This is a BIG deal - dentists do not get an MBA in dental school. They typically do not even get so much as a course in business. Dental school is not designed to teach dentists how to run a business. Dental or medical school is designed to train doctors to care for patients.
Perhaps the best book in print right now on the business of operating a dental practice is Michael E. Gerber's "The E-Myth Dentist."
To be successful (and that is defined differently for each person), we must have a growing business.
Author Jim Rohn wrote, "If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."
"The whole problem with dentist-as-employee versus dentist-as-business owner, is that in our dentist-as-employee role, we want and expect the salary for the job done, but really hate to have to look at what the costs are and what monies are needed to run the business, including investment capital for growth. " -- Dr Chris Baker
The best book on pediatric dental care and health of children is Dr Chris Baker's "Your Child's Smile."
Dental school prepares us to be technically capable. Just how capable and outstanding is up to us. With time and work IN our practices, and with continuing education, we can grow, learn and sharpen our skills.
However - and this is a BIG deal - we do not get an MBA in dental school. We do not even get so much as a course in business. Dental school is not designed to teach us how to run a business. Dental or medical school is designed to train doctors to care for patients.
And many to most of us end up in private practice. Guess what that is? A business.
A dental practice is a business that most of us don’t see as a business. We see it through our eyes of caring for our patients, as — get ready for this — a place to “do” dentistry and make a living. That is what it should be.
However, without the dentist having some training and education in how to run a business, the practice can become:
- an overwhelming amount of work for a doctor who has to work to manage the business-end of things after hours and on weekends. Some of you are spending 60 or more hours a week total, trying to get it all to work.
- a siphon for the practice’s hard-earned money to flow to insurance companies, dental suppliers, patients who do not pay promptly or at all, landlords, banks, and the government.
- a job for you that takes most of your free time away from your family, not to mention your emotional well-being and peace of mind.
- stress, stress, stress.
Most dentists do things backwards. We are first, technical experts in our profession; second, a manager of our business; and third, an entrepreneur. We need to switch that around, but our passion lies in the first, technical expertise.
We went into dentistry to “do” dentistry. Yet we can enjoy the dentistry even more when the management and entrepreneurship are “up front”, well-handled and flowing.
So here we are, in our practice, and… If you, as the dentist, are thinking of yourself as a dentist-as-employee, that mentality often lets the insurance companies in. These companies love to take the job and salary of a “manager.”
Contemplate the fact that insurance companies in today’s world really function as managers of most of the dental practices into which they are allowed.
As Jim Rohn so beautifully explains, ”if you don't have a plan for your life, you fall into somebody else's plan.” Guess what they have planned for you – taking as much money from your practice as possible.
To be successful (and that is defined differently for each person) we must have a growing business. To have a growing, successful business, we must work on our practice, and not just in our practice (as the technician).
Understand, there are plenty of other people and businesses who have great plans for the money you earn in your practice, and it’s not just the insurance companies. It includes the suppliers (dental supply companies), the government (Medicaid and Medicare), the patients (who do not pay their bills - on time or at all).
Another example of others who have great plans for the money earned by dentists are corporate dental companies and their executives. With student loan debt skyrocketing, young dental school graduates are working for corporations as employees, working unbelievably hard, for less compensation than should be for the work being done. And, these corporations typically make millions.
As dentists, our personalities tend to be overly giving to the point that we hurt ourselves and our families. We seem to think that, in some way, we shouldn't be charging for our services, or that we should charge, but just not too much. What is that about?
I think it's about our natures, which tend to be approval-addicted, as we attempt to love and care for everybody we can.
We hire staff members and expect them to carry out our wishes, and don't even have a system in place so they know exactly what that those wishes and systems are. First, it shouldn't be our wishes, but rather the needs of our business that determines what they do. Second, we need to have this all systematized, so that the staff members know what it is is expected of them.
The whole problem with dentist-as-employee versus dentist-as-business owner, is that in our dentist-as-employee role, we want and expect the salary for the job done, but really hate to have to look at what the costs are and what monies are needed to run the business, including investment capital for growth.
The scariest growth is growth that occurs and requires more capital, more employees, supplies, and equipment — and we have no monies available. So we take it from our families, our living. Or, that growth potential falls flat on its face.
We don’t get this stuff in dental school, and then we find ourselves in business without a good understanding of our business. Yes, you are dedicated to learning and growing in dentistry. But you could use some mentoring, help. advice, on systematizing and learning to work ON your business, as well as IN your practice.
Start with the book by Michael E. Gerber, The E Myth Dentist. It’s a great read. Then, think about topics like free-market dentistry, how to transition from being “under the thumb” of insurance companies to being in the “free market”, (Can you get out of insurance and have a great practice? - YES), how to take control of your practice, how to have everything you need to be congruent with what you want to do.
Management, marketing and finances all depend on your vision - what you want, first and foremost, from and in your practice.
There are answers. They lie in learning more about your business. You’ll actually spend less time ON the business when you start understanding more about it, and can even spend less time IN your business as well, without giving up your hard-earned living. I’ve done it. I’ve systematized. I have lots and lots of systems and plans already documented that can be shared. I’ve seen the results.
You know what? Most dentists live their practice lives on other people’s terms - those of insurance companies, staff, family members, colleagues. Their days are spent achieving other people’s goals and working toward other people’s agendas. Be one of the five percent who don’t.
Right now, you have the choice — step forward into growth and development through self-education, or step backwards into apparent safety and security, which are only apparent. You’re either growin’ or you’re dyin’.
Don’t get pulled into other people’s stuff that doesn’t serve you well!
There are other people working ON this practice and business stuff. Want a book list? Want recommendations for GREAT seminars? Want to be part of the Mastermind group to share and learn more about this, through email, online, in person, etc.? Contact me. There are so many great things going on; ideas, mentorship and structure. In the meantime, get The E-Myth Dentist, and read it, then read Gerber’s The Most Successful Small Business in the World, Jim Rohn’s The Twelve Pillars.
Dr Chris Baker
Dr. Chris Baker is Past President of the American Orthodontic Society, a pediatric dentist and teacher of orthodontics, An author, dental practice consultant, mentor, and a current or former faculty member of three U.S. dental schools, Dr Chris practices and blogs in beautiful Abu Dhabi, UAE, and glorious Texas, USA.
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© 2019 Dr Chris Baker