A Man of Many Hats

I was born in Toronto, the second youngest of 13 kids. We all lived in the same five-bedroom house for nearly eight years before my second oldest brother, Howard, got married and moved out. Rapidly, it seemed everyone was getting married, going to university, moving out. In five years, there were only three of us left: my youngest sister, my oldest brother (who never married), and me.

My father was a clothing salesman. He sold boys- and menswear to large department store chains for Canadian manufacturers. He was so good at his job that, later in his career, he had an office in the Empire State Building in New York. He would fly down on Monday and home on Friday.

I remember when he worked at 500 King Street West in Toronto. He would leave after 9 a.m. and be home around 4 p.m. His busy time was midday, when he took his clients to lunch. A regular at the grand Chinese restaurant in Toronto’s large Chinatown, he was treated like royalty and his clients were impressed. He knew all about sales, marketing and customer service. He was a natural.

I grew up around mens’ fashion, and I remember that every man wore a hat. Everyone, without exception. Prior to the 1960s, hats were a necessary part of every man’s wardrobe. Back in the ‘40s, when hockey players were very poorly paid (there were no unions for players who played for the love of the game), buying a hat was an expensive thing for them. They wore ‘poor boy’ caps. But Toronto haberdasher Sammy Taft was a ‘fan’ and a natural at marketing. He announced that any player who scored three goals in one game at Maple Leaf Gardens would win the hat of their choice. And the “hat trick” in hockey was born (the term has been found in other sports going back to the 1850s but not in hockey until Sammy Taft came along).

Sammy lived a long time, and in the 80s, I bought some hats at his store. Hats were a signature style for a guy trying to be different. I love to wear hats and own more than 30 now. I have different hats for different occasions and different seasons. I still wear the hats I bought from Sammy. Quality lasts, especially when you take care of it.

Now I am a dentist, and I own my own successful solo practice in Calgary, Alberta. I work hard and have an amazing team of women who work with me. As small business owners, we have to assume a variety of roles that larger companies have separate people, or entire divisions of people, devoted to accomplish. In other words, we have to wear various hats.

We have to wear medical hats, clinical director hats, artist hats, accounting and bookkeeping hats, medicolegal hats, human resources hats, marketing and promotion hats, leadership hats, and many more. We did not receive training in most of these subjects, and some people get entire degrees to do the work in each of these areas. How do we do it? Sadly, too many of us try to do it alone, and fail. A very small number are miracle workers and achieve amazing success all on their own.

The rest of us have to hire coaches to help us navigate the nuances of small business. There are a lot of coaches out there. Some names that immediately come to mind include Don Deems (who writes a terrific regular column in AGD Impact, Ron Arndt, Steve Anderson and ToPS, Bill Blatchford, Tom Orent, Sally MacKenzie, Roger Levin, and many more. All of these coaches offer all kinds of free information. Subscribe to their blogs, read their articles in magazines like AGD Impact, get their e-newsletters. Once you have read the various materials by these coaches, pick one that resonates with your personality style, your attitude, your learning style, and hire that coach.

I have worked with different coaches, starting with some local people. As my needs changed over time, I started to work with others. More recently, I worked with ToPS (Total Patient Services). All of these coaches made a difference in my practice, and I sleep better at night knowing that the proper systems have been put into place to ensure success.

That is because small business success is based on systems implemented successfully and consistently. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Someone else has already done what we are doing now, and it is easier to copy success than to create mediocrity.

In the words of Roy Williams, Wizard of Ads:

“After 30 years as a consultant to dreamers and schemers, plotters and planners, insiders and outliers, the wizard has determined that commitment is the attribute most indicative of success.

Talent and intelligence, money and education, experience and passion are overrated.

Talent and intelligence play the game in their mind, rarely bothering to take action.

Money and education are satisfied with the appearance of success before it has ever been attained.

Experience assumes that nothing has changed since the last time the game was played, a dangerous assumption indeed.

When passion has faded, commitment shines bright.”

So pick a hat and wear it smartly, proudly, and with joy. I am happy to be a part of this new set of bloggers for the AGD. Until next time…

Larry Stanleigh, DDS

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