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Murphy’s Law: Vision Drives Everything
Clear goals should drive all decisions
By Mark T. Murphy, DDS, FAGD
Let’s pretend you are going on a trip. Oh, by the way, you leave in the morning. I’ll see you at 8:00. Was that enough information? Of course not. You need to know where you are going, how long you will be gone, what to pack, how you are traveling, what you will be doing while you are there, and maybe even why you are going along. Think of the answers in this structure.
• Vision: Where we are going and why. How long we will stay and what we will do there.
• Mission: What we hope to accomplish on this trip, an expansion of why we are traveling.
• Values: How we will conduct ourselves on the journey.
• SWOT External: Checking road conditions, weather, construction etc.
• SWOT Internal: Schedules and availability, driver skills, navigational expertise, etc.
• Goals: Miles per day, fuel economy, meals, etc.
• Strategies and Tactics: Interstates or back roads, driver times, sleep breaks, etc.
• Budgeting: Aligning available resources with the anticipated costs of the trip and allocation.
• Execution: Metrics, adjustments, changes, and adapting to conditions.
You get the idea. So many variables must be managed when planning a trip. The issue is that many of us put more time, effort, and money into planning a vacation than we put into running our businesses. Every week is like taking a trip in our laboratories. All of the elements found in strategic planning and execution are present. They are all born from the vision of how we want to live our lives inside and outside our laboratories. I often say vision answers the seminal question: “Who do you want to be what for?” Ask yourself:
• What size laboratory do I want to have?
• What kinds of products and services would I like to provide?
• Whom would be my ideal customers?
• What is the right price point?
• How much time will I spend working in and on my business?
• What level of quality do I want to provide?
• What values would I want my team to have?
• Etc, etc, etc.
When I consult with dental laboratory owners, the most important thing I must accomplish is understanding their vision. If they do not really have a vision, I may be able to help them uncover or discover one. Without clarity of where you want to go and what you hope to accomplish, it is challenging to make decisions that support your goals and objectives. Falling into the “be everything to everybody” trap is easy. Staying on a vision-driven path is difficult. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice comes to a fork in the road and is not sure which branch to take. When she spots the Cheshire Cat and asks him which road she should take, the cat answers that it depends on where she is going. She answers that she does not really know, and then the cat delivers the lesson: Well, then it really doesn’t matter.
If you were considering a marketing plan, attending the Pankey Institute, starting a study club, buying a new building, or investing in the latest new technology, and you asked for my thoughts, I would likely say: “Well, tell me a bit about what you are hoping to accomplish, and what is your vision? Where do you want to be in 3, 5, and 10 years?” Your vision becomes a waypoint that can be used to evaluate how appropriate a decision would be. Your strategies and tactics should support the goals and objectives that feed your vision. Always think to ask yourself, “How does this decision impact my ability to move toward my vision?” The more you can stay aligned with whom you want to be and where you want to go, the more efficiently your time, talent, and treasure will be spent. You will have clarity, balance, and fulfillment. Your team will be more likely to rally behind you and support you.
Let’s try it again. Let’s pretend we are running a dental laboratory. Think about the differences that your vision of your quality, design, and price point dictate. At $1 million in annual revenue, a laboratory would have to fabricate 40 units per day at an ASP (average sales price) of $100, or just 16 units if charging a high-end/boutique price of $250. This laboratory would need 70 dentists if each averaged $1,200 for their monthly laboratory bills, but only need 27 if they were more deeply engaged at $3,000. The differences are profound and impact operations, staffing, marketing, and every aspect of managing your laboratory. The expectation that clients have and we provide are vastly different with these two bookend examples. Even large corporations such as Marriott that embrace different levels of engagements, luxury, convenience, and price do so with different yet related brands. The towels at a Fairfield Inn should not be expected to actually dry you off, but the Ritz Carlton’s towels might be better than what you use at home. Marriott has several other brands, each with a different vision of whom they want to be what for—different systems and deliverables to support alternative visions.
Your strategies and tactics that you design should help achieve your goals and support your dreams. A clear and compelling vision can inspire and instill emotion. It can offer guidance and help set decision-making and behavioral boundaries. It will help you when you have those difficult conversations with your dentists, your team, and yourself.
About the Author
Mark T. Murphy, DDS, FAGD, is the Principal of FunktionalTracker.com and Lead Faculty for Clinical Education at MicroDental Laboratories.