It’s Okay To Make Nonfatal Mistakes In Business, Even Fatal Ones – Practice Perfect Podcast Episode #11
"So life is going to move forward, business life is no different. Business life is going to move forward. The market, market conditions, market realities will change every single day. And if you're not in the market, you can't adapt to that change. If you're getting ready to get into the market, you can't adapt to that change. If you're getting ready to build that new website and you haven't done it, right? Even if it's crap, it's better than not having one. Because you can change it, right? This is the thing that I want you to understand, that business is fluid."
Practice Perfect: Actionable business information to take your medical practice to the next level. Now your host, Nick Dumitru.
Nick Dumitru: Welcome back to another episode of The Practice Perfect Podcast. If you own a medical cosmetic practice, you're a plastic surgeon or you own a med spa, then you're definitely in the right place, right? The title of today's episode is going to be, it's okay to make non-fatal mistakes in business, even fatal ones. The reason I want to talk to you about this topic today is because you may have seen business people that open up competing businesses with you if you're a physician or you may have a business and you're wondering why it's working or why it's not working.
And I've seen this over and over in the practices that I work with and I wanted to really shed some light on this because the fear of failure can really hold you back. Now doctors just like engineers, some business people that are engineers first tend to have a harder time struggling with making mistakes. And this is because doctors are analytical by nature, right? So it's not your fault. The same instincts and trainings that make you a good doctor, that make you good at your job, that make you good at performing procedures are also the same instincts that can hold you back in business.
So what ends up happening? And this is a great quote I heard from somebody, is that instead of playing to win, you end up playing not to lose.
Nick Dumitru: [02:00] And that happens a lot because in the past I've had clients that were more interested in how their logo looked than if their staff was picking up the phone. They were so concerned with making sure that every little detail was correct, that they were missing the bigger picture. And like I said, that's great, if you're performing surgery, you can't take any risks. You can't have a mistake. You have to make sure that every detail is perfect or the patient is not going to be happy.
But what I want you to do is to start to learn to focus on what moves the business forward. Not insignificant details, those things are things that you can swing back around to later. You don't have to worry about making sure that every little thing is perfect every single time and sacrificing progress as a result of that. In my book, I say that activity doesn't equal progress. It's one of the main premises of the book. But it's also true that preparation doesn't equal progress either. So I don't want you to get stuck constantly getting ready to take your first step.
Nick Dumitru: [00:03:00] Take the step and then adjust to the conditions later, right? You don't sit when you wake up in the morning, you go outside. I happen to live in a colder climate, so we do get cold days with ice. I don't sit there at the front door looking out of the door thinking, "Should I take this first step? Should I go?" I've got the door open, I'm standing in the doorway and I don't sit there for an hour wondering if I'm going to slip, how I should put my foot down. I just go out there, I put my foot down, feel around a little bit. If it's not really icy and I know it's safe, then I move forward, right?
And this is the same analogy that you can use in business. You have to get your feet on the ground, you've got to get moving. Because as long as you're trying to get ready, you're not going to make any progress. And if you don't make progress, your business doesn't move forward and you don't get anywhere. It's quite literally just like life. Unfortunately, in business it becomes very easy to sit back and start analyzing everything, making spreadsheets, getting ready to get ready to make a move.
And a lot of times analytical people satisfy their need for accomplishment through this preparatory process, right? So you may have made all the spreadsheets to projections, everything you wanted to do, but not actually made any move to take action on that. And until you take action, nothing happens. Until you make a move, it's all in your mind. Even if you put it on paper, it's still in your mind because nobody's actually made a physical move forward. If you are trying to get ready to make lunch, but you don't actually cut the vegetables, start frying, you're not going to get that lunch done. It's just going to be a recipe.
And that's what you're essentially doing, is you're spending time over and over prepping these recipes but never actually turning on the fire and getting anything in that skillet and getting cooking. And I just see this over and over and it's a huge detriment to a lot of businesses. The danger to you as a practice, as a business owner is that as you're sitting there making all of these preparations, the market can move past you, right? If you were getting ready to do, let's say a print advertisement 10, 15 years ago, I've been at this for over 20 years, but I still remember the days when we used to make print ads.
