It’s amazing, based on the Facebook discussions and phone calls I receive for help, how everything challenging in a dental practice is the result of uncontrollable external circumstances. The pandemic ruined everything, there are not any employees that want to work, the economy is terrible, my patients can’t afford the dentistry they need, patients are only shopping for the lowest price, my employer is just greedy because they won’t pay me 35% of collections, my hygienist wants to be paid $600 a day, and on and on and on. Surely, there is an endless list of calamities and excuses for not having the practice you always thought you would have. It is such a rarity that I ever hear that the attitude and engagement of the doctor I am speaking with or reading about is the chief cause of all the challenges that he or she currently face. Regardless of the circumstances, I have found that if I lose my excuses, I begin to mind my results.
I operate from the perspective that I will never arrive at being a perfect practice owner or having a perfect practice. Rather, it is a journey. I have to learn how to adapt and enjoy the trip, because there are no guarantees for the destination. Making consistent improvements and enjoying the journey is the key to excellence. As you read these thoughts, keep in mind that “real value” occurs when your mind is open. If you are one of the many who consider these myths to be truth, your mind is closed and your future severely limited in its scope of possibilities. Sometimes, you just need permission to lay down those limiting beliefs and excuses. Here’s a good question: Who can give you permission to move to a different life of joy in what you do, and excellence in the results you attain? That is the key tenet of the Super General Dental Practice. It has nothing to do with total production and everything to do with attitude and business acumen. It’s all about being able to say you strived and achieved throughout your career. Self-deception is the worst deception. It’s amazing how some embrace truth and others won’t. All doctors generally hear or read the same things, but only a few actually act. Action is the chief sign of accountability. Hope is not a plan. It’s almost as if the winners in life understand that if it is going to be, it has to be me. As you read each of these “chasing the myth of ______” topics, it is key for you to decide and not just contemplate. There will always be a reason to put off acting quickly or acting at all. Those feelings are driven by your limiting belief and acceptance of your status quo. Tip that mirror up and really see if where you have been is where you want to end up. Without accountability and action, the future will be mediocre at best. Each of us must make decisions quickly on the best information we have at the moment. Don’t wait. Right or wrong, this is as good as you can do. Look at this way: If you aim at something, at least you are oriented.
These could be considered my state of the union about how I feel about any dental practice:
- I believe that average is not a goal anyone should have. Who needs another average dentist? Neither of us does.
- I believe that practice growth is a symptom of giving people what they want, and since they vote with their feet and pocket books, giving them more of what they want, when they want it, and at a price they can afford will remove all limits to your success.
- I believe every practice can grow 15% to 20% a year, regardless of what is going on in your life.
- I believe that everyone can do better than they are currently doing only if they embrace change while guarding core beliefs and vision.
- I believe the owner dentist is the number one reason the practice does well and the number one reason it struggles.
- I believe that real, tangible, sustainable change for the better has to start with the doctor.
Can you handle the truth? Most can’t and many won’t. The best defense is a better you. Right now, wherever you are, and at whatever level of success you find yourself, you are being tested. You can’t steer a parked car. Most dentists have a foot on the brake and another on the gas.
Most of you can identify with this condition as you read these words. Take a hard look in that mirror once again and see if you find yourself feeling this way. Cognitive Dissonance refers to situations involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. Example: When people smoke (behavior) and they know that smoking causes cancer (cognition), they are in a state of cognitive dissonance. Symptoms might be: General discomfort that has no obvious or clear source. Confusion. Feeling conflicted over a disputed subject matter. People saying you are a hypocrite. Being aware of conflicting views and/or desire but not knowing what to do with them. Knowing that many of you will find this to be true for yourself as you read ideas that confront your current beliefs and actions, consider confirmational bias as you try to deny or justify your current stance on the practice of dentistry.
Confirmational Bias: The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. This impacts how we gather information, but can also influence how we interpret and recall information. Example: People who support or oppose a particular issue will not only seek information to support it, they will also interpret new stories in a way that upholds their existing ideas. This can make people less likely to engage with information that challenges their views. Even when people do get exposed to challenging information, confirmation bias can cause them to reject it and, perversely, become even more certain that their own beliefs are correct. Confirmational Bias stops us from solving problems. Hence the “chasing the myth” topics should challenge your perspective and current actions in the light of your results not being better. What if we could recalibrate and improve your ability to see and act on new information when it is in direct opposition to what you are currently doing? This is about the moment that many will justify their results with the “Yea but _________” excuse for whatever you find will not work in your practice. The weird situation I continue to find with doctors that post on Facebook or claim to know the exact strategy to take in every situation is a lack of them doing what they say they do. I know many of the leaders that have dental groups and am surprised at their advice or implication that they should be giving it. Here is another term that is worth adding to your vocabulary.
Rhetoric/Reality Gap: You say one thing but do another. The proof is in the results. Not what you feel or think. Actual verifiable results. I’m not concerned about what you know. I am concerned about what you think you know that isn’t so. Each of us needs to tune up our mindset. Think for yourself and question everything.
Take a look at this short list. If you agree with any of these, you are chasing the myth by blaming your shortcomings on external challenges or circumstances. On every corner or any geographic area, you will always find a small percentage of dentists really doing great regardless of these types of external situations. You need to own your performance regardless of the situation or noise surrounding your practice and each day of work.
Excuses that don’t hold water:
- It’s different where I practice;
- You can’t find good staff here;
- People won’t accept that;
- We tried that and it doesn’t work;
- All staff are lazy;
- All associates are incompetent and lazy;
- My location really doesn’t matter;
- That won’t work here;
- Too much competition;
- I already do that;
- All my patients love us;
- You can’t make a profit being in-network;
- I only want to be a FFS practice;
- Staff never stay very long;
- Saturdays never work;
- Postcards don’t work;
- We don’t have to market our practice;
- It’s impossible to have overhead below 60%.
The list is endless, and no doubt each of us could add a few more, but you get the idea. Success does not need to be controlled by external challenges and the number one strategy in taking your practice to the next level pivots on your ability to adapt, overcome, improvise, and stay accountable for your results. I love this quote from Winston Churchill: “Success is not final and failure is not fatal”. Let’s all agree that the only time you should look back is to see how far you have come. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS