Chris Barrow discusses the differences between working on your business and working in your business.
In Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth Revisited, he identified a relationship between working ‘in’ your business and working ‘on’ your business. It was immediately considered an industry classic, and I was delighted to be involved in the subsequent publication of The E-Myth Dentist, which applied the original concepts specifically to the dental industry.
The theory is quite straightforward, but questions remain among modern principals as to how they can distinguish between the two ideas and use them to grow their practice. Many principals provide dental treatment to patients whilst running their practice. For them, it is very important to differentiate between working ‘in’ and ‘on’ the business.
Put simply, when you’re seeing patients and generating cash flow, you’re working ‘in’ the business. When you’re completing tasks associated with the running of the practice, you’re working ‘on’ your business. The distinction here is that you are doing the things that need to be done in order to generate future profits.
Once you understand these parameters, it is necessary to consider your time-management. Clinical dentistry requires a great deal of concentration and so, broadly speaking, it is very difficult to work ‘in’ and ‘on’ your business at the same time. This means that working ‘on’ your business during your lunch break, in-between patients, etc is next to impossible without burning out.
We are not designed to work anywhere near a 70-hour week, and therefore we’re not able to work effectively by piling up the hours. Unfortunately, many principals are no strangers to long working hours. An example of this became apparent when I met a principal recently who was juggling life as a single-mum with working days of 8am-9pm, while also trying to work at weekends. Once she had finished seeing patients at about 6pm, she spent a couple of hours each day completing paperwork. While this may sound scenario to many dentists out there, it doesn’t have to be the case. Running a business is hard work, there’s no getting around that, but your quality of life can be improved with proper time-management.
Becoming more efficient
As I have been recommending for 20 years now, I advised the principal to drop a clinical day, and allocate that day to paperwork and the tasks she completed in the evenings and at weekends. This can be worrying for many professionals, who feel that their business depends on their five clinical days to survive. A year down the line, however, many realise up to a 10% increase in production, while only performing dentistry themselves four days a week. ‘How can this be?’ I hear you cry. The answer is that by only working ‘in’ your business four days, your tolerance for timewasters or price-shoppers reduces. With less time available you have to be more efficient. Correct time-management combined with a good team will mean you can work fewer hours while completing the same amount of work. What’s more, when you allocate blocks of time to working ‘on’ your business, you are able to better focus on the task in hand. You are still close by in the case of a patient emergency of course, but you have a whole day to analyse your marketing activities, consider in-practice protocols, etc, in a more thorough and relaxed manner. You have your evenings and weekends back to unwind and spend time with family and friends, inevitably enjoying greater job satisfaction.
Getting the balance right
This is just one of the ways you can enhance your business, without compromising your personal commitments. Having coached and mentored principals through the process for many years, I can show you exactly what works and what doesn’t, and offer practice tips and advice to help you organise your time efficiently and reap the rewards. In today’s world, it is as important to work ‘on’ your business as it is to work ‘in’ it. Get the balance right and watch your practice thrive.
Chris Barrow is the founder of 7connections business coaching. An active consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession, Chris has spent more than 15 years witnessing the trials and tribulations faced by dentists today. Chris combines a wealth of knowledge with the originality and independence needed to resolve the thorniest of problems.