This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.
“WHAT WILL BE YOUR LEGACY?” Gary Takacs, a nationally known thought leader in dental practice management, asked this question at the Academy of Dental CPAs. Gary’s question resonated with me personally and professionally. Personally, I live my life with a focus on helping, and this carries over to my professional life. I want to help dentists and business owners achieve the income and quality of life they desire.
In order for me to best assist my dental clients, it’s important for me know what motivates them to come to work each day. I refer to this motivation as “purpose.” Sadly, many dentists have lost their way. Purpose is missing from their personal and professional lives. They can no longer remember why they chose to be a dentist. Each day runs into the next, patients become just mouths to treat, staff turnover is high, stress levels are high, and no one seems to care. There is no sense of urgency. Sometimes I even hear, “I hate being a dentist.”
This is just an example of what a practice without a purpose can look like. If I can recognize a practice that has lost its way, so can your patients. There is not a good chance for the long-term success of a practice that has no purpose.
You had a vision
At some point during dental school you dreamt about what your practice would look like after graduation. How did you envision the team functioning? What were your ideal patients like? Does your practice today look the same as the vision you had in dental school?
Hopefully the dreams about your practice included how you wanted to approach the oral health care of your patients. You had good reasons for how you wanted to treat patients, but it’s possible that your purpose got lost in the challenges of managing and growing a practice. I believe that you can bring back your dreams and re-energize yourself, your team, and your practice. Having a purpose for coming to the office each day and seeing patients with sincere interest and excitement makes your practice appealing to you and the team, but most importantly, to your patients.
The first step is for you to reconnect with your purpose. You must have decided to become a dentist for more reasons than the money. It could have been to create great smiles, or to provide painless dental experiences. Maybe it was to create confidence for your patients, or provide quality care to those who would not normally receive it. If your original purpose is no longer relevant, create a new one. Having a purpose for you and your practice is critical for success.
Be sure to include your team
The next step is to share this purpose with your team and ensure their buy-in. Get the team to support you in your reasons for coming to the office each day. Without a purpose, you team will wander aimlessly from patient to patient and become bored. They may not provide the best patient experiences. Frustration between the dentist and team will arise, and this will be because no one is clear about your expectations. Clarity comes from sharing your purpose and having your team understand it, accept it, and help you achieve it.
This approach to purpose will engage your team members and patients and make it fun for everyone to come to work. This purpose must be consistently repeated, for instance, with signs at people’s computers or in the breakroom that state your purpose. It can be shared on social media, as well as with your patients in person.
You may still face challenges from your team after you share your purpose. There can be a few reasons behind this. They may not be clear on your purpose. A team meeting can help resolve this. Or, some members of your team may not be a good fit for your practice. Replacing team members is an option. (Remember, you’re not in the business of keeping people employed.) Or, there could be an issue with your leadership. Dentists are the leaders of their practices and need to set examples for others.
Once your team buys into your purpose, you can take things to the next level. As a dentist, you have the ability to provide people with better oral and overall body health, improve their smile, boost their confidence, and have a long-term impact on those who sit in your chair. Being a dentist can be a powerful gift.
After your career as a dentist, what will be your legacy? How will your family, friends, community, and colleagues remember you? I believe leaving a legacy is an integral part of the gift we have each received—life. I want to leave the world better than I found it. This may seem overachieving, but this is my purpose. I have the opportunity to work toward my goal and fulfill my legacy. Hopefully your purpose will direct you toward forming your own legacy. There is no better time than now.
David J. Goodman, CPA, MST, is managing director of LB Goodman & Co. As a member of the Academy of Dental CPAs, David provides a unique perspective on dental practices. He can be reached at [email protected] or (201) 791-8300.