We used to still cut things out on paper and put them on film and get them to the newspapers, film, camera ready art, it used to be called. And then that used to go in the newspaper. I've seen people spend a year or two trying to get ready to get going and get advertising. And then what happens is the internet came along. So as you're getting ready to put out that newspaper ad, here's the internet.
Nick Dumitru: [00:05:30] Now everything's changed. All of your plans are useless. So you have to understand that if you plan for too long, life can move right past you.
The market can move right past you. And I'm sure you've maybe have heard the saying by John Lennon, "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," right? So life is going to move forward, business life is no different. Business life is going to move forward. The market, market conditions, market realities will change every single day. And if you're not in the market, you can't adapt to that change. If you're getting ready to get into the market, you can't adapt to that change. If you're getting ready to build that new website and you haven't done it, right? Even if it's crap, it's better than not having one. Because you can change it, right?
This is the thing that I want you to understand, that business is fluid. The game these days, because largely a lot of it is online means that you can't make detrimental mistakes. And I want you to understand that. So the title of the podcast was, it's okay to make nonfatal mistakes in business and even fatal ones. Why do I say that? Because as a physician, if you are a doctor, if you are a med spa owner, you may have a slightly different attitude because you may not even be a physician. You're a business owner, so you get some of this stuff initially and you may be looking at the doctors and wondering why they're not doing that.
And I want you to understand this is important for getting your competitors as well and what's freezing them in their tracks. But if you are a doctor, if you're a plastic surgeon, you're going to do surgery. That preparation time is crucial for you because you've got pretty much one chance to get that right, right? If you make a mistake, let's say you're doing liposuction, you're performing this liposuction and then you puncture the abdomen, that can be fatal. And it's completely understandable. You're training your mindset, every instinct, everything that got you through med school is teaching you to do that.
But you have to separate that from business because business is very difficult to have fatal mistakes, right? If in business, let's say just in the aspects of marketing and promotion, for example, where I see a lot of people getting stuck because they're worried about their reputation and whatnot. They start to make a lot of mistakes and they get frozen in their tracks and they start to listen to too many people and they make no decisions ever thinking that it's going to be a fatal mistake. But the reality is that it's not.
So let's start examining some of those fears. I'm going to go through two big ones that I see typically from physicians. So the first one, the biggest fear that I usually find is looking bad or being ridiculed. Typically, it's by their peers, it's by other doctors, sometimes it may be by the staff or the market or they have delusions of grandeur thinking that they are famous somehow just because they've been on a news talk show or if someone's following them on Instagram or Facebook.
Here's the reality. The reality is that only a small subset of the market engages in cosmetic surgery. So no matter how famous you think you are in your own small world, the pond is still tiny. So you have nothing really to fear in terms of grand scale. Look at what that doctor did. Nobody's talking about you. Nobody's going to remember you next week even if you put up a ridiculous billboard or a strange Facebook ad. As long as you're compliant with the law and you're not breaking the rules of your governing bodies, then you're going to be perfectly fine, right?
So this is why I'm saying it's a non fatal mistake. In terms of a fatal one I'm going to get into that in a little bit, but I want to keep going on this fear of looking bad. The truth is that you are never taught business in school, right? It's not your fault and you have to figure it out. And to figure it out, you have to make mistakes, right? Nobody gets anything right the first time, 100% of the time. So it doesn't matter if you look foolish. Those are just other people's opinions.
And here's the thing with those people, they're not going to make payroll. They're not going to help you pay your staff. They're not going to help you pay your rent, your surgical equipment. They're not going to assist you in any way just because they're ridiculing you. So their opinion is irrelevant. It's irrelevant to your business life, right? If your competing physician, your colleague, looks at you and says, "Look at what Jack did," or, "Did you see Jennifer's ad? She looks ridiculous."
The reality is if the market reacts to it, you got leads, you got clients, you've got patients, you have money, that's what matters. Their opinion, 100% irrelevant. That's nothing but ego and hubris. So as soon as you can free yourself from that shackle and do what the market needs, not what your competitors and your colleagues think you should do, the sooner you'll be able to move forward in business. And I want you to always remember that these people, right? The ones that you are so afraid of their opinion, and it can even be family members, right? It can be a parent or it can be even a spouse sometimes, right?
