Mentoring Is Its Own Reward

I recently attended the award event for INC Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing companies. As a guest, of course, not as someone with a company on that list. (After 30 years, that kind of accelerated growth is a lot tougher!)

It was an amazing group of entrepreneurs, and the energy at the event was inspiring.  The company that topped the list, Loot Crate, grew at a phenomenal 66,789% over three years.  That number is not a typo, by the way.  And their last year’s revenue was $116 million. Not bad.

But there were many other businesspeople with amazing growth as well. I knew two of them, DentalPost.net and eAssist, both in the dental industry and coincidentally both with female founders.  DentalPost is a sophisticated job site, and eAssist outsources dental billing for practices. In fact, they were both in the top 2000.  And for DentalPost it was their second year in a row.  Impressive.

A very interesting thing happened to me when I was there. I walked up and introduced myself to the CEO and founder of Loot Crate, Chris Davis, and to my surprise he immediately recognized me. Not as the 1-800-DENTIST guy, but because I had mentored him seven years ago as part of a startup class for new entrepreneurs.

I honestly didn’t remember him, but he was effusive in his praise of me as one of his mentors, and explained that after the class he launched his first company and it didn’t take off, so he moved on after two years, but then he started Loot Crate and it succeeded. Spectacularly.

Chris Davis, CEO of Loot Crate, and me at the INC 5000 gala.

Chris Davis, CEO of Loot Crate, and me at the INC 5000 gala.

I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to know that he had taken his entrepreneurial drive and  ran with it. Now, I’m not taking any credit for his remarkable success. (Okay, maybe I’m taking a little!)  My point is that I did those mentor sessions and still do because I want to help young businesspeople avoid some of the mistakes I made, and inspire them to chase their dreams, no matter how difficult.

I have a personal rule: I’m never going to discourage anyone from pursuing their idea. I will coach them as to how to do it better, or caution them as to some of the risks they aren’t considering, but I know that plenty of other people will try to discourage them along the way, including friends and family, and I’m not going to be one of those voices.

Back in 1986, several people told me 1-800-DENTIST would never work.  My partner Gary and I used it as motivation. And that’s what I tell young entrepreneurs to do as well.  Proving your detractors wrong can be very satisfying.  And Chris Davis didn’t succeed on his first try.  But he told me that everything he learned with the first business made it possible to turn Loot Crate into a major success.

And that’s my second rule: persistence and determination will get you further than you ever imagined. Chris is living proof. We may not all achieve such stratospheric results, but we can all reach our dreams by showing up every day and giving it our absolute best.

There won’t be any financial reward for me because of my mentoring of Chris.  And I could care  less.  The joy I experienced seeing his marvelous success, knowing that I played some part in it, however tiny, is more than enough for me.

You can read more about Chris’s story and the INC 5000 by clicking here.

7 Things I Learned from Sir Richard Branson

Richard, book and me

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.

Why lets kids have all the fun? Play!

Why lets kids have all the fun? Play!

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!

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6 Steps to Making Good, HIPAA Compliant Patient Videos

I’m continually being asked the best way to do patient testimonial videos, so I’m going to lay it out for you.

People ask in part because I am always saying that patient videos are the most powerful marketing tools available, and perhaps the most versatile.  You can post them on your website, on your YouTube channel, on Facebook, and in your Google and Yelp profiles.  And people love watching videos. Facebook and Snapchat both have over 8 billion video views a day.  Yes, I said billion!

Requesting and making videos should be someone’s specific responsibility in the office, and in some ways everyone’s. Every team member should be willing to request this from a patient they believe will do a good testimonial. But every office should have one point person–the Facebook Geek, I call them–that is in charge of regularly doing these, like one a week, and then posting them in all the appropriate places.

Here are the steps:

STEP ONE: ASK FOR A TESTIMONIAL

Identify a patient who might be a good candidate, either because they just had a great result, or they’ve already praised the practice in some way.  If they just said, “You are all so nice here. I’m so happy I found you.”  That’s your cue to say, “We’d love it if you would do a short video saying that for us to use on social media. You know how important that is nowadays.” Don’t say crazy stuff like, “Please help us promote our practice,” or, “We really need your help getting new patients.”  Don’t sound desperate.

