Speaker Delivers Awesomely Simple Business Advice

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By Chris Field, MBA

There is a story in ancient Greek mythology about a man named Sisyphus who is tasked with pushing a large boulder up a hill only to have it slip from his grasp just as he nears the summit. The rock rolls back down the hill from whence it started, and Sisyphus is forced to repeat the task for eternity. Some days, the world of O&P seems remarkably Sisyphean, as no sooner is one goal achieved, such as state licensure, the industry is faced with another hurdle like additional audits, new insurance regulations, or deeper cuts in reimbursement levels. Yet at such a challenging time, I found John Spence, a business advisor, strategist, consultant, and author, who uses an approach that shares the title of his book, Awesomely Simple, to assist individuals and companies in learning foundations for business excellence.


I encountered Spence and his approach at a recent Fundamentals of Excellence conference presented by The OPIE Choice Network where he was the keynote speaker. Spence delivered fascinating material and presented it in a lively and engaging manner. This led to involved workshop breakout/reflection sessions. In the past, I attended such events only to passively go along with the session while wondering when it would be over. This was not the case with this experience. There were profound moments of introspection as we pondered aspects of the day's lecture interspersed with group discussions, which were vibrant and participatory. Everyone genuinely seemed to want to participate, contribute, and learn—an environment I credit Spence with creating through his presentation.

We were about to find out whether the premise behind the attention-grabbing book title—that strategies for success in business can be boiled down and placed in the hands of the masses—is real.

So, what did he say that was so valuable, so awesomely simple? While I encourage you to read the book, the key takeaway was in Spence's ability to present complex business knowledge in a concise, summarized manner. As a self-proclaimed book worm, Spence says he reads hundreds of business-related books each year. It is almost as if I received a Cliff Notes'  version of the most influential business tomes of our time. For example, Spence states, "the only sustainable competitive differentiator left to most businesses today is creating a culture of continuous innovation and extreme customer focus driven by highly talented people." This statement illustrates his approach of distilling important business strategy into advice that is simple, yet profound. There are experts throughout the marketplace who shout this solution or that, tout the latest and greatest way of attaining market share or creating value, and yet all one really needs to do is ponder a statement such as the aforementioned and act on it.

Competitors can imitate your best practices and quickly level the playing field. What they can't do as easily is copy your drive, passion, and desire to turn your practice into the stuff of legends. Attainable success exists right where you already are. Focus on what you can do today, such as spending the time needed to hire the absolute best candidate for the open position, not just one who will fill the role. Hone in on patient retention and attainment by digging into your satisfaction surveys and finding out what drives patients to choose your practice over another. (By the way, are you asking good questions that will elicit meaningful and actionable comments and information, or are you just listing a few simple yes/no questions and a scoring number scale?) Determine what it is that makes your business unique, your strong points, and best attributes, then highlight and build upon them.

 The statement referenced above by Spence, and many more that followed, were driven home by the focused discussions and workshops that followed the presentation of key points.

Breakout groups were asked to discuss the material and wrestle with the implications and realities associated with implementing the conference material directly into their practices. How do we create a culture of continuous improvement, what exactly does it mean, and how will it look in my organization? The fascinating aspect that I observed was that there was no absolute right answer about how to create the right culture or develop a program of robust communication, which was another key concept delivered at the conference. We learned that many times the right answer will depend on what works for your business in your unique set of circumstances. Certainly, there are some concepts that transcend most situations, for example, hiring the best people is always key. But what about moments of truth—those make-or-break situations that truly define your business? It's probably different for every company. Those of us at the conference had the opportunity to reflect and identify these situations, determine how we should react, and identify barriers that would impede us, which could destroy all we have worked for if handled poorly. It is said that reputations are built over a lifetime, but it takes only a minute to destroy one. The same could be said for a business. Without considering moments of truth and determining ahead of time what our core values are, and how those values will shape our responses, we are setting ourselves up for one seemingly insignificant event to have a major detrimental effect on our company.

Spence made us aware of key concepts, crucial action points, and action we should take as leaders if we expect anyone to follow us. In my estimation, those who attended received a college-level course of material. I came back from the conference thinking, "Boy, we have a lot of work to do." Yet on the other hand, I was thrilled to meet with many O&P colleagues who journey with me, and to have been exposed to and challenged by Spence and the information he presented. The opportunities to continue the learning process begun at the conference are available through the OPIE Choice Network and a series of webinars they offer. In addition, to learn more about Spence's books and presentations, visit www.johnspence.com. 


Soul searching is often hard. If we are honest in the process, it will expose areas we need to work on. This conference did just that. It was provocative, timely, meaningful, and it stirred me to action.

Chris Field, MBA, has worked for Boas Surgical, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for over 16 years. He serves as the treasurer of the Pennsylvania Orthotic and Prosthetic Society and was named the CFO of the Year by the  Lehigh Valley Business Journal in 2014. He can be contacted at cfield1185@gmail.com.


(Editor's note: Neither Field nor  The O&P EDGE received financial compensation from The OPIE Choice Network or John Spence. The views presented are those of the author and do not constitute an endorsement by  The O&P EDGE.)