What teeth cleaning has to do with business…

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By Kristina Coyne

April 30, 2023

If I could show you some really simple ways to think differently about how your business operates, would you be interested?

Well, you’re in luck! Because in this video ready I highlight another thing that’s going on behind the scenes in your biz.


When I ask business owners and staff what they do, they really quickly come back with the actions they take to do things (me included ). It’s where our comfort zone is.

But when I start pressing a bit more, suddenly things become a lot less clear. I start seeing variations in what they tell me – sometimes we do this, and sometimes we do that.

When I get even more curious and ask about why they do this, and when they do that, often I’m met with confusion or blank stares.

People aren’t used to thinking like this. We’re very comfortable doing things in certain ways without thinking too hard about why or when we do them.

Let’s look at teeth cleaning, for example.

One angle we can look at it is the mechanics of how we clean our teeth

  • electric or manual toothbrush
  • wet or dry toothbrush
  • amount of toothpaste
  • floss before, after or not at all
  • mouthwash
  • etc

This is how most people think of things. This is the focus of Standard Operating Procedures, which is all that many people think they need to run their business.


… we could look at WHEN and WHY we do it.

  • Do we clean our teeth in the morning? Evening? Both? After every meal, or only some?
  • Are we doing it to prevent cavities? Or have fresh breath? 
  • What about before we want to get intimate with someone? Do we do it presumptively (before they’ve consented to be intimate) or take time out after they’ve consented?
  • Before we go to the dentist? What about if we’re seeing the dentist after we’ve been out all day?

All of these lead to different behaviours. And we may need different things in place. Maybe sometimes we do other things in place of cleaning teeth, but we’re still aiming for the same outcomes.

When and Why are the triggers for us to do certain things. When we only look at the thing itself, and not the When and the Why, we miss most of the picture.

Unless we identify the triggers that are important in our business, and communicate them to our staff…

… those staff may be doing a great job at the thing itself, and STILL miss the mark on meeting your expectations of when and how often they should be doing it. Or wasting time and resources by doing it more often than is needed…

This was the case with one amazing gentleman I worked with. He runs a very successful renovation business. Part of his service included having an in-house designer who would draw up the plans and go shopping with his clients for all their fittings.

He had a basic service, and a deluxe service. When I asked how they decided which client got which service, they couldn’t give me a single answer. The business had grown up over time, and things just happened.

I prompted for whether it depended on any of the following things, any of which would give them benefits

  • Size (and hence value) of the renovation
  • Budget for fittings
  • How much they liked the client
  • Potential for follow-on work

They went away and discussed it among themselves, and came up with an answer that worked for them. Now the business owner and designer are really clear on who gets the basic and who gets the deluxe service. The clients of both services still get fabulous results. 

And most importantly, the designer is no longer snowed under with more work than she can handle.

All by getting clear on a single trigger. 

We didn’t change the services that were offered, or how they were delivered.

All we changed was making explicit what the trigger was.

And here’s the even more wonderful part of this – they can change this trigger whenever they want! Nothing about it is set in concrete.

If they want to increase throughput, they can have more people going through the basic service. If they want to increase prices, they can have more people going through the deluxe service. 

By making this trigger explicit, instead of assumed (where people just THINK they know what they should be doing and when) they’ve gained so much more control over how their business operates.

Kristina Coyne

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