Lie #13: Build it and they will come.
One of the most misleading films used to inspire chiropractors is
Field of Dreams released back in 1989, featuring actors Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones.
The Costner character (Ray Kinsella) is inspired to build a baseball diamond amid his Iowa cornfield.
"If you build it, they will come."
The low, rasping whisper, combined with the 60s idealism makes for great drama as the Costner character risks foreclosure on his farm to follow his passion for baseball.
It's a movie! It's make believe!
Yet, sadly, many chiropractors emerge from chiropractic college with the belief that to "change the world one spine at a time" simply requires a great location, a phone number with three digits followed by 7246 (PAIN) and a framed, freshly minted diploma.
This is fantasy. It may be perpetrated by chiropractic colleges heavily dependent upon a constant stream of students with good enough credit to swing the needed student loans.
What they didn't tell you—though they could have—is that those with expressive, outgoing personalities tend to excel as chiropractors better than amiables or analytical introverts.
Don't blame them.
Privately owned chiropractic colleges are businesses. They lack the endowments enjoyed by a Harvard ($40.9 billion as of 2019) or a Yale ($30.3 billion as of 2019). Most are totally dependent upon the proceeds from student loans to pay for their daily operations. As a result, they have little interest in discouraging anyone with the slightest interest in getting a license to practice chiropractic.
Thus, the predicament facing chiropractors who are disgorged after matriculation lacking the social alacrity or interpersonal skills that facilitate building and maintaining a practice. That on top of a lack of business acumen necessary to run a small business.
Perhaps the build-it-and-they-will-come mentality is a holdover from the days of generous insurance reimbursement. With a deep-pocketed insurance carrier picking up the tab, you didn't need much of a personality or, even more telling, a clear explanation of what chiropractic is and what it isn't.
These days, the notion of finding a 1,200 square foot office with affordable rent, hanging out a shingle and waiting for your community to show up is a quaint reminder of the era of gold neck chains, jaw encroaching sideburns and $100 insurance deductibles.
Your license is merely the admission ticket into the ring. Your community doesn't owe you a living because of your knowledge, degree, student loan balances or practice location. In fact, your community doesn't even care about you. They're not against you. It's worse than that. They're ambivalent.
There is a way out. But it'll take a little " MacGyvering:"
Build your online presence. Use photography on your website to show new patients what they can expect and put them at ease. Blog regularly to plant your flag and attract your tribe. If you lean towards the introvert side of things, use digital media to share your perspective and cultivate the growing number of people who buy virtually everything online.
Join a Toastmasters group. These small group settings provide a supportive environment to improve your self-expression. Here, you can get gentle coaching and firsthand experience as you tame your butterflies. Even if you don't pursue public speaking these skills will improve your pre-care interviews and report of findings. If you had the smarts to negotiate board examinations, you have the mental horsepower to acquire public-speaking skills.
Write. If you're in the non-emotive half of the world like me, it's critical that you get your thoughts and feelings down on paper. It's the first step to becoming more available to others. Often what you and I think of as focus is perceived by patients as detached aloofness and an off-putting healthier-than-thou attitude! Once your journaling assigns words to your experience, express them.
Expand your social connections. If you've been in practice awhile you've probably arranged your life so as not to encounter many strangers. It's difficult to grow your practice if you encounter has already heard your pitch. Take your dry cleaning somewhere new. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Start a conversation in the checkout line. Speak first.
A no is just a no. Most of us attach an inappropriate meaning to being told "no." Or make more of it than we should when others decline our invitation. Enough to stop us from even making the offer, asking a favor or making a request. If you associate rejection with shame, then you're in bondage to a lie. A "no" is not an attack. It's not even personal. It's just a no. As in, not at this time.
It's not about you. Most of the emotional baggage standing in the way of showing up aggressively friendly, speaking first and being curious about others is the result of making things about you. About your reputation. About whether they like you. About looking good. About self-preservation. And dozens of other things you can't control and frankly are none of your business. Only when you can get yourself out of the way and invest yourself in something larger than surviving, will you be free. Get over yourself. It's a choice.
By the time a patient has a need for you (or any other health care practitioner), they want to meet someone who is confident, certain and exudes hope and possibilities. Which is impossible if you live in your head, secretly afraid of the world or have a prideful entitlement mentality.
I'm guessing that nobody told you that the metric used to measure success in chiropractic college (grades) would have little to do with what you'd need for successful practice.
Truth: Turns out, there's some truth to the "build-it-and-they-will-come" mantra. But it requires looking through the other end of the telescope: build you and they will come.
Bill Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate since 1981. He is the creative director of Patient Media and the co-founder of Perfect Patients. He’s been a regular speaker at Parker Seminars and other chiropractic gatherings since 1985. He is the author of 12 books that explore the doctor/patient relationship from a patient’s point of view. His chiropractic blog, in-office consultations, patient focus groups and consulting calls have helped hundreds of chiropractors around the world. His Monday Morning Motivation is emailed to over 10,000 subscribers each week.