I want to share a story from my childhood and how my mum’s Cherry Ripe chocolate taught me a great lesson about systems and why small system changes can have devastating long-term effects on your podiatry business if you don’t keep an eye on them.
When I was a kid, my mum’s favourite chocolate was the Cadbury Cherry Ripe, and about once a month, she would treat herself to one of those really big ones. She would tear open the bright red shiny wrapper at the top, peel it back slightly to expose the rich dark chocolate and proceed to take a small bite.
She would then pull the wrapper back over the exposed ripe cherry and moist coconut and place it in the fridge in the butter compartment so it was out of sight.
On average, one large Cherry Ripe bar would last her about two weeks because she would only take a small bite each time.
For something she enjoyed, it showed a lot of discipline and restraint. I would have ripped open the wrapper, and it would have been gone in one sitting, and to be honest, not much has changed.
Just a Small Bite
One particular week, I saw Mum unwrap it, take a bite and put it back in the fridge, and I thought to myself…if I take just a really small bite, she probably won’t even notice. So I did.
The following day I looked back in the fridge, lifted the lid on the butter compartment, and noticed she had eaten a little more, so once again, I bit off the smallest amount, and I must admit it took a lot of self-control not to eat more.
Anyway, the next day was a repeat of the previous day, and this went on for the rest of the week.
I thought I was being pretty clever until one evening when I was in the lounge room watching TV with my brother and dad; we all heard my mum yell at the top of her voice, “Who the bloody hell has been eating my Cherry Ripe?”
All three of us looked at each other, PAUSED, and in unison said, “But I only took a small bite”, followed by, “What do you mean you only took a small bite? That’s what I did”.
Suddenly, we all figured out that all three of us were doing the same thing, and the small bites we noticed each day were our own.
Mum had not gone near her Cherry Ripe for the past week, but when she did, all our small, which at the time seemed like insignificant bites, accumulated over the week until half of her Cherry Ripe was gone.
So why am I telling you this story from my childhood?
This story pinpoints why some systems in your podiatry business may be failing long-term.
Just like taking a small, seemingly insignificant bite from my mum’s Cherry Ripe, if team members make small insignificant changes to your systems without your consent or knowledge, and other team members are unknowingly doing the same, collectively, these small changes can add up over time and significantly change a once well-established system.
And by the time you figure out what changes have been made, you may have lost half of your Cherry Ripe or, worst still, lost a significant revenue or even lost patients.
But this can all be avoided with regular system reviews.
All business owners should review their systems on a regular basis, and if they do, they can halt problems before they get out of hand.
You’ve probably heard the saying; there’s no point shutting the gate after the horse has bolted; well, the same can be said for systems. Reviewing your systems once they’ve collapsed is far too late.
Now I’m not saying my mum should have checked her Cherry Ripe in the fridge on a daily basis, BUT if she had, she would have noticed what was going on much earlier, reminded us that it was her Cherry Ripe and not ours, and saved half of it.
There are many benefits to reviewing your business systems.
- You get an opportunity to make sure everyone in your team is on the right path; no one has deviated in a different direction, which can easily happen.
- It’s an opportunity to tweak and improve your existing business systems.
- Perfect time to make sure your current systems are still valid. There’s nothing wrong with throwing out a system that no longer works or serves your podiatry business.
When my podiatry business was using an external orthotic laboratory, we had various systems in place to keep track of where they were at any given time; however, when we installed an onsite milling machine, our orthotic systems had to be modified.
Growth and Maturity
As your business grows and matures, so will you and your team, and your business systems must keep pace. A system that worked well five years ago is unlikely to work the same today if your business has grown substantially. Systems evolve as you, your team and your podiatry business evolve.
And the business owner needs to be involved in the system developments or at least be made aware that changes are occurring, so the changes can be documented.
You cannot allow your team to modify systems without your knowledge.
When you change or modify a system, it is essential for your team to understand WHY you have made the change and the benefits it will bring to the team.
If you change a system without explaining why, your team may go back to an old system because it feels more comfortable.
And your team won’t do it on purpose to annoy you; they simply go back to old habits.
Every now and then, I would randomly test my team and ask them to take me through a current system.
For example, I would ask my receptionist to take me through the Patient Induction System. If they explained it perfectly, I would thank them and feel quite good, but if they explained something that was not quite correct, I would immediately ask them why they did something different to what was in my Reception Training Manual.
Sometimes the change made sense, which meant the manual needed updating, but if it made no sense, I would direct them back to the manual and reiterate why it needed to be done a certain way.
The last thing you ever want to hear a team member say is…at my last job, we used to…
You often have to remind them that they are not at their last job; they are at their new place of employment. However, I would still let them explain the system where they previously worked because it may be better, so never be closed off to new ideas.
What Systems Are Not
In addition to explaining the benefits of systems and why they are important for your business, it is just as crucial for you to explain to your team what systems are not.
For starters, systems are not designed to limit creativity; they’re in place to guide everyone’s actions to help predict outcomes.
For example, if your team does A, B, C and D, we can likely expect E to occur with patients; systems should be predictable.
But if a team member does A and moves on to D without doing steps B and C, then the outcome may be unknown. Unknown outcomes make training difficult, especially for new team members and can create confusion with your patients.
Imagine two patients with identical problems being treated differently because there are no treatment pathways to follow. That would be confusing.
Your treatment pathways for specific problems are systems, and yes, you may have multiple treatment pathways for a condition based on the presenting patient’s systems; however, each pathway needs to be controlled.
Systems are also not designed to try and catch people doing the wrong thing. However, they will identify poor performers in your team, but they can be used to identify team members who excel.
Regardless of the type of podiatry business you have (MSK, Routine, etc.), you need systems, and they need to grow as your business grows, and if you’ve had systems before and they’ve failed, don’t throw in the towel; instead, you need to be like my mum; you need to point out to the team, or in my case the family, what has gone wrong and what changes need to occur so it never happens again. Our instructions were simple, don’t eat the Cherry Ripe in the fridge.
If you have any questions about developing systems after listening to this episode, please email me at email@example.com
I have been writing and developing podiatry systems for the past 30 years, and I’ve helped a lot of podiatrists do the same, all with outstanding business results.
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