Warning: If you have reached the pinnacle of dental practice nirvana, stop reading and exit this article. For the rest of us, read on and consider that rarely do we actually arrive at a point where we could not improve our businesses. Surely you have heard of the HGTV super show “Fixer Upper” with Chip and Joanna Gains. Based in Waco, Texas, Chip and Joanna flip houses. They like to say that they take the worst house on the block and turn it into their clients forever home. A very successful show with some good lessons we could all benefit from in our own practices.
Let’s assume you have an average practice that just isn’t what you thought you would have when you began this journey. You’ve tried to take on some projects that just never get done or fizzle before any headway is made. This is kind of how we go about home improvements. Generally, our spouses soon learn to not trust our home improvement skill set. So, you have a practice that doesn’t really inspire you, your staff, or your patients and you need a “do over” or at least a “do it a little different”. I want us to take the next few weeks and treat your practice as a Fixer Upper. This will take a mindset change for some of you. Admitting that your practice is in need of a fix up is not an admission that you are a failure. We need to constantly adapt to this new dental economy if we hope to survive this next chapter in Dentistry. On the good side, fixer uppers have a lot going for them. I want to highlight these points and begin a series of articles that give you just one thing per week to concentrate on that by itself could change the face of your practice. For a few weeks we will add to the list in hopes that you achieve a huge running start on a successful fixer upper.
In every fixer upper there is always unlimited potential for improvement. Whether you realize it or not, your practice has good bones. Hidden in the midst of high overhead, excessive staff turnover, and limited growth are the foundational elements for sustained success in Dentistry. When I advise new doctors about starting that first practice or mature practitioners with a string of practices, I always coach them to look for the upside. It is not just where the practice is today, but where it can be in 12 months that allows you to double and even quadruple the profits while getting rid of the debt. There is very little upside to a perfect practice. Your job is committing to actually making the changes presented here week by week.
Let’s look at the real bonuses of a Fixer Upper practice.
1. Unlimited possibilities: You already should know that without change you are destined to what you have and probably less. Fixer Uppers are neat because each project and each change brings you face to face with those possibilities. You have far more options and upsides than you can imagine. I guess I have been gifted with the ability to see things in your practice as they can be, not as they currently are. This would be a good trait for you to develop.
2. The speed of change: This is like “have your cake and eat it too”. Fixer Uppers seem to literally experience exponential growth and change. It is as if each single improvement adds a synergistic effect to the overall result while building momentum to make the next task easier.
3. The risk factors: Another huge plus is there are no downsides to taking on a Fixer Upper. You literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Anything and everything you do to improve your current situation adds value to your practice.
4. The ease of doing one thing: The trick in setting goals and acting on them is taking each step in the form of a bite-sized chunk. A small enough piece that you can actually see yourself being able to accomplish it.
5. The cost: There is always an investment: The nice thing about Fixer Uppers is that the first few steps usually cost little or nothing and their application creates the income to invest later. For most of us the first investment is giving up something to have the time to re-engage in our practice.
6. Effort vs gain: This one makes me smile. I wish losing weight was this easy. There is very little effort in proportion to the gain you receive. This may be the most attractive thing about Fixer Uppers. Doing anything immediately shows dramatically on a Fixer Upper.
7. Substantial success with a Fixer Upper is easier to achieve: Success is literally seen within the first few days of finishing a project. In fact, you will see great things happen every week.
8. Huge single change vs many small changes: Often we will shy away from some huge task that carries with it the risk and possibility of failure, not to mention the investment. I find that taking on a single slight modification increases momentum, adjusts trajectory, and builds a habit of follow-through that results in success.
9. Stress: I waited until the end to mention stress. We all shy away from stress. So much so that it often paralyzes us and results in no action or implementation. Taking on the small projects that we will begin to explore next week will have a surprising effect on your self-image, your “deserve meter”, and your overall practice success. You will soon find that having a stellar practice will probably result in the least stress you will ever have in practice. Compare it to not being able to pay your bills, not being able to keep staff, and poor self-image that you create when you fall far short of where you thought you would always be.
I am looking forward to next week when we explore the “one” change with the greatest upside in a Fixer Upper. That is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
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