I like to think that I am not just driven by winning or getting the best “score”. I know that I should rise above winning and losing, but for some reason, life tends to put things in my path where the score seems to be important. I am sure that each of you are more mature and find the touchy-feely things in life far more important than the day-to-day outcome of winning, but I admit it: Keeping score is important to me. I’m so bad that I have to win at the grocery store by picking the shortest line. Making it through my shopping to-do list that my wife gave me faster than she could have done it makes me smile. Without any conscious thought, my mind calculates the fewest stop lights for a route to anywhere I want to drive. I am tickled pink when my maps app tells me to exit now, to avoid a slow down over the hill because I am going to beat all the other drivers and avoid the wait by staying on the highway. I love it when I am going to the cinema, and basically, have the entire row to myself because I went to the cinema at 2 PM on a Tuesday to avoid any rush. You name it, and it is a game I am willing to play if I can keep score. Call me obsessive, persistent, or crazy, but this proclivity in assigning a numerical value to any task I take on, helps me prioritize and tackle tough areas of my work and life. Pretty basic, and I do realize that I probably belong to a small section of society that prioritizes as if everything is a game with a score. But like it or not, your dental success may boil down to keeping score and ultimately winning. Before you stop reading, give me a little more latitude to show you how successful people tend to consistently win at business and life.
By omission or commission, every person is where they are because of what they do, or do not do. Every practice is working at capacity. Great practices work at capacity. Poor practices work at capacity. No matter where you are, you are working at capacity, or you would be getting better. People get what they deserve, not what they want. You obtain what you can learn, earn, and act on. Your commitment and actions dictate where that level of capacity ends up. If you are an average dentist, you have 20-30 new patients per month, collect about $700K a year, and have an overhead of about 72%. Not necessarily good or bad, it is just that doctor’s capacity. What you do, how you do it, when you do it, and who you do it with, determines that level of your capacity. That is the “cost” of doing business. If you want to do better, you have to change everything you do, because everything you do now is precisely designed to give you the results you are currently getting. Different results (hopefully better) happen when you do things differently.
If this is true, and I believe it is, then some people are willing to do more in a different way in order to achieve a better result. The big picture truth is: Everything has an “overhead”. It is the cost or overhead of doing better. It is this overhead that holds people back. Too many dentists face a conundrum of what I call “the fear of investing”: Investing your money, time, and effort towards a worthy goal or action. The strange thing is that many doctors assume that once they get that dental license, everything will come to them. This is entitlement. The reality is that a nice office, working people hours, and doing good dentistry is just the starting point or just the cost of admission to a dental career. It is not a destination; it is an early milestone in your career that then allows you to actually learn what it takes to be successful in dentistry. Far too many today quit before they really get started. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It is this entitlement mentality that destines the average group of dentists to a less than average return on their investment of time and money to graduate and become a dentist. Nothing is guaranteed and nothing good is easy to obtain. To me, it always seemed that anything worth doing was uphill. With time, I even realized that pushing things uphill demanded that I have a team to help. I had to cast a vision that would inspire employees to want to embrace our culture.
What I would like to do is help you see that anything you want to do or accomplish requires accepting the overhead cost and then, knowing the risk and investment, move on to success. It is the faint of heart and frail of mind that never realize that in any worthwhile goal, there will aways be a cost. It could be in laying something you currently are doing down before you take on this new quest. Remember you are working at capacity, and this capacity limit dictates that you realize there is not room in your schedule to add tasks without letting the new task or goal take the place of an old one. It may mean you need to get together enough money to not be held captive financially so you can invest in something that returns huge multiples compared to the original cost. It can often mean committing to engage more deeply at the cost of disengaging in some other area. Capacity at any level of success means that you are doing everything you can do, doing it the way you are currently doing it. That requires that if you add something new to do, you need to lay something else you are doing down. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. You currently do what you do now and expect or at least want a different result. That’s just crazy thinking. You have to go from what you currently do to something different. So, we understand that everything has a cost of doing it and that cost is “overhead”. We also agree that anything really worth doing and committing more time and money to will be difficult to accomplish. You could summarize this by admitting that “there ain’t nothing for free”.
When playing to win, the only way to actually determine where you are is to keep score. Football is touchdowns and field goals, baseball is the number of runs, tennis is wining sets over your opponent. While taking a 10,000-foot look at sports, what I said is true. But scores are driven by thousands of other things that coaches and players follow. In tennis they keep score of aces when you serve, unforced errors, number of tie breakers, stroke consistency, etc. In football you look at the number of tackles, completed passes, penalties, yardage gained running vs passing, fumbles, scores by the quarterback, etc. You get the idea. There is a myriad of details that determine the final score, and successful teams track these minute details of what actually will drive the final score. Without these small, before the final score details, there are years of training. Each game, position, and player are profiled and scored based on their success in the fundamentals of the game. This is true in dentistry. It is true in life. It is an undeniable truth for you. Are you keeping score?
Believe it or not, this article and the ones following this were all initiated by a simple email with a simple question: How do I set up a budget? We will get to that, but you first need to know that a budget must reflect the right numbers and the best of goals. A budget assumes a desire for a worthy finishing number. A tool for a particular score. If we begin with the end in mind, this doctor’s question on how to set up a budget hinges on where he or she wants to end up.
Until next time, ask yourself:
What game am I playing?
What are the rules?
Where am I now?
How do I keep score?
What numbers are important to track?
Define winning for yourself.
Michael Abernathy DDS