As I mentioned previously, I want to start a series of articles that will ensure you make a 400%-600% return on your money. I have been spending some time helping dental students understand what a really good practice looks like, as well as helping recent graduates buy or start their first practice, and owner doctors reach out and buy another satellite practice. Whether you’re an associate dentist, owner doctor, or dental student, you will find great value in what we will discuss in finding, building, and embracing a career of consistent growth and profit in dentistry.
Let’s take a moment to define success in dentistry. You have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. There has never been a dental student or recent dental graduate who had the goal of becoming just average. I would hope that any senior/owner dentist would desire to leave the classification of just average behind and move to a higher level of profitability. On the other side of the aisle, we have the consumer or potential patient who would never vote to have/see just another average dentist. You don’t need it, patients don’t want it, and those satisfied with it probably don’t have that fire in their belly that every successful person tends to have. Steven Covey, in his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, discusses the seven traits that all successful, effective individuals have. Allow me to give it a “dental” twist.
- Be Proactive: Focus and act on what you can control and influence instead of what you can’t. I will assure you that each and every one of you will want to take this to heart. Major on what you can do and run with it. Forget the excuses we so often hear on social media and find your results. We will be presenting information on finding, buying, and growing a practice for profit in this list of articles. Understand where you are, where you would like to go, and be proactive in designing and executing successful strategies that will guarantee success.
- Begin with the End in Mind: Define clear measures of success and a plan to achieve them. I will direct you to get a free copy of The Super General Dental Practice at www.supergenealpractice.com and take the time to read the three foundational pillars of a successful practice in chapter 18, along with chapters 16 and 17 about ideal KPIs of a great general dental practice. The reason a student or recent graduate would want to do this is to ensure that they have a deep understanding of goals and benchmarks that define every successful dental practice. Have a clear understanding of what you are shooting for. If you are already an owner, then this allows you to self-diagnose your current practice. It would be a huge error in judgement to think that owning another practice where you would be an absentee owner could possibly result in more success if your current practice isn’t already doing extremely well.
- Put First Things First: Prioritize and achieve your most important goals instead of constantly reacting to urgencies. Change your tactics to one of a thermostat instead of a thermometer. Thermometers only tell you what the temperature is. Thermostats actually control the temperature. Prioritization focuses you on what is important rather than being distracted by things that really don’t matter. It’s great to have goals and lists of things to do, but it is far better to organize your list in order to begin with the most important step first. Often times you will find that in a list of a couple of dozen goals, if you obtain the most important one, several of the later goals of less importance will magically be corrected also. Everything is connected. Like a jigsaw puzzle: It’s always easy to find the corners and edges, it is far more difficult to fill in the intricate parts in the center of the puzzle. Make sure you are tackling the most important things first. Major in and on, major actions. Keep the “main thing” the main thing.
- Think Win-Win: Collaborate more effectively by building high trust relationships. Certainly, this pertains to patients and to your team. Leaders with a win-lose attitude miss the point. There are no successful leaders without dedicated followers. It may take a while, but all great leaders bow to the power and synergism of having long-term dedicated followers. With patients a win-win attitude is obvious, but it is also as important as you assemble and lead your team.
- Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood: Influence others by developing a deep understanding of their needs and perspectives. That’s why we have two ears and only one mouth. Engage completely and always listen. It is surprising what you can learn when you are not just shoving your agenda down someone else’s throat. Patients and team members tend to gravitate to those that listen well and speak wisely. Your office’s foundational goal should be to serve your patients. It is a culture of caring and compassion that arise from understanding your team and patient’s needs. This understanding grows from being engaged and 100% in the moment when you communicate with patients and team members.
- Synergize: Develop innovative solutions that leverage differences and satisfy all your team and every patient. This is the key to overhead control and long-term commitment from your team members. Synergy allows you to produce more with fewer people. It creates a culture where you find that together you are much better than any individual person. It is the connection you share with one another that allows you to do things that others can only dream of. Commitment, and not just compliance, indicates a strong and worthy culture that patients as well as employees will flock to and remain loyal to.
- Sharpen the Saw: Increase motivation, energy, and work/life balance by making time for renewing activities. Few take the time to plan, execute, and enjoy their successes. Sharpening the saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have: You. It means a balanced program for self-renewal. Your goal is a balance of life/work. I want each of you to win at work and at home. A tough goal but the only one that is really worth the effort. I would have to say that in life, this area was one of the most difficult for me. Goals, embracing change, being engaged, and stiving were easy. When it came to celebrating my success, I fell way short. I merely noted the success and went on to a more challenging goal. Take the time to enjoy the completion of a goal with your team and patients. It will pay huge dividends.
The follow up articles and the main thrust of this effort for huge returns on an investment of time and money start now. We want to begin with the “end in mind”. The clearer you can get this image in your head, the more likely it will come to fruition. We are going to take a long look at starting or buying a dental practice with a “Profit First” mindset. To create a can’t lose strategy, we are going to discuss the basics of strategic purchases of dental practices. This could be your first practice, a satellite second office, or a series of purchases that create a group business plan. Regardless of the reason, we will dissect what it takes to win at dentistry in the business sense. I also would like to knock down a few tried-and-true thoughts about practice purchases that are just not true. As the old saying goes: I’m not worried about what you think you know, I’m worried about what you think you know that isn’t so. To do this, I will not discuss the clinical side of dentistry, merely the business aspect of finding, creating, and running a super successful highly profitable practice regardless of the location or economic challenges. We will take it step by step from finding the practice, diagnosing the numbers, and coordinating what it takes from discovery to taking over your new asset. We will major on the precise things you were never trained to do or even exposed to during your time in dental school. Even seasoned dentists will find this an eye-opening journey to seeing where you are, what you should look for, and how to evaluate and ultimately fix any challenge on the business side of dentistry. We are looking for purchases that generate a 400%-600% ROI while limiting stress and mistakes.
I can only assume from the calls, emails, and texts that I receive that there will be those who are not contemplating expansion or a purchase of a new practice. Even so, you will find a way to look at your own practice by understanding what the numbers mean for the ultimate value of your major asset, your practice. Don’t discount the value of learning the ins and outs of finishing well, how to get the greatest price in the sale of your practice, or even how to decrease stress day to day by understanding what will keep employees, attract new patients, and build a consistently strong profit motive in your business. Stay tuned, you are about to see things that were always there, just under the surface, but totally ignored by most dentists. It is the attitude of prioritizing the KPIs and how to diagnose them that leads to convincing, consistent growth and the ability to adapt to any challenge in your practice.
Michael Abernathy DDS
PS. Think about this: Is your hunger for growth strong enough to cause you to listen to things you would rather not hear? Roy A. Williams