This will serve as a bonus to the last three articles on starting or purchasing practices. In a way, this is the true cost of being able to step to the line and “ready, aim, fire”. Not everyone is qualified or ready to make the step of owning or expanding his or her practice. Becoming the doctor that is qualified, experienced, and ready is an ongoing job. It is a destination that you will never actually arrive at. It could be better described as a journey that gets you closer and closer to that destination.
This is a “tip the mirror up” and look at yourself time. Every great leader I have ever met has a basic but essential trait of knowing themselves. They understand that they will never be the smartest person in the room. Each of us has check marks in the plus and negative columns of our lives. We fall short in areas and excel in others. Knowing what you do well and surrounding yourself with people that both compensate and compliment these traits will ensure that you become the doctor you always wanted to be. Right now, take stock in your level of knowledge of management and leadership as well as their application. There is no learning or understanding if you do not apply it. What is your engagement level? Do you have the energy to take on a new office without the distractions of life limiting your level of success? Are you known for your ability to persist through challenges and adversities because owning your first practice, or expanding to multiple ones, is guaranteed to be fraught with unforeseen troubles that will need to be delt with? Endurance with an attitude of embracing the change and guarding your core beliefs will certainly be tested. Make sure you have the endurance to stay the course.
Communication skills are essential in blazing a new path to success in the form of opening offices. One of the most obvious traits of great leaders is that they owe their success to those that follow them. Your teams will never be as important in your success as when you communicate your vision and strategies while taking council from your staff as how to implement this in the best way. A better way to see this is that you are partnering with each and every member of your team to work together for the greater good of the practice. If you cannot or will not embrace this unifying strategy, don’t start down the road of ownership or successful expansion.
Leadership in this COVID Reset and new dental economy demands that you lead with vision and communication. It should be a transformational style of leadership that builds commitment to your shared culture and vision, not just compliance. True success will never be made by just rules and regulations fueled by fear where the members of your team do the work but never feel part of the ownership of the vision of the practice. They do what they do by the pain/threat of the carrot and stick. This type of office will see micromanagement, high turnover, lack of enthusiasm and engagement. It is your job to transform from this to a better way of being Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, and Staff Owned to strive for the Super General Dental Practice. Create the culture that others seek out, commit to staying the course, and surround yourself with people who love their jobs. The key to success in dentistry has always been exceptional people skills both with your team and your patients. This is so rare today as to make you “remarkable” in every way to every person that comes in contact with your practice.
Clinical competence will be also be key to achieving success in a start up or expansion. Gone are the days when patients would go from one specialist to another and back to the general dental practice. Corporations know this and capitalize on the denial of reality from the normal average practice by giving patients more of what they want. Patients want and are demanding a one stop shop so that every family member and every service is delivered with excellence under the same roof. Your clinical competence will need to include dentistry for children, implants, some ortho, oral surgery, Endodontics, etc. You get the idea: Always move toward adding services so that your office is known for a wider range of services for a wider range of ages.
Finally, if you are buying that first practice or expanding into multiple offices, you and your doctors need to live where you practice. Patients want you to be where they are. Practices grow when you are involved in the community through schools, volunteering, being seen, and utilizing the services and products of that community. You go to church there, buy you tires there, eat out there, go to the high school games. In other words, you become an essential part of a community within 5 miles of your practice. Skip this, and skip success. Too many discount the obvious value of proximity in where you practice and live.
I hope these four articles will get you off on the right foot. Call me with questions. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS