For over 30 years, Bob Spiel’s passion has been developing inspired leaders while building high-performance teams. His firm, Spiel & Associates, transforms general and specialty dental practices by building leaders at all levels.
In his 15 years of consulting and speaking, Bob has seen time and time again that leadership can be taught and teams reborn – what it takes is genuine desire, the willingness to be coached, and an unwavering commitment to personal and team growth.
Throughout his career, he’s been called “Mr. Team”. Bob had the opportunity to take on tough, turn-around situations as an operations director for two Fortune 500 companies, leading teams of over 400 employees while creating world class systems and cultures. Later, as a hospital and Surgical Center CEO, he led the transformation of two near-bankrupt entities, bringing them back to profitability.
He is the author of Flip Your Focus – Igniting People, Profits and Performance through Upside-down Leadership.
Connect with Bob on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Turning your career into a calling
- Finding your “sweet spot” as a coach
- Having an abundance mindset
- Mentally managing the risk of failure
- Small business leadership — coaching your clients to compete against who they were yesterday
- Transforming your job as a small business leader
- Building high-performance teams with your clients and for you
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Coach the Coach radio brought to you by the Business RadioX Ambassador Program, the no cost business development strategy for coaches who want to spend more time serving local business clients and less time selling them. Go to brxambassador.com To learn more. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:33] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Coach the Coach Radio, and this is going to be a good one today on the show, we have Bob Spiel with Spiel Consulting. Welcome, Bob.
Bob Spiel: [00:00:42] Thanks, Lee. Great to be with you.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:44] Well, I’m excited to learn about your practice. Tell us about spell consulting. How are you serving, folks?
Bob Spiel: [00:00:49] Well, Spiel Consulting is a health care management firm that specifically targets non-hospital settings. Okay. I’ve been a hospital in surgical center CEO, so I made a decision about 15 years ago to leave that in the rearview mirror, and we try to teach practices and practice leaders how to do more and less time with less stress. So they’ve got they’ve got more of life when the day is over and more life inside them.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:20] So now, based on your background, what kind of drew you to this side of the equation?
Bob Spiel: [00:01:27] Great question. My I’ve got an MBA and I’ve loved through my whole career solving problems. Actually, what drew me to this side of the equation to become a coach was based upon an experience I had about 15 years ago and I got fired as a hospital CEO. I was looking for my next CEO gig and you know, my son Adam, who is now 38 years old. He was younger then, but still very, very wise. He approached me early and he said, You know, dad, have you ever thought about working for yourself? And my instant reply to him was, no, I can’t do that. And about a month later, he came back to me, says Dad, have you thought anything more about what we talked about and I said about what he said, Well, do you think he could work for yourself? And I said, Adam, that’s not me. Now, just as a quick aside, all the while I’m looking for my next gig, I’m getting calls from doctors in the area saying, Hey, I understand you’re looking for work right now, but I’ve got a problem in. Could you help me come solve it? And I thought, Yeah, this is a great diversion.
Bob Spiel: [00:02:39] I think it’ll be fun. It’ll get my head into something else, so I mind looking for my real gig. And that kept growing while I’m thinking, OK, I need to find my next position. Finally, Adam came up to me and maybe three or four months in this whole search, and he said, Dad, why don’t you think about working for yourself? And again, there’s this limiting belief leave saying, Man, I can’t do that. I work for somebody else. And he said, Well, listen, dad, you’re an independent thinker. And if you can just find the intersection of your knowledge, your experience and your passion, that’s your sweet spot. And if you stay there and you play there, you no longer have a job, you have a calling. And money finds you. About 15 years ago, and he was spot on in every regard. I left behind the thought of ever working for somebody else. I’ve now reached the point where I realized I’m unemployable. But you know, it’s just been a blast helping clients have hope. How strategies find answers and get their life back.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:57] So now when you kind of as a CEO, some people would think, well, you were your own boss, like you were in charge, you were making decisions. But you felt that because of the ecosystem and health care that it’s hard even as a CEO to be someone that is kind of controlling their own destiny.
