On October 1, 2018, I retired from my solo private practice of twenty-eight years in the rural town of Wolfeboro, NH. During my years of practice, I sought continuing dental education from organizations like The Dawson Academy and The Pankey Institute to advance my technical skills. At the same time, I was a student of communication reading numerous books by authors like Travis Bradberry, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, Kerry Patterson, and John Maxwell. In 2009, I received a master’s degree in strategic communication and leadership from Seton Hall University. My story is one of joy, fulfillment, and financial success.
For twenty-eight years, I practiced dentistry without the influence of dental insurance, never participating with any PPO’s or Premiere programs with set fees. And in spite of that, my practice thrived. Was it because I was good at my craft? Maybe. I attribute my joy, my fulfillment, and my financial success to the deep relationships I fostered not only with my patients, but also with my staff.
An Unhappy Time in My Life
Early on in my career, I admit that I focused too much on the “numbers” or the financial side of my practice. My mood was often like a rollercoaster. When the numbers were “up,” I was “up.” When the numbers were “down,” I was “down.” In addition, patients frequently refused my treatment recommendations. It was an unhappy time in my life, and I was heading towards burnout. I was often angry and frustrated making everyone in my path miserable.
On occasion, my wife would tell me, “I know that in your heart you mean well, but sometimes your delivery stinks.”
I knew I couldn’t continue this way, and so with some trepidation, I set out to change. I knew this self-examination would be humbling as I took a hard look at myself, my poor communication, and my poor leadership. I knew that before I could lead my staff, I had to get myself straightened out.
A New Focus on “We”
In my searching, I learned that “you can’t give away what you don’t own.” Through lots of study and reflection on my less-than stellar communication skills, I was able to change my “me” focus into a “we” focus. Instead of my usual focus on money or “the golden eggs,” I started to focus on my staff and my patients, the “geese that laid the golden eggs.” And as a result, an interesting thing happened regarding the income of my practice. Instead of “me chasing it, it chased me.”
Lots of the practice management courses today emphasize the transactional or money aspects of running a dental practice: scheduling, collections, website design, marketing. There is no question that these areas are important and are necessary aspects of running a dental practice. However, in my opinion, lasting change and growth in a dental practice starts with the dentist’s thinking and his/her ability to communicate effectively.
In Part 2, I will outline some transformational life-changing concepts with the hope you, the dentist, and your team will experience the benefits of improved communication.