“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end … with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” – James Stockdale
This quote, known as the Stockdale Paradox, couldn’t be more applicable right now. There are some brutal facts that need to be addressed about your practice (your business) in our current crisis reality. This is not the time for living in denial or indulging in escapism. It’s time for you to take your “doctor hat” off and put your “CEO hat” on to protect your business.
That means switching to a purely objective, all-about-the-numbers mindset, something that may be difficult for some of you. But now is when you need to step up and be the CEO – the chief executive officer – of your business, your health, and of your family.
Let The Numbers Guide You
If there is one statement that most Americans can agree with, it’s “I’m not good at math.” But business is all about math, and now is the time to apply the discipline and hard logic of numbers, dollars, and cents to your decision-making process because protecting the cash is job number one of a CEO.
All the questions you are likely facing right now are actually math problems in disguise. Should I be spending money on marketing right now, and if so, how much? Can I afford payroll? Do I need to lay off my team? Do I continue to pay off debts? When you start to answer these questions, ask yourself, “Am I thinking like DOCTOR right now? Or a like a CEO?”
Make Those Difficult Decisions
As a practitioner, you’re used to a mindset where providing care comes first and everything else comes second. But your business needs to be your most important “patient” right now, and that means temporarily putting aside that emotional commitment.
As Jay has repeatedly emphasized throughout this crisis management series, business owners need to lead by example. As you look at the math of your situation, if sacrifices need to be made, you need to start with yourself.
Take out a piece of paper and a pen and tally up all your personal expenses. Go through them one by one and see where you can make some cuts. Perhaps you don’t need that gym membership, for example, if the gyms in your area are closed. Or maybe you need to forego your salary for the next few weeks, as you’ve no doubt seen many CEO’s of corporations in the news are doing. If you feel like you’re unable to find anything to cut, then repeat the process two, three, or even four times until you’ve got the objective distance necessary to recognize the unnecessary expenditures that are cutting into your cash flow. Do this before you ask your team to make any sacrifices.
Before making any big decisions about payroll, remember to evaluate the options provided in the CARES Act. These documents continue to be defined almost daily – please do your due diligence and read all documents carefully before you sign them. If you are applying for the loan, try to only take what is forgiven.
A good CEO makes the tough decisions. As Jay says, “If you’re willing to go bankrupt rather than make difficult decisions, you’re a terrible CEO.”
Whenever possible, stop all of your paid advertising for products and services that you cannot offer during this crisis period. Digital marketing spends are often pre-funded and then drawn down as people click on your ads. Now is not the time to just let these things run their natural course. Pull those ad campaigns right now!
Secondly, if your office can provide emergency services, that is where you need to focus your marketing efforts. And instead of going in for fancy digital ad buys, consider switching to low cost or free marketing options like emails and social media posts.
Currently, even network talk show hosts are filming from their homes, so if there was ever a right time for you to start making your videos, now is that time. These videos can be posted on your website and social media channels as well as being embedded in your emails.
If you’re not sure where to begin, start by making a series of educational videos about preventative care. Other great ideas include reaching out to existing patients and explaining how you will continue to provide care. Or you can give prospective new patients a virtual tour of your office so that they will know exactly what to expect when they come in.
Develop Your Rebound Strategy
No matter how grim things might look now, this storm will pass. Jay calls it the “rebound,” and he urges all private practitioners to devote one day a week to focus on how you will rebound in the post-virus future.
First, start by communicating with your team about what that future might look like. This will help keep their morale up so that they don’t become overly disillusioned by the present.
Secondly, plan to seize all the opportunities that will be available. Perhaps some of your competitors will have disappeared, giving you the opportunity to expand your customer base. And of course you will need to reach out to your current customer base to let them know you are back to regular business, and that any postponed treatments need to be taken care of now.
Create a Proactive Attitude
During this crisis, most people around you are reacting rather than being proactive. Good CEO’s don’t lose their cool and spiral out of control by focusing on the negatives and getting lost in bad news. By standing up and projecting a positive and proactive attitude, you will inspire your team and others to do the same. Jay recommends writing down a list with two columns, one column for things that are outside of your control and one for things that you can control. Focus on the things that are in the column of things that you can control and leave the column of things that you cannot control on the paper.
There aren’t many opportunities in this life where you can step up and show your true leadership colors. Take advantage of this crisis to become the hero that protected their business, their health, and their family. Don’t waste this opportunity – use it!
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