What do operating rooms and small businesses have in common? Not much from my current perspective having spent the last few days and nights at a major NYC hospital. However, operating rooms, more specifically the surgeons in the operating rooms, can learn plenty from small business best practices.
For starters, successful small business owners know it is wise to capitalize on both their own and their employees' strengths and to minimize weaknesses. World-renown surgeons are experts at their craft – that craft being surgery. However, many of them lack the skills necessary to deal effectively with both the patient and the family. Some have absolutely no compassion and no ability or desire to communicate.
Hugh Laurie portrays Dr. Gregory House, a brilliant diagnostician who is sarcastic, callused, and downright nasty and can be entertaining to watch on television. However, when your father's surgeon is a real-life Gregory House, it is not funny. Luckily both Dr. House and this Dr. House wannabe, have a dedicated, caring staff with both the ability and desire to communicate. If the operating room were run like a small business, this world-renowned surgeon would focus his energies and time on what he does best – surgery. His staff would continue to assist and observe the surgeries, but the staff would be the ONLY part of the surgical team to speak with patients and their families. The surgeon would not have any access to the patients and his/her message would be carried by those who have compassion and good communication skills.
The concept of congruency in marketing messages and brand perceptions refers to clearly-defined and consistent messaging and delivering on one's branding promise. There is a large collage of messaging on the wall directly opposite the nurse's station all about "relationship-based care" and how the staff at the hospital work together to create the most caring and nurturing medical experience for the patients. Yet, right in front of the same collage, as well as in other areas of the hospital, arguments and harsh words can be heard between staff members. The nurses in this hospital work like dogs yet are treated with disrespect by many of the physicians. If the hospital was a small business run by a wise business owner, hard-work and dedicated employees would be rewarded rather than treated with disrespect by those who have more education.
If a hospital was run like a small business, there would be a project manager for each patient charged with the responsibility of managing the medical care. They would set up processes to assure that doctors documented their instructions for each patient in the patient chart rather than telling the patient what the next step is and then walking away. This lack of communication runs rampant in hospital settings leaving the brunt of the work on the shoulders of the nurses who are bombarded all day long by patients and their families about carrying through on the doctor’s orders. Nurses are not permitted to administer anything without the written directive or approval of the attending physician, so when they are questioned by a patient or family member, they have to leave a message and track down the attending physician to follow-up and get the necessary approvals. This is not an effective use of their time and could be avoided if physicians would simply document their orders. In a small business, team work, effective communication, and collaboration would be encouraged and all egos would be left at the door.
In order for small business owners to truly understand the needs and wants of their target market, they need to put themselves in the shoes of the potential client or customer. It is difficult for anyone to really understand what someone else is going through unless they have been through it themselves or if they try to look at a situation from the perspective of another. So when we met with the surgeon and discussed the two options available for surgery, I posed the following question to the surgeon: "What would you do if this was your father – which option would you choose?” His response was "My father is dead". That response was obviously not very helpful, totally irrelevant and extremely rude. But, alas this surgeon was recommended to us by two top physicians and his reviews on the web all raved about his top-notch surgeon skills, even though the same reviews also shared that he lacks any bedside manner. The customer reviews were right on target, the surgeon proved his surgical prowess and also his lousy communication skills and total lack of compassion. Clearly this surgeon (and many others) not only don’t know how to put themselves in their potential market’s shoes, they don’t want to (and they don't have to).
Several people have posed the question: "If you had a choice, would you rather have a surgeon who is top in his/her field or a surgeon who has a good bedside manner?" My response is "why can't we have both?" Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world and both are often not an option. So we opted for the world-renowned surgeon with Dr. Gregory House Syndrome and the surgery was a success.