The title embodies everything that represents getting off track in dentistry. I want you to consider that the phrase “Thinking Like a Dentist” for all our purposes means something bad. As the dental and economic climate of the U.S. changes, we are seeing dentists reverting back to a mindset that could only be described as the strategy of a “dental academic that was out of touch with the reality of the business of dentistry”. Basically, an individual that is ill suited to compete in the market place we call Dentistry today. The risk here is that the average dentist will not survive the purge. We won’t adapt quickly enough to maintain a great dental culture that also insures a secure financial future. Change is so rampant in the healthcare field that most of us base our decisions, not on a thorough assessment of our situation, trends, and the probable future of dentistry, but on an outdated operating system in Dentistry that didn’t even work three decades ago. It’s as if we have evolved, if you can call it that, from just sticking our heads in the sand and hoping all of this change will blow over to taking action that is rooted in 1970-1980’s business strategy. This week I want to introduce the first problem created by “thinking like a dentist” (bad) and what we need to do in order to turn things around.
I have found that a majority of dentists have a foundation for their goals: (1) graduating from dental school and (2) owning and operating a “successful solo dental practice”. This single assumption or perspective that “success” in Dentistry is owning a successful “solo” practice can only be considered a brief milestone on the road to a successful career in dentistry.
First, we have to break this down. Success probably means something different to each of us, but in the Business of Dentistry there are some tried and true benchmarks that we can all agree would be ideal in a “successful dental practice”.
- Consistent growth throughout our career.
- Continued education to facilitate offering a wider range of services to our clients.
- Having at least 50% of our new patients coming from direct referrals from our existing patients.
- Opening the front door and removing barriers to entry to allow a higher than average number of new patients (average being 25-30 per month).
- Closing the back door to achieve and maintain a recall rate of 80% or greater.
- A facility that reflects our culture and standards of treatment that would appeal to our patients.
- Very low staff turnover.
- Having all of our key practice indicators better than just average.
- Achieving and maintaining an overhead lower than average (average being 67%-75%).
We could go on and on, but in anyone’s definition of “success”, just barely being average should never be your goal. In fact, I would wager that none of us walked across that stage to collect our dental diplomas hoping to have an average practice.
So why is the desire to have a successful solo dental practice “thinking like a dentist”? Let’s look at the second point, the word “solo”. I think that if we can agree that we want to do better than average, at some point we will need a second hygienist, and then a third, etc. We would go from the average of 25-30 new patients each month to 32, 40, 47, etc. But then you would need another doctor, and that means more staff, expanded hours, sound insurance protocols, and marketing expertise. In other words, if you were really inspiring the patients you already had, you couldn’t help but grow every month of your career. Growing practices don’t remain solo practices. Great practices simply don’t think that “solo” is a destination, rather it is just part of the journey.
Meeting and exceeding your patient’s expectations will seal your future, and it will not be a solo practice. The facts are that multi-doctor practices are increasing by 20% a year, while solo practices are decreasing by 7% a year. It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out that the future will have mostly multi-doctor offices and solo practitioners will struggle to survive. In the words of Zig Ziglar, we need to give you a “check up from the neck up and get rid of that stinkin’ thinkin’ ”. It is time to dial up your deserve meter while overcoming any limiting belief (s) that you use as an operating guideline. I am asking you to logically look at my assessment and come up with the fact that, yes, a solo practice is not my destination, but just a waypoint during my career. If you are not growing you are not inspiring your patients. Once you have decided to get on the bus and move past a solo practice mentality, the future will open up and take you to the next level for your practice and business.
This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. I encourage you to click HERE to download a Growth Analysis Spreadsheet (Excel). It has three pages. So when you do this, just open it and fill in all of page one, then click the tab at the bottom of the page and fill in all of page two. Once the first two pages are filled in, you are done. The third page is populated with the information and summaries you supplied on the first two pages. Be sure to save it and just email it back to me. Keep in mind that we want the numbers from the last 12 months. In addition, I would also like to see a year-to-date Profit and Loss Statement and a copy of one week’s schedule. Once I get these we can get on the phone and analyze any blockages, how to fix them, and allow me to hear where you want your practice to go. It will take at least an hour to do this. The result will be that you will have an entirely new perspective and depth of knowledge for your practice and a game plan to move through a solo practice to a more secure future. Don’t wait! I look forward to speaking with you.
PSS. If you have any difficulties with the download, just call or email me and I will send the spreadsheet to you.