The thing is that they're never going to go to the bank with you. They're never going to go and help you pay your rent. They're never going to help buy your family a new home. They're never going to help you take your kids on vacation. They're never going to free up your time so you can spend some quality time with your children, right? Because you had enough money to hire help. They're not going to do any of these things. They're not going to walk to the bank with you and deposit any of their money into your bank account.
They're just not going to do it. And by you being shackled by their opinions, you are now sacrificing everything that you could have been in the future based on nothing more than an internal feeling of possibly a little bit of shame or whatever it might be that's holding you back. So that's the first fear that I see, the fear of looking bad. The fear of being ashamed, the fear of other people ridiculing them. And I want you to start mentally reframing that in your mind and start thinking about what the reality is, what is really happening, what do you need to do?
Is your goal to look great in front of your peers or is your goal to really move your practice forward? And now it is possible to do both, but I'm going to tell you, you're going to get a lot more respect from being successful than by following the rules 100% of the time, right? And by rules, I mean the unspoken rules, not the legal rules or any laws governing your marketing and advertising. I'm talking about the unspoken little snickers that people might say because you've put out a video online that they may feel was too aggressive or they wouldn't have done that, right?
I get that a lot as well. So that first fear, you need to start to reframe, free yourself of the shackles. Take those steps and you're going to realize that at the end of the day, any minor transgression gets forgotten and any success gets lauded forever. They're always going to be talking about your success. A lot of them will start envying you, but any little thing that you put out on the path to getting there is really not going to matter in the long term and definitely will have zero impact on your success because your success is determined by the market.
So the only people's opinions you should care about are the people that are coming and actually paying money into your practice. That are actually choosing you out of the market versus your competitors. Those are the people that you have to cater to. Their opinions are the ones that matter. And when I say their opinions, their opinions only matter if they've paid you some money. If they're still out there and they're ridiculing you or making comments on your Facebook ads, those people are also irrelevant because they are not clients, right?
Once they become clients, once they become patients, then their opinions can start to matter, right? So let's get to fear number two. This is the second biggest fear that I come across. And it's typically the fear of losing money. Now, here's the truth about money. And a lot of people look at money as this great thing and they think if they invest or even spend or waste a few thousand dollars 10, 20, 30, 100,000, that is the end of the world. Biggest mistake I've ever made, right? I want to die. I just lost $30,000 because I chose X marketing company and they didn't do a good job. Or I put out this newspaper ad and I got zero results even though the rep promised that I was going to get everything in the world from putting up this full page newspaper ad.
Nick Dumitru: [00:13:30] But like I said, you need to make mistakes to figure it out because nobody's taught you. Unless you're working with someone like me, you don't have the knowledge and experience to move this forward. So if you're also worried about making mistakes, you're always going to be frozen. And money's one of those things that the truth about money is that money is easy. All right? And I know when maybe you don't have access to a lot of it. Maybe you're just starting your practice or you've hit hard times in your practice a little bit because your marketing starting to falter.
You've got the wrong staff or they forgot to pick up the phone, whatever it might be. I get it. I get that it can feel like a big deal, but here's the thing. Money's so easy that you could literally clean toilets and get paid, right? A very unskilled job. You don't need to go to school. You don't need to do anything. You just need to mimic the action of another human being and you can make money. You'll start to get paid because money is that easy. It's not a hard thing to get, and it always replenishes.
And you have every advantage as a physician [00:14:30] in getting more money out of the market because they're always printing more money. And when they start printing it and we go digital, they're always going to be able to add bytes into a computer and generate more money, right? Money is one of these things that exists largely in the mind space. And yes, I'm not going to get into arguments about currencies that are backed by actual goods and whatever. Those times are long gone. And the reality is that now, money is pretty much infinite.
And if you think that, "It's not infinite because you need to exchange goods or services for that. And services and goods are finite, it's hard to scale to a certain degree." Well, here's the thing. Let's take a look at things like video games for example. Inside video games they've created virtual worlds where digital goods are exchanged and the only thing driving those digital goods are the electricity, which is abundantly available from the sun. So if you theoretically powered a gaming center, right, a server farm with solar power, it would be zero cost other than the equipment.
