Team Building

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead.

“The difference between a small business owner and a successful entrepreneur is the presence of a TEAM,” says Robert Kiyosaki, in Retire Young, Retire Rich. “Entrepreneurship,” says Kiyosaki “is a team sport.”

As you start your new health care practice and prepare your business plan, include a section in your management plan about your support team. We all need to surround ourselves with positive, helpful people as we go through life. If you want to have a successful health care practice, you need to work with a team who will support you in your efforts to start and grow this practice.

So who should be on this team? Anyone you choose who you feel can help you in setting up your practice and supporting its progress. Some possibilities:
1. Your attorney
2. Your CPA
3. Other professionals in your field in the community or an adjoining community
4. Your spouse or parent
5. Your banker
6. An old friend who is in marketing (or web design, or advertising)
7. A success coach (more about this later)

Construct your team by looking for individuals who can fill specific functions:
1. A financial guru, who can help you through the setup of your books and be sure you’re on the right track at tax time. This person should also help you look ahead to when your practice is going well and you need to minimize your taxes, provide employee benefits and, yes, evaluate tax shelters.
2. A coach, to help you “envision, clarify, create and sustain” your results. Successful people have coaches. You need one too. You’ll be amazed at the positive effect on your life and your business. Here’s what a great coach can do for you: – Clear out your mental obstacles to success – Help you clarify your goals – Keep you accountable for progress – Give you momentum over the tough spots.

Your coach doesn’t have to be local; it’s more important that you feel comfortable with the coach’s style and you are compatible. For a list of coaches, go to “Coach U’s “FindACoach” (http://www.findacoach.com ) or Coachville (http://www.cvcommunity.com/Public/FindabrCoach/index.cfm .

1. A marketing guru, to keep your marketing plan sharp and help you refocus when you need to make changes. This includes a web page designer and branding expert.
2. A visionary thinker, to help you see into the future and keep you motivated to get there.
3. An attorney or someone with a broad knowledge of small business law. You’ll need this person anyway, so why not get him/her on your team too?

What are the requirements for these individuals to join the team?
1. They must have some specific area of expertise that you can draw on for knowledge, as discussed above.
2. They must be positive, supportive people (no “nay-sayers” or “party poopers” allowed). Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.” If you ask someone to be on your team and he/she seems too negative, politely remove the person. One negative person can destroy a great team.
3. They must be willing to commit some time to meeting as a group and individually with you over a period of time (possibly years).

Why would these people want to do this?
1. They care about you
2. They are excited about your practice
3. They are flattered to be asked
4. In some cases, you’re paying them.

What’s the difference between this team and my corporate Board of Directors? They might be the same group, but probably not. Your Board has fiduciary (financial) responsibility for the success of your practice; your support team does not. You can get your support team together more often than the Board, for different types of issues.

How do I get these people together? Do they all have to be in the same place at the same time? With the Internet, everything is possible. Team members can be anywhere and you can connect with them via free conference calls (try http://www.freeconference.com/ or others).

What do I do with these people once I’ve identified them? Invite them all to breakfast and ask them “What is the one thing I should do to make this practice successful this year?” Then sit back, let them talk, and take notes. Do it once a month for the first year or two, then once every other month. Give them your business plan and have them discuss it at the first meeting. Ask them, “What do you think? If you were a bank, would you lend me money? What can I do to improve this plan?”

The first few months after you open, they will be helping you work through the startup decision process (“Should I be a sole proprietor or an LLC?” What phone service is best? What marketing approach will work best in this community?”). Later, they will be keeping you motivated, review your sales and expense figures, deal with issues of the moment, and determine additional strategies.

The point is that you don’t just designate people to help you. Talking to each of these people individually is helpful, but it isn’t everything. Get them together on a regular basis. There is synergy (whole is greater than the sum of its parts) in having people talk with each other and focus on one issue or problem.

What if they don’t want to participate? For some of these people, you may have to provide payment. Your attorney, for example, might have to bill you for the time. But in a small town he/she might be willing to participate for nothing more than a free breakfast. People love being asked for their advice and they love being involved in something new and exciting. In a small town in particular, they will catch on quickly to the benefit of your practice to the community at large, and to them.

What if I can’t afford to pay people? Find people who will help you for nothing. Check your local chapter of SCORE (www.score.org). Find a business owners group. For example, there are several groups for women business owners, like NAWBO (www.nawbo.org ) , which has chapters across the country. Start networking by joining the Chamber of Commerce and find someone else who is starting a business and be supports for each other. One of my grads is starting in a small town where a new dentist is also just starting; they have found it very useful to share startup experiences and discuss joint marketing efforts.

Check the local community college for students that might need to add to their portfolio by contributing their marketing expertise. You may find a great person who is willing to help you for very little.

Motivational speaker and writer Brian Tracy says, “Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.” Remember that you ARE the 5 people you spend the most time with. So if you want to be successful, get yourself a positive, knowledgeable group of people, form your practice success team, and get going!