You Can, and You Will

business ftn for healthcare providers systems Feb 22, 2021
FTN for Healthcare Providers

 (an Excerpt to Fix This Next for Healthcare Providers, launching July 19, 2021)

Lillie, Willie, and Zillie were their names: a set of triplets born back in the spring of 1921, in a little shack off the main road in Fonthill, Kentucky. Nestled in a cove on the Cumberland River, nearly hidden by the bigleaf magnolia that happened to be in bloom already, the house sat proudly. Some may have seen it as mere planks of lumber nailed up by hand to support a small but mighty frame, but Lillie, Willie, and Zillie didn’t care. The strength of their family’s foundation wasn’t tied to how many bedrooms their homeplace had or whether or not it had an indoor toilet, which it didn’t. It wasn’t about the earth that peeked through the cracks in the floorboards or the smell coming up from the dirt after a hard rain. It was tied to what the family stood for and how they instilled purpose in the bones of each and every one of their twelve children.

Lillie was the strong-willed one. Her frame too was small, but she was ever so mighty. Her skin was tan from the Kentucky sun, and her dirty-blonde curls hung above her often furrowed brow. She was resourceful, and always made the most of what she had, which wasn’t much. Her no-nonsense personality and dry sense of humor helped her survive. She was logical enough to know that she could never do everything to keep her family from being poor, but what she could do was important to her. It made her who she was. It’s what drove her to push through the pain when her hands went from blistered to bleeding, and then to calloused, from working the wheelbarrow sunup to sundown.

Her days working on the farm were long and grueling, but she never complained. She focused on that which was in her control, that which would help tend to the biggest need they faced as a family. She knew there was work to be done and the tobacco wasn’t going to strip itself. She wasn’t a lofty dreamer—she didn’t believe in indulging in the temptations of the world—but she had an internal compass that never steered her in the wrong direction. She may have not had idealistic adventures planned for her future, but she always knew where she was going.  And she never tried to do it all, because the work was never done. She stayed strong, took life day by day, and focused on what would make the most impact at any given time.

Lillie’s childhood was spent working on the farm. Then, the day she turned fifteen, she traveled one state to the north, to Indiana, to work as a canning factory assembly worker for the season. It wasn’t prestigious, but it helped pay the bills and that’s what the family needed. She was used to this kind of work back at home, canning cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans, doing all those things that most people don’t, anymore. It was her first real job and the start of her independence. Like many of her fifteen-year-old coworkers, Lillie tried to embrace her new life away from home and kept her eye on earning money to send back for the young’uns. She didn’t think about what she would do when she returned home, or where she would live if she married that boy Daddy wanted her to; she knew that right then her family needed money, and she could help provide it.

Kids weren’t kids very long back in the 1920s. They were expected to get jobs, get married, and start their own families. When Lillie returned from the Hoosier state, it wasn’t long before she got married too. The years passed quickly, and before she knew it, she was twenty-eight years old and giving birth to her second daughter in the back of her grandfather’s Ford Model A.

She was the first to wake every morning in order to get the house warm before the children started to stir. It took two fires to shake the chill off, one in each of their potbellied stoves. She’d entice them out of bed at sunrise with the smell of her famous country biscuits, always made entirely by hand with freshly churned butter. Sometimes, if the kids were good, she’d make chocolate gravy for them to dip their biscuits in. At this point in her life, Lillie wasn’t focused on saving up for a bigger house, or sending her children out for higher education; it was all she could do keep food on the table, fire in the stove, and the tobacco tended.

Lillie and her husband, Pat, were what most would call old-fashioned. They were the doers of deeds that needed . Nothing fancy or unnecessary ever entered their lives. He didn’t like her to go out much because she was a housewife and belonged at home. Since she rarely left the homeplace, there was no good reason for her to have more than two dresses. She listened to her husband because that’s what wives were expected to do. She cared for the house, tended the garden, taught her children right from wrong, and became the noble pillar of the family.

One day, Lillie got a ride to town. She stopped in at Gadberry’s Grocery in Eli to grab some necessities, as she did ever so often. She kept her head down and stayed to herself while carefully marking the items off her list. She didn’t want to draw any attention her way, because that’s not kind of person she was. While there, she caught a wild hair and decided to pick up a couple bags of flour instead of just the one. As she approached the register, she told the man behind it, Floyd Gadberry, to charge it to her account. This is what she did every time she shopped at the store, because she wouldn’t have the money to pay until her tobacco check came in. Floyd didn’t mind because he knew Lillie was good for it.

During the Great Depression, flour sacks were made of cotton, and sometimes the material was quite lovely. Lillie was used to being resourceful and had often used these sacks to sew her children’s clothes, ever since they were babies. When Pat died in 1973, Lillie was fifty-two years old. She’d only ever known one life and that was the one with him in it. Pat was a good man, but a controlling one. She had never been allowed to go to church because he wasn’t a believer. She had never driven a car because she never needed to, and remember, he only ever saw the need for her to have two dresses. With Pat gone, Lillie had no choice but to set aside her fears of the unknown and get out into the world. With no one to depend on but herself, she needed to decide how she was going to spend her time.