And then inside that world you could have tens of millions of dollars of exchanges, everything from digital goods like clothing to weapons in video games, right? All digital goods, infinite, an infinite amount. The only limitation is human creativity. So money itself is always available to you. And if you're in business, if you're in motion, here's the thing about it. It always replenishes. There's always more of it. Even if you go bankrupt, right? You still have your degree. As long as you didn't break the laws, as long as you didn't harm patients, as long as you took care of your reputation, you can make financial mistakes.
It's okay for you to invest because if you invest 30000, the reality is you just have to perform a few more operations and cover that cost. If you invest 100000, it's the exact same thing. Money always replenishes as long as you're in business because you're going to get paid, you're going to do that next surgery. There is no shortage of money. So the fear of losing money is also an irrational fear. Because there's something that you should be much more afraid of and a lot of people don't talk about this at all and that is opportunity cost.
Let me explain opportunity cost for you a little bit. Opportunity cost is what you could have made, what you could have been if you have taken an action now, right? So in simple terms let's say that you need to walk a thousand miles, right? And today you just got frozen because like I said, you're in your doorway and you're not sure if you're going to step out and you spend half the day looking at your driveway wondering if you're going to step on that icy driveway or not, right? In that half day, you could have walked several miles, right? Maybe 5, 10 whatever it is.
Maybe you're a good jogger, maybe you run marathons, whatever it might be. In half a day, you could've run miles, maybe tens of miles, depending on how good you are and what fitness level you have. In businesses, the same way. Businesses have different speeds and different fitness levels. But at the very least, at a comfortable walk in half a day, you could've gone a couple of miles, right? Versus spending that whole time wondering about getting going because you're afraid to lose something. Maybe when you fall or you slip a little bit, maybe some change would have fallen out of your pocket and you're afraid of losing 50 bucks or 100 bucks or two bucks or whatever it might be.
It's the same in business. People sit there frozen and fear about losing a little bit of money and they don't think about where they could have gone because in two miles opportunity could have been there for you, right? In your two mile walk or 10 mile walk, whatever you ended up doing, you could have met somebody that somebody could have become a patient. That patient could have generated you $10000 in income, right? Business is the same way. When your business starts to walk, it walks towards opportunity. And nobody talks about this opportunity.
The opportunity cost is huge and the reality is that whatever you're thinking of investing, even to the point of bankruptcy could cost you a lot more in opportunity cost than you could have ever lost if you invested it. If you're sitting there fretting about buying some ads on Google or social media or hiring a marketing company, and you're sitting there frozen in fear about the mistake that you might make and if it's just money, if they're not going to break the law, if they're not going to do anything illegal. If they're not going to ruin your reputation and it's just the money holding you back, your opportunity cost could cost you a lot more.
Because here's the reality in business, the whole point of investing in your business is to make mistakes because you learn from the mistakes. What are mistakes to a business person? What are they to a marketer like myself? Mistakes are data or data depending on how you want to pronounce them, different parts of the world. But they are data and that data or data educates you. It gives you the knowledge to know how to take the next step, right?
If you spend money in a certain direction and you do something and you see that that doesn't work, that's just as valuable as if it worked. Because now you know which way to go. If you walk in the wrong direction, right? If you need to go to point A and you're walking towards point C and you're walking that way and someone stops you and says, "Hey, no. This is point C, you need to go towards point A. It's that way," at least you know where point A is now, right?
If you don't take any action, if you don't have any data to work by, then you've got nothing to go with. You've got no information. You haven't invested in your business to not even learn what works or doesn't work. And I hope you start to see how ridiculous that is. Just being frozen, trying to save. I've seen people just trying to squirrel away every penny instead of investing back in their business. They'd rather put it in the stock market where they have zero control than to invest it back in themselves and in their business and in their marketing. So I really want you to understand that.
That money's always replenishing and it's okay to make mistakes because the mistakes buy you the information that you need to start making the right moves. And it doesn't matter if you're right or wrong, what matters is the learning so you can improve and you can move forward with your next decision. I'm going to give you a quote right now to let you off the hook a little bit. And this is from Ray Dalio. If you don't mind being wrong on the way to being right, you will learn a lot. If you can't tolerate being wrong, you can't grow. And that's the truth.
