Awhile back on a flight, I was seated next to an interesting person and we struck up a conversation. (I know – it seems so long ago now when we took flights and chatted while sitting close to strangers. I can hardly wait for those days to return.)
It turned out this person was a highly accomplished businessman. Whenever I am around someone like that, I like to engage with them by asking questions and listening to gain insights into their thinking.
We talked about the state of the world and what we thought might happen on the global stage. At the time, the Brexit situation was the big story. We talked about the world economy and its effect on what we do. And we talked about running a business and what that means to the people within the business who are important to us. That’s when he said something that really stuck with me.
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“Whenever I think of the well-being of the people in our company who depend on me,” he said, “I remind myself to focus on one phrase: ‘It’s just business.’”
I was a little surprised to hear him say that because it sounded rather cold and impersonal. He noticed my reaction and he went on to explain further.
“When I say, ‘it’s just business,’” he said, “I mean everything that is within my power to do for the people who work for me occurs within the context of creating a thriving business.”
He said he cared a great deal about the people who worked for the company – that many of them were like family to him – so he never let himself forget that if he always acted in the best interests of the business, he would always be in the best possible position to act in the best interests of his employees and his customers.
“It is people who make life interesting, and that’s true in business too,” he said. “In one sense, business is just about numbers. But it’s those numbers that determine what I can do for the people who are important to me.”
What my seatmate was emphasizing is success in business often requires flexibility. And you can only accommodate flexibility from a position of strength. Moments before, he and I had sat through the routine pre-flight safety demonstration, which offered an example of this way of thinking. The flight attendant showed how to use the drop-down oxygen masks in case of emergency, making sure to note if you were traveling with anyone who required assistance, you should ensure your mask was on first before helping them. The same kind of prioritizing holds true in life, and especially for business leaders: you must have a robustly functioning economic engine to be able to give the right support to those who depend on you.
This all comes to the forefront of our minds now, as we are dealing with practice restrictions and staff layoffs and furloughs and stimulus package issues. Now is a time when you are especially concerned about your team members and your patients. This means you need to be especially concerned about the economic stability of your practice.
Those stimulus measures will help in the short term. But now is also the time to think about the long-term measures to take to ensure the practice will bounce back quickly from this setback and continue to grow in the years to come. That’s how you protect the people who depend on you.
So, start planning how you are going to power through this time, and how you are going to hit the ground running when you return. For starters, you can refer to the crisis-response content we have on this site for specialists and restorative doctors.
Remember, the new normal is around the corner, and with it will come new standards. New standards for clinical excellence, for value excellence, for team excellence, and for safety excellence. But you should never lose sight of the fact that everything you do in each of these categories is always supported by economic excellence.
In other words, in the end, it is always “just business.”
Imtiaz Manji is co-founder and chairman of Spear Education. Discover more of his practice management and leadership lessons at speareducation.com/everythingimtiaz.