I can’t imagine what Lillie felt at this point in her life. Did she feel lost? We are not sure, but one thing is certain: It didn’t take long for the fabric from the flour sacks to become the basis for Lillie’s new direction in life—her third, fourth, and before anyone knew it, a closet full of dresses. These dresses were the first of Lillie’s possessions that weren’t justified by need. They were her way of finding herself in a world that felt like it never even belonged to her. It was her way of saying, “Look at me, I can take care of myself, by myself.”

Lillie had no control over it, but she was born with a disadvantage. She was poor, she wasn’t formally educated, and she was often looked over. She married into a world of rules, restrictions, and rigidity. She went from one unfortunate situation to another, but one thing of hers never wavered. She always relied on her compass to point her in the direction she needed to go, keeping in mind what mattered most. She always used what she had to get what she didn’t. She always had a plan. This allowed her to live her life the way she wanted: with her head held high, in a cotton dress made from her own two hands, and her feet always pointed toward her true north.

She wasn’t an entrepreneur in the way that we think of one. She was a homemaker who figured out how to monetize her talent of sewing.

“Lillie, you know the Russell County Fair is coming up, are you thinking about entering a quilt for the auction?” the local pastor would ask as he called to check in.

“I reckon I could, the good Lord willin’,” she’d say back, just as serious as all get-out.

It just so happened, that year her quilt got so much attention that she was featured in a favorite Kentucky magazine, Taste of Home. She would never have considered herself a local celebrity, but her talent for quilting won her many a blue ribbon at the Russell County Fair. She was an artist; her attention to detail was out of this world. Perfect and consistent stitching made it hard to tell that her quilts weren’t made with a sewing machine, and she took pride in that. Before she knew it, she had orders coming in, enough to fill up an entire year with work. She was truly a gem; a gift, with an unrelenting talent that she never even knew she had. Fortunately for her, others did, and she was paid well for her gifts. At this point in her life, she had one concern, and that was making enough money to care for herself, her adult children, and her new home with an indoor toilet.

She figured out how to provide for six children and ten grandchildren just as well as anybody, even if that somebody had much more money. Even into their adulthood, her children could rely on their mom to help them if they found themselves in a bind. She provided the sense of stability in the family. And she was the one you always knew would buy you a pack of socks or underwear for Christmas, even when she was barely able to buy them for herself, and even when you were twenty-five years old.

Lillie was a special lady. She was quiet, with an unassuming but powerful presence. When she spoke, people listened. She found comfort in having a plan, much like I do and much like Poppy did. She was not one to worry, or waste energy on the what-ifs, and neither am I (unless I’m on an airplane). She put every ounce of effort into what she believed would work and let her faith take care of the rest. I felt a special kind of connection with her, but I could never put my finger on what it was.

When the baby who was born in the back of the Ford eventually shared these stories of my grandma Lillie with me, I started to understand. Mom said my connection to Granny was because she was always intentional, so her life was full of purpose and meaning. Perhaps it was that she was an artist in her own right, and I could relate to that. I guess it could have been that she told people exactly what she thought, with no apologies, and that helped me understand her more. She was the most authentic human being, and that left an imprint on my heart. No moment was ever wasted, and she spent “nary a bit” of time doing anything that did not serve her heart’s goal.

I didn’t know it as a kid, but my granny Lillie’s internal compass would one day become my own. It was more than just the memories of learning to crochet, or her hands teaching me to make peanut butter fudge the same way her granny had taught her. It was the part that was even more rare; the part you couldn’t teach, and that you most certainly couldn’t learn. It was the part that even I cannot explain. It was just there, inside of me, patiently waiting for me to step up and have the confidence to ask it where I should go in life.

When she passed, I was in my early twenties and proud to carry on her purpose. I hold her strong will and grit, her determination, and her internal sense of life’s direction deep in my bones. This is what keeps me centered and what gives me the confidence to always follow my true north. This is what I hope to pass along to my children one day, so that, whether in business or in life, they never feel lost and never go a day without being intentional.

We do not have to do all the things, because there will never be a shortage of things. And when we try, we can lose our sense of direction. We have to do the one thing that will make the biggest impact at any given time. We just have to go back to the basics and do more of what we already know. We must work on our business with deliberate action, focusing on the vital need that will make the most impact in moving us closer toward our goal, our true north.

My granny focused on different things throughout her lifetime, but always gave attention to the most important thing at any given time. In the beginning, it was all about survival. For herself, her siblings, and then the young’uns of her own. When that was secure, we began to see her focus more on herself, who she was, the impact she would have, and the legacy she would leave behind. Like Granny Lillie, we have the opportunity to leave a legacy. We do that through satisfying our sales needs, being purposeful with our profit margins, and establishing efficiency and order to take some of the pressure off.

