If you don’t know who Richard Branson is, I’ll explain that he is the creator of the Virgin brand, which started as a record company, then an airline, and now has over 400 different companies under that banner. He’s a multi-billionaire who is now also pioneering commercial space travel with Virgin Galactic. In other words, he’s a wild and fearless pioneer and entrepreneur. And he’s a knight.
I had the occasion to spend five days on a business retreat at his island in the British Virgin Islands. It was a spectacular experience, both from a business and a personal perspective. I admire Sir Richard as much for the way he lives his life as I do for his achievements in business and philanthropy, and here are seven things I’ve learned from him that I think are very relevant to dental practices and to business in general, and I wish I learned them a lot sooner.
1. Offer an exceptional product with exceptional service. This is the only way to defend yourself long term against the competition. He told us that the times he failed to do this were the times the endeavor failed. If you can’t do that, in your own way, in your own neighborhood, to some group of patients, then you will be at risk.
2. Sweat the small stuff. It’s all about the details. This is what people notice, and what people remember, and what makes you distinct as a person, a business and a brand. And in this world where your reputation is being created in the digital world every day, whether you like it or not, your brand is everything. You will distinguish yourself by the smallest of details, and by not neglecting anything that the patient experiences.
3. Infuse playfulness into your business and your workday. You may say that you are in health care, and there is no place for that. I totally disagree. Even at its best, dental care is an anxiety-inducing experience. Lighten up the atmosphere in your practice, and encourage your team to do the same, and you’ll see patients respond positively.
Remember, it’s about the experience of being a patient, not your clinical skills, that make the biggest impression on your patients. Bring fun into your practice. For me, I realized how much I had let that slip away in my personal life as well.
4. You can’t change the world until you get your own business right. All of us would like, I think, to have some positive impact on the world around us, and perhaps create a legacy. But your first legacy is to have a solid, sustainable business, providing good, secure jobs, or as a team member contributing your best so that the business thrives. Then you can go out and change the world.
5. Take care of your body and your health. You cannot be a good leader or good team member in the long term if you let your health fail. And it won’t matter what level of success you achieve if you can’t enjoy it because you’ve let your body go. Dentistry is a very physical profession, but when you maintain yourself you can do it comfortably into your 70’s and even 80’s (if you choose to!)
6. Turn your disadvantages into advantages. Sir Richard is dyslexic. Also a high-school dropout. This has allowed him to approach the world differently, to extraordinary success. Your disadvantages, either physical or mental, can serve as a motivator to you and also give you a different perspective on the world. It’s a choice to let your disadvantages limit you, rather than discover the new pathways they provide.
7. To get great at something, get great coaching. He plays tennis almost every day with a tennis pro. Whatever he undertakes, he finds the best coaches or advisors to help him. I was not wise enough in my younger years to do this, but now I have remarkable people as resources, advisors and coaches in every area of my life. It saves me money and time in reaching my goals.
I’ve learned a whole lot more from Sir Richard, much of it on a personal level. I highly recommend reading his book, The Virgin Way, if you want more insight into how he has shaped his success. He is also the keynote speaker at SiroWorld this summer, which is going to be an amazing and unprecedented event in August hosted by DentsplySirona. I wouldn’t miss it if I were you!