NAVIGATE THE GUIDE
Over the past 10 years, in my lectures on practice management, I refer to the seemingly common need for dentists to know the entire pathway towards the desired outcome. I endearingly refer to it as WTF Syndrome (What’s The Formula). It stems from a scientific approach that we’re taught and the formulaic way dental schools teach surgical skills. It has served us well in getting through the rigorous training we’ve successfully navigated.
ANATOMY class, working backward by performing dissections epitomizes that process to me. Yuk, I can still smell it!
While knowing the FORMULA works for many things, as in learning anatomy, sometimes working backward, doing a dissection, if you would, can be helpful and instructive.
So it’s natural to try and dissect success in dental practice into component parts. Fortunately, having multiple practice yields vast experience and failures, which has led to valuable success insights, strategies, and tactics when adequately assimilated.
“Necessity is the mother of invention” has, in my experience, rung true.
The challenge with formulas comes into play when a HUMAN being is inserted into the formula. We are just so complicated.
We’ve all had the experience of hiring what we perceive as the “perfect” person for a position only to find out later that the person has a suitcase full of problems that impact his or her performance. Humans are complicated.
For instance, how often have you diagnosed a problem in a patient, presented the solution, discussed the investment, and then been told, “I have to discuss it with my partner or spouse.” You might have executed the presentation formula precisely as scripted. Yet, how were you to know that the financial decision couldn’t be made by the patient with whom you were speaking?
Humans present complexities that cannot always be factored into an equation or formula.
I have long been a vocal opponent to “evidence-based” and AI based medicine. I see these as compensation for Doctors not being able to spend the requisite time with the people they care for. It is impersonal and formulaic, which negates the practitioner’s expertise, skill, and value. Instead, it is a means towards a more “cost-effective” formula.
It is also a tactic used to lower costs by minimizing the most expensive healthcare interaction, between the patient and the Doctor. The more highly specialized the Doctor, the more costly the exchange and the more an Insurance carrier might want to minimize the interaction.
We all know of dentists who have “hands of gold,” just as we know some who have 10 thumbs. How can anyone compare the results of such disparate skillsets?
The System is Broken
The goal here is NOT to change the system but to enable YOU, the practitioner, to craft a system that works for YOU and the patients, YOU wish to treat.
Yet, when I look back on, what by all measures, has been an extraordinary and successful dental career (which is, God willing, not nearly over), there are some formulas that have worked and others that have not.
My journey has not nearly been as straight or as detour-free as I would have liked. And yet, each of the detours has taught me lessons that allowed me to build upon so, the next stretch was less bumpy and more productive. That’s the “necessity is the mother of invention” rule put into action.
I was blessed to be born into a merchant family. I was dealt a pretty good hand to start life with. I was the first in my family to attend college. Others just went into “the business,” a fabric business established by my great grandfather in 1890.
I say blessed because though the business experienced a significant financial challenge in the ‘70s that impacted my life, I learned so many things just through dinner conversations that I never appreciated until later in my career.
Being from a business family, I thought in business terms. Profit and loss were ingrained into my psyche. Having worked in the retail store (still present in lower Manhattan) as a child and as a college student, I absorbed and internalized aspects of “salesmanship” and “customer service” that would serve me well in dental practice.
Yes, I had a leg up on many of my colleagues in my exposure to the “merchant mindset.” But I still found it challenging to incorporate those skill sets into a dental practice. Dentistry wasn’t a retail fabric store.
My search into how to meld science, professional responsibility, and business systems together began early on in my career.
There were NO BUSINESS COURSES in dental school or even among the continuing education programs in the 1970s.
As with so many things, happenstance or kismet came into play. A “success” course, promoted by an advertisement caught my attention in 1979. Only two years into practice as an associate, I knew that I wanted more, and so I went to hear a lecture by Foster Hibbard. It changed my life.
That lecture opened my eyes to a world to which I had never been previously exposed. It contained people like Foster Hibbard, Harvey Mackey, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, and Dan Kennedy. Their tapes played in my car as I drove to work. Their books were piled on my night-table. These Titans became my mentors and coaches. More than anything, I attribute what I’ve been able to accomplish to them, even as I continue to consume advice from other purveyors of wisdom.
Along with my path, I have indeed uncovered some formulas. Mostly, I have been able to adapt strategies that I have found elsewhere, outside of dentistry into my circumstance, MacGyvering, if you would, to make something successful that someone did in another business fit into dentistry.
Early on, I realized that dental practices were run as a “mom and pop” shop, loosey-goosey systems. Few practices back in the '70s and '80s were run like real businesses. I knew that there was a better model but had no “dental” model to copy.
So, with great effort, I built it myself. And I kept enhancing and refining it. Businesses are not static, nor are the systems they deploy. Change is a constant in life and business, something that has now slapped us in the face as a wake-up call.
Everyone has a “SUPERPOWER.” Mine has been the ability to NOTICE things, take them apart, and then put them back together, so they work for MY or my clients’ needs. Then, I have implemented these reconstructed systems into practices through teaching, consulting, and coaching.
