A popular American idiom is “bent out of shape.” The most common context is to tell someone not to get bent out of shape, or upset, over a problem. Getting bent out of shape is the same as getting worked up, aggravated, or overly annoyed at something that usually can’t be helped. For example, a person might be advised to not get all bent out of shape over the fact that his physical therapy practice is going downhill at a rapid rate and is gaining momentum. It is something that you feel can not be changed, and therefore just learn to deal with it and move on.
Another use of “bent out of shape” is for something that is slightly off from what it should be, such as a saying that someone’s plans are all bent out of shape due to unforeseen circumstances. In this situation, it means that the plans that were made are messed up. Perhaps there was a lot of patients discharged that week, or one of your highest producing PTs decided to leave. Whatever the reason, the owner would not be able to complete his plans in the way that they originally had in mind. This use is not as common as the first, but is still used on occasion.
The phrase “bent out of shape” is also common when referring to broken or bent objects, or even people, which is where the phrase was originally used. If a spine is bent out of shape, it can be the cause of unbelievable pain. That is why the phrase encourages people to not get irrationally upset about small problems. It is easier to solve any issues that may come up when you have a clear head and are able to think rationally. Being upset or very emotional will make it much harder to come up with a solution. Staying calm, and not getting bent out of shape, is usually the best way to approach a predicament.
But of course, if you’re like me, the bent out of shape attitude kicks in before you have a chance to solve the problem you’re facing. At times like this you wish you could turn to someone who was all knowing and simply ask for help and receive the exact solution to all your practice problems.
What I tell clients to do is to “turn themselves in” when they can’t solve practice problems and can’t stop their declining patient numbers. I let them know that they don’t have to suffer alone. They can tell me their problems and we can suffer together. That unfortunately is what I have to do in order to come up with a solution to handle a particular practice problem. I have to assume that I am this particular PT and what I would have to do to solve this dilemma. Well it works!
Over the past few years and I’ve heard some interesting reasons as to what is holding a business down and keeping it from expanding. I’ve heard things such as “there is too much competition” and “times have changed” and “government regulations are the root of all evil and must be destroyed” I’ve heard them all.
As a business owner, I used to agree with these reasons quite a bit. When I first decided to learn how to better run my business I “turned myself in” to a consultant and I remember a particular conversation with her whereby she asked me something that I considered rather rude: she asked me why I was not successful. I was very surprised and somewhat angered that she asked me this directly. At first I didn’t answer, I just kind of looked at her and shrugged my shoulders. So she asked me again, “Why are you not as successful as you know you should be?” I said “I can’t believe you’ve asked me that question. I’ve paid you some money and you’re insulting me?” She laughed, but persisted and asked me the question again, “So tell me, why aren’t you as successful as you know you could be?” I hate to say it but I then became really angry. I went on for about 15 minutes giving all the reasons why I couldn’t be as successful as other business owners.
After blurting out all my reasons for failure, my consultant very calmly said to me, “I’m going to tell you something that might upset you. Are you ready?” I said yes. She said “Your success or failure in your business is your own doing and as soon as you really understand that, you’re on your way out of it.” At that moment in my life it was more truth than I’ve ever heard. It put me completely flat back into the chair. I said, “Wow. So what do I do?” She replied, “We’ll show you what to do, but you have to change your mind about a few things. You have to change your mind from ‘I have all these reasons why I cannot be successful’ to ‘I can and will be successful.’” So off we went and my business continued to expand from that point.
In the first sentence of this chapter I mentioned that I had a bit of a revelation when I realized something. Now I’m going to tell you what it is. After hearing very many business owners complaining about all the reasons why they aren’t doing well, I spotted this one very simple thing. They are paying attention to all the barriers to their success.
But what are the barriers? The barriers are nothing more than something that you consider will stop you. If you consider that you can’t drive new business in your doors, you’ll have trouble with that. If you consider that you can’t find good people, you’ll always look around and have a staff that you’re never quite happy with, because you can’t find good people. The truth is, you can find good people, but you consider that you cannot, so therefore you cannot.
My point is this; I realized that all my past excuses and all the excuses I’ve heard since from other business owners as to what is holding down the business are simply things that are considered or believed to be true. They are not physical barriers, such as a wall or something that you can touch – they are things that you think will hold you back.
Sometimes what is holding you back is a fear of failing, and that fear of failing keeps you from starting anything or “sticking your neck out” so to speak. Sometimes what keeps you from doing well is thinking “if you want anything done right you have to do it yourself.” That’s the hallmark of an overworked executive. With this thought in place you become exhausted and burn out while the other staff cut out early to go to a soccer game or something like that and dump the work on you.
The only barriers that are worth solving are the barriers that actually keep you from winning the game. If you aren’t sure what the game is, then you might consider any problem in your office significant enough to handle. This could be something such as having two staff members not getting along and you spending an afternoon trying to patch things up, when most likely if you’d just throw them in a room they’d work it out and you could get back to solving the barriers that are in the way of your practice goals being achieved. A true barrier is something that you must face fully and handle or you will never get to the next step.
Too often in a clinical practice the owner will have his or her attention on the “barriers” INSIDE the practice. Staff issues, reimbursement, bills, hiring needs all keep the owner and the key executive’s attention INSIDE the practice. There has to be a conscious effort to get your head OUTSIDE the practice in order to truly build the practice. To find out what the competition is doing and do it better requires that you have your head OUTSIDE the practice. Find out how to leverage the clinical results you get with your patient to get your patients to go OUTSIDE your practice and on a broad scale market your practice. You want happy patients committed to the practice and referring others. You want patients no longer suffering from their initial complaints and whose health has greatly improved. If you do this well AND you knew how to leverage the word of mouth from those successfully treated patients you would expand and FAST!
Make a list of all the barriers you experience that put your attention INSIDE the practice.
For example: Personnel issues, Hiring issues, staff giving you problems, putting out fires, no time for notes, even treating patients if you are the owner, etc.
Determine the amount of time you spend either worrying about of having to handle those problems that exist INSIDE the practice.
Really look at how much of your time you speak to your spouse or significant other about number 1 above versus a great OUTSIDE the practice problem that will enable your practice to expand.
Rank those INSIDE problems by the detrimental effects upon the expansion of your organization if you fail to address and handle those barriers.
Put the one that if you don’t handle your business will suffer the most and rank in lower priority on down.
Decide what would be the worst thing that could happen if you failed to address a few INSIDE the practice problems.
Truly look and see if perhaps you could ignore a few of the INSIDE the practice problems so you can put a bit more attention and ACTION on resolving problems OUTSIDE the practice such as how to get patients and doctors referring in greater numbers.
Now take a look at the problems you are experiencing OUTSIDE your practice and determine precisely how much time you are spending in handling those problems.
The OUTSIDE problems would be those problems that put your attention outward from the day-to-day running of the practice that will create EXPANSION of your company by reaching OUTSIDE the practice to drive patients into the organization. THESE PROBLEMS ARE THE PRIMARY ONES WORTH TRULY RESOLVING.
Work out a plan that will enable you to resolve more of the OUTSIDE the practice problems that impede the organization’s survival and put less attention on some of those INSIDE the practice problems.
You will likely experience some relief and would have a new or renewed expansion viewpoint.