If the person is reluctant, just say, “If you don’t like it we won’t use it. But all you have to do is take 30 seconds and tell us what it’s like to be a patient of ours.”  If they’re still hesitant, then back off.

STEP TWO: RECORD ON A SMARTPHONE

This is what makes the testimonial real and credible: You didn’t make a big production out of it.  You made it like a video that they do themselves all the time.  Using a smartphone camera is also less intimidating to the patient.  One more important thing: shoot it in horizontal mode [I’m amending this from my original post] because in most media it will look much better.  The one challenge is that 70% of Facebook viewers are watching on mobile phones, and people don’t like to turn them.  This is why Facebook’s new Canvas ad format is a good example of the direction this is all going. The solution is to shoot through Instagram in horizontal mode, and then you can modify the shape if you want to.

You’re looking for four things from the patient:

  • sincerity–you want them to be believable;
  • enthusiasm–low energy is not persuasive or watchable;
  • brevity–it should be at the MOST, 60 seconds long.  Closer to 30 is better;
  • the practice/dentist’s name–this “labels” the video internally.

WARNING: Don’t let them talk about their treatment in the video! This qualifies as “patient health information,” and this is where the HIPAA challenge arises.  It would require you to create a release from the patient describing the specific treatment and who the audience would be that would see it.  Too much trouble.  The fact that they agreed to make the video would seem to me to qualify as a release, but the government doesn’t see it that way.

However, the patient can make a video on their own phone and post it to their Facebook wall. Patients can say whatever they want in their own posts on social media, because they can’t violate their own HIPAA.  If they do it that way, then you can share that video on your practice page.

STEP THREE: SHOW THE VIDEO TO THE PATIENT FOR APPROVAL

If you did more than one take, ask them which one they like. But make sure they approve you using it.

STEP FOUR: GET A SIGNED RELEASE

If you don’t already have one with the patient, get one, to use their image and video in all media, including social media, in perpetuity.  If they won’t sign one, then don’t use the video.  If you have an account with HR for Health, they can provide one, otherwise use LegalZoom.

STEP FIVE: ASK THEM TO SHARE IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

If they did it on their phone, obviously they can share it on Instagram or Facebook.

STEP SIX: POST IT ON ALL YOUR DIGITAL LOCATIONS

  • Website (your website should have a separate page for patient testimonials, with a link from the home page.  If not, read this blog.)
  • YouTube channel
  • Yelp profile
  • Google+ page
  • Facebook (start with Instagram and have it post automatically–the Facebook geek knows what I’m talking about)
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

As a huge motivational bonus, show them to your team in morning huddles. Letting everyone know how much they are appreciated by patients is a great way to start the day.

Here are examples of the right and wrong way to do videos:

The above one mentions the treatment, cost, negative aspects of the experience, but is in the right framing–horizontal.

This one doesn’t mention treatment, is positive and energetic, and says the dentist’s name.  But it’s shot vertically, so it’s only good for Facebook mobile.  Almost there.

Make it a habit to do videos. As I said, they are the most credible and versatile marketing tool you have or your practice.  Do one today!

Becoming Remarkable is Now on Audible!

The moment many of you have been waiting for is here: my latest book, released lastBR-Amazon-image September, is now available on Audible!  We have found that Audible is the best medium for an audio book, and you can find it right here: http://amzn.to/1T0YCug.

The price is $19.95, and unfortunately because it is Amazon I can’t discount it for anyone. 🙁

It will NOT be released on CD, as it has become an archaic (and expensive) medium, and Audible accounts are free, and even have a subscription model.

Now that I’ve managed to get this done, I promise to start blogging regularly again!

Who Do You Inspire?