When you can look at your practice through this new FTN lens, you will always have clarity around your direction, your diagnosis, and your compass. When you can name it, you can treat it. When you can treat, you can heal it. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re healing our business, we’re restoring our energy, we’re taking back our time. We’re saying, “Enough is enough, I want my freedom. You will no longer dictate my life, business. You will serve me, like I designed you to. And if you don’t, I will diagnose you, and I will fix you. Whether you like it or not!”

With your compass in hand, you can be like Ernestina, who now finds joy in problem-solving instead of viewing problems as failures. You can be like Heather, who is down off the struggle bus for good because she knows she always has a roadmap. Maybe you will be like Cathy, who stopped trying to run her business like a therapist and started running it like the badass boss lady she truly is. You can be like Katie, who now has more than enough cash reserves to leverage her business in any way she sees fit. You can be like any of the hundreds of people who send me emails, DMs, and comments on social media about the transformation they have seen from using this system.

You see, treating your business like a patient puts you in the driver’s seat. It brings you back to that sense of control and empowerment. When you drive the bus, you control the destination; and your destination is profitability, my friends. You are healthcare entrepreneurs because you want to help people. You want to see lives changed and you believe there is a better way. You want freedom to go on family vacations and create a work schedule that isn’t a catalyst for burnout. Why? Because you deserve it. When you’re driving your own bus, according to your own map, toward your own destination, it’s liberating. Although the destination is the point, what you find along the way is what matters most.

And do you know what that is?

When you employ the FTN system I have taught you in this book, you will achieve success. You will spend less time trying to prioritize your to-do list, and more time deciding what you’re going to do next. I am on a mission to help business owners find their entrepreneurial confidence, and this is how you’re going to do it. Throughout your journey navigating diagnoses, goals, and interventions, you will find something that may have been sitting dormant inside of you all along. You will find the confidence to be bold, run your business like a boss, and ask yourself one question and never be afraid of the answer: “What’s next?”

I have been blessed to help so many people systemize their businesses. In several of these scenarios, this has generated millions of dollars in increased revenue, and for that people always thank me. It is my greatest honor to help others achieve success, but the most impactful part is the way they sit up a little straighter, speak a little louder, and unapologetically proclaim their next steps. Sometimes, like Anne back in the introduction, they don’t even know what’s happening. They just see ten times more money coming in and overlook the fact that they’re now telling people no, asking important questions, and taking back control of their business—and, really, their life. They have found their confidence, and now it’s time for you to find yours.

Now you never have to miss another family dinner, be late for the five o’clock soccer game, or decide between laundry or payroll. You can live life on your own terms because you have confidence in your ability to run your business. You no longer lose sleep over three providers quitting back-to-back because you have a way to treat that problem. You no longer consider sinking thousands into an ad campaign because you’ve had a similar diagnosis once before, and the treatment interventions worked beautifully. It’s about more than just treating your business like a patient; it’s about knowing it’s all going to be okay.

At the end of a long, hard day, I just want you to remember one thing: Because of your background and training as a healthcare professional, you are perfectly suited to run this business. After all, it is like a patient, and you just have to treat it that way. When all else fails, go back to what you know. You know how to treat people. You know how to instill hope. You know how to give patients actionable steps in order for them to achieve wellness. You know how to structure a treatment plan and you know how to troubleshoot when things aren’t going the way you had hoped.

You know how to do this. I want you to go out there and find your inner Lillie, using those cotton flour sacks to patch together the entrepreneurial confidence that is waiting for you to wear it proudly. That little house in Fonthill, Kentucky no longer stands, but what it stood for does. Although we focused on SALES, PROFIT, and ORDER in this book, IMPACT and LEGACY have been here all along.

That little house, wedged behind the bigleaf magnolia, represents the legacy we all hope to leave behind. Not because of the lumber or because it had any monetary value, but because it was the foundation from which my family grew. Although I never got to see it, I can feel a connection to what it did. It raised my granny Lillie up strong; it provided the opportunity for that baby to be born in the back of the Ford, who then went on to become my mom. If it weren’t for that house and those circumstances, I wouldn’t be here telling you this story now. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to impact your life through my experience or leave the legacy I want to leave.

Like that magnolia, my roots are strong. I find strength in my family’s history, their stories, and knowing what they had to overcome. It will take more than some business problems to bring me down, and the same goes for you. If they did it, then so can we. We tell our patients this all the time. We remind them of it at every session, and we plaster it on our walls as a reminder. We can do this. You can do this. Practice what you preach, dear reader, and you will be as strong as that magnolia and impactful as that little house; you will leave a legacy, like Granny Lillie did.


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