From time to time, as Dentists, we’ll be surprised by the actions of our patients.
And I guess that’s because, as people, they have minds of their own, and as such, have the ability to reason and rationalize the decisions that they make.
It’s said that humans make buying decisions in the first instance emotionally and then subsequently justify those decisions with reasons of logic and rationalization.
Throughout my thirty two years of practicing dentistry in private practice and treating patients nearly exclusively on a fee for service basis, I’ve come across some decisions by patients that have left me stunned and humbled, and other decisions by patients that I’ve felt were not reflective of the trust and relationship that I thought that I may have had with them.
When we first graduate and begin private practice, we feel that patients will instantly like us and follow us from location to location, within a reasonable distance.
And that doesn’t happen.
We start working as an associate dentist in a well established Dental Office and we help a patient of that Office out of trouble with such amazing care. And then the next time that patient comes back, they’re in seeing their regular Senior Partner or Owner Dentist, as if we’ve never even helped them?
And that does happen….
Before I purchased in Parramatta in 1987 I worked for three years prior in a suburb only ten kilometres
away. And when I left there, I thought that lots of those patients that I’d treated there would follow me to what now was my own Dental Office.
Not many did.
Sure a few did, and most of those are still with me this year, some twenty-eight years on. But others?
“It’s too far.”
“It’s too hard to park”…
You know the reasons.
In my third year in Parramatta there was an earthquake in Newcastle NSW, a big city some hundred miles away. Two of my good friends were working in different Dental Offices there in Newcastle.
Now earthquakes in Australia are as rare as hen’s teeth. They just do not happen. So my friends thought that as a result of this earthquake, dentistry in Newcastle would become an afterthought.
To the contrary, my friends were busier.
And busier with patients of Dental Offices that were affected by the quake.
My friends would tell these new patients that their Dentist had only relocated to rooms around the corner, and it was still business as usual, while their original rooms were being repaired or replaced. And the new patients would reply:
“Yes, I know. But it was time for a change.”
So much for loyalty?
Or supposed loyalty?
Lastly, there have been times when we’ve all performed complex restorative Dentistry and expensive work on patients only to never see them again even for hygiene and maintenance?
Are you instantly putting names and faces into your mind now?
I still remember the first time this happened to me.
A lady, for whom money was no object, had her mouth totally restored with porcelain crowns from ear to ear, yet was never able to return for hygiene maintenance?
Only thirty-five minutes drive?
Twice per year?
It happens to us all.
The only commonality of patients is that they’re all different to some degree.
And though, en masse, they’ll behave in trends, there will always be exceptions in their behaviours that will surprise and astound you.
People are all different.
So when you implement change, be it treatment change, location change, or decorative and renovation change, expect the unexpected.
To some degree.
Some small degree.
There’ll always be exceptions to every rule.
Don’t become disheartened by those exceptions.
They will be rare and infrequent.
So long as you provide good Dentistry with an Exceptional Experience for your patients, the vast majority of those patients will stick with you in droves.
There’s absolutely no point in being an owner if it’s costing you.
And it can be costing you more than money.
But if it is costing you money, then you have to stop and take a good look at why it is and ask yourself the big question:
“Is it really worth it?”
So let’s look at the money.
If you are owning and running a successful Dental Office then there’s income available to the owner on a variety of sources.
Firstly, there’s income from being a Dentist.
As a Dentist in your own business, are you paying yourself firstly for being a Dentist?
Are you being rewarded a percentage commission for your efforts “on the tools” the same as you would compensate an associate dentist?
Because, if you’re not, then you’ve got to seriously stop right here and ask yourself why not.
Secondly, once you’ve separated your Commission for being a Dentist away from the Practice income, what’s left there should be plenty to run the Dental Practice.
The remainder should be sufficient to pay rent, materials, utilities, marketing and salaries.
If you’ve not got sufficient left to cover these overheads, and you’re dipping into your own “Commission”, then in reality, you’re paying your practice for the right to own it….
Is that clever?
Also out of that money allocated to the practice there should be adequate funds to pay you as the owner for your administrative roles.
You should be being compensated financially for doing payroll, H.R., admin, marketing. And so on….
Because if you were not performing these tasks, you’d be paying someone else to do them, wouldn’t you?
So why should you be doing them, and giving up your time to do them, without being financially reimbursed?
It makes no sense to be surrendering time for the “honour” of owning a practice if the practice is costing you both time and money just for the privilege.
Finally, and I’ve mentioned this time and time again, there should be money over in the practice to pay you a Return on Investment, or an ROI, on the money you have invested in the practice.
If you had that money sitting in the bank you’d expect a dividend?
If you had that money tied up in real estate you’d expect some rental income?
So why lock it up in a Dental Business and *NOT* receive a dividend for your investment?
There really seems very little point in being a business owner if you’re not being rewarded *APPROPRIATELY* for your investments of money and time.
Yet I hear and read from younger Dentists that you need to take a pay cut when buying your business.
Well if that’s the case, I don’t believe you’re buying yourself a business.
I believe what you’re buying is a lower paid job with a big set of golden handcuffs.
You’re buying yourself a prison sentence.
Now sure, now you’re your own boss.
You’re the boss of you.
You’re not instructed on what you can do and what you can’t do by an employer any more….
Or are you?
What was the big reason for leaving the haven of a secure employment to go “out on your own” into ownership?
Was it purely so you were in charge of you?
So that you didn’t have to “answer to the man” anymore?
Because now you might be answering to more than one man now…
In a well run practice, a good employee Dentist is worth their weight in gold to the practice.
They provide the practice with an additional source of income and collections to add to the collective pot.
And if the principal dentist is on their game then the income from any employed dentists is purely icing on the cake.
The employed dentist is really there as a reward to the owner Dentist as recognition that the owner has built a great business.
And sure the employed Dentist is adding to someone else’s pot.
But at what price?
There’s a lot of red tape and protocol required in owning and running a Dental Office.
And for making that choice, you need to be rewarded.
You need to make sure that you are being rewarded for making that choice.
I recently met a Dentist who employed two “career associate dentists”.
Two dentists who were happy to simply turn up, treat patients, and go home.
Go home without the headaches.
Go home without the hassles.
Just go home…
It kind of sounds attractive?
It kind of makes sense?
Why would you take a pay cut, buy yourself some debt, and a whole pile of headaches?
To be in charge of what?
Being an associate Dentist in a good Dental Practice can buy you a lot of peace of mind.
With a lot less headaches.
And a lot less wear on your heart muscle and stomach lining.
I’ve become a big fan of doing what’s right for you.
If it’s not right for you at present, you need to make some changes.