Cate and Lola Dive

Who are you following off the diving board?

No fear. Just like the big kids.

I’ve spent time with five of my six nieces and nephews these last six weeks. All five of them are under the age of 7. Our kids celebrated birthdays the previous week; Jake turned 24, and Jesse turned 36 – so our house doesn’t often have the “pitter patter of little feet” unless our grandson is around. And yes, it is undoubtedly an adjustment! The nonstop questions, the negotiations over food, the crying because you don’t want to take a nap or didn’t get to be in the picture, the drama of being five – I am reminded that being a parent of a young child is an ENDURANCE event every day.

I watched my nieces at the pool this week, watching every move the “older kids” made off the diving board. These two have no fear – so if the teenagers were doing it, they wanted to do it.

How often do we do this in our business? We look at what others are doing and say…

…I want to do that.
…I should be doing that.
… I’m not as successful as I could be because I’m not doing that.

Emulating influential mentors can result in success. More often than not, however, something else happens. I see it happening with dentists who think the only measure of success is if their model is attractive for purchase to a DSO. I see it happening with key opinion leaders and consultants who watch their colleagues’ “curated” content on social media and feel like they are missing out on specific experiences.

Recently, I read two lengthy and powerful posts on Substack from Emily McDowell.
I’ve included Part One here and Part Two here. Please, wait to read them.

Emily’s short bio, in her words:

For the last ten years, I’ve been a combination of company founder, CEO, author, illustrator, speaker, teacher, business strategist, and creative director. In 2012, I founded the stationery brand Em & Friends, making greeting cards for real, messy, imperfect relationships. The brand is best known for Empathy Cards, which offer a more honest, supportive alternative to traditional sympathy cards. Introduced in 2015, they inspired a sea of change to the stationery industry.”

Most of you will read that bio and say, “Wow, she sounds like a huge success.”
In those two long posts, she tells a different story.

“When I started my stationery company in 2012, I fully agreed with the statement, “If something works, expand it.” Why not? If customer demand is there, wouldn’t it be the goal of any business to serve more people, make a bigger impact, make more money?”

For most small business owners — dentists, consultants, speakers, and coaches – we are constantly inundated with the message that GROWTH and SCALABILITY are the goals. After all, if you’re not growing, you’re failing.

Now, in 2023, 11 years later, Emily says this:“Here is what I know now, the hill I will die on, the thing I will say over and over to any small business owner: If your growth trajectory isn’t sustainable for you, it’s ultimately destructive. If your business model requires you to ignore and override your human needs for any significant length of time, it can only be so profitable before it murders you—and itself.”

Success has a lot of different looks. Having the most prominent practice, the most profitable practice, the practice with the most extensive cases, the most locations….you get the idea…does not necessarily mean success. Over dinner this week, my husband and I discussed two dentists – one with a huge organization making over $1M per year and another with a much smaller practice and team making $100K. Do you know who is happier? The one that’s making $100K — because their model is precisely what works for them, their goals, and their life. The dentist making $1M is not only outspending their model but is miserable with the responsibilities and management that the model currently requires. My friends, There is no ideal model except the one that works for you, your goals, and your life.

You might find this advice coming from a Chief Marketing Officer counterintuitive. And you’d be wrong. A great marketing plan provides the right customer and the right level of growth for each unique client and that time in their career. Period.

So before you jump off the diving board doing precisely what the person in front of you did, ask yourself: Is your company’s growth goal the kind that serves you?

Growth-as-goal is a success metric predicated on a single factor: increased revenue. Its math does not include the calculus of your humanity, your health, your personal values, the health of the collective, the health of the planet, or anything else.
– Emily McDowell