We had another family round for a barbecue at the weekend. PERFECT weather.
It was their first time in our house. Their daughter goes to school with our daughter.
A successful first social event. But something happened on their way out.
The dad – his tongue loosened by sun and beer – glanced at our stairs and said “you’ll be needing a new carpet, then”.
My wife and I looked at each other, slightly puzzled, then looked over to the stairs.
And we saw it.
A hole. Not that big, but not that small either.
The kind of hole that forms on the first step of the stairs when a 7-year-old is thundering up and down it all day.
Thing is, we’d first noticed this hole starting to form at the end of last year. And had fully intended to do something about it. It’ll be on a “house to do” list somewhere.
But eventually, we stopped noticing it. Our eyes kept seeing the hole, but they stopped notifying our brains about it.
Until the mortifying moment this dad saw it.
As you can imagine, my wife is out at carpet showrooms as we speak.
I bet there are small things in your practice that you’ve stopped noticing
Bits of worn out flooring. Marks on the wall. Bits of old Sellotape stuck to a shelf. Areas that aren’t exactly dirty, but not quite clean either. Old posters promoting long gone events.
When we see stuff every day, we stop perceiving it. And because things deteriorate over time, the problem gets worse. Yet we still don’t notice.
This is your Reticular Activating System at work. It’s the part of your brain that filters sensory information. only notifying you about stuff that’s relevant to you.
It’s why your prospects don’t see your advertising. And why you don’t notice minor problems in your practice.
Thing is – your clients do see them. When they walk in, it’s a new environment for them (even if they last visited a few months ago. They’re not that familiar with it).
So they take it all in. And they see the little problems. They also judge you and your business by those problems.
I’m sitting in a hotel bar in Milton Keynes as I write this (waiting for a meeting). The hotel is generally very well maintained. But I can see a frayed end on a carpet. An out of date food hygiene notice. And the inevitable blown light bulbs.
Here’s the challenge then: Find a way to look at your practice with a fresh pair of eyes at least once every month
You can’t do this naturally and neither can your staff. You’re too close to it.
Maybe you could ask a sales rep who’s calling on you, to tell you what they see, hear and smell.
Maybe ask a trusted client to tell you what they can see and should be repaired.
Maybe it would be a good idea to get a handyman on retainer, who can just come in once a week to look for the little jobs and just fix them?
Don’t think of that as an expense. Think of it as an investment in reputation.
By the time you perceive a problem with the practice, hundreds of your clients will have already seen it.