This SUPERPOWER has only been able to work because of the diverse network I have attracted. From CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to Academics to Politicians, Artists, and some of the most well-known and respected Physicians in the world, I have been blessed to have been exposed to so many in such a meaningful way.
I did this through my practice in Midtown Manhattan, my involvement with Academia as a Professor at Columbia U. and now at Temple U. and the Director of the GPR program and Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. I have also met many wonderful people through my involvement with several non-profits such as American Friends of DVI (which supports a free clinic in Jerusalem), the Alliance For Oral Health Across Borders, and Shalva (an organization helping families with special needs members).
In this guide, I hope to bring you resources that I have used or have contributed to my past success and STILL have resonance.
Most of these have also adapted to the realities of a changing environment. Any system or resource that fails to adapt becomes irrelevant, and hence this resource guide is not static. It will change as necessary to be timely and relevant to the ever-changing business, marketing, finance, and dentistry environment in particular.
Some of these resources are strategic, some tactical, some formulaic, others not. Some will require you to MaGyver them into your unique situation, others will be plug and play.
With each resource, I will write a short message on how I used or envision using the resource within a dental practice. Each resource will have a link to the webpage for the source. You can learn much just from going to these resource’s sites, as many dental websites SUCK.
Discover the Best Resources, Tools, Reading Recommendations and More for Dental Practices.
These are resources that I have used or believe can be of assistance in specific areas. Their use does not guarantee any result, as results are determined by the degree to which the resource is adapted to specific environments and implemented into practical application.
If you happen to purchase anything I recommend in this or any of my communications, I may receive compensation, this does not affect the price you pay. Still, I only recommend things I truly believe in and have personally experienced.
I have been fortunate to have been exposed to Dan Kennedy’s teachings since 1979. It has helped me communicate with patients and even helped me sell my practice without a broker, saving me 6-figures.
mLive is an automated marketing system that uses Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing principles and customizes it for dental practices. This is a MUST have for anyone who doesn’t have the time, marketing expertise, or writing ability.
Even if you already have another program that does some of this, it's worthwhile checking it out.
The best part is that the way its structured, it’s actually RISK-FREE.
I have a different philosophy of websites than most. Yes, a stellar web reputation is essential. But do you want to use it for your marketing? Who will you attract?
I hate playing the Google Game. I understand it, but I dislike a game where someone else can change the rules at any time. I believe that our focus should be primarily on our patients and our business and, we should control as much of that as we can. I dislike giving Google control over my marketing.
Since I think that the best referrals are from existing patients and other referral sources, I believe the main purpose of a website is to act as a reinforcement of your reputation and to educate and “pre-frame” potential patients so that when they do make an appointment, they are more likely to SAY YES TO YOUR BEST.
So, for most FFS, referral-based practices, I don’t believe in fancy, gimmicky websites. And I don’t think you need to spend a ton of money either. That’s where Wellspring Web Studio comes in. Gene has made several sites for my clients and me and they have served us very well.
One thing I know is that change is constant, and uncertainty is certain. I first heard of Daniel Burrus via a TED Talk he gave in 2010, the year I built Manhattan Dental Health. He presented an eye-opening way of looking at what others might think are UNSOLVEABLE problems. “Skip it,” he said. And by golly, he was right.
I’ve been a fan ever since.
During the Covid crises, I not only re-read Dan’s book, The Anticipatory Organization, but I began a dialogue with him, and we’re now friends.
Dan is one of those unique individuals who not only think out of the box but helps others do the same. Such a skill set is more valuable today than ever.
In 2010 I was in a partnership that broke up. I began to dissect the breakup and try to figure out what went wrong so I wouldn’t make the same mistake again in my next venture, Manhattan Dental Health.
That’s when I found Verne Harnish’s book, Scaling Up. OMG! What a revelation. He clearly articulated what had happened when three practices merged to build a much larger entity without first building the proper foundation.
I became hooked on Verne’s group and The Growth Institute. With help from the guidance I gained from them, I was able to build systems and processes that allowed Manhattan Dental Health to grow 10-20% a year, every year it existed up to its sale.
Amongst others, I benefitted from their teachings about the content, structure, and rhythm of meetings. In my opinion, this feature alone is worthy of your consideration.
Dentists suffer from a commonly held belief that their ‘business’ is different from
other businesses. While there are some nuances, in general, most businesses,
including dental practices operate under similar principles. They all have products
or services, need customers or patients and should make a profit, if they want to
continue to exist.
As you’ve seen with many of the resources in this guide, it is our philosophy that it is
better to learn ‘best practices’ from a wide range of businesses rather than focusing
on a singular one, like Dentistry. Because, if you do what every other dental practice
does, by definition, you’ll most likely only get average results.
Time is also valuable and getting information in a concise and digestible manner
that doesn’t waste time is more important than ever.
21 Hats is named in recognition of the many hats a business owner has to wear. I
have a whole collection, as I’m sure you do as well.
During this crisis in particular, this podcast and morning emailed newsletter has
been a blessing to me. It has given me ideas about how other businesses have dealt
with this crisis and found creative solutions.
