Perception and Reality.

Perception and Reality.

Geraint Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France, becoming the first Welshman to take the top prize. I stopped watching the Tour several years ago, for the most part, because of the doping scandals that continue to reappear and the wide disparity in the funding of the top one or two teams and everyone else. Chris Froome, last year’s winner and Sky teammate of this year’s winner, tested positive for excessively high amounts of the asthma drug salbutamol last December. Not shocking.

Outside my usual observation of competitive strategy and tactic, I took away one huge gleaming pearl on how the world works and it came in the most unusual and least expected ways while watching the Tour. In the middle of the week, Froome, the same knucklehead who has admitted to doping, was “wearing a dark gray rain jacket over his racing jersey and was yanked off his bike by a police officer who mistook him for a fan riding the course.” Brilliant.

The leader wears a yellow jersey for a reason. Riders don’t wear dark hoodies over their racing gear for a reason. This police officer is tasked with keeping the riders safe. When he saw what he suspected was a common citizen riding along in the race, he immediately yanked that person off his bike.

Think about the profundity of this incident. A garment is all it took. One minute you’re the defending champion of the Tour de France. The next minute, you’re confused as someone breaking the law, riding in a race where you shouldn’t be riding and a police officer tackles you to the ground.

Your mind should instantly leap to how you and your practice are relentlessly judged by new patients, referring doctors, colleagues and community leaders. In how you dress, speak, market and decorate your office, are you wearing a gray rain jacket over your racing gear?

It’s not fair, but it’s how the world operates.

You’re being judged and assumptions are being made about your clinical skills based not on the patient’s final occlusion but on the cleanliness of your restrooms. Your team is being judged about their sincerity, friendliness, education and apathy based not on reality but on the mere appearance of their uniforms.

I once overhead a James Beard Award-Winning Chef explained to a group of young aspiring chefs, “You’ll never be really great in this profession until you’re obsessed with clean restrooms.” The students looked at her in confusion. They wanted to hear about the latest sous-vide cooking techniques, not some boring advice about janitorial services.

No one got the point, but I chuckled out loud. She was exactly right. Of course her meals are faultless. Of course she knows how to prepare insanely-tasty food. But that’s just the start. Her tables and floors are also spotless and the restrooms are always impeccably clean. She was trying to teach these young chefs if they want to be great, they have to find all the “gray rain jackets” and get rid of them. You can be an amazing chef, but to be a James Beard Award Winner, you had to really love and embrace all aspects of delighting the customer, including how clean the restrooms are.

Listen. I’ve boosted the conversion of young doctors simply by putting them in a neatly-pressed shirt and tie with a custom-tailored white lab coat. Before working with me, they looked like teenage tech repair reps, roaming the office, looking for broken computers. After working with me, they look and sound like a doctor. You might think you have this issue covered. Secret shopper data reveal otherwise.

I’ve made millions for my clients and my own practices by fixing what we say on the phone and how we say it. You might think you have the phones covered. Secret shopper recordings reveal otherwise.

The uncomfortable truth about nearly every business on the planet is that delivering exceptional quality results is just the beginning. This earns you nothing in the eye of the public. Consumers expect small businesses to change the oil without breaking the filter, deliver the food without salmonella, file the taxes on time and without gross errors, complete the surgery without killing the patient, etc. If you can’t operate at the highest level of efficiency and quality, get out of the business. That’s the starting point. Everything else is up to the perception that people can trust you and that you are worthy of their referrals. And, perception is reality.

Don’t sleep another night until you find every gray rain jacket with even the slightest possibility that it might be covering over your racing gear. Make a list. Where is perception putting you at risk of being yanked off your racing bike and tackled to the ground? Eradicate these from your practice like the unwelcome viruses that they are. Then, put the yellow jersey on your practice. Never take it off and never look back.

Below, observe Burleson Seminars Gold Plus Member, Dr. EJ Tahir, in his clinic attire. He looks like, sounds like and acts like a doctor. It shouldn’t be surprising that his practice has thrived for many years and continues to thrive in an extremely competitive market. He enthusiastically shows up to work each day and his team supports a busy schedule so that he’s doing what only the doctor can do. He’s identified the “gray rain jackets” in his practice and removed them fast and forever.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.