Bob Spiel: [00:04:15] Absolutely, yeah, especially in the health care type setting the CEO pardon the expression is actually a monkey on a chain. Now, a CEO of a health care entity is not controlling their destiny whatsoever because they either have a board that they’re answering to or a group of doctors that they’re answering to. And one little secret inside this hospital CEO group that I was a part of is that before you accept your position, you negotiate a really healthy severance package because typically boards and doctors have this kind of Alice in Wonderland off with your head mentality. So unless you’ve got a really sweet package or parachute, it’s hard to to execute within your position because every other month they want to fire you. Um, so no, as a CEO in that type of entity, you’re not in control, I’ve even got a good friend who’s the CEO of a public entity. He’s not in control because he’s got a board and he has stock analysts that he has to answer to. Like a good friend of mine said, who is also a coach and has done so for his whole career, he said, You know, Bob, you can make a living working for somebody else, but you only make a life working for yourself. And that’s also true.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:40] So now was that kind of the mindset shift that you needed was that you were having a career that by every kind of measure from the outside looks extremely successful and you were just not getting fulfilled. It just wasn’t filling you up that you felt that there was more out there that you buy controlling your own destiny, that you can be more you can help more people and make more of an impact.
Bob Spiel: [00:06:09] Yes. And you know, anybody who’s who’s launched in this type of profession understands there’s some real white white knuckle moments as you begin this whole venture because, you know, at first it can be pretty lean. But what I found with his his advice, knowledge, experience, passion, stay there. I did, and it became extremely fulfilling. It is absolutely fulfilling today, and I’d have to say that, you know, I don’t view my job at all as a job. It’s a calling and 90 percent of the time. I love what I do. The rest of the 10 percent is when I’m on a plane.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:57] Well, I don’t think anything would be 100 percent, but I guess we all aspire for that.
Bob Spiel: [00:07:01] That’s correct. Yeah.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:03] Now talk about kind of some of the logistics, how when you were kind of at first when these people were coming to you for advice, were you charging them or were you just being a friend like, well, here this one I would do or and then at some point it moved into a there was some sort of a financial transaction.
Bob Spiel: [00:07:21] I charged him up front, but what I charge was very, very modest compared to today’s rates, you know, and still today, there are times that I’ll pitch in and listen to somebody for an hour and give them some free advice and and kind of believe in the philosophy. If you cast your bread on the waters, it comes back to you. But I think Lee, the best thing I did was once I determine that this is where I really wanted to go. I had two other things that I had to overcome. One was the fear of failure. And the fear of failure really was huge in my mind, because when you’re in a successful career and then you kind of get bucked off the horse as I did, you really wonder man, is this going to happen again? And if it does, what do I do? I read a great book again. My son Adam referred to me called Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill, the, you know, the grandfather of all the success literature out there from the 1920s. A fascinating book that was actually published like 50 years after his death. But what that book taught me was that every one of the self-made men or women of his day and age had experienced profound failure before they had experienced tremendous success. So I realized, you know what? That’s just part of the deal. And if you fail, you’re going to learn from it and you’re going to pick up and keep moving on. And so that was the last piece of the paradigm that had to be cemented in place after that. Then I went out and found a mentor, somebody who is doing this actively and could teach me some of the ropes and allow me to learn his model, which I’ve since evolved multiple times over that. But it just gave the confidence and the kind of I’m not really creative, but I am a great person at following a template and then building off of that. And that’s what I did.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:27] And then was that person in health care. Were they in just executive coaching? So was in your same industry?
Bob Spiel: [00:09:32] Well, yeah, same industry. Although I’d have to say that he was in broader than me because he was coaching lawyers and CPAs and, you know, a lot of other entities that kind of had the same vibe to them of highly educated professionals that never learned how to run a business or lead a team.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:57] And and then where do you see your niche?
Bob Spiel: [00:10:01] My niece is is exactly that it’s teaching in particular dentists, dental specialists and then early health care entities how to run a business, lead their team and get their life back.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:16] So these are kind of more emerging like there or they they could be or they mega, you know, like,
Bob Spiel: [00:10:24] No, no, I don’t. I’ve had some experience with the Megas. I really love the small practices, the solo practice owner up to, you know, four or five six operators within a within an entity just because it’s faster to turn that ship than it is to take a huge operation. Huge operations take up a lot of time and can be highly change resistant where if you can develop the trust of a leader or leadership team, it’s amazing how quickly you can transform things. And that gives me a real rush every time I see things that we’ve put in place make a difference quickly. And it’s not startups. It’s not large guys. One of the best things that I that I experienced early, probably eight nine years ago, was sitting in a meeting and I heard a fascinating consultant to the actual credit union and banking industry. Her name is Roxanne Emmerich, and she took us through an exercise to figure out who your ideal client was or is. And I’d been at the game long enough that I had, you know, a book of business that I could really start to parse through. And the first thing that she asked us was look at those clients that give you energy and those that take it away. I’ve now call those energy suckers. And look at those that give you energy and then go through and look at they’re not their demographic trends, but their social geographic trends. Meaning how old are they? Which is demographic. But where do they live? What’s their background? What do they do in their off hours? Do they have faith? What are their hobbies? All these other fascinating ancillary things about them? And when did they become your client? What was the type of problem you were solving, et cetera? And I worked through that, and it became one of the most clarifying moments of my entire career as a coach because I determined who my I knew my sweet spot. Now I knew who my target audience was, and I’ll always remember the comments she made at the end of this presentation, she said. Marketing is knowing who you don’t want to talk to.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:49] Yeah, something I’ve been telling folks is back in the day, ABC was always be closing. And then as you get older and more mature in your in your work, it becomes always be curating your. Yes, you’re picking the right ones, the perfect fits and taking and spending less time on the ones that you know you may have forced into the funnel back in the day. But as you get older, yeah, it’s like, I just want to work with people I want to work with, and then I know I can solve their problem rather than force people into my machine. There’s lots of other machines out there. It’s that abundance mentality, I think.
