Home Well-BeingPersonal Finance The Way Off The Dental Treadmill

The Way Off The Dental Treadmill

by Chuck Blakeman

Stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself, “What would I be doing right now if I wasn’t afraid, risk-averse, bored, confused, comfortable, or busy?”

Pick the one that is holding you back, and let’s change that reality. We get what we intend, not what we hope for. Too often we hope for a great life, but we intend to work hard and make money. You will get what you intended – hard work, and some money. What fresh intention do you need in order to get off the practice treadmill you built for yourself?

Basic Business Freedom

Most dentists are, at best, rich; they only have money. Your aim should be wealth, the combination of time, money, and personal energy, and a business that allows you to choose to work, not have to work. Anything less and you’re still on the treadmill.

It’s especially important to remember that business freedom really isn’t about the size or scope of the business at all. The lifestyle you are experiencing as a result of your practice is all that counts.

Making Money is Not an Empowering Vision

To build a practice that provides the lifestyle you want, you need a vision that motivates you. Making money is not an empowering vision. I know plenty of people who’ve tried it, including me. My friend, Eddie Drescher has a client who told him, “After $150,000, it didn’t make me any happier to be making $500,000.” Some people push the numbers up or down, but you get the point – more money never makes life more meaningful. What we do with it can.

One day in the early 2000s while I was doing one of my two stints as a captive employee, my wife Diane came to me and said, “I don’t know how you keep going. I can’t take this job anymore and I’m not even the one doing it.” She was responding to the listlessness, and the lack of power and meaning that comes from just making money.

She helped me identify that making money had become an objective that lived on its own and had no way of influencing what went on in the rest of my life. I just made money to buy more shiny objects I didn’t have time to use.

I knew intuitively that there should be a deep connection between my work, and how I could use that work to create a life of success and significance. It was the turning point that led to starting Crankset Group. I make a great living now, but with better reasons than just making dough. I get out of bed more easily and with more purpose.

A successful dentist eventually figures this out, too. Making money is not an empowering vision; neither is a lifestyle being trapped as an employee of yourself. If you want to be successful, you’re going to need to figure out how to build a business that makes money while you’re on vacation.

The Big Mindset Shift

I cannot over-emphasize this concept – it is the crux of the whole problem: To get off the practice treadmill, you have to shift your focus from making money, to building a practice that makes money. Do you hear the subtle, but powerful difference? This mindset shift helps you to stop focusing on the Tyranny of the Urgent (making money) and gets you more focused on the Priority of the Important (building a business) when you’re not there.

The fundamental shift is realizing that freedom is rarely built on the production of the practice owner. Maybe on their talent, creativity, or vision, but not principally on their personal production. The overwhelming majority of dentists never figure this out. Not because they can’t, but because they have a one-track mind for making money to pay this month’s bills. “Wasting time” to work on the future, which brings in no money this month, is simply off the table. They are focused on short-term gain.

I’m Already There, Aren’t I?

Some dentists are going to look at this and say, “I have freedom because I have other people in the production roles.” That’s not the test.

What happens before, during and after you go on vacation? Do you have to work like crazy before you leave? Can you go away for weeks at a time without chaos ensuing, or having to stitch it all back together when you return? If not, you have a treadmill practice masquerading as a freedom practice. Your business is making money, but it’s not successful in the sense of creating wealth (both time and money) for the owner. Remember, we’re not measuring freedom based on what the practice looks like, but on what the owner’s lifestyle looks like.

A Practice You Can Keep or Sell

I’ve worked with a lot of owners who say, “Let’s get this profitable so I can sell it and get the heck out.” But after it starts producing both time and money for them, I remind them of their goal, and many times the response is, “Are you crazy? I’m having too much fun!” I understand the desire to sell and get out when things are tough, but it’s possible you’ll feel differently once you get your practice to produce both time and money for you.

The way off the treadmill is about changing our intention from making money, to building a practice that makes money when we’re not around. It’s about building a platform for significance that allows you to serve your community and gives you the freedom to travel, golf, volunteer, or pursue whatever other burr you have in your saddle that takes time and money. It’s about creating freedom and choice.

You get what you intend, not what you hope for. What kind of practice are you intending to build? Let’s build a practice that works for us, and let’s get off that treadmill.

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