“I’ve gone to school. My degrees taught me to how be a good dentist, but …it didn’t teach me how to run a business”.
Does this sound familiar?
From the very first day you finally earned the right to practice as a dentist in Canada, you were challenged to make decisions. You could be an employee or associate at an established practice, or you could choose to start your own company. Each choice has its own opportunities, risks, and rewards.
In my own career, the choice was made for me very early. I was told by an older gentleman that I was too gifted to be “just another cog in the wheel”. I logged it away but kept working in my chosen field. At the ripe old age of 24, I was advised I was not employee material.
My path then led to a career in the financial services industry as an “intro-preneur”. That meant I was given the opportunity to develop my own business under the umbrella of a large, 100-year-old financial institution.
As time passed, I continued to feel restricted within the restraints of the company and broke away to establish my own firm. During this period in my life, I was very much influenced by my now internationally-recognized mentor, Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach. His mantra was that “Frank Sinatra does not move pianos” (Frank was alive at that time) and he continually reminded me that I should endeavour to focus my time on my unique ability.
Sullivan’s message and principles have guided me and many other advisers over the years. In fact, Strategic Coach was brought up recently at the Alberta Forum of Small Business Accountants in a presentation conducted by Kim Moody, a well-known tax lawyer in Alberta. The underlying message in Kim’s presentation was that every business owner and professional can benefit from coaching in their practice, allowing them to spend more time on the business rather than in the business.
How does this apply to the self-employed professional?
In your dental practice, as in other professional practices, there are probably around twenty to thirty activities that take place from the time a client reaches out to you, to the point where they are coming to your clinic for an adjustment or a regular check up.
Your ability to execute each of those distinct activities will range from incompetent to excellent. Listing out those activities by skill level would likely lead you to find that the “excellent” category holds the fewest activities (the category where you should be spending 80% of your time).
The driving principle of the SEPPP program is to work on your strengths and delegate your weaknesses.
Identify your unique abilities and build your business so that the greatest percentage of your time is spent on activities related to your unique abilities and strengths. It is these activities that will drive up your revenue. In other words, do what makes people write you cheques.
Frank Sinatra was a singer and performer. He employed, and relied upon others to handle the day-to-day operations so that he could concentrate and simply do the show, focusing on his unique abilities and strengths.
What is your show?
Have you set up your business so that the majority of your time is spent on the three or four activities that are your unique ability? Maybe you’ve never really thought about it but it is this conscious reflection that has the power to drastically change how you conduct your business, and begin a path to find more joy in your work.
What would your practice and professional career look like if you could spend 80% of your time on specific dental cases (what you were trained on, and is most likely your unique ability), and delegated the rest of the activities to support staff?
Now, take it one step further.
Imagine your staff are also focused on their specific areas of excellence and unique ability. The outcome would be every resource in your organization operating in their area of strength!
The first step to achieving this state is to review your businesses’ resources relative to its income. Establishing and maintaining any professional practice requires expertise in business structure; marketing, administration, information gathering, technology updates, purchasing, human resources, maintenance, diagnostic research, and then as a dentist, working on crowns, fillings, and oral surgery.
Identify the Competency Gap
The next step is to do a critical review of the external resources that your business engages with. This will include your accountant, lawyer and industry providers, banker and other advisors. Are they specialists and experts in the areas you require, providing services and advice in areas that they are truly excellent at… or are they just general practitioners?
Our research has concluded that it is likely the latter. As such, you may currently be receiving advice from someone who lacks competency in the areas you require. Do you really want to burden your business with that inefficiency?
If you use the analogy of an orchestra, each of the generalists and specialists interacting with and within your company are members of an orchestra. The most important member of the orchestra is the conductor (that’s you!)
In your business, you have two distinct orchestras to lead:
- the “Business Activities” orchestra
- the “Service Activities” orchestra
We have found that in most large businesses, a talented administrator conducts the “Business Activities” orchestra, while in smaller businesses, the conductor is the professional in charge with the help of an assistant. Conducting the “Services Activities” orchestra, however, is a much greater challenge as it requires coordinating the activities of the accountant, tax specialist, corporate lawyer, tax lawyer, insurance advisor, wealth manager.
The challenges in conducting are:
- to clearly identify the objectives of each engagement
- to evaluate resources
- to engage and coordinate the resources toward the achievement of one common goal
- to manage those resources through execution of the engagement to ensure your goals and objectives remain at the forefront
The requirements of each engagement must be identified and clarified. The suppliers must be evaluated – and keep in mind, this would be ongoing. In addition, the resources would require ongoing, consistent coordination always ensuring that the focus remains firmly and clearly the goals of the organization.
Finding a Solution to the Competency Gap
The observations made previously were what resulted in the creation of Apex, and eventually, the creation of SEPPP. Apex Business Development Corp is a solution driven company engaging and orchestrating the services of specialists in taxation, accounting, legal, risk management, leadership and human resources.
Self Employed Personalized Pension Plan Corp. (“SEPPP”) was created to provide streamlined services in the implementation and administration of Individual Pension Plans (IPP) and Retirement Compensation Arrangements (RCA). The SEPPP formula is unique in that incorporated professionals now have access to all the features of institutional pension plans.
Asking for help when critical business decisions fall outside of your core strengths is the sign of a strong leader. The first place to start is to surround yourself with advisors whose areas of excellence complement the needs you have. HINT: Start with your personal finances.
Michael Byrne is the founder of Apex Business Development and SEPPP, and is passionate about coordinating business solutions for owner-managed business and professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via phone at (780) 722-5221.