That is the truth in business. If you can't tolerate being wrong, you can't grow. And so many doctors live in fear of being wrong because they've been battered, beaten, and abused by life and society and school and parents into always having to be right. And it holds back practices. I've seen this over and over. I can't stress that enough. Now, this fear of being wrong also translates to your staff. So I want you to understand that it's not just you I'm talking about. You need to encourage your staff to take risks. You need to encourage them to make mistakes. Because the reality is that if you're not innovating, you're going to die.
If you don't innovate, you die. That's just the way business is. Businesses that innovate, that look for new opportunities before the previous opportunity runs out, it's something called the sigmoid curve. I may do an actual post on the website about that because it needs some visuals. But typically that is a cycle. It's like a sideways S. So before the S starts to dip down, you need to move to the next thing that's working, right? You need to identify when that stops working and then start making plans for the next thing while you've still got those resources at their peak or near their peak.
And what happens in a lot of organizations, what I see is that doctors behave as if they're in hospitals because medicine is a paternalistic system. In hospitals, the doctor's the boss, and everyone looks to him or her for answers. And if this attitude carries over into your private practice, right, where it's a business, it's no longer medicine depending on where you are in the world, you're not going to be able to get additional income necessarily, right? Because it may be covered by insurance only, maybe social health care like we have in Canada and a lot of European countries.
But depending where you are, if you keep carrying that attitude over and you don't have an attitude of service, an attitude of leadership, then it's going to hold you back and it's going to harm you more than it helps you. And a lot of doctors, because of this attitude, this setup in these medical institutions, means that they feel like they're always the parent. That's right. It's a paternalistic system where they feel like they have to have the answers and they're always telling you what to do. They don't let people contribute and they don't let people fix their mistakes and make mistakes.
Nick Dumitru: [00:23:00] And if you've got children, I want to ask you, you'll get this right away. And for those of you that don't have children yet, let me explain at least a little personal parenting advice that I've noticed over the years. Is if your child is in the kitchen and they start to make a mess, they throw their cereal and milk on the floor, whatever it might be, they throw their pancakes around, whatever they're eating, they make a huge mess while you're not there in the kitchen. What's our instinct as parents typically? Right. It's to go in there and clean it all up.
But what should you do? What do you do? How do you train that kid instead of belittling them and yelling at them and letting them understand why it's bad through verbal discipline, right? Which does nothing but brings that person down and brings the individual down. And I'm talking now in a dual track here, both parent and leader in your business with employees, right? That kid is not going to learn and they'll start to repeat their mistakes. So what do we do? Right. Well, I don't do it, but historically what has been done is they start to beat the children, right? Then you get angry little kids that move forward in life thinking that's the right thing to do as well.
And then that gets carried over. And then you get this constant, paternalistic hierarchy throughout life. And what happens to the children typically and employees is that they're afraid to go out and be independent and make mistakes and innovate on their own. When the reality is that if your child made a huge mess, the only way for that child to learn the consequences of that action to them and to you is to make them clean up their own mess. So if your employee makes a mistake, belittling them, yelling at them, telling them that they did a crappy job isn't going to get it done. You have to give them the chance to correct their mistakes.
Let them go and clean up their own mess, fix their own mess, make them responsible for it so that they understand that the next time they screw up, they have to fix it. And this will free them because now they know that if it's a mistake, it's their mistake and they're going to own that mistake and they're going to own what they learned from it, right? So always take the learning from their mistake. What did we learn from this? How can we improve on the back of this? What can we do better next time? Let them give you the answers. And if they're incapable of fixing their mistakes and giving you the answers, don't take over, fire them.
Get rid of them because they're not helping your practice. You've got a B player or a C player, not an A player. You're not a charity and you're not going to be able to grow and sustain that growth over time and have any kind of meaningful goals reached if you're the only one doing everything and have all the answers. And there's a reason why we have trade between countries. And that's because we take goods from one place to the other where it's manufactured more efficiently, better, more innovatively, and we exchange that for other things. And that's how the world spins, right?
