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Can You Change?

It seems that writing down my disappointments is somehow cathartic, so like many times in the past, this article originated from an encounter with a doctor.  This particular doctor had attended a seminar that we put on here in the DFW area.  The doctor requested a one on one analysis of the practice, and since it was relatively close by, I agreed to meet with them in person rather than do it over the phone.  I was actually excited about the possibility of working with this practice based on the amount of improvement I felt we could help them achieve.  The doctor was in their mid-forties, and while an OK practice, it had dozens of areas that really needed to be improved.  We met for over an hour to discuss various areas that could be improved and what it might take to accomplish this. The practice was probably 15 years behind in technology, staffing systems, diminishing patients, shrinking production, and really did not embrace consumerism.  They did a good job of controlling overhead, but had just kind of coasted through the last decade.  The doctor also wanted to know how to position the practice in order to bring in a trial partner and how to structure an exit strategy.  The meeting went well, and they were going to get back with me in about 10 days or so to decide on whether or not they would like our help.  A couple of weeks later I received this email.

I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten back with you! I have been thinking long and hard about what to do. I’ve talked with my office girls at length about this as well. We think we can make some changes re: hours, Dentrix utilization, booking, and treatment plan follow-up, etc., and see an increase. So we are going to try these things first. It may be that I use Summit in the future. I certainly have not ruled that out. Thank you VERY much for your time! It was so nice to meet you! You are a wise man and I appreciate you sharing that wisdom with me (as well as others) looking for answers. Take care! I’ll be in touch.

A super nice doctor with lots of challenges and by their own estimation a short time-line to fix them (5 years).   Now don’t get me wrong, I can face rejection, just not well.

I guess I am over the rejection now, but I was thinking that this situation is something that many of you face as a doctor.  What would you do with a load of challenges and a five-year time period to fix them, while at the same time bringing in a new doctor to affect a profitable exit strategy?  Would you resolve to make a 180 degree shift in attitude and actions?  Would you feel like you could stop doing what you had done for decades to make this shift?  Would you have the knowledge not to make the common mistakes that we see, and end up in a condition worse than you find yourself in now?  Would you seek and invest in advice that could literally make this change as quick and effective as possible?  I have faced this question many times in my own practices.  In hindsight, I would have to say that I would invest in bringing in a coach or mentor that could help me stage the shift in the best possible way.  We are all “stupid” about something.  We can’t know everything we come up against.  The great leaders, the superior doctors, realize that not knowing is not a weakness.  Knowing that you don’t know everything or that some particular challenge is beyond the scope of you expertise and seeking advice from the right source is evidence of great leadership and a wise decision.

Simply stated, most practices are what they are. In every practice there is a standard operating procedure that yields the result you are currently getting, and it is very difficult to break away from. You have gotten used to when you work and how you work. It has ingrained itself in the doctor and the staff. If a practice is doing$30,000/month, they have the skills and attitude of a $30,000/month practice. Everything they do creates this type of practice with this type of productivity, overhead, and result. These practices are working at capacity and seldom exceed that potential unless affected by an outside force (seminar, different doctor or staff, coaching, mentoring, etc.). They have the “habits” of a practice at that production level.  They have staff with the competence and talent of that practice level.  Their systems are designed to give them the results they are getting.  You have created a momentum of habit that is unlikely to change.  Momentum is huge in any practice of dentistry. It creates a struggle to change or shift directions in order to affect real growth in a practice. You are who you are until you become someone else. If you want more, then you must become more.  This transformation can be the most exciting and rewarding step you can take, but it can also become a very challenging journey if you go it alone.

Think about it this way: Currently we have 24 hours a day just like everyone else.  We sleep, eat, work, spend time with family, on hobbies, etc.  All 24 hours are spoken for.  You wake up one day and decide you don’t like the results you are getting with your practice.  New patients are down, you are not as busy as you once were, staff turnover is high, you are getting older, and you don’t really enjoy your work as much as you used to.  Now keep in mind that your staff has adopted your attitude or lack of it to change and improvements, and their day, like yours, is already filled with “stuff” to do.  So you do it harder, longer, with more vigor.  Nothing changes and a year passes and we’re right back where we were 12 months ago.  They say one form of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result.

Do you really think you are going to battle all the odds and turn everything around this year without help?

If you have not read the “Best Month Ever” article about Dr. Neal Brown, in this issue of the Summit Newsletter, stop and read it, and read between the lines.  A great doctor, doing what he did, getting what he got, until he made a paradigm shift.  There might be a better way: A way to change old habits and create a better future.  Every practice is working at capacity.  That capacity only changes when everyone in the practice realizes a couple of things:

  • Each practice has a “range” of patients it can “inspire”.
  • The strength of your practice systems will ultimately determine the “range” of patients that you can “inspire”.
  • The only limits to practice growth are those you have consciously or unconsciously imposed on yourself.


The right time for an improvement is now.  It all starts by just requesting a “Growth Strategy Analysis”.  I will send you an analysis spreadsheet by email that you will need to fill out.  I will also need a copy of your last year-end P&L statement, and a copy of one week’s schedule.  Upon receiving this I will email you to set up a conversation in which I will point out all of your practice blockages, along with what you will need to do to fix them.   I guarantee you will know more about your practice than you have ever known following this phone call.  You will learn more in a couple of hours about practice management than you have in decades.  There is no cost, no obligation, you will not be asked to purchase anything.  I just believe that to affect change you have to understand what the challenges are.  One you know, you may decide you would like some help.  For you folks who think you can’t afford a coach, I explained to a new coaching client that if you really look at the monthly cost, it is just about what a single (1) crown and one (1) endo would cost.  If you don’t think you can’t increase your productivity, while lowering your overhead, and minimizing your stress while taking home more money, you have got the wrong coaching group.

Give me a call on my cell at 972-523-4660 or email me at my personal email at [email protected]  (The 2004 is in there because I didn’t have an email before then.)

Michael Abernathy DDS