The Value of Having Core Values

There is a story about a frequent flyer that had reached her limit with the airline’s flight crew. She did not appreciate the crew told jokes during pre-flight safety announcement. So she wrote a letter to the CEO of the airline.

Among other things, the frequent flyer’s letter said that felt the safety check announcements were very important therefore ought to be communicated in a serious manner.
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The CEO indeed receive the letter. His response?

We’ll miss you. And added, Rest assured that this company, like all good airlines, take safety very, very seriously.


Most CEOs would have sent an apology letter mentioning how much they value her feedback and especially her business.

The letter would have probably said it wasn’t their intention to offend her, he’d look into the matter, and that airline will do what it takes to satisfy loyal passengers, etc. So why would this CEO respond in such a way?

The answer can be found on the company’s website. It says:

We believe in Living the Southwest Way, which is to have a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a Fun-LUVing Attitude.


Work hard and playing harder is one of the company’s guiding principles. Fun is what they’re about; it is how they do things.

Indirectly the CEO’s reply made it clear the airline was not about to compromise their value (not even for a frequent flyer). So there wasn’t a need to apologize on behalf of the employees for doing exactly what their mantra ask them to do.


There are many lessons in the Southwest story we can glean and apply to our practices. But for me, the highlight is the importance of having guiding principles. Not only to serve as a blueprint for how employees are expected to carry out the company’s mission, but also as a tool to solve issues that fall outside of rules or protocols.


I used to be very careful about referencing profit, cost, expenses and revenue when talking with employees and especially with parents if a billing issue came up.

Then I learned about the No Margin, No Mission mantra from the good people of the AAP’s Section on Administration & Practice Management. The no margin no mission made so much sense to me, that it is one of our practice’s core values today.

Now, profit, revenue, cost are no longer taboo in our practice. In fact we embrace the concept and discuss it openly.


Not long ago, a parent of a well established family (more than 7 years with our practice) called to discuss with me our credit card on file policy. Even though they had provided the card for us in the past, they were reconsidering their decision.

The mom and I spend 20-minutes on the phone. I explained our reasoning and answered all her question about identity theft, security and employee turnover. Despite my best, she was not completely comfortable with leaving her card on file with us.

I told mom her concern was a legitimate and that if she didn’t feel comfortable with the policy, I completely understood.

I then said to her, the credit card on file requirement aligns with one of our core values and that as a practice, we feel so strong about the core value, that we were prepared to lose a well established, 3-patient family over it.

Does your practice have a core value statement? What does it say? Are you prepared to lose patients over it? Does it empower employees to do what is right when there is no manual or policy?



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