Bob Spiel: [00:13:28] Mhm. Absolutely. There’s more than enough for all of us and find those clients that you can develop a very high trust level with that fit your sweet spot and that gives you energy. And when that happens, it’s magic. And it’s a really fulfilling experience to work with them. And, you know, it’s not abnormal for a client after one of these engagements to, you know, pull me aside and say, Hey Bob, I love you. And thanks for your work,
Lee Kantor: [00:14:02] You probably weren’t getting a lot of that earlier in your career.
Bob Spiel: [00:14:06] No, I wasn’t. Not at all. In fact, it was the exact opposite. It was the. What have you done for me recently? You know, type mentality that private coaching is a totally different environment.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:22] Well, it feels I mean, I didn’t know you back in the day, but it feels like there’s a lightness to you and that there’s kind of weight off your shoulders that maybe you’re living a life now. That is easier in a lot of ways.
Bob Spiel: [00:14:35] I’ve never worked more hours. And my wife has some reservations about that, although I’ve learned how to stack my schedule so that I’ve got, you know, some pretty good, free time, but, you know, I’ve never had more fun in my whole career.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:51] Yeah, that’s really coming through. Now talk a little bit about your firm is called Spiel Consulting, how are you kind of drawing the lines between coaching, consulting or is there a blurring the lines like where your work is kind of some consulting, where you’re actually kind of rolling up your sleeves and helping them solve problems? Or is it more coaching? That’s more, you know, consultative and you’re just kind of letting them solve the problem and you’re just kind of helping guide them.
Bob Spiel: [00:15:17] Yeah, actually, it’s even in the consulting realm of things. It’s more of the latter than the former because what I found over the years is as a good friend of mine, Katherine Mitel once said that people will fight an idea that’s given to them, but they will defend to the death, something that they have developed on their own. So I try even in a consultative status, to try to first find out where are the answers in the room and actually to help facilitate that. I play a lot of games with my clients when I’m on site. I was on site with two clients just last week in a consulting mode, but in the afternoon we had team training meetings with both of them. And often I tee up where I’m hoping to take them to with again because I found that adults learn best if they’re on their feet. And if you can have some very wise but also insightful ways to get them to play together, you can not only see how the group shows up, but you can then create a common context for where you’re trying to take them next and how you’re pulling the answers out of them. So it’s a very blurred line to answer your question.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:43] Now, can you give some advice for that leader that’s struggling? Is there anything they could be doing on their own right now, some low hanging fruit that you would recommend maybe an activity or just kind of a mindset shift exercise that can help them maybe see what they got right now and maybe some baby steps to improve something?
Bob Spiel: [00:17:05] Yes, please. First and foremost, I’d say grab my book. I wrote a book five years ago called Flip Your Focus, Transforming People Profits and Passion through upside down leadership, which is my leadership philosophy. It’s real simple. It’s the idea that my job as a leader is to work myself out of a job, and I do so by shifting my mindset from everybody here to see that I succeed to. I’m here to see that they succeed. And then there are three simple behaviors that I teach actively to my clients, and the first is clearly set expectations. The second is create a culture of participation. And the third is to show genuine appreciation. So if a leader honestly wants to change tomorrow, just how they show up and what they’re doing. Begin to catch your people doing stuff well and telling them, thank you. Sincerely and the best thank you have three components, not only what did they do, but why it matters to you and how it made you feel when you saw them do it. That’s the easiest way to begin to transform the leadership. There are other things as well. Clarity seems to be something that’s missing so much in business, whether it’s large or small, being clear about how everybody plugs in and what their piece of the puzzle is. I borrowed from Stephen Covey, who’s a hero of mine and was one of the guys that I learned how to think about business some 40 years ago. This idea of roles, goals and expectations. And so I actively teach clients to work through those type of exercises to know what the roles, goals, expectations and then metrics are for your team members. And if you can’t define them as their leader, then chances are they have no clue exactly what you’re wanting from them. So those are just some ideas.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:12] Well, I appreciate you sharing that. Is there like what’s the pain that your next client is having right now? What are some of the symptoms that they say they it’s going to get them thinking, I better call Bob on this team?
