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The Key to Having a Successful Dental Practice? Don’t Be a Dentist.

Articles, Practice Life

A lot of times, when people come to me for suggestions on how to run their practice more effectively, efficiently, or more profitably, I find that it’s their personal and emotional involvement that’s getting in the way of their success.

The problem is that we, as dentists, are technicians. When we think about opening our own dental practice, we think we’re going to be able to work the way we want to work, use the materials we want to use, and implement the techniques that appeal to us—we get real technical about it. I think Michael Gerber said it the best in his book, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. In this book, he explains why the majority of small businesses fail—and what we can do to avoid failing. He describes three different business owner personalities relevant for understanding the “Entrepreneurial Myth”—the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician.

Typically, one of these personalities is dominant in a founder, and I believe that the technician is especially dominant in dentists. Are you leaving a hat on the rack? The first thing you must do as a dental practice owner is realize that you’re wearing several different hats. For one, we’re the confidant for our patients— they’ll tell us some of their most intimate problems.

On the other hand, we’re mentors trying to lead and train our teams and get them to perform at a level that they didn’t know they could possibly perform at. But one hat that usually remains on the hat rack—that we forget to put on ourselves sometimes—is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) hat. The CEO hat is when you look at the organization—at the business as a whole—as an entire machine rather than just narrowing down on one of the moving parts. I like to think of it as the 500-foot view: You take a step away from the practice and get a look at everything that’s going on. Think facts, not feelings. When I was running a dental practice, I had one “admin day” every week. I would literally get away from the practice and remotely dive into the books, reports, invoices, and so on. I did this so that I could get that 500-foot view unemotionally. 

What do I mean by that? Well, one of the key reasons I’d separate myself from the practice was so I could examine my business without being in front of my team members. The fact is, it’s hard for us to come across issues caused by our team members without reacting emotionally. For example, if we’re running through our bills and find that a member of the team spent $900 on Impregum because it was on sale, we might get upset in the moment and tell them all about how we’ll never be able to use the Impregum before it expires. In the end, we’ll probably both feel cruddy.

Our job as a CEO is to take that step back, get away from the team, look at the problems logically, and train yourself to think facts instead of feelings. In other words, don’t be a dentist.

 

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