Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, another energy Vampire appears. We talked in Part 1 about how various types of staff can suck the life and joy out of your practice. Several of the emails I received after that said that they had even worse types of Vampires than just the staff. Allow me to add to the first article now with a few more things we all need to deal with.
• Insurance Companies: These guys fly in and unilaterally change our reimbursements, possibly even dropping us when we do more crowns then they deem reasonable. Success in managed care is an art and can be learned. The biggest trouble is that the target is always moving and changing. This requires intense engagement and being proactive to keep up with, and even alter, practice strategies to maintain a 50-60% overhead while taking these plans.
• Financial Captivity: The constant worry of finances has got to be one of the biggest energy drains on a doctor. This is usually a fixable situation that requires a commitment to running your practice with sound financial business practices. Maintaining your productivity and keeping your overhead below 60% is priority one in slaying this Vampire.
• Staff Meetings and Morning Huddles: If you were a fly on the wall during your morning huddles, would you see anyone there actually listening or engaged? Most staff members say they find these huddles to be “much ado about nothing”. Make sure they are short, to the point, and actually of some value and purpose. Don’t do them just because some dental guru told you this is what great practices do. Once you actually have a great practice, you will find that you only hire and keep self-motivated, responsible staff that actually self-police themselves while being totally engaged in their activities and 100% focused on results. The ripple effect is that they will know everything you will discuss in a huddle and more, so the reason for having them disappears.
• Clinical Dentistry: It always seems like offices have the time to redo poor or failed dentistry, while never having the time to improve their techniques and systems to deliver it correctly in the first place. Most of the doctors I see are practicing twenty-year-old dentistry or doing it in a way that is not consistent with the new products we have at our disposal today. Like most things in Dentistry, we need to simplify, organize, systematize, and stay informed about all clinical and procedural advances.
• Office Hours: A lot of energy is used when you choose days and hours that are the exact times that no one wants to come in. The Monday to Thursday workweek died ten years ago. Wake up! Consider that being open during the hours that consumers need and want makes your life easier and usually leads to working fewer hours that are twice as productive as hours from “the good old days”.
• Horrible Patients: There are two ways to look at this. Poor patients are certainly high on our energy Vampire list but often times it’s not the patient, but the way we respond to that patient. Strategy one could be freeing up that patients future. Just let them go and return the joy to your life. Let them go down the street and make that other doctor miserable. The other response would be to keep increasing your fees for that patient, as a stomach lining adjustment or PITA surcharge, until you actually look forward to seeing them. I had one patient that I just doubled her fee for anything and charged them for things I would not normally charge someone for that was nice. The person kept coming, paying the higher fees, and I actually ended up liking her.
• Leadership: The title is probably a misnomer because I see more doctors burn up energy avoiding leadership than they ever would by simply embracing it. It’s almost like they want to abdicate the responsibility of leadership to someone else, while complaining about the mediocre results they get from the practice of Dentistry. Leadership can be learned by anyone. Super General Practices always have strong leaders.
• Marketing: Many practices spend an inordinate amount of time trying to do their own marketing. My advice is to partner with an outside company and operate on the principle that every high school football team in Texas does: “Coach, we’re behind you 100%, win or tie. If you lose, you’re out of here”. Never hire a marketing company with a long-term contract. You should be able to hire or fire them, and hire them for one month if you choose. They need to prove their worth every day or you can find someone else that will. You should always ask: “What have you done for me today”? If you are not seeing results, go with someone else.
• Dealing with Change: A huge energy drain occurs when we can’t face the fact that change in dentistry will always be constant. Everything changes and you will be left behind if you don’t embrace change. Practices that have plateaued have failed to anticipate and embrace the change that would take them to the next level of practice.
• Dentistry as a Career: Today, 67% of the average Dentists out there are dissatisfied with their choice of dentistry as a career/profession. What a waste. To be successful in Dentistry (or anything else) you will need to go all in. If you find that your practice is a millstone around your neck and you find no joy in it, then you need to move on. Before you go, ask yourself what could you do that would produce the income with the hours and potential upside that you currently have. You have to be as excited about Dentistry as you are about your hobbies to make it really pay.
• Spousal Abuse: This isn’t what you think. Not partnering with your spouse to stage your career to be successful is a huge energy drain. You and your family have to save 20% per year in order to meet your long-term financial goals. Having a spouse who is committed to saving rather than spending (must drive a new high-end car, live in a huge new house, etc.) is imperative. The attitude that you and your spouse have will be imprinted on your kids. You do not want this legacy passed on for generations. Start today, because it is never too late, and sell that vacation home, pay off those debts, reinvest and recommit to your practice and family and stage a future that will give you choices.
That’s it from Vampire Killing Central. This is Summiting.
Michael Abernathy, DDS