The Value of Having Core Values

The airline passenger was upset with the flight crew. So she wrote a letter to the CEO to inform him she did not approve of how the crew was making jokes while doing the pre-flight safety checks.

In her letter to the CEO, she made clear that security announcements ought to be taken serious because of how important they were.


Airline Customer Service Values Core Values Business CultureAs it turns out, the passenger that wrote the letter was a frequent flyer of the airline. Surely a customer the airline wants to keep. Right? So how did the CEO respond?

“We’ll miss you” and added, “Rest assured that this company, like all good airlines, take safety very, very seriously.”

Most CEOs would have probably sent an apology letter saying things like it was not their intention to offend her; he’d look into to the matter; they value her opinion and appreciate her business. But not Southwest airline’s CEO.

What Can We Learn From The CEO’s Response?

There are many lessons in the Southwest story we can glean and apply to our practices. However, among the most valuable lesson for me, is the importance of having a set of defined core values.

Why Are Core Values Important?

Core values are used to establish a company’s guiding principles. They serve the distinct purpose of determining behavior and action.

Without core values, employees do not know what is right from wrong. Therefore, they have no choice but to make decisions based on their values. Which, of course, may or may not align with the company’s values.

However, when a business establishes them, they assist in determining the right path. Moreover, they give employees a reference in fulfilling business goals.

Southwest Airline’s Core Value

Embedded into Southwest’s company culture, is a set of core values. Here is how they define it for their employees:

We believe in Living the Southwest Way, which is to have a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a Fun-LUVing Attitude.

No Apologies

For Southwest, working hard and playing harder is one of the company’s guiding principle. Fun is part of what the airline is all about. That is why the CEO did not apologize on behalf of the employees. The employees were embracing one of the company’s unwavering value.

Core Value For Salud Pediatrics

One of our practice’s cornerstone principles is profitability. This may seem obvious or inherent knowledge considering our practice is a small business.

But for us, profit is a core value because our financial gains are the driving force behind our ability to fulfill our mission to advocate and care for children in our community.

In other words, profitability is essential to our ability to provide health care services. Without it, we would not be able to stay open. Thus profitability is a responsibility to the community we serve, not merely a requirement for our business.

Prepared To Lose A Patient

Recently, a parent from our practice questioned our policy that requires patients to leave a credit card on file with our practice.

After explaining the reason for the policy and addressing her concerns about identity theft, the mom was still apprehensive.

I told her that her concerns were legitimate and that I understood where she was coming from, but that the policy was non-negotiable. I explained to mom that we felt so strong about the importance of the credit card policy, that we were willing to lose her family as patients.

Policies & Procedures vs. Core Values

We all have rules in place. Even Southwest, with their FUN-Luving attitude, has them. Going through the pre-flight safety announcements is one of many, I’m sure.

Having systems in place ensure efficiency and safety, among other things. But It is impossible to come up with a scheme for every single potential situation. There will always be situations that fall outside of the “policy.”

Core values, however, can be used in situations that fall outside the parameters of policies and procedures.

Does your practice have a core value statement?

If so, what does it say? Are you prepared to lose patients over it?


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How To Best Market Your Medical Practice, Guaranteed

marketing-mix-babyA while back, I had the chance to fly JetBlue for the  first time. I was excited to fly JetBlue because I had heard so many cool things about the airline. “Ah, you are going to love their DIRECTV feature and their leather chairs,” people said. Others mentioned how cool JetBlue’s JFK terminal looked. Needless to say, I was looking forward to it.

As I was finally boarding the plane, I realized that the overhead compartment was too small for my carry-on bag, and I’d probably have to check the bag right there on the Jetway.

When I finally met up with the flight attendant at the front of the plane, I saw he was already tagging a few other bags. So I asked,

Do you think I’m gonna have to check my bag?

He looked at it and said, “Yeah, I’m sorry. I think we are going to have to check your bag.” He then proceeded to ask me my flight number and final destination.

I noticed that the flight attendant was using napkins to jot down the final destination and flight number. Realizing I had a peculiar look on my face, as if saying, what are you doing? the flight attendant said he didn’t have any tags, so he would need to run up to the gate to get them.

The pilot, who had the door opened this entire time, heard what was going on. He turned to look and then jumped out of his chair and announced to the flight attendant that he would run up and get the tags. Twenty second later, he was back with a handful of tags.

“Oh, thanks Bill,” said the flight attendant.

Once I sat down, I started thinking about what had just happened. Two things came to mind. First, I was impressed with the captain. I couldn’t believe it was the captain who went up to get the tags.

Surely he had more important things to do. I mean, he’s the captain! Yet he decided that my experience as a customer was more important.

The second thing that occurred to me was that what the captain of the airplane did was GREAT MARKETING.

Why do I think it was great marketing?

Well, for starters, I’m telling you this story. I’ve told this story on my blog before, and I’ve told lots of people since this episode occurred. But more important, it was great marketing because it was worth talking about.

Anything that is worth talking about is good marketing.

It is important that we keep this in mind—because most of the time, we think of marketing as a direct mail piece or an ad in the paper or Yellow Pages.

These things, however, are merely the tactics.

Marketing is much, much more. It is more than a pretty Facebook page or a website. It is more than an ad in the Yellow Pages or even a newsletter from your practice.

Marketing, the one I’m talking about, is how your staff answers the phone. Marketing is happening with each and every interaction you have with the parents, from the bedside manner of the docs to the uniform (or lack thereof) of the staff to your office’s decor.

You also market when you hire and when you fire. You market when you pick up the phone at 2 am to call a mom in distress; you market every time you send a collection letter.

Companies that do great marketing, like JetBlue, understand that marketing is not a department, but an attitude.  It is a way of life for the organization and everyone that works in it. It transcends the organizations.

When was the last time you saw a billboard on the highway or an ad in a newspaper (remember those?) and rushed to that store to buy something?

Effective marketing today is about being remarkable. Being average is not remarkable, regardless if your website is the nicest pediatric website of them all.

Think about the last time you had a great experience at a restaurant or a store or even at Disney. Now, think about what made that experience exceptional.

Was it the ad in the paper or their Facebook page that pushed you over the top?

Or was it the remarkable all-around experience? Was it they way you were treated while you were there? Was it how they greeted you or how they were attentive, accommodating and sensitive to your needs?

Sure, the product or service has to measure up. But what enhances a great product is a great experience.

An average pediatric office for average patients with average advertising for average people is a common, safe, and unremarkable story. But here is the thing, no one cares about average. And certainly nobody talks about average.

The essence of marketing, is about going the extra mile, working on creating a vested community of parents, connecting with families and being remarkable an exceptional.

That is worth talking about. And that is great marketing.

Note: This is part of a presentation I gave last year at the AAP’s NCE event in New Orleans that talked about the essence of marketing and how to achieve it.