Managing relationships is critical to the success of any dental practice. In the new book “Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” (Currency Doubleday, March 2005), author and “master networker” Keith Ferrazzi explains why building relationships and connecting with helpful resources are two of the most important aspects of professional success. Ferrazzi should know. Not only does he call some of the most famous and influential elite his friends - Howard Dean, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Michael Milken, to name a few - but he has achieved much. He grew up in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, the son of a steelworker and a cleaning lady, and later became founder and leader of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a consulting and training firm for clients worldwide.
Female dentists are like Ferrazzi in two ways. We share the title of CEO, and we know the importance of developing relationships with friends and understand the impact these relationships can have on our personal lives. But Ferrazzi doesn’t stop there. In “Never Eat Alone,” he urges us to build relationships for our professional success too. He offers so much inspiration and practical advice that the book should be considered mandatory reading for any dentist who wants to increase patient referrals, build better patient relationships, and become a more respected member of the community.
Often an assistant or front desk person is assigned the task of developing rapport with patients so the dentist can attend to more “important” matters. But what is more important than building relationships that will be the lifeblood of a sustainable practice? By delegating this responsibility, the dentist misses the opportunity to strengthen bonds critical to long-term success.
How do you take advantage of these opportunities? Do your best to build trust through intimacy. First, share your interests and passions, while simultaneously trying to learn those of your conversation partner. Then disclose some of your own struggles, frustrations, and fears. All the while, remember these three words: health, wealth, and children. That’s what matters most to all people. If you show that you sincerely care about these three areas in the lives of others, and you constantly think of ways to help them get what they want, patients will regard you as a friend first and their dentist second.
Here are three more tips for building relationships for success:
• Organize fundraisers for your local public school or social cause, or get involved in your local chamber of commerce. The idea is to constantly get to know new people and find ways to help others. Don’t just give money; be involved.
• Seek out super-connectors like restauranteurs, journalists, doctors, and politicians. Rather than cold calling, use the contacts you already have to introduce you to super-connectors, and then offer ways to help them be successful.
• Buy meaningful books and send them with personal notes to people in your network. It shows you care about your contacts’ personal development.
The days of business success through flippant practices, such as giving away business cards to strangers, are over. To get ahead, you must be more personal in your approach. Build your business one relationship at a time by being a unique, shining difference in the lives of others. And get started by reading “Never Eat Alone.” ■
Chithra Durgam, DDS
Dr. Durgam is in private practice in Cliffside Park, N.J. She also serves as an attending doctor at Lutheran Medical Center and was formerly a faculty member at New York University College of Dentistry. She is a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, New Jersey State Dental Association, Bergen County Dental Society, and American Board of Family Dentistry. Contact her at [email protected].