Bob Spiel: [00:19:27] Mm hmm. Well, hearkening back to this whole exercise about who is your ideal client, what I learned, my ideal client is somebody who’s been in business for five to 10 years and they’re stuck. What that means, Leigh, is they’ve succeeded in spite of themselves. But now they’ve kind of painted themselves into a corner and they don’t know where to go next. Typically, what that tells me is that they’ve got. Deliberate approach in their practice, what they do resonates with patients, but they’ve never really worked through what are their systems and what are their communication strategies and how do they lead. And so that’s where I plug in and help them work through those three things.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:15] But when you say stuck, a lot of people don’t have the self-awareness that they’re stuck like. It might be. Is there some symptom that, hey, revenue hasn’t moved in a period of time or, hey, I’m losing a lot of people like, are there some some breadcrumbs that are kind of a trigger to, you know, someone leading a practice that says, Hey, we might be in trouble, there might be a, you know, an iceberg ahead, but you know, I’m seeing some clues, but I’m not sure.
Bob Spiel: [00:20:42] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah, it’s even easier than the other two, although the other two you mentioned are perfect to look at turnover, to look at what are your numbers telling you? But the biggest metric that I found is burnout.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:55] So the leader is just like kind of at the end of their rope, like, why am I doing this kind of thing?
Bob Spiel: [00:21:01] Exactly, yeah. The phrase in dentistry, but often in small businesses, you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, you’re running and running and running and you’re not getting anywhere. And that’s the biggest telltale sign right there that they’re stuck and that they could use help. Then there’s, you know, the next big hurdle after that is to say, OK, now if I’m stuck, how can I afford the help? But just like I was talking to a client yesterday during a call in a comment she made to me was, you know, Bob, there’s a scary juncture that you have as a business owner when you realize that you’re stuck and you realize you need the help, you think, Man, I just can’t afford the money to make it happen. But she said the best thing that I ever did was hire you. This is somebody who 50 percent at her practice the first year she was with me, and now she’s 100 percent of her practice this year. And before that, she was flatlined, you know, for three years. So that’s a big mental gap that has to be closed. Just like for me, it was, you know, I can’t work for myself. There’s this mentality that takes place while I know I’m stuck, I can’t pay for that. That’s a limiting belief that needs to be actively challenged. And then just, you know, put to the side because when somebody’s stuck, they succeeded. And now they don’t know where to go next. That’s when they need to bring in a coach and that coach is going to pay for his or herself. Hands down,
Lee Kantor: [00:22:45] Right? And it was just like you went through the first thing or one of the first things you did was find an expert. Yeah. To help guide you, to give you structure and to give you kind of a direction and say, OK, now I can take this and now I can, you know, put my secret sauce to this and take it to a new level. I mean, there’s no shame in that. That’s no, there’s not. That’s not a weakness. That’s a strength.
Bob Spiel: [00:23:07] Yeah, it is. And you know, and I paid him about the same amount that one of my clients will pay me in year one. And it was worth every penny is absolutely worth every penny because it set my feet on the path with the confidence and the competence to jump into this. And after that, then you know, you start to find yourself just meeting people and finding opportunities, becoming a part of established networks and finding additional mentors that can continue to take you further and further and further.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:42] Well, Bob, congratulations on all the success you’re doing. Important work and we appreciate you. Is there a website people can go to to learn more about your practice and maybe get it on your calendar?
Bob Spiel: [00:23:53] Absolutely. Yeah, my website is spiel consulting and it’s spelled S’s and Sam P like in Peter IBL consulting all one word. Or, you know, I’m also happy to be able to have them reach out to me. They can text me, which is probably the best way to get in touch with me. Just at two 00 eight five two zero six nine zero zero and I’d be happy to. Talk to anybody who’d like to talk to me.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:23] Well, Bob, thank you again for sharing your story.
Bob Spiel: [00:24:25] Okay, thank you, Lee. Great to be with you.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:28] All right, this is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Coach the Coach radio.