Dental Practice Time Management and Institutional Mindsets of Dentists

Independent dentist

Independent Dentist or Dependent ??

For US readers, the 4th of July is upon us.  It’s one of MY personal favorite holidays.

This is hands-down my most lengthy communication of every year.  Probably the most important of the year as well from a “philosophical” standpoint with how one thinks and operates from a foundational understanding of what we’re born with and what we can choose to do with it.

For those with the most excuses about why life is the way it is, how they have little choice with their results, how practice and the world is so “unfair,” in other words the whiners……I’ll save you some trouble……while ALL of the below applies to you, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll “get” any of it… hit delete and then divert your attention to other ways to spend your time.  By the way, if you’re serious about actually addressing what’s ‘unfair’ about being in practice I suggest grabbing my new book at Amazon ‘The Dentists Unfair Advantage’ (Kindle or Print) to get you going.

For Mature Citizens Only….

Regardless of waving flags, little lapel pins, fighter jet fly-overs, 21 gun salutes, parades with veterans missing limbs, speeches, etc. there is no doubt that the U.S. empire is in a state of decline.  No politician who wants to keep their paycheck is going to admit it as these things are very bad for morale in general and votes in particular but the evidence is everywhere.  To make matters worse, the efficiency gains in technology continue to diminish the value of almost all workers beyond the most specialized and skilled.  Those workers are your patients.  The average employee no longer sees the kinds of gain that fed a lot of demand for basic dental services.  Thanks to knowledge and fluoride, in the US, if a patient is under 45 they need a hygienist and a bleach tray and the bleach tray will either be free or picked up at the local drug store or ordered online. Add all of this up and the traditional model for generic dental practices have been turned on its head.

The good news is that declines don’t happen overnight, they are drawn-out affairs although in the technology age not at the same leisurely pace as with earlier empires.  In 1922, the British ‘Empire’ controlled 20% of the planet’s population but it had already peaked and was rapidly going away.  [Fans of Downton Abbey, including me, are seeing a pretty accurate re-enactment.]  By 1955, the “colonial office” had the most staff in its entire history but NO colonies to administer.  The perfect example of bureaucracy run amok.

As empires slip and slide, the savviest of business owners can and still do very well.  Some change industries, others change what they sell within their industry (THAT by the way being your best bet as a dentist to deal with decline….focusing in on niche procedures that have value and that you can differentiate yourself from Dr. Generico)   Yes, it takes more work under more difficult conditions, but individual decision plays a big role in YOUR world being one that looks very different from others around you.

This makes my third July 4th in the city that is the least “American” in character than all others thanks to a massive number of immigrants who arrive annually from South America as well as other parts of the world.  In many ways, “immigrant” somehow has become a dirty word so it’s a good time to remind everyone that immigrants have always been the backbone (especially for back breaking labor) and have provided the human capital of “what’s next” in our brief history as a country.

Currently, we are in dire need of immigrants with IDEAS, INTELLECT and INVENTIONS.  The right idea and invention in just one category (Energy at the top of the list) could be the entire solution to halting our spiral and create the next big thing that saves us and the environment.

My personal 4th……

As my mom has moved to Florida and her birthday is July 3rd, this year is a bonus to celebrate her birthday in person; probably by her pool with some take-out from ‘Shack Shake’ (an amazing burger place that only a few cities in the U.S. have).  On the 4th, we’ll hoist the flag and then go see 6-8 hours of favorite DJs and celebrate independence with really loud music (yes mom I’ll have my ear plugs).  Eventually a pretty nice firework show will happen courtesy of our city coffers, which continue to overflow, thanks to foreigners visiting and making their hotel tax deposits.

On the 5th, I’ll continue the fun at home with Sousa `marches blaring (perhaps alternating with some choice Latin tunes) and after a bike ride or swim definitely some pursuit of happiness on a lawn chair…

America as a concept….

Ones idea of being American migrates and changes over time.  Personally, I’ve had transformations in my thinking from my earliest real memories of the 4th during the bicentennial year, to having been a Boy Scout, having had family members in the Army and Navy, to a stint as an NCO in the public health service, and of course as a mature, thinking adult both cognizant of history and observant of trends.

