My father has been gone a long time, but he’s often visiting my thoughts lately.
Raymond Fernand Lecoq was born in 1899, came to the U.S. in 1923, with no money, just a letter from an American soldier saying he’d sponsor my dad. He married and eventually moved to California. He wound up working as a gardener for the county. But he also had several side jobs so he was always working. He was a quiet man and never lost his French accent.
When he passed away, I discovered that his friends knew him as “Frenchy”, so I wrote an obituary announcing his funeral service in a nearby chapel.
We were very surprised to see more than 200 people had come out to the service! None of us knew very many of these people. They came from all over the place. His customers were there, his fellow employees, even the barber who’d cut his hair for decades. An amazing array of people.
Soon they began telling stories, about acts of kindness and generosity no one but them knew about. It was a moving experience and a great revelation about this quiet 75-year-old man we’d always thought of as living a very small life.
Think for a moment about some of your patients and parents of patients. Do you really know very much about them, about all their connections with others? (Hint: The best answer to this question is, “No, I don’t know.”) If you don’t know and it’s important to know, then you’ll probably ask a few questions to find out.
My training is as a journalist. I spent a decade in newsrooms as a writer and editor. My job involved finding out about 2 or 3 people every day, and writing about what was significant to them. I asked questions, listened, took notes, observed their body language to get a sense of what was important to them.
Now, why am I writing this piece? Because the very best way to build a practice, to fill every VT slot, to find great therapists and employees and to make the biggest difference in your community and world, is to connect to people who have children that need VT, and to link up to people in a position to refer.
The night the Soviet Union collapsed, I was in a seminar and we were speaking about the idea that within 6 conversations, you could locate or connect with just about anyone. Someone said, “Prove it! How can I get Boris Yeltsin’s phone number and speak to him right now?”
At that moment, the soviet Union’s new leader was in seclusion, no one knew where he was.
Then a participant’s hand popped up. His friend had given his cell phone to Mr. Yeltsin, so he could reach him right then and there. The only reason we knew that was because the doubting participant asked the question and set the challenge.
Who do you want to connect with? Are there professionals, clubs, groups, individuals in education, people in a position to refer, that you’d like to reach? Or, are you content to think that next person in your chair, sitting beside you at a meeting, are probably living small lives, like my dad?
Our course, Mastering the Art of VT Communications, trains you and key staff how to do this; how to have a very normal conversation, and discover that you have direct access to people who will refer children and adult patients to you regularly, year after year.
There are a few phrases that open up such conversations easily and naturally. “Would you mind helping me?” is one, and you’ll be amazed at how many people love helping others. Sure, once in awhile someone will be rude or decline, but we’re grownups and don’t need to take it personally.
What do you want help with? Getting the word out about VT, about how many children have vision issues that keep them from winning at school, or adults who aren’t winning at work and life. No one is interested in helping you make more money, or building your practice, but they are very interested in helping some child or adult with the kinds of issues you deal with daily.
My dad was a very cheerful guy. He never made a lot of money, but he had relationships galore, as we learned in that chapel. None of us would have guessed he had so many connections. But it's likely that we would have found out much sooner had we asked him a few questions and set aside our presumptions about him living a small life.
Raymond Lecoq never had much money, but he was clearly rich with friendships. What’s your next patient up to in life? Start with “I don’t know,” and find out.