I'm not talking gravitational, I'm talking economically. That's how things work. That's why we don't try to make everything ourselves. That's why we import things. That's why we exchange goods. That's why one place has great wine and they're happy to exchange that for the hard wheat out of Canada so that they can make bread, right? That's how things happen.
Nick Dumitru: [00:26:00] And business is the same way. Your employees are contributing, right? It's a village. It's not a dictatorship. And yes, the responsibility ultimately lies with you.
But if they're not contributing and helping you, then you've made bad hiring decisions or you've got legacy staff that need to go. And it's okay to understand that the people that got you here may not be able to get you to the next step. And that's fine. And you can be compassionate and you can let them go nicely without ripping them off or just throwing them out. You can try to put them in different positions. But what you shouldn't do is let them hold you back and what you shouldn't do is suppress their ability to innovate and contribute to your practice by being a paternalistic leader that is top down dictating everything that you do because you're going to be cutting yourself short.
You're going to be dismissing their ability to go out and learn and come back to the practice and innovate with you. Now I want to give you another quote. This one's from Jack Welch. If you don't know who Jack Welch is, he was the chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. During his tenure, GE, their company value rose by 4000% on the back of his leadership. Okay, and I want to give you a quote directly related to this and here it is. When people make mistakes, the last thing they need is discipline. It's time for encouragement and confidence building. The job at this point is to restore self-confidence.
I think piling on when someone is down is one of the worst thing that any of us can do. That's from Jack Welch, and he is arguably one of the most successful CEOs in history. Not the most, but one of the most. Phenomenal growth, unbelievable leader. And what he's trying to say there is that if someone makes a mistake and it was a genuine mistake, you learn from those mistakes, you encourage them and you encourage them to make more mistakes moving forward, just not the same mistakes, right? And like I said, when I say mistakes, this is not like gross incompetence, like having an inability to do their job on a regular basis.
Those are not the kind of tolerable mistakes that we're talking about. But if they've put their foot out and they've stepped out that door and they slip and fall, you don't go and say, "Why you slide and slip and fall?" Right. You say, "What do we learn from this? How can we examine the driveway better? What would you do? Can we put salt there to make this safer for everybody?" Right? It's a learning. It's an opportunity and the risks that they took was on your behalf and you let them take those risks because that's how you move your practice forward.
It's okay to make mistakes. So an organization's ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage. I want you to understand that there's no better advantage than making mistakes quickly and learning from them in the mix. Start making the right moves on the back of the data that you got back. And remember that businesses in medicine, don't be paralyzed by your own indecision. What you fail to achieve by not taking action is going to cost you a lot more than anything you could ever lose by taking it.
Because 99% of the time, all you're going to lose is a bit of money, right? And money always comes back to you. But what you gain in terms of experience, that compression of time, time can be compressed, right? Time is not the static thing. If someone asks you for a meeting next week and you say, "Well, I'm free right now, would you like to talk?" You've just compressed a week's worth of time into a few minutes. And it's like that in business, the faster you can learn things, the better you can move. Imagine if you take three years worth of learning slowly and you can compress that into six months worth of mistakes.
What you can do with that two and a half years in terms of growth, how much more revenue, exponential revenue, because now you've got new patients that then refer other patients and it's exponential because one becomes two becomes three becomes five from referrals. Just think about how you're holding yourself back by not making a decision because your fear of ridicule, fear of losing money or any other irrational fear that you may be experiencing right now. And I'm happy if you want to leave comments in the podcast, I'd love to discuss any other ones that you need to have reframed and thought about.
I will do a follow up episode on that for sure. So that's the parting thought I want to leave you with. Not taking action is going to cost you a lot more than anything you could ever lose by taking it. So as always, if you want the show notes and if you want any of the links or anything that I ever speak about in these podcasts or the transcripts, if you need them, then by all means, please go to thinkbasis.com, click on the podcast link. I think eventually we will do a dedicated URL that will redirect to that as well just to make it easier for you. But for now, just go to thinkbasis.com. T-H-I-N-K B-A-S-I-S.com and click the podcast link and all of the episodes will be there for you as well as any of the show notes. Thanks for listening. I hope this was helpful for you. Now stop listening, go out there and take some action and I will see you on the next podcast.