Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Tale of Two Teams

I was in St. Louis, MO this week as well as Springfield, MA speaking at different dental meetings. I was struck by the contrast of two teams that I encountered:

Team #1: The doctor asked me how much the tuition was to attend our two-day Total Immersion course. When I gave him the fee of just a few hundred dollars per person, he was shocked. “That is a lot of money.” (He sounded just like the patients that so many dentists complain about!) I simply responded that it was only a lot of money if there was no implementation. $1 is expensive if you don’t implement.

Team #2: Contrast that with another team that was in the same room; the team of Dr. Michael Hoffman. I have known Michael for over 10 years. He has built one of the top sedation practices in the country. He is known all over the region for his expertise. Patients seek out his practice because he is one of the pre-eminent in his field. What sets Michael apart is his dedication to education, development of his team, investing in his practice, and IMPLEMENTATION. We see every new team member on Michael’s team through our ToPS Total Immersion course as soon as they are hired. He believes in his people and he invests in them. As a result, his practice continues to grow.

So what is the tale of your team? Are you stagnant and in retreat or progressing and developing? Any money you spend on your practice is “expensive” if you have no plan for implementation to get a return. Any investment is well worth it if you plan, implement and take action.

The course you take will determine the tale of your team now and in the future.
You decide.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Have You Become A Commodity?

It has become a classic scenario: You pull into Costco or Sam’s. You walk in flashing your membership card and grab the over-sized shopping cart or flat bed cart. You grab mass quantities of toilet paper, paper towels, canned goods and other commodities. You even remembered to bring your discount coupon book that gives you even deeper discounts than normal. You wait to check out and then commandeer your over-packed cart through the parking lot and stuff your car full of boxes and containers that were never meant to fit into a car in the first place. As you settle into the driver’s seat, a rush of satisfaction comes over you as you think, “I saved so much money!” As you bask in your victory on the drive out of the parking lot, the thought suddenly flashes through your mind, “I deserve a reward!” You drive a few short blocks, pull into Starbucks, and pay $5 for a cup of coffee!

What is a commodity? It is the kind of stuff you buy at Costco and Sam’s. By definition it is a raw material or product that is widely available, and the quality is perceived as being basically the same from brand to brand. Since there is no differentiating factor that sets one brand apart from another, you are left to shop based on one thing and one thing alone: PRICE!

Think of the commodities exchange in Chicago. Every day, millions of tons of “commodities” are traded based on PRICE. Go to Costco. They stack it deep and sell it cheep because most of what they sell are commodities. It is a price driven game.

Unfortunately, some products, services, and people for that matter have unknowingly become commodities. They become so widely available and indistinguishable one from another that there is nothing left by which to distinguish them but PRICE. Toilet paper, paper towels, computer chips, dentists and some PEOPLE.

Dentists. Our work at the Total Patient Service Institute ( has shown us that most consumers think a dentist is just a dentist and there is really not much difference. And they are right if that has been their experience. If all they have known is the run of the mill dentist who does nothing more than walk in, diagnose, treatment plan and treat, then the patient thinks all dentists are about the same so it only makes sense to price shop them to find the cheapest one.

Our society has a way of trying to make people into commodities. That’s what a job application and a resume do. They standardize all applicants so that they all present the same. It is easier for the employer to make a decision that way. And job applicants fall for it. That’s why we work hard each year at our LEAP seminars for high school and college students ( to show them proven ways to separate themselves from the commoditized masses so they rise to the top and get positions, scholarships, and opportunities that they may have thought were only available to people older and more experienced. As we repeatedly say, “If you do what everyone else does, you’ll get what everyone else gets.” Most people become a commodity. But remember, being a commodity is a choice, not a circumstance.

Take coffee for example. Coffee is a commodity. It is traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and other commodity exchanges around the world. You can get a cheep cup of coffee at the local donut shop for fifty cents. But when you go to Starbucks, you pay 10X that amount. Why are you willing to do that? Because Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, simply turned a commodity, coffee, into something a whole lot more. There is a great lesson here for anyone who wants to keep their product, service or themselves from becoming a "commodity casualty."

Here are 4 proven ways to keep your product, service or person from becoming a commodity:

Create different kind of EXPERIENCE. Most of us have become lulled into a world of the mediocre. It all just becomes a blur of average, every day, transactions that never make a mark in our memory. But every once-in-a-while something comes along that wakes us up. It WOWs us with a memorable experience that draws us back over and over again. Take Disney, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines as well-known examples to name a few. They create an experience that moves people emotionally and makes them want to come back.

Personal Service. Most commodities are so cheep that the provider cannot afford to give any type of service. Just try to find someone at Costco who can help you beyond the people at check out. Contrast that to the team at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, in an otherwise commoditized industry, Enterprise goes out of its way with professional dress, frequent use of your name, escort to your car, and plenty of choices. It is a different kind of car rental experience because of the personal service.

Customization. Many products and services have left the commodity ranks by becoming customized products to fit specific consumers. Take Levi’s for example when it started making custom fit jeans, or my local men’s clothing store. Everyone there knows my name, my style, the brands I like the most, and everything that I have bought in the past. The store fits me instead of expecting me to fit whatever they decide that I should buy!

Specialization. There are so many niches today around the world that it is relatively easy to provide products and services to specialized niches that need what they need in a different way than the masses. Take my friend Troy VanBiezen, a chiropractor, who has specialized in helping professional athletes cut their injury recovery time in half. ( He’s not a chiropractor in people’s minds. He is a celebrity sports performance specialist. As a result, he has an amazing following among professional athletes and executives that wish they were athletes! Or Crown Council ( dentist, Dr. Brian McKay who has made a specialty of being the dentist for people with eating disorders. ( As a result, people come to him from all over the world and around the country. (For a special Crown Council recorded interview with Dr. McKay entitled “Bulemia is a Dental Disorder” call us at 1-877-399-8677.)

There are as many ways to keep your product, service, or yourself from becoming a commodity as there are people. It all comes down to differentiation. What can you do to make yourself unique and different from the masses so you don’t end up being exchanged strictly on price because no one has any other way to tell you apart from the competition.