It has enabled me to recommend adaptive strategies that have worked elsewhere to
dental practices so they may also benefit.
The 21 Hats Morning Report is a compilation that I look forward to every morning.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.
Best of all, it’s currently FREE. And, even when it evolves to a paid subscription
model, I’ve been told that current subscribers will get a preferred rate. Why not try
it out now?
I met Ryan Hungate at a Schein-sponsored, “Business of Dentistry” conference 5 or 6 years ago, where I was delivering a presentation. Ryan impressed me immediately. He’s a dentist and orthodontist, who prior to dental school worked for Apple, helping to design their customer experience.
What impressed me was that like me, he sought to bring systems that had been proven in other industries and businesses into the dental profession. Also, he was dedicated, as I was to making dentists and dental practices more successful.
Simplifeye has morphed as the needs of dental practices have changed. Their current offerings are answers to many of the problems dentist now face. The Covid Pandemic has actually amplified the VALUE of Simplifeye’s programs.
Not only do I love the products they have, but, as with nearly all these resources, I know and trust the people behind them. These are people that I’m comfortable giving my valuable resources of time, energy and money.
TMJ and Dental Sleep Medicine Education
Spencer Study Club
Health and Wellness
You can’t be effective as a dentist or hygienist if you can’t put your expertise into
action. Action requires health and mobility.
Ergonomics is something we’re also not taught in dental school and when we go to
purchase equipment, price and patient comfort are far greater considerations than the ONE thing that could prolong one’s career, ERGONOMICS.
Plus, musculoskeletal issues are often addressed AFTER they occur. Wouldn’t it
make more sense to take a PREVENTIVE approach, such as the one we so often
preach to our patients?
That’s why I’m so passionate about what Dr. Bethany Valachi does through her
Dr. Valachi, a nationally renowned doctor of physical therapy, through her
programs, is dedicated to helping healthcare practitioners prolong their careers.
Plus, Dr. Valachi teaches how we can choose ergonomically appropriate equipment and use them appropriately.
- Want to inject your daily life with more vigor and remove those aches and
- Want to know which pieces of equipment and which positions are causing
that pain in the neck, back or wrist?
- Want to know how you can get a better return on the investment you made
in your career by prolonging it in comfort?
You owe it to yourself to check the POSTUREDONTICS website out.
Working on and with other human beings, some of whom might be in various states of increased stress themselves exacts a costly toll on healthcare practitioners. Being able to cope with such stress requires a strategy that is also NOT taught in schools.
I accidentally found a system that worked for me. Some might prefer Yoga, Meditation, or other stress-relieving activities. What worked for me and had tremendous collateral benefits was learning about and practicing BREATHING exercises. Best of all, it can take as little as 2-3 minutes so that I could do it between patients.
The idea of breathing exercises came via two books that I read nearly simultaneously. It seemed that each had a similar message. It was as if the Universe was sending me a message. Mark Divine is a retired Navy Seal, and Patrick McKeown suffered from Asthma and studied with Dr. Buteyko. Both found solutions that I wound up adapting to my life as a Dentist and fellow asthmatic.
Other than stress reduction, the collateral benefits of practicing breathing have been the virtual elimination of upper respiratory issues plaguing me throughout my life and helping me fall asleep.
These two books also had collateral benefits. “The Oxygen Advantage” helped me refine my clinical philosophy of airway-focused dentistry, and “Unbeatable Mind” helped me with my coaching and consulting practices.
Better sleep, fewer colds, less stress, better business practices; just from reading two books? Priceless!
Verne Harnish: Scaling Up
Dan Kennedy: Renegade Millionaire, The Ultimate Sales Letter, Magnetic Marketing for Dentists, Uncensored Sales Strategies, The Direct Mail Solution, No B.S. Guide to Direct Marketing, No B.S. Guide to Social Media Marketing
Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow
Napoleon Hill: Think and Grow Rich
Spencer Johnson: Who Moved My Cheese
Bill Capodagli: The Disney Way
Peter Drucker: The Effective Executive
David Marquet: Turn the Ship Around
Patrick Lencioni: The FIVE Dysfunctions of a Team
Steven Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
John C. Maxwell: Good Leaders Ask Great Questions
Christensen: The E Myth, The Innovator’s Dilemma
Theil and Masters: Zero to One
Grant Cardone: Be Obsessed or Be Average
James Altucher: Choose Yourself
Kim and Mauborgne: Blue Ocean Strategy
Thaler and Sunstein: Nudge
Sandberg and Grant: Option B
Barker: Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Tony Robbins: Unshakeable
Carol Dweck: Mindset
James Clear: Atomic Habits
Patrick Lencioni: The Advantage
Daniel Burrus: The Anticipatory Organization
Michael Hyatt: No Fail Meetings, Your Best Year Ever
John Doerr: Measure What Matters
Daniel Goleman: Focus
Susan Packard: Fully Human
Angela Duckworth: Grit
Gary Keller: The ONE Thing
Cal Newport: Deep Work
Willing and Babin: Extreme Ownership
Ben Horowitz: The Hard Thing About Hard Things
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