We all have someone who inspires us.  If you’re lucky, you have several. And hopefully, 2016-new-year-ss-1920some of them are people you actually interact with on a regular basis, and aren’t just famous people or historical figures. I am blessed with a host of people who inspire me, from Tony Robbins and Simon Sinek to my good friend Ken Rutkowski, my brother Ron, and many more.

But it can also be little things, brief encounters, that inspire us.  I recently was picking up a rental car, and the Hertz clerk had such a genuinely cheerful attitude that he inspired me to brighten my own outlook. If we’re paying attention, inspiration can come from many places.

But what this blog is about is who you inspire.

We all have this ability. We all interact with family, co-workers, customers (patients) and various strangers throughout our day. Inspiration is a gift we can give to others.  And it doesn’t have to be something life-changing. You’re not going to barrel through your day handing out epiphanies left and right.  But you can spark something. You can uplift someone. You can set a good example, or do the unexpected.

And what really inspires people? Our actions. Sometimes it’s our words, or maybe a Facebook post.  But mostly, it’s our actions.

An act of kindness. A moment of patience or forbearance. Or generosity. You can inspire someone when you make someone laugh when they’re down, and show them the positives that are all around them.  You can demonstrate a better attitude (like my friend at Hertz).

A simple act of courtesy can inspire people, often without you even knowing them or realizing the impact you’ve had.

The opportunities to inspire are all around us. Grab a few.

I do this deliberately. I try to inspire my employees.  My friends. The people I lecture to.  This is not some ego trip I’m on. I don’t see myself as hugely inspiring, but I do acknowledge my ability to have some impact on people.  And so I make the effort.  Not to force-feed my viewpoint, but to show someone a different path.  It’s still up to them to take it. Inspiration is not about making anyone do anything. It’s an invitation.

And I don’t just see this as a nice thing to do. I see it as important to do, for you as well as others. For your own quality of life, your deeper happiness and satisfaction.

So I’m going to invite you to do something unusual.  Since it’s the time of year for resolutions, I’m going to suggest a different approach, which is this: take a few minutes, sit down and write your own eulogy.

Yes, actually write your eulogy. I know that sounds a bit morbid. But I’m pretty sure you’re going to die someday, so relax and go with it.  This is a chance for you to dive a little deeper into this concept of inspiring others.  The method to writing this is quite simple. All you have to do is envision what you will be remembered for.

This is not for anyone else to read. This is for you, written as if you were reading it at your own funeral service. (Ideally, many, many years from now!)

This is your chance to be honest, even brutally so, with yourself. What do you think your life will have meant to people? What would they say?  How do you think people would describe you?  Critique you?  What would they miss about you?  Would they miss you?

Will it be that you always had a fancy car and a big house, or was it that you were generous to a fault?

Were you adventurous or timid? Were you fair-minded or close-minded?

Did you choose love when it was difficult to do so, or did you fall into bias, prejudice, judgment and superiority?

Were you kind to animals but mean to people?

Exceptionally well-known, or an exceptional parent, or an exceptional complainer?

Did you have more friends than you could count, or more money than you could count?

Did you win, or help others to win? Did you crush the competition, or toast together with your competitors for a game well-played, whether you won or lost?

Did you inspire people to be better, to love more, to share more, to be honest and trustworthy?

Did you win arguments, or affection?  (Side note: there is no such thing as winning an argument. I’ve tried. It’s a delusion.)

Did you avenge every wrong, resent every slight, hold grudges endlessly, or opt for forgiveness?

Did your words of encouragement outweigh your criticisms?

Did you laugh enough? Did you pray enough?

Did you make a fortune? Or make a difference? (Not that you couldn’t do both.)

As you get toward the end of your eulogy, write what you would most want to be remembered for. Remember, this is for you. Not to show other people.  Don’t worry about the grammar. You are the only audience.

Once it’s done, seal it and read it next January 1st. See what’s changed. Maybe you inspired yourself.

In any case, I hope you decide to make this year an inspirational year, where some of your actions are deliberately chosen to inspire people. I wish you a joyful, challenging, and inspiring 2016!