I appreciate a great self-image as much as the next guy, but often times we seem to put the cart in front of the horse. Some of the most frequent complaints I get are from dentists who are frustrated and stressed because their expectations exceed reality. In other words, things just are not working out the way they thought that they would, and they need help. If we could turn back the clock and look at each step that got them to where they are, we could clearly see that they had violated the key rule in any endeavor: Always respect the process.
Great athletes, superstar singers, and incredible business people were not born in an elevated state. They worked up to it. Super General Dental Practices don’t just happen, they are created. Step by step, a setback, a recovery and a restart until you slowly progress to the highest level of excellence and success. Every successful career or person I can think of has a story of setbacks and accomplishments that through perseverance and hard work allowed them to overcome every obstacle. The trouble with us, as dentists, is that we think we are different, that gravity and nature don’t apply to us. It’s as if we peaked at graduation from dental school and assume that all we have to do is float through life in a current of financial security and good things until we magically arrive at retirement with fulfillment, great families, and financial security. I know, pretty stupid, but I see more dentists following this trend than stepping up and taking responsibility for the process and outcome of their lives.
I can think of several universal dental situations that are great examples of not respecting the process.
1. Staff acquisition: We all have made the mistake of hiring from desperation rather than inspiration. Remember the time you were blind-sided by our best employee giving you notice? Because you believed that you couldn’t work without someone in that position, you hired the first person that came in. How did that work for you? Everyone knows that we need to hire slowly and fire quickly. We know that we are building a team, not just a bunch of people that work together. That’s why, at Summit, there is a very predictable hiring system that takes into account the personalities, people skills, self-motivation, and job descriptions that will find us the best staff member available resulting in long term employees with an ownership mentality that embrace change while guarding the core of our business.
2. Going through a Transition: We rush to find a doctor that is just like us when our practices are ill prepared for the responsibility and benchmarks that would need to be in place for this strategy to work. We avoid taking the time to negotiate and craft a great contract prior to having the young doctor begin work, then are surprised that because we did not respect the process, things went badly. That first day, that first contract, how you interact, and give feedback sets the tone for a successful relationship or one that ends with both parties going their separate ways thinking the other is a lazy crook. Time and persistence, planning and executing the plan define respecting the process.
3. Coming to the end of your career only to find out that you cannot financially afford to ever retire: 96% of all dentists reading this will fall into that category at 62-65 years of age. There is a long list of reasons this happens but a short one would certainly include successfully ending a few marriages and dividing the small amount of savings and assets you accumulated, not saving at least 20% of every dollar you take home in some consistently safe vehicle through the life of your career, and not running your practice as a business where you can expect to grow a minimum of 10-15% each year you work.
4. Settling for average: Why would anyone just settle for average, when all they have to do is respect the process? Balance, persistence, and perseverance can help the average doctor become what others might consider a superstar by doing common things, but doing them uncommonly well. There are no excuses for not doing the best you can, because doing the best that you can will always result in a better outcome than settling for what just happens.
Respecting the process means you begin with the end in mind and stay the course so that at the end of your career you are pleasantly surprised that the outcome has exceeded your expectations. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS