my best 15-minute lecture on leadership, about 40% of the 150 attendees in the room—mostly surgeons—took the opportunity to use this time to take a break, get coffee and mingle. In other words, almost half of the attendees viewed this topic as somewhat irrelevant.
At this point, I know what you’re thinking: “Tim is a sore loser because people walked out of his talk.” Fair enough, and there may be some truth to that. However, it is more concerning to me that these leaders lacked the appreciation of the important role they play in their practices’ success outside of the 12-hour days spent doing treatments and procedures. In fact, I even asked the question, “How many of you want to spend the rest of your lives working 12-hour days with your primary (only) source of revenue coming from your physical labor?” Of course, that drew some intense stares, intentionally. Because this is what is at stake for many of the people in the room.
Entrepreneurs understand that you can’t scale a business if the majority of the revenue comes from the owner’s direct labor. To further explore this concept, I recommend you read The E-Myth; this would be a great investment of your time if this topic is remotely interesting to you. To get scale in your business, surrounding yourself with great people who can also make significant contributions to the business in terms of revenue is the number-one priority. The most successful entrepreneurs know they have done their job well when their businesses can function on its own with little or no direct involvement or supervision from the founders. Many of these strong leaders begin their business with the end in mind. They ask the question, “What do I need to do in this circumstance to create an entity that is either investable by others or saleable to another entity?” More simply put, if I bust my butt for 10 years, how do I exit and get paid? This is every entrepreneur’s dream.
That said, the rules are a little different in elective medicine, as the skills and training of the surgeon or provider essentially represent 100% of the value of the practice. And here’s the billion-dollar question: Is the current state a situation that can never be changed, or is there perhaps another way of looking at the role of the modern entrepreneurial surgeon leader?
I think part of the problem lies in the way we talk about, celebrate and showcase only those practices experiencing hypergrowth (for a variety of reasons, and I include myself in this group). We create this unrealistic expectation that anyone who applies this model or buys that device will immediately ascend to the elective medical elite, which is at best a bunch of B.S. When we do this, we disenfranchise the 90% of practices and med spas that could benefit the most from applying a few basic leadership principles, even if they only have a few employees.
Here are a few principles you can apply right away to increase the value of your practice and set it on a path to realistic sustainable growth. First, ask yourself, “Do I believe there is a correlation between effective leadership and increased profitability?” If the answer is no, sorry about the time you wasted reading this, and hopefully you will find my next article more valuable.
When I pose this question to live audiences, I always get a lukewarm response. But let’s assume we agree that leadership could make a 10% difference in the profit of your clinic. So, step one is to assign a dollar value to the 10%. Now, the next logical step (if we agree) is to first be realistic. Do you spend 10% of your time working on your leadership skills and strategic thinking? If the answer is no, we have already diagnosed a major problem, which is great and free.
Next, how can you put leadership to work in a small elective medical practice?
- Lead yourself. Be mindful of the words you use, be respectful to employees and manage to your principles. Ask yourself, “What are my most important guiding principles that I will not compromise?” Are you walking that out daily?
- Share skills. Employee turnover hurts when you have invested time and energy into training. Get over it. Things could be worse, like if you don’t train them and they never leave… yikes. Don’t forget—if you’re not training someone up to replace you, you will never be replaced. (Cue the surgeon-working-in-a-coffin music.)
- Train and practice together. It’s a team and you’re the leader. Lead. This requires time. If you make it a priority and then a habit, you will improve the culture in your practice.
- Hold your team accountable.
- Have a plan, set goals and manage to the plan. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
- Share your vision and passion often. People love to feel like they are a part of something special.
- Incentivize the right behaviors and address the wrong ones.
- Be inspired. These simple universal truths can apply to any business of any size. You don’t need more consultants, more devices or more marketing. You just need some time to reflect in front of the mirror. Look past the outside and the comparative narrative and focus on the incredible leader inside of you. This is truly one of those scenarios where size doesn’t matter. Crystal Clear started with three employees, and now we have 80. Remember, if we agree that improved leadership skills could make just a 10% difference in the profitability of the business, that’s 10% more time and money you have to do the things that mean the most.
In addition to a world-class digital marketing and software platform, Crystal Clear offers a full-service consulting team to help you get the most out of your people, your processes and the tools you use to grow your clinic in 2019 and beyond. We get it. You can’t do everything by yourself. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Our world-class training team is here to help. They have been in your shoes in real life, long before becoming trainers. To learn more about Crystal Clear, visit www.crystalcleardm.com or call 888.611.8279.