If you are like most of us, 2009 was a challenging year. With the realities of our struggling economy becoming fully entrenched, it was hard to find many bright spots. And yet there were more opportunities than you might expect.
The first trip included just my wife and I. We have made it a rule to get away at least once each year to renew our relationship and spend uninterrupted quality time together (something I encourage every married couple to do). We traveled to Cancun in June, a normally popular time of year. We were amazed to see the impact the poor economy has had on the people there. Almost a dozen resorts had closed completely. The one we stayed in was only 30 percent occupied. It was great for us, but you could see the stress on those who depended on tourism for their livelihood.
When faced with substantial layoffs, the staff at our resort decided to take a different route. Rather than see any of their co-workers laid off, they chose to take considerable pay cuts in order to keep everyone working. Our opportunity for an inexpensive vacation was their opportunity to show compassion and unity.
Our second vacation included our children (David, age 11 and Deborah, age 9). This time, we went to Mazatlan over the Thanksgiving week. (For some reason, my children now get the entire week off, not just Thursday and Friday, a concept someone should have come up with a few decades ago.) Of course, the economy was still suffering, which translated into great prices on everything for us.
On the beach were several vendors, all trying to get our attention as we lay in the sun. A few were selling silver jewelry. After making some inquiries, my wife chose to begin bargaining with a man named Leonard.
In contrast to your own chiropractic practice, consider the challenges Leonard faces in his business. His entire enterprise operates out of his black display case. Based upon his experience, he has to decide which designs will most likely sell, haul it all to the beach, wait for the tourists to respond to his inquiries and then try to make a sale - all in an economy that has dramatically reduced tourism.
After a bit of time and some negotiations, my wife returned with a new silver bracelet. "I think he's mad at me" she said, motioning to Leonard. Poor guy, I thought. This is only round one. With each round of bargaining, my wife expected deeper and deeper discounts. It's her nature: She grew up negotiating prices and held several sales jobs before we met.
Leonard seemed frustrated as the bargaining grew more intense, until my wife ultimately asked him if he was mad. "No" he said, "It's only money. Friends are more important than money." (If he were a doctor of chiropractic, he might have said, "Healthy patients are more important than money.")
His comment was almost startling. His business has to be down at least 40 percent, if not more. There are a lot less tourists who have a lot less money. One would expect him to be scraping for every dollar he could get just to survive. But Leonard's attitude remained unaffected by his circumstances.
As we begin 2010, I find myself in need of some self-evaluation; perhaps you do, too:
- Have I become colder, less interested in the needs of others as a result of our economy?
- Am I more concerned about growing our company and less concerned about the people in my life?
- Are my priorities still what they should be? Or have they gone a little off course?
Yes, 2009 was a pretty rough year. But it provided a number of opportunities. For the staff at the resort in Cancun, it gave them the opportunity to show their support and compassion for their co-workers. For Leonard, it gave him the opportunity to establish new relationships, even if it meant sacrificing some of his profits. And for doctors of chiropractic, it has given us the opportunity to demonstrate that we are truly patient-centered in a managed care world.
This year (2010) challenges us to be more like the people we want to be. It gives us the opportunity to rise above our circumstances and communicate health through our love and concern for our patients, friends and family. It is an opportunity for chiropractic to stand above other forms of health care.
P.S. We have already told some friends about Leonard. They will be looking for him when they go to Mazatlan next year. His investment in friendship does pay off.
Click here for more information about Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h), Publisher.