Note: remember your goals can relate to work, financial, family, physical, social, intellectual or spiritual matters.
When you have your vision, share it with your business associates and support team. Let them know what your intentions are and where the business is going. Have them understand that they are all part of the process and that there will be compensation for them as they work towards its success. The three-year vision, along with other exercises we will ask you to work on, is a living, breathing document. In other words, it will be constantly changing and you will want to refer to it every day in some form or another. Think of it in terms of being a 1000-day rolling vision that changes every 24 hours.
Writing down your three-year vision will help you answer the type of questions posed by Michael Gerber1:
With no clear picture of how you wish your life to be, how on earth can you begin to live it? How would you know what first step to take? How would you measure your progress? How would you know where you were, how far you had gone and how much farther you had yet to go?
Successful people, great people, have a vision of their lives, a vision that they endeavour to match every day. They don’t let life simply happen to them, passively waiting to see what will happen to them next. They are proactive in creating the life that they want. Great people look at their life as it is, compare that with the vision they have set themselves and see what needs to be done to make up the difference. This is the difference between what Gerber and others describe as living intentionally and existing by accident. So what would you like to be doing three months from now? Two years from now? Ten years from now? What would you like to learn during your life – spiritually, physically, financially, technically, intellectually? How much money will you need to do the things you wish to do? When will you need this money? The answers to these questions set the standards against which you can judge your progress. Without them your life will drift along without direction.
Since people behave according to the nature and strength of their basic core values, then the way you, your staff and your patients interact is ultimately dependent upon those core values. While such values cannot easily be altered or manipulated, by understanding them it is possible to build teams of people who, by and large, share the same underlying beliefs. As will be shown later, such teams tend to be stronger, more unified, more highly motivated and ultimately more productive than groups of people who do not.
What are your values?
Your life and, as we will see in a moment, your business will proceed much more smoothly when aligned with your core values. Take the time to think carefully about the following questions and answer them as honestly and as specifically as possible. Your answers will help you to determine those things that are of key importance in your life.
If you were to do one thing in your personal life that would have the most impact, what would that one thing be?
What are the tangible and intangible things that you would most like to have in life?
What would you most like to do with your life?
What kind of person would you most like to be?
Determining your key values
Look back over your life and try to recall times when you felt completely yourself – when you felt alive, excited, fulfilled and full of natural energy. Was it when you used to draw and paint as a child? If so, it’s possible that ‘creativity’ is an important value for you. Perhaps it was when you travelled to some exotic part of the world, or decided to take up hang-gliding or rock climbing? If so, then maybe one of your key values would be ‘adventure’.
What are your priorities? If one of your top priorities is spending time with your spouse and children, then one of your key values might be ‘family’. As you identify your values, it’s a good idea to define them. By clarifying your values, they become more real to you. Also, your definition may be very different from someone else’s. For example, to you, ‘professionalism’ might mean delivering a consistently five-star service, whereas for someone else it might be always showing up on time for appointments. When you write your personal definitions be sure to use positive statements such as ‘I am’, ‘I do’, ‘I will’.
Please list your key values below along with clarifying statements for each one. A list of some more common values is shown in the column on the right. You may want to choose some of these and/or add your own, unique values.
and so on …
Making a difference
Taking care of myself
The link between core values and business success
The collective core values of an organisation constitute the ‘climate’ or ‘culture’ of that organisation – a potpourri of deep-set values, ideals, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that influence how people work together. These core values are, or should be, an organisation’s essential and enduring tenets – a small set of general guiding principles, not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term expediency. This applies just as much to a dental practice as it does to a large multinational organisation, and it is just as crucial to the practice’s long-term viability and success. There is a growing acceptance in the business world that firms holding a strong set of values tend to be the most successful and tend to stay around the longest. Without core values clearly and solidly established at the heart of the dental practice, performance will always be limited.2 In their seminal book on corporate governance, Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras3 point to clear evidence that if your only value is making money, then this isn’t going to be enough to get and keep the best people and to sustain success over the long term. They also stress that visionary organisations don’t merely declare an ideology, they also:
- more thoroughly indoctrinate employees into a core ideology than comparison companies, creating cultures so strong that they are almost cult-like around that ideology
- more carefully nurture and select staff based on fit with a core ideology than the comparison companies
- attain more consistent alignment with a core ideology – in such aspects as goals, strategy, tactics and organisation design – than the comparison companies.
It is easy to see why a dental practice with clearly defined values would be more successful if one considers the following sequence of events:
- as we will show you in Strategy 5 (Deliver world-class customer service) of this book, your patients evaluate dental practices more on the ‘softer’ aspects of care (aspects they do understand and feel competent to evaluate), than on the ‘hard’ technical skills of the dentist (which they feel ill-equipped to evaluate); accordingly …
- everyone in the practice, not just the dentist, is included in the patient’s overall evaluation as well as every ‘transaction’ conducted with the practice; hence it follows that …
- a team comprising highly motivated staff members dedicated towards providing the best in customer care is likely to be evaluated positively by the patient. Such a team is far more likely to be achieved when …
- core values and ideologies are clearly stated, staff feel in tune with these values and feel highly motivated to act upon them.
Incorporating your values into your practice
In Priorities, Practice and Ethics in Small Firms, a report compiled for the Institute of Business Ethics, Laura Spence4 states that many owners of small firms are guided by strong principles even though they are rarely formalised into any kind of enforceable code of practice. She recommends 10 practical rules for good business conduct, as shown in Box 2.1.