What makes you successful when your neighbor is not?
After 15 years in practice. Dr. Guyton shares some wisdom.
I am no longer a new dentist. At this point in my career (over 15 years in), I have had the opportunity to own a couple of practices, work as an associate in a few more, and listen to many of our Jameson clients reflect on what makes them successful. The four common tenants to success in the dental practice in 2013 are as follows:
1. You prioritize people over profit.
2. You have systems to decrease stress instead of stressing about decreases.
3. You focus on increasing revenue, not decreasing costs.
4. You are better, not less expensive.
Nothing else matters until you have mastered these four practice management principles. If you sit down tonight and think through each of these four areas, they are the key factors to you being successful. Of course culture, operational excellence, technology and a slew of other factors are important, but not until you have mastered these four concepts. Let’s dive a little deeper.
RELATED ARTICLE:Guyton joins Jameson
1. People over profit
When we survey dentists at different points of their careers about the one thing they will be most proud of about their career when they retire, the overwhelming majority of us (91%) respond that we will be most proud that we have helped other people. When we ask young dentists why they are in dentistry, sadly that is no longer the number one answer. The overwhelming response (82%) is that they are in dentistry to make a good living. We are seeing a great disconnect in what drives us today and what we will find satisfaction in later.
“We are seeing a great disconnect in what drives us today and what we will find satisfaction in later.”
We have long taught that if the fundamentals for a good team and business model are in place, and if you focus on making the lives of your team and patients better every day, that eventually the money will follow. One of the first dental journal articles I ever read in my career was from the early 1990s and, while I no longer recall the source of the quote, the author said that the keys to success in dentistry were slow and steady growth, a focus on the patient, and an “underpinning in exceptional clinical skills.” When we learn to serve instead of being served, we win. Dentistry affords us the luxury few professions have of seeing the direct and immediate way we improve others’ lives.
2. Stress reduction through systems
The top three stressors in the dental office are consistently conflict among team members, tracking and managing the financials, and marketing the practice. When you arrive home after a long day at the office, do you sometimes feel like it takes every ounce of effort just to make it to the couch?
Business systems are the fundamental building blocks of our success. They are repeatable procedures and processes that are designed to achieve a desired outcome in our practices. When we implement systems in our practices, we not only reduce stress, but we often work less and make more. Some examples of common business systems in the dental office are listed below.
Overhead control/Fee analysis
Establishing and evaluating business monitors
New patient experience
3. Revenue before cost
In the recent April 2013 edition of the Harvard Business Review, M. Raynor and M. Ahmed summarize their research findings from studying over 25,000 companies over 44 years. They conclude that there are only two common threads for success in the winning businesses: compete on differentiators before you compete on price, and always prioritize increasing revenue over reducing costs. They found that in their sample, everything else was a distant second to these two critical tenants.
To be exceptional, dental practices don’t become great by killing the coffee bar or counting cotton rolls. Instead, we earn our way to greatness by investing in our practices, our team, our patients, and ourselves. When we invest in our practices and ourselves, we learn new service delivery verticals so that we may expand our scope of practice. We recognize that today may be the day to get the training and technology we need to be exceptional at molar endodontics, placing implants, using a better matrix band system, adopting intraoral scanning, or just improving our bread and butter procedures.
4. Better, not cheaper
It seems obvious that the dentists who win are dentists who get better every year, and yet many dentists think they can get by on cruise control. The best dentists I have met commit to a goal of at least 100 continuing education hours every year; not simply scraping by with the state minimum. Every year when I teach graduating dental seniors, this is the number one piece of advice I stress to them. The learning does not stop with us, the dentists; the teams who engage in learning are the teams who reach their full potential.
In his book Better, Atul Gawande explains three components of being better: diligence, doing right, and ingenuity. He begins with the question, “What does it take to be good at something in which failure is so easy, so effortless?” He makes the case that to avoid failure and be better, it takes hard work, prioritizing people over profit, and creativity. Later in the book, he asks, “What if you turn out to be average? By definition, you probably will be.” He encourages us as health-care providers not to settle for average, but to be better – instead of taking that path of what might be easy.
In most communities today, it is becoming more difficult to hang a shingle as a solo practitioner. We must get our minds off the dental assembly line and instead be innovative and ingenious in order to be better than our neighbors. In his recent book Imagine, Jonah Lehrer emphasizes that “Although we live in an age that worships attention—when we need to work, we force ourselves to concentrate—this approach can inhibit the imagination.” We must give ourselves time to think and imagine what could and should be, not just what was and is.
Prioritize people, invest in systems, focus on revenue and be better. When we focus on these four fundamentals, we will all find success.
Brad Guyton DDS, MBA, MPH is in private practice in Denver, Colorado and serves as chief operating officer of Jameson Management. When you are ready to take your practice to the next level through management, marketing, and business systems, you may reach Dr. Guyton and the Jameson team of advisors at 877-369-5558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.