These days, the holiday still reminds me of how grateful I am to have been lucky, as Warren Buffet says, in the great “ovarian lottery.”  Call me sentimental but tears are easily created when I think about the opportunities that I was born with automatically compared to 99% of the rest of the planet.  I got lucky in the dice-roll and then because of some good choices have had and continue to have an amazing life……

I’m also very grateful to wake up every morning and for the most part go about my business as I  please without worry of revolution, retribution from authorities ‘just because’ or of getting shot (at least by the government) because you don’t subscribe to a particular religious or political idea.

In the internet age, it’s impossible not to see examples of how lucky one is on a weekly basis as stories from afar populate news feeds.

For those outside the U.S.:

For any dentist lucky enough to be born into a free society (particularly those with common law histories), you have the same privileges to be grateful for.  Yes, we can give a common thanks to William the Conqueror, who in 1066 started the chain of events ultimately putting an end to most arbitrary whims being applied to the average citizen.  While certain classes of citizens still aren’t equal in every western country, most of the populations residing in dictatorships (especially religious oil dictatorships) still live under rules far beneath the standard for our day.  Fortunately, in these environments, freer ideas are circulating thanks to communication being more available.  Once free ideas are introduced into a repressive system, it is very hard to push the “freedom genie” back into the bottle…..

The alternatives are not pretty:

As much as I hate lawyers, I’ll still prefer the rule of law over previous methods of guilt or innocence determination based on healing times after grabbing red hot pokers or after pulling rocks out of a boiling cauldron.  The good ole’ days shall never be pined for by these lips.

Capitalism is great BUT corporatism, which dear micro-small business owner, is the current state of affairs and such is proving to be a disaster for the middle classes who are by and large still your customer.  If they are not living with basic needs met, they have no time or money for YOU.

We put up with our share of hassles as dentists and in a bigger sense as business owners fighting against powers and trends that encourage sloth and entitlement.  There is little doubt that these trends are ever encroaching on all of us who willingly choose a life of the creation of things and services of real value.  The “no work = get stuff” mantra continues to grow wider across larger segments of the population.  When one looks at the slice of the western world’s populations really pulling their weight and paying the basic societal debts that keep the entire system stable, it is a shrinking group of individuals.

You’re problems are no different:

Periodically, I have lunch with other national based business owners….people also in the top 5% of earners.  Guess what?  The exact same frustrations many of our Academy Member Dentists report with running their business (staffing issues, marketing and sales strategies that must always be attended to, administrative crud that always repeats, etc.).  They have the exact same stories with different names.   And…’s like that in EVERY industry.

At best, we often tolerate inept people around us which perpetuate our problems and frustrations.  If inept lives inside your practice, as members of your staff, that is your choice.  Outside the practice doors, we often put up with complete idiots who are in control of things related to our livelihoods  (e.g.  dental boards and various other regulatory and taxing authorities).

Yet……would you trade your daily hassle and freedom being a part of a helping profession and instead wish to wake up as a native of Darfur, Congo, North Korea, Syria, etc. on the 5th?   Hoping that somehow you might immigrate to Australia, the US, Canada, France, the UK, etc. but very likely never seeing that hope fulfilled?

Appreciate and celebrate the freedom you have to make your dental practice and life as successful as you CHOOSE for it to be each day.  You have the opportunity to make both small and large choices with incredible long term effects.

A guarantee:

Where you will be next year at this same time is a direct consequence of choices you make today, with what you read, which groups you belong to, with how you sell and promote your service, and with those you associate with.  So…..pick carefully.

In the free societies, it is literally no ones’ fault but yours if you aren’t getting what you want beyond your basic luck of birth.

Yes, the revolution celebrated on the 4th in the US started out with us as tax scofflaws, but all things considered, the experiment continues to be a good one to have initiated. As an independent dentist my dentist members are breaking free from the bonds of insurance by using my ethical selling system to their advantage.

For the US docs, have a great 4th of July!  For Canada, a belated Happy Canada Day!