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Eluding the Competitive Edge

The word “eluding” means: To escape from a danger, enemy, or pursuer; typically in a skillful or cunning way.  “Competitive edge” means: The ability of an organization to produce goods and services more effectively than competitors do, thereby outperforming them.  This means they must stay ahead in being responsive to customers, innovation, quality, and efficiency.  Why would anyone cunningly evade a means to outperform your competition?  It sounds a little stupid.  Why wouldn’t you want a head start or competitive advantage over a rival?  I see it every day in dental practices we speak with.  It’s almost common or standard operating procedure to do it.  From an outsider’s perspective, it would appear that most dentists like to struggle.  With years of education and training it would seem we have a sort of “death wish” when it comes to operating our practices in such a way as to constantly and consistently improve the results we get.  This article will touch on why and how it happens.

For most practices: they are what they are. In every practice there is a standard operating procedure (SOP) that gives you what you are currently getting, and it is very difficult to break away from it. You have gotten used to when and how you work. You have created “habits” that hold you captive. These habits have ingrained themselves in the doctor and the staff, and even the patients have grown to accept it. We had a farm that was located about 4 miles down a dirt road.  When it rained, the first person down the road created a deep rut.  If you are the second person to travel the road, you are at the mercy of where those ruts take you.  The trouble with ruts is that it is difficult to get out of them.  One author explained ruts as being a grave with the ends kicked out.  This lack of control down that dirt road to our farm, more often than not, created many problems:  Especially if the person before me drove off the road into a ditch.  Once you’re in that rut you can speed up or slow down but you’re committed to going where it takes you.  Going faster or slower does not mean that you will change where you end up.  You just get there quicker or later.  If a practice is doing $30,000/month, they have the skills and attitude of a $30,000/month practice: The “habits” of a $30,000/month practice. Everything they do creates this type of practice with this type of productivity and overhead.  Your practice can plateau and be bogged down by being in a rut.   These practices are working at capacity and seldom exceed that potential unless affected by an outside force (seminar, different doctor or staff, coaching, mentoring…). Momentum is huge in any practice of dentistry. It creates quite a struggle to change or shift directions in order to affect realgrowth in a practice. You are who you are until you become someone else, or something else. If you want to get to better, you have to go to “different” first.  This transformation can be the most exciting and rewarding step you can take. What is going to be “different” about this year?  Last year you were going to lose weight, work out, get more new patients, and produce more, but you’re still sitting on the couch, watching TV and hoping that this year will be different.  I have yet to see a chair covering that will suck the fat out of your butt or replace fat with muscle.  You have to decide to do it, work at it, and get the coaching you need to get the best chance at success that is possible.  The neat thing about coaching is the accountability, knowledge, and application that come from investing in your practice.  An interesting thing about a coach is that you can see their track record.  What pro football team would hire a first year junior high coach to change their losing season?  No one would.  Look at the body of work, articles, speeches, previous and current clients, endorsements and integrity before you hire a practice coach.  If you find someone who has done it, taught it, and continued to reproduce success in the offices that they work with, and then hire them.  Coaching isn’t expensive.  It’s priceless!

The only limits to practice growth are those you have consciously or unconsciously imposed on yourself.  We all hold limiting beliefs for various reasons.  These beliefs, if held long enough, become truth to you.  Limiting beliefs come in all sorts of sizes and colors.  It could be that you think you can’t find good staff or keep them.  That there is something wrong with your location, dental IQ of your patients, your skills, family, the economy …   It is hard to break bonds that we create for ourselves.  I hope to help you see that no matter what the circumstances you do not have to be a victim.  You can lose those beliefs that hold you back, change your momentum and change the direction of your practice.

Being what you are, means that each practice has a “range” of patients it can inspire.  It is this “range” of patients that creates profit and success in our businesses.  If it is a narrow range of patients, you will have limited growth and potential.  With this in mind, it would be logical that you would want to have the largest range of inspired patients as possible: A whole gaggle of raving fans telling everyone they know about you and your office.  This one factor of “range” determines the difference between good andgreat in the practices I see.  To inspire patients, we need to go well beyond the golden rule.  It is no longer just doing unto others as you would do unto yourself.  You have to do to others what they would like to be done unto.  The customer, not you, decides what will inspire them.  The secret is TLC.  It’s not just “tender loving care”.  You must begin to “Think Like a Customer”.  Give them more of what they want and less of what they don’t want.  Remove the barriers and thresholds to your practice and open the door wide to make it easy for a wider range of patients to seek and follow through with treatment.

Foundationally, practice systems will ultimately determine the “range” of patients that you can inspire.  We consistently harp on developing systems that get you the results that you want.  Results determine what and how a system is set up.  Every action in the dental office is controlled and monitored by systems to get a very predictable, consistent result.  If you are not currently getting the results that you want, then go back and restructure your systems.   I am always frustrated with doctors who never seem to have the time to spend perfecting their systems.  They do, however, seem to make time to deal with the problems, remakes, and staff turnover created by the poor systems that they currently use.  They just never decide to end the vicious cycle of mediocrity.

So what do you do?  Some say you have to step up and pay the price for success.  I like you to consider that doing what you currently are doing and not getting the results you want is costing you more.  You don’t pay the price for success, you pay the price for failure.  Success is the reward for any investment you make to improve your results.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
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