Hundreds of doctors have already read The Super General Dental Practice and have begun the process of becoming the dental practice they always wanted to be. One of the comments that I have gotten is that some doctors don’t want or can’t conceive of a practice like I had for over 34 years because of the size and number of new patients. Let me address this, because the word “Super” in the title of my newest book has nothing to do with bigger or larger. Size has never been the differentiation of good to great. The “next level” may not be larger. It is not the “supersize” of dental practices; it is an entirely different strategic idea of how consumerism, a sound business model, and becoming an effective leader gives you security and growth in any economy.
Twenty years ago, after speaking in Chicago, a young doctor approached me with a request. I had just finished speaking on a Friday in June and was planning to embark on a three-day motorcycle trip that I had mentioned to the audience. This young doctor wanted me to come by his practice and give him some advice about expanding his office and his goals. Secretly, it was the last thing I wanted to do, but because it actually was on my way, and I am approval addicted, I told him I would spend an hour with him if he bought lunch. What transpired was a seed that has grown into a lifestyle. This doctor, who produced less than $500,000 per year, had an operating overhead of 12%. As it turns out, he worked in another doctor’s office in the evenings and on Friday and Saturday. He kept his supplies in a separate small broom closet and he and his wife were the entire staff. They lived on 20% and saved the other 68%. In six years he had accumulated about $2,000,000 and his accounts were still growing. I was amazed, flabbergasted. In nowhere Illinois, working for another doctor during times the senior doctor did not work, cleaning the doctor’s office to pay for part of the lease, this young doctor had saved more than 97% of the doctors I knew. I spent the next 3 hours taking notes on why and how he and his practice became this “Super” general dental practice. Somehow the rest of us have accepted “debt” as a natural consequence in both our business and personal life. So corrupted are our views on money and finance that we have begun to think that debt will always be with us. From that day forward I made the decision to get out and stay out of debt. The “Super” general dental practice is constantly moving toward saving and getting out of debt.
The practice and the business of dentistry have always fascinated me. I used to think that the offices with huge production numbers was where I wanted to be, until I understood that most of these “super”, not “Super”, practices never saved their money or had such a high overhead that they could barely pay their credit card charges each month. I would have to say that the second trait of the Super General Dental Practice is a high profit to production ratio. Max Gotcher, my partner in Summit, coined the phrase: Produce More, Collect All, and Keep Half. That’s correct; a fifty percent overhead is still possible in today’s economy. It is a benchmark we should all strive toward. Face it, at some point you should have no debt, and you should have saved at least 15% of your collections for your lifetime as a dentist. Insurance companies tell us that at age 65 ninety-seven percent of the population will be dead or dead broke. Dentists are no different. I can’t tell you how heart breaking it is to speak with doctors in their late 50’s or older who by habit have fallen into a lifetime of spending and now find themselves with very limited choices and a bleak future. They will die doing dentistry or become disabled and live off of social security and the tiny amount they have saved.
Ever walk into a restaurant, bank, or even a doctor’s office only to find that your favorite staff member or employee was no longer there? Sure you liked the business, but when push comes to shove, you really bonded to the business because of that person or persons that really went out of their way to make your relationship with the business special. I don’t know about you, but my first reaction is that she was great but the business or boss must be a really bad place to work or work for. Max and I see this every day. Dental offices are notorious for having a high staff turnover rate. The excuses we hear are that they were lazy, dumb, and slow, made too many mistakes or that in their area there just are not good people to choose from. Like most things, high staff turnover is not the real problem. It is a symptom of a more serious problem that shows up by having a revolving door for employees. A lack of leadership, integrity, poor systems, and lack of vision are more likely the cause. Look deeply into the culture you have created in your practices, because The Super General Dental Practice has low staff turnover.
The different stages of a practice lead every dentist to plateau at some point. Age is not really an important consideration, but at some point each of us will reach a production plateau that baffles even the best dentist. The “Super” dentist finds a way to take production and profit to a new level. Adding services is a great way to keep your staff and yourself engaged and excited about dentistry, while expanding the range of patients you can inspire. Add braces, implants, sedation, molar endodontics, and even kids to your range of services. Doing this insures that corporations and insurance companies will never rule your practice. Do this and you are embracing the best strategy possible: Giving patients more of what they want and less of what they don’t want. A lifetime spent learning and applying what you learn insures that you will always have choices. The Super General Dental Practice understands that the practice of dentistry is a journey, not a destination.
Super doesn’t mean bigger, but it is a dedication to preserving the core principle of serving our patients while stimulating growth through embracing change. The first place to start is by reading The Super General Dental Practice. The pdf document is just a quick download away. You can begin today to take back control and guarantee your growth and profitability for the future.
Michael Abernathy, DDS