If you are “Thinking Like a Dentist”, this last part can be a fatal flaw. I find the doctors that think like a dentist, which would be bad, have almost no situational awareness. These doctors are vulnerable to any Tom, Dick, or Harry who hangs out their shingle and becomes “a consultant to the dental industry”, obsessively clings to outdated practice strategies of 20-30 years ago while mistakenly thinking that the current dental climate change will pass by and things will return to “normal”. THEY WILL NOT. These same doctors fail to see the obvious: Great clinical skills are only the entry fee required to compete. A nice office is also just an entry fee. Marketing is a requirement and understanding the consumer is an absolute necessity. Ultimately your patients have to like you and your office and that means studying your consumers and finding out what they want, when they want it, and the price they are willing to pay for it. A lack of situational awareness can take many forms. Here is the short list.
1. The Shiny Object Syndrome: Thinking that buying a 3D imaging system, offering implants, and being a fee for service practice will differentiate your office from the crowd. There is a time and place for everything but thinking that some particular clinical skill, piece of equipment, or not being in-network for insurance will make your practice solvent is a pipe dream. Dentistry has always been and always will be a small, consumer driven business propelled by forming trusting relationships with your patients. It is essential that you are likable and marketable. Likability and marketability are both determined by your potential clients. The consumer is the only one that gets to vote. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that people want what you have to sell. The secret is finding out what they want and give it to them so that sometime in the future you will have the opportunity to do all that they need.
2. Lack of leadership and purpose: At the end of your career you will recognize how important the staff you chose were to your success and to overcoming challenges. It is the fundamental need of each office to have a leader that is engaged, to be the standard bearer of “why” we do what we do, and a person that will passionately embrace change. My success was due part and parcel to the people I hired and partnered with: My staff. Your job is to assemble this stellar team and act on an intentional practice strategy of adaptation and reflection, while being quick to act. Things don’t remain the same and you are either improving or getting worse. There is never a time when you can coast without consequences. Negative consequences. Far too many doctors are disengaged, disenfranchised, and struggling with running their offices. Learn how to find and train up a self-motivated staff with people skills and partner with them by casting a vision that is inspiring to the point of total commitment from your entire staff.
3. Not schooling yourself on consumerism: Research your practice demographics on www.zipwho.com and pull your practice management report that tells you the ages, zip codes, gender, insurance status, and recall status for your patients. Commit to understanding the people that live around you and modify your practice where necessary to give them more of what they want: Hours, services, ages of patients, insurance, and financing.
4. Not accepting the new dental climate and supply and demand economics of the dental industry: Four decades ago the average adult had 12.3 decayed, missing, or filled teeth. At that time, it was a needs-based business model and everyone was busy. Today, the average middle-class adult only has about 3 decayed, missing, or filled teeth. This year we will graduate another 6,000+ dentists. This will be another record-breaking year for dental graduates. The oversupply of doctors and the lessening need for what we have to sell is supply/demand economics. We are seeing a new era of diminished need for our services, yet we continue to graduate more and more doctors. The multi-doctor office is increasing by 20% per year and the solo practice is decreasing by 7% per year. Even I can do the math.
The future of Dentistry can be great, but it will not be great for the many. It will be great for the few who adapt, embrace change, and act quickly to this new dental economy and climate. Making the decision today that you will do “whatever it takes” is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. Be sure to join www.bestfordentistry.com as we are continuing to add additional Alliance Partners to lower your overhead and put more $$ in your pocket. It is FREE to join. If you’re having money struggles, this will help.