Over to the side, there was a gentlemen sitting alone at a table. There were three more empty seats surrounding the table, so my wife asked if we could share the table. The gentlemen graciously said yes. Shortly after, his wife joined us.
We exchanged pleasantries and started chatting with the couple. We found out that both were from Greece. The gentlemen’s wife had just returned from Greece a few days ago. She explained she was making arrangement for her elderly mother who was back in Greece.
The older couple appeared to be open to conversation so I asked, “When did you come to the States?”
“I came to the States in 1954.” Said the gentlemen. “I was a cardiologist but decided on general peds.” He shared he had been a hospital employee for 10 years at the beginning of his career. “Never do that!” He exclaimed as he raised both hands as if cautioning us. “How long have you been in private-practice?” I asked. “Forty years,” he replied.
Whew, 40-years in private practice. I compared it to our meager 8-years. Surely this guy has the recipe for success I quickly concluded.
“You’ve been around for a very long time, obviously… you’ve seen a lot of changes in the medical field, what would you attribute your success to? You have to be doing something right.” I unabashedly asked.
“Well,” he said in his thick Greek accent, “I think you have to hire the right people. Especially the front desk” he added.
He explained that his colleagues in the area where he works never did a good job of hiring the right front desk people. The front desk staff didn’t complement the practice. The care from the physician was good, but the staff didn’t connect well with parents.
As a result, parents stop coming. The 50 year veteran of pediatrics went on to say that he believed parents needed to identify with the staff at some level. Even going as far as matching cultures.
“The second thing I’d say is keep expenses to a minimum.” He mentioned that he has colleagues that didn’t watch their practice expenses very well. The result? Well, we don’t have to think too hard about what happened to them. “One year, my friend lost $25,000. The next year, he lost $45,000. After that, he was done.” He explained.
I couldn’t believe his advice. I thought to myself, that’s it?
We ended up sitting with the gentlemen and his wife for about an hour. They were a delightful, animated and very sharp couple. Especially the gentlemen’s wife. She seemed to be as sharp as a thumb tack. Not putting him down, but I was impressed with her.
They gave us a lot more advice than we bargained for. We talked about life, kids, work and family among other things. We even discussed Obamacare.
And boy did we laugh.
I don’t think my wife an I have ever laughed so much with our regular friends. Not only was this couple cute and sharp, they were funny.Their stories were wonderful. I wish I would have had a camera to document the event.
I couldn’t shake the simplicity of their advice. That wonderful meeting made me realize that we often get caught up in our own complexity. And to undue our complexity, we seem to throw in more complexity with the hopes that the compounded intricate solutions will untangle the complicated process.When in fact the goal in the first place should have been the opposite.
Simplicity seems plain. In fact, for a second, I almost dismissed his advice. “Nah, can’t be that simple.” I thought.
But soon it hit me. It is hard to argue with 50 years of professional experience.