Written by Robert D. Westerman, DDS, FICD Sunday, 31 August 2003 19:00
We go to great lengths to try and build our practices. We invest a tremendous amount of time and money to become dentists and set up a practice by getting through college, dental school, and continuing education courses. We invest heavily in office space, dental equipment, office equipment, supplies, computers, and other expenses. Despite all this, we still have problems achieving the practice we would really like. This could be for a multitude of reasons, but the majority of these reasons is because of the blind spots we have in administration. Finding your blind spots is key to developing a plan of action and achieving your goals.
GO FOR YOUR DREAMS, NOT UNUSUAL SOLUTIONS
You certainly have had the dream to have a beautiful and productive practice at some point in your life. This may have been when you got out of school, started your practice, or had children (and realized the expensive need to educate them). Some pursue this dream for the love of dentistry, some for the love of the money, but most dentists simply want to do great dentistry and be rewarded for it. I have seen so many dentists who really had a rough time trying to provide their families with the amenities that any good professional should deserve. In order to do so, many have resorted to unusual solutions to try to generate the income they felt they needed. Many have based their practices on HMOs, PPOs, and other low-paying insurance plans that did the opposite of what they were trying to do. Some dentists have tried marketing plans like expensive Yellow Page ads or targeting neighborhoods by sending out reduced-fee coupons and coupons for free examinations, radiographs, and/or cleanings. Whereas state boards forbid offering a free service, these dentists get around it by offering the same service for the give-away cost of one dollar. These unusual or poor solutions rarely pave the road for one to reach their dream but rather increase one’s stress and apathy toward the great profession they used to love.
BECOME A GOOD MANAGER
Some of the best technical dentists have never seen a good management model implemented by another dentist and therefore do not have a concept or vision of what effective dental management is. Take a concert pianist as an example. No great concert pianist has ever achieved greatness without studying and listening to other proven pianists. No great concert pianists are self-taught, but they learn, practice, and invest the time to become exceptional. Our profession’s literature is filled with a plethora of technical instructions on clinical dentistry but not much on training dentists as managers or chief executive officers. When a dentist cannot create a well-managed office or is not trained in how to take charge and manage the office, the income and profit can suffer or at best never come close to its potential. There is no question that the highest paid people in society are good administrators. This is also true for dentists who are good administrators. They not only have a better bottom line, they are happier and enjoy their practice because they are running it. It is not running them.
TIME MANAGEMENT IS NECESSARY AND REWARDING
One of the most important things I’ve ever learned is that most people are filled with wasted time and motion. I learned that by not wasting time and investing it with the same care wealthy people exercise in investing their money, I could in effect have much more productive time in my life and in essence lengthen my life. Time is the most important of our resources. We can’t change it, we can’t alter it, and we can’t manage time. That is a misnomer. We can only manage ourselves in relation to time. We have our practices, our family, and our dreams. We want to provide for our loved ones and still have a great practice. So, how do we achieve doing both and still get sleep? You do it by incorporating the following principles.
SETTING AND REACHING YOUR GOALS
If you are going to be successful, it is necessary to have goals. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. However, to reach your goals, you may have to reengineer your whole office, or you may simply just have to tune it up here and there. Only you know what you want. Is it more production, working less hours, having a better bottom line, having a more organized and less stressful life, or all the above? In order to have these things, there must be a plan and you must know how to make it happen.
START WITH A PLAN OF NETWORKING AND IMPLEMENT IT
How is it possible to reach our goals? We do it by networking and delegating.
KNOW THAT MONEY MOTIVATION CAN KILL YOUR PRACTICE
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Money is the most important thing in the world. Money represents health, strength, honor, generosity, and beauty as conspicuously as the want of it represents illness, weakness, disgrace, meanness, and ugliness.”
INSIST UPON HIGH ETHICAL STANDARDS
It is impossible to achieve your goals and dreams without also having high ethical standards in all operations of the office. Any staff member that exercises low ethical standards is like a team member who keeps fumbling the ball. The other team members have to fight like crazy to get the ball back and will still lose it to the other side. These people are obvious and easy to recognize. Others with low ethical standards are not so easy to identify or in reality are hidden, concealed, and very difficult to uncover. They booby-trap your operations and create extra work by forcing others to frantically handle things that have been done incorrectly or not at all. These things create discord with patients and harm our practices.
VISUALIZE AND WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WANT
Formulate some concepts in your mind of what you want your practice to be like and write them down. What kinds of dentistry do you enjoy doing or do you aspire to do? How much time can you devote to your work? What are your family and financial obligations? What are you willing to do to change your conditions?
Dr. Westerman has served extensively in his local and state dental associations and is a frequent contributor to dental journals and textbooks. He has taught at many dental association conventions, study groups, and management seminars in a variety of healthcare settings. He holds 5 patents in the dental field and is the author of the highly acclaimed Classic Practice Series literature on dental management. He is the founder of Classic Practice Resources, a dental practice management company that presents training and management seminars and workshops to thousands in the dental field.
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