Sand, Stars and The E-Myth

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n our second bedroom is a bookshelf with quite a nice collection of books. The problem is: I haven’t read them all. One of those unread or partially read books is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. I bought that book decades ago, opened it, read a few pages and put it back on the shelf. It just didn’t resonate with me. Maybe I was too young to get the message, or maybe I was just too darn dumb to pay attention. I never got rid of it however.

A few months ago my wife, Andrea, and I met Michael Gerber’s wife Luz Delia. She understands The E-Myth very well, so well in fact that it took her about 90 seconds to explain the nittty-gritty of it and how it definitely related to my practice. She gave us a gift: a new book entitled, The E-Myth Chiropractor. That book also sat around, but not for very long.

Want to hang out with a book and actually get through it? Try getting out of town. That’s what it took for us.

About every 6 to 8 weeks, we manage to get away for a few days. And one of our favorite get away spots is Picacho State Park on the Colorado River. It’s a desert park about 20 miles north of Yuma, Arizona and from October to March it’s a delight. No phones, no cell service, no TV, no internet. No distractions. Bathroom with flush toilet? Sorry. But don’t worry; the chef does bring her kitchen. We spent three days there in late February.

Andrea Halligan is all set for dinner in Picacho State Park.
Andrea Halligan is all set for dinner in Picacho State Park.

As an aside, Zane Grey fans may recognize the name Picacho as it was the setting for at least part of the action in his novel The Wanderer of the Wastelands.

Picacho State Park boat launch and campground.
Picacho State Park boat launch and campground.

There was once a town on this very spot. There was a bustling mining camp nearby; the goldmine employed 700 miners and the town had 3 elementary schools and an equal number of saloons. The mine gave up most of its gold by the early 1900s and the town was abandoned by about 1909. Now a state campground with a boat launch it is a favorite for bass fishermen and canoeists.

Looking West: Picacho is named for the high mountain peak on the horizon.
Looking West: Picacho is named for the high mountain peak on the horizon.

As you can see, this is desert with not a growing thing in sight.

Ironwood trees and desert shrubs.
But a river flows here, and for half a mile on either side, you can see the green of willows, Palo Verde and ironwood trees and all manner of desert shrubs.

Andrea and I started each day with a leisurely walk along the river and then settled into shady spots for hours of reading—me technical and clinical journals, and Andrea The E-Myth Chiropractor. Every few minutes she interrupted my reading to share a paragraph or two from her book. When finished, she said something quite amazing: “This is the book I was born to read.”

Of course, I had to dig into that book as well.

The desert night sky at Picacho.
The desert night sky at Picacho.

The weather was fine in the desert, and if you’ve ever experienced the amazing sea of stars in a desert night sky, you can understand why we eschewed the tent and slept each night in the open with sleeping bags right on the ground. We lay side by side on our backs watching the heavens: the sliver of a moon followed by bright Venus and Jupiter dipping to the horizon. Then Mars and the Pleiades and the Hunter Orion with his dog close behind. And while we watched we talked about Gerber’s book.

His premise is that we aren’t business people. We may say we own a business—a practice. But in fact we act as employees, “doing it, doing it, doing it, until we can’t do it any more,” in the words of the book.

Of course in dental practice we need to do dentistry, but we have to put on another hat, that of the business owner who manages and manages really well. We need to develop systems that work and are tested and then recorded in detail. We need to think strategically, and not just do lip-service to that term. Our product, Gerber says, is not our dentistry, or at least not just that. Our product is the practice itself. The product is a practice that is alive and growing and functioning smoothly in all areas and should go on living and thriving for someone else long after we are gone or retired.

The practice itself as product: that is a thought I had never considered. And it’s actually quite a lofty goal, and one that is worth pursuing.

I believe there is a book in Gerber’s series just for dentists. But Luz Delia chose to give us The E-Myth Chiropractor. She may have done that because of my particular kind of practice—it’s more like chiropractic than general dentistry. But on the other hand, maybe she knew that the message and specific strategies in this book would fit dentistry just fine.

Over the years I’ve read a lot of practice management books. My wife and I have both been deeply influenced by Omer Reed. We’ve both heard Sally Mckenzie and the Du Molins. But not many have had the impact of this book. You may think it can’t be for you, because of the title. But it is about you, your practice, your family, and your life. Just get a copy. And if you need to get away from the TV and the computer and the phones to really digest it, get to your favorite place, settle into the shade and do it.

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