I am a collector of quotes and sayings. My primary source is what I read, but having a dad that was an attorney seemed to introduce many from his life. I want to “denta-size” each and every one, but you need to internalize the truths and apply them to your own practice and life.
Thomas Sowell said it best: “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”
Ever wonder if when you listen to speakers or read the articles you feel like they are proffering their advice only to sell you something? Kind of an “infomercial”: A tiny bit of information that you wanted to hear couched in a sales pitch that never works. They tell you what you want to hear without giving you any meat to chew on. Those folks will always tell you what you want to hear. Often time that is far to the right or left of the actual truth. Howard Farran said: “I don’t know about you, but I like to hold hands and kiss before I get taken advantage of.” What follows is truth and I hope you can take it and run. We are going to follow this article with the black and white of buying or starting a practice. I hope these dental truths frame the actual approach you need to take as the leader in your office. Most of the so-called experts know very little about consistent growth, successful transitions, and expansion into your first or multiple offices.
- No sane person drives off a cliff on purpose. Not monitoring the numbers and looking at simple financial benchmarks causes many practices to drive off a hidden cliff and destroy their business. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Point in fact; once your momentum reaches a certain point, trying to stop that car before it goes off the cliff is impossible. Think long and hard about adding another practice or taking on your first practice without knowing and understanding the facts. The average dentist runs their practice like going into a dealership to purchase a very expensive car and having the dealership remove all of the gauges. Why would you need them, you’re a dentist?
- Never fight with pigs. You always get dirty and the pigs love it. Conflict in business is inevitable. Things happen, but it takes two to fight. I am not saying you should give in to unreasonable demands or be a coward. What it means is that you maintain your emotions and stick to the facts. The least emotional person usually wins. Some people (staff and employee doctors) seem to thrive on chaos and emotional turmoil, but you don’t have to lower yourself to that standard. Assuming that there will not be challenges and conflicts would be silly. Every great thing you do will be uphill. Taking on another office is fraught with blockage points and conflict. You’re going to need a plan and you need to follow it. Your current office was built on your charisma, horsepower, and leadership ability. A second office will make it abundantly clear that being an absentee owner is totally different. This new office will have to live or die based on the culture you maintain, the staff ownership mentality, and great systems and protocols.
- When you’re knee deep in alligators, it is hard to remember you came to drain the swamp. Before you start down the road to expansion or new offices, make sure you never take your eyes off the prize. Don’t lose focus on the battle and lose the war. Far too many times doctors are really not ready for another doctor or new office. There is a threshold of excellence, leadership and competence that need to be reached. Anything short of this will end up being a distraction from the day to day running of your practice.
- Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn. Many dental practices use a blind squirrel practice management strategy. They don’t know who their target customers should be and, frankly, found them by luck. The successful solo practice that has no idea of how they got there, is making a huge error in judgment and setting themselves up for unintended results when they add that second practice. This thought could be extended to the associate dentist that produces well as an employee, (but where someone else attracts the patients, hires staff, leads and manages) assumes that they can do this too without any basis or track record of having the ability to do so. Kind of like the doctor with a great self-image for no apparent reason. Successful practices make sure that their success was not just an accident of timing and location. Rather it is a calculated business approach that ensures that they actually have their house in order by not depending on their own charisma and horsepower to drive the next office.
- It’s hard to build valuable relationships with prostitutes. Having no actual experience myself, I hear that ladies of the night charge very little to a great sum of money. The bottom line is the relationship is still built on price and money, not the value of the interaction. If you obtain work by being the lowest bidder, don’t kid yourself into believing there is a non-monetary relationship that really does not exist. Your people skills and leadership ability trumps everything else.
- Never try to teach a pig to sing. It doesn’t matter and it annoys the pig. Employees come in all shapes and forms. There will be leaders and there will be followers. Some have the right attitude but lack the ability to be your star performer. Understand staffing, where to find them, how to onboard them, and quickly eliminate those that are mediocre. Offer opportunity but try not to set employees up for failure. Few candidates will be worthy of becoming a team member in a Super General Dental Practice. Find the ones that can and become the practice you always thought you would be. Never hire from desperation, hire slowly and fire quickly, never hire someone that you cannot fire, and you will never rise any higher than the employee with the lowest commitment to your vision.
- If you can’t dazzle them with knowledge baffle them with bull. Case presentation and acceptance is a totally misunderstood proposition. Case acceptance, or for some, selling, is not about “shooting the bull” but rather about communication and developing trust. How can you develop trust if there is no substance in your communication process? Patients buy because they think you will solve their problems, not because they technically understand what you do. You take medicine your physician prescribes because you trust the doctor, not because you understand the chemical reaction it creates. In dentistry, like all consumer driven businesses, nothing happens till the consumer says “yes”. No-shows, cancellations, second opinions, needing to talk to their spouses, and less than 50% direct referral rate are just consumers telling you they don’t like your office and will choose to spend their money with someone else.
As we begin to take apart the nuts and bolts of office startups, we will add to our list of truths. Ignoring or stepping around these truths will create a challenge that will end in failure. Tip a mirror up and take a hard look at where you are, why you’re there, and where you want to go. When I was younger, I found a mirror from an old motorcycle. While I could use it to look at myself, I became enamored with how I could direct light into tiny nooks and crannies of my word. If the sun was up, and I got the angle right, I could direct light under my house and into other dark areas. Please use these writings to do the same for your practice. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. By the way, in the blog section of our website you will find a search function to several hundred posts/articles we have written on just about every aspect of a Super General Dental Practice. Give it a try! (https://summitpracticesolutions.com/blog/)