Expertise can be a trap. In fact, the more specialized and expert your professional skills become, the bigger the trap. Expertise and confidence in one area can lead to the false belief that says, basically: “Because I’m an expert in one area, I’m an expert in all.”
We tend to be more realistic about limitations in our own field of science. Top endodontists, for example, don’t assume they’re great cosmetic dentists, and vice versa. But then it is easy to imagine that being a great clinician somehow makes for being a great business leader. After all, how hard can that be to a bona fide expert?
The mindset can make it hard to call in outside business expertise, even when it’s sorely needed.
A dentist is set up with several strikes against him or her with all of the hats one has to wear to build a successful practice:
• Manager, etc.
It would be analogous to a football quarterback being the coach, team manager AND owner all at the same time. That would never work in professional sports. It is difficult to make it work in a dental practice. Any busy practitioner gets caught up in the day-to-day details of delivering quality care. Sheer busy-ness causes a blindness to a myriad of other things going on that impact current and future.
Everybody has limited vision. Everybody! We see what we’re habituated to seeing. To broaden the vision beyond our own blindness takes a different set of eyes that see things differently, identifying and opening up opportunities that otherwise go unseen.
With the benefit of new eyes, even minimal adjustments can make exponential differences in outcomes for almost any practice and practitioner. It is the power of having a mentor, coach, and advisors that can clear the fog and help you to see more clearly.*
Signs and Symptoms
While everyone can benefit from another set of eyes, any one of the following signs and symptoms may be an indication that you could really reap more rewards than you might imagine.
How Many of the Following Apply to You?
1. “Everything is just fine.” Things are chuggin’ along smoothly, no major problems, with the practice turning a profit and maybe showing some growth. The feeling is fine and mellow, right? Sure, AND it’s also dangerous. In business, good is the deadly enemy of great. And great is what you go for. Always. There’s no staying even. If you’re not gaining and growing, you’re losing ground. Never forget that “fine” rhymes with “decline,” which is exactly what happens when you are lulled into complacency, doing pretty much what you’ve been doing.
SOLUTION: Put yourself and your practice in the chair, so to speak, to get on new, upward trajectories. Have an objective, expert set of outside eyes do a “complete and comprehensive exam.” You do it for your patients. Why not have it done for yourself and your business? Done right, it will reveal the biggest untapped opportunities for growth and expansion. It will also expose problems that don’t hurt yet, but will.
2. “Insurance is driving me crazy.” Think back to the last time you got word about an increase in reimbursement rates or rules changes of benefit to you, the dentist. It was, let me guess, never! For years reimbursement rates have done almost nothing but decline, while rules get more restrictive and trickier. Patients feel the squeeze, too, and want to dial back treatment to “what’s covered.” Dentists complain, react out of confusion and fear, re-up with insurers to stay in contract with no thought-out strategies.
SOLUTION: There is a clear path through the Insurance Jungle that leads to good outcomes. You start with a cleareyed look at the particulars of your practice. The clearest eyes, might belong to someone on the outside who can see what you can’t see, and has seen successful outcomes with different practice models that have a different relationship to insurance. The insurance world is becoming more and more of a jungle, and it’s easy to get lost without even knowing it.
3. “I don’t have the right staff.” Team issues can be the biggest source of day-to-day frustration. The investment you make in your team each month is the biggest expense on your income and expense statement. If you’re looking at your team as an expense, you may have a more serious problem than you think. Your people are not a minus but the most valuable, powerful resource you have for building your practice. An asset like that, you build on. You don’t hold off investing in it, because your people aren’t good enough. Too many dentists have a backwards, self-defeating attitude toward training and team development. They’re saying, “I won’t build it, but they, my good people, will come.” No, they won’t.
SOLUTION: Build a winning team out of the team you have. With training and opportunities to grow, your people will surprise you. Duds, if any, who don’t want to get with the program, will eliminate themselves and be replaced by quality people. And – then… you’ve got the right team.
4. “I’m not running my practice, my practice is running me.” It creeps up, that terrible treadmill feeling. There’s no choice but to keep running, one thing to the next. You work just to keep everything working. Your profession, which you chose because you loved it and believed in it, comes to feel like servitude. Meeting financial objectives doesn’t really help, because there’s more to work and life than money.
SOLUTION: Utilize outside eyes and advice to reestablish order and control in your workplace, to take your practice where you want it to go. Get clarity and control in all of life, too. It comes from understanding the real meaning of Success. Earl Nightingale, the father of self-help and motivation, said it best: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” Gain a fresh perspective on where you’re going and why, and you’re off the treadmill.
5. “My bank balance is my barometer.” Many treat their practice’s bank balance as the key number that counts. If it’s up, great. If it’s down, there are problems. They watch like sports fans glued to the score. But you’re not a fan, and the score is never the whole story. Remember, you own the team. And you’re in it to win, which means keeping expert eyes on a myriad of stats and performance parameters that show how to put up more points. Think about baseball. Runs count, sure, but to get them experts drill down into at-bats, RBIs, lineup order, and on and on. Billy Bean, the legendary general manager of the Oakland A’s, revolutionized the game of baseball by looking at the game with an objective, outside perspective and analysis of the numbers. He came from outside the industry and saw something that generations of career managers and owners never saw. Somebody has to do the same thing for your practice.
SOLUTION: Get outside advice to learn what counts and build a data set of key-performance indicators. Measure and track the indicators and – most important – make changes that move the numbers your way. If you don’t relate to sports analogies, think of a pilot flying with eyes on dozens of gauges and instrument readouts. You need a lot of numbers to stay in the air.
6. “I don’t see the need…” In seminars for dentists and team members, I often pose a question: “Okay, you’ve got a team, who’s your coach?” Nine times out of 10, everyone responds, “The dentist!” Really? As a key player on the team, the dentist is rarely positioned to take the long view, think way ahead, and work out the game-winning – also season-winning – strategy. A player is rarely the coach.
SOLUTION: Find your own coach who will suit your needs, and make sure that your team wins. That’s what a great coach does. A little coaching will go a long, long way.
Some years back I had the privilege to sit down with an immortal of pro basketball, the late Coach Chuck Daly. He coached the Detroit Pistons in their heyday and in 1992 coached the U.S. Olympic ‘Dream Team.’ He boiled down the basic roles in the game like so: “It’s a players job to play. It’s the coach’s job to make sure the team wins.” I’ll never forget Coach’s Daly’s words. He said, too, that teams of all kinds need direction from somebody who’s not in the game.
We all need new eyes, new analytical tools, new thinking. In the business of your practice, there are proven, systematic ways to get desired results in all the most challenging areas.
➥ Case acceptance
➥ Financial arrangements
➥ Team management
It’s all winnable, with new eyes and coaching.