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Five Smart Moves To Make Right Now

While so many dental offices are sitting on their hands, the conditions are actually ideal for going after market share. In other words, now is the perfect time to sit down at the table and calmly eat the competition’s lunch. The way to get the job done is by making a series of what can best be described as “smart moves.”


Don’t look over your shoulder. It isn’t what the closest competitors are doing that costs you the race. It’s lack of self confidence. We never seem to learn that looking over our shoulders to see what the others are doing is the path to disaster. When your eye is on the competition, it isn’t on the goal –satisfying the patients. Don’t let anyone fool you; keeping your eye squarely on the customer is all that counts.


Develop a long-term plan. Just the idea of a long term plan runs counter to most dentists idea of charging into the competition with blazing guns. Even the word “plan” tends to put off a robust business person’s spontaneity.

One reason why Japanese business methods are  so unsettling to us has to do with long term thinking. We live by a “knock their socks off  now” mentality that has no way of understanding why Mitsubishi has a 250-year business plan.

A plan is not just a means of going from here to there. It’s actually a process for learning from and building on the past, a confident way of knowing that the steps we’re taking at the moment are actually in a forward direction. Of course changes occur, but a sense of forward movement is better than a feeling of endlessly treading water.

An important element of any good plan focuses attention on prospective patients. The only way to get the patients you want is to choose them. Unless a practice has a very accurate picture of whom it wants to do business with, it’s playing customer grab bag.


Never relax the tension. The most serious problem for dentists is not so called burnout and stress. These are simply convenient ways for avoiding difficult issues and the stubborn business problems that seem to defy permanent solutions. Instead of saying, “Give me something easier to do,” we hide underneath a convenient cloak of being stressed out.

For some reason, we have come to expect that the goal is to get everything in place so that it will run smoothly. We long for a time when we can let up and get away from the pressure for at least a little while.

Recessions seem to exacerbate this condition. For the 18 or 24 months of a downturn, we work like crazy to keep things together. Then, when the government gleefully announces that the recession has ended, we are ready to relax and go back to the way we were doing things during better times.

The smart move is to keep up the pressure to get out ahead of the pack. While others are taking a breather, your practice becomes super aggressive.

If there’s one thing worth learning from the Japanese, it’s a never-ending commitment to making small improvements. Never letting up may be the smartest move of all.


Tell patients how to think about your practice. Since most patients simply have no way of evaluating what they’re getting from your dental practice, this may be a primary reason why they leave when another dental practice makes them a slightly better offer (marketing).

People need help in understanding why it’s in their best interests to do business with a particular dental practice. Yet, most dentists think it’s enough to give patients excellent service, the best treatment, and a fair price. This won’t satisfy patients today. You need to educate them about why doing business with you is a smart move.


Show appreciation to patients. Whenever someone has a substantial case performed, I write a personalized, handwritten thank-you letter. When someone refers a friend to our practice they also receive a brief personal note with a small gift.

As incredible as it may seem, there are many people in business who believe that showing appreciation is a sign of weakness — a way of losing control. They honestly think someone is waiting to take advantage of them.

Yet, many in business are beginning to rediscover that all business is personal. Having gone through an extended period when getting the business was all that counted, we are recognizing that the way we do business must change.

“Fast, efficient, and accurate” is no longer good enough in a service business. Having a superior, defect-free product is just the starting point in performing dentistry.

Finding ways to communicate a sincere and meaningful sense of appreciation is essential if a genuine partnering relationship is to develop between a dental office and its patients.

No matter who we are or what we’re doing, there is always a tendency to want to “return to the old ways.” This is really nothing more than trying to find a sense of balance or to get back to an equilibrium that is less demanding. This is exactly what’s changing the most in business. There is no balance. Everything is off-center all the time.

These five smart moves are a different way of looking at business. They aren’t tough moves, although it takes a demanding and disciplined person to stay with the smart moves and not be seduced by the latest gimmick or diverted by a competitor’s ploy. In effect, smart moves are a way of defining a strategy for controlling destiny and growing a business.

Dr. Mike Abernathy is available to speak  for dental groups of all types and sizes.  To inquire, call 800-252-0955