The last issue of Podiatry Management Magazine presented the concept of having your office function as a League of Its Own, mirroring the Tom Hanks movie called, "A League Of Their Own," about the women's baseball league where Geena Davis, who was incredibly passionate and alive with her love for the game, was ready to quit and move back to Oregon due to her husband’s war injury. Her coach, played by Tom Hanks, confronted her and asked her why she was leaving. She replied, “things just became a little too hard.” Tom Hanks replied "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes you great." This rings so true in building and maintaining a successful podiatry practice in today’s times.
1) Always be a student. We are never finished learning and growing personally and professionally. Medicine—particularly podiatry and dealing with the diabetic foot—is a forever evolving profession. It is necessary to stay abreast of advances, studies, and the politics of our profession. It is now easier than ever before with many opportunities to learn using the Internet, podcasts, DVD, CD, and through meetings that we can attend via Webinars and simulcasts. It is best to have a balance of clinical learning, personal growth, as well as strengthening personal skills and practice management. There is a great list of books we suggest on home page of www.aappm.org. Time is a big challenge when comes to finding time to read, so we challenge you to simply read ten pages a day, every day. In ten years, this equals an amazing 36,400 pages and using an average of a two hundred page book you will have read 182 books!
2) Always be a teacher. We must not forget that there were many teachers who helped us become who we are. We have a responsibility to train others: residents, medical students, nurses, other healthcare professionals, and those interested in entering podiatry and medicine. Nothing is more gratifying than teaching others our craft, our techniques, and our hard-earned lessons along the way. Commit yourself to teaching one new improved communication technique, method, or skill to your office TEAM each week. Podiatry Management Magazine is loaded with information to help with this.
Many of us have had the great joy of having a high school or college student shadow us, and evoking their interest in podiatry and subsequent application for podiatry school. It’s an incredible feeling to contribute to their education and to watch them mature into fine young physicians. Perhaps my greatest contributions are not the articles I have written or my patients’ lives that I have impacted, but the individuals that I have helped inspire to become physicians and who will, ultimately, continue to pay it forward by inspiring others to become part of our healthcare profession.
3) Have fun. Many podiatrists are known for their love of their profession and their senses of humor and their lighthearted attitude. Most of us always have a story or a quip that we are ready to share with a patient or at a party. But we can take it a step further and use humor in our clinical interaction with patients. For example, in my office, there is a sign on the ceiling of every exam room that says, “Smile, you are on candid camera.” I have never had a patient who can’t look at the sign, relax, and then giggle. As a tongue and cheek gift post surgery, patients are given a small brass bell so they can summon their partner or family member while they are recovering from the foot procedure. Nearly every couple has fun with the bell and often will tell friends about the procedure and the brass bell, in turn providing my practice with an important form of word-of-mouth marketing. My message is that we need to take our work seriously, but not ourselves. Have a white board in your office and have the joke of the week for all patients to see.
4) Go the extra mile. Provide more service than is expected. My favorite example is to send a written thank you to someone every day thanking them for some action that they have taken that has been of assistance to you personally or to your practice. If you have a case that needs to be added onto the schedule and the operating room scheduler does this at a time that is convenient for you, send him or her a note thanking them for making this possible. If the pharmaceutical representative brings lunch to your office, send a thank you note with all your TEAM members signing. It may be the only one they will receive from a doctor or a doctor’s office. If a patient refers a friend or family to your practice, send a note thanking them for the referral. I can assure you that you won’t have a problem finding people to thank who have made your life easier and more enjoyable. Two simple ways to go the extra mile that gives great returns is to end the visit with every patient asking, “What other questions do you have?” and you calling every new patient the evening of their visit and simply saying, “Thank you for coming into our office today, just calling to see if you have any additional questions.”
5) Become something more than a podiatrist. Develop an interest beyond medicine and share your interest or hobby with others. You will find that your hobby becomes a common source of conversation with patients in your office, in speeches, and expands philanthropic purposes within your community.
6) Befriend people older and younger than yourself. Gain the wisdom from your elders and capture the energy and enthusiasm from younger colleagues and friends. Early in our career social friends were my medical colleagues. Then we became friends with artists, athletes, and professional writers. These non-medical people expanded my world when I went with them to museums, athletic events, and book signings and quickly learned that there was so much more to learn than just medicine. As podiatrists seeing many seniors, we have the best human “Google” in the world, when you need to seek wisdom on a matter at hand, ask five or more seniors and you will be amazed on what you will learn.
7) Give back. Write about your experiences and share them with others. There are countless opportunities to publish your writing, including your professional blog. It is so enjoyable to write a column for your colleagues or for a local health and fitness magazine and know that sometimes the articles don’t go into the trash and people do read them and that the material does make a difference in their lives. Many of the hospitals have a newsletter and always looking for information about new procedures and techniques. It is incredible how many opportunities there are out there if you just ask. Consider giving each of your office TEAM members an hour of paid time off to volunteer a week and have a meeting every three months with all in the office to share experiences.
8) It is not the customer that is number one, it’s yours staff. Research consistently shows that staff satisfaction extends far beyond how much you pay them. There are many opportunities to do little things that mean so much. On your TEAM members birthday, mail a birthday card with personal note to their home with 1 one dollar scratch off lottery ticket for each year they have worked in your office. For no particular reason, hand out a manicure certificate to each TEAM member (and if male do something else that makes sense) or a movie ticket. Do this in front of patients and it gives you an extra bang for your dollar. Find a book that is a simple read with a powerful message and buy one for each TEAM member. When reading podiatry or other magazines, if there is an article relevant to your TEAM makes copies for all and distribute.
A premise amongst the successful is that 5% makes 95% of the difference. You will see this with many successful businesses you do business with. Keep your radar up for the little things you can do that make a big difference for others and ultimately you.
Hal Ornstein, DPM and Neil Baum, MD