In the first two parts of “stop thinking like a dentist” we’ve seen that viewing solo practice as a destination or benchmark for dentists is not the best approach and also how debt and entitlement can cripple a successful dental practice. The goal here is to point out the seeming innocuous beliefs that a dentist has that will subject him or her to a career of mediocrity and frustration. Hopefully you can see the truth and facts in these articles that will encourage you to make a change and make it quickly. Success demands a time sensitive action centered on an intentional plan to thrive. The future of Dentistry can be incredible. It is likely that it won’t be unless you are proactive in taking a different approach to the practice of dentistry. This bright future that is possible will be limited to the “few” and not the many. If we don’t change the way we practice and run our businesses, we are destined for a slow death spiral with a dismal financial future.
The third part of “stop thinking like a dentist” revolves around the myth of “the one”. In a round about way, I think we all suffer from a great self-image for no apparent reason. The myth of being “the one” states that you will be the exception from the norm or average (that you will be the one that escapes catastrophe or you will be the one that finishes on top in life). You won’t have the average practice or you won’t go through a divorce, drug addiction, bankruptcy, terminal illness, etc. You get the idea. There is this human nature of thinking that what you see on TV or hear from some other source could never happen to you. On the other hand, we tend to do the opposite thing when we hear of some supposed success in real estate, investments, acting, politics, etc. You think that some huge success will be part of your future. Now I’m not trying to be a “Debbie downer”, I just want to introduce some modicum of realism to our circumstances. Sure, people win the lottery, but it probably won’t be you. Great futures, awesome legacies, financial security, stable home life, and great kids don’t happen by accident. It takes an enormous level of engagement, continued study, and determined application to pull this off.
This leads me to the second part of this attitude: Seeing doctors overlay the myth of “the one” with an unrealistic expectation of what or how you can practice and still find success. It is almost laughable when I hear doctors tell me that they don’t want to deal with these crazy patients or deal with staff and business issues; “I just want to do the dentistry”. WOW! Pretty much assures that you are going to have skinny kids and a disappointing life because your career will not be financially successful. Those very things and your ability to do them well is the key to success in any business.
So, let’s step back and take a look at this as if we all had a “do over button”.
- Where do I need to re-engage in my practice? Each of us needs to take three times the continuing education that is required for our licensure. With this said, we need to make sure that we also educate ourselves about leadership, sound business practices, and different ranges of clinical services that we might add to our practice. It is not enough to just show up at work. You have to become as passionate about dentistry as you are about your hobbies.
- Where or who should I go to in order to get advice? Tough one. There seems to be a financial advisor, practice management expert, and marketing guru on every corner. Like most professions, 80%-90% of them are not people you should do business with. Go to a friend or colleague that has a stellar track record and great understanding of the area you are researching. Then find another one until a clear direction appears. Do some reading and take an online course to make yourself an educated consumer before partnering with any professional for practice advice.
- How do I get my employees on board? Most of us fall woefully short of having even average leadership skills. While this is probably a topic for another article, the nice thing about leadership is that it can be learned. In fact, often times the leader is not necessarily the smartest person in the room. Great leaders are voracious learners with excellent people skills. They have an attitude of giving, trust, and respect for those who follow them. The first step in this journey is to involve your staff from the start of your journey to reconnect with them and your practice. Not only will they be supportive, but it gives you the opportunity to partner with the very people that can decrease your stress, increase your practice, and create a culture of staff ownership for the future of your practice.
- Stop thinking that your job is doing dentistry. You are the owner, but also an employee of a complex business which, when jelled down to its essential element, is just a consumer- driven small business. Thinking that just doing the dentistry will lead to success is a shortsighted strategy that always fails.
There is a rhetoric/reality gap for almost every dentist I know. There is a huge difference in what you say (rhetoric), and what you actually do (reality). The primary take-away from this article is to minimize or eliminate this gap. That’s your “job one” for today. It is not just saying the right things. It is doing the right things. Nothing is more self-defeating than saying one thing and doing another. You constantly need to understand and remember that everything you say and do models the culture and quality of your practice and staff.
Eliminating the rhetoric/reality gap is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
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