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Pearls for Perfecting Your Practice

     Co-authored by Larry Chatterley and Crystal Smith, RDH 


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It can also be a great way to replicate success. We have had the distinct privilege of working with many highly successful dentists over the years. It struck us how some dentists and their practices seem to thrive while others merely survive. So we began asking these top-performing dentists what they felt has made them successful in dentistry. We asked them to share their insights and advice as a benefit to other dentists who may be seeking to improve themselves and their practices.  Here are some of the “pearls of wisdom” they shared. We hope they are useful to you:

"Learn to focus on and build meaningful relationships with staff and patients. Learning and knowing how to develop effective interpersonal relationships with others will be a major determining factor in how successfully you operate your practice. It’s about being an effective listener and showing compassion and concern for the other person."

"Stay committed to continuing education for both working “in” the practice (clinical skills) and working “on” the practice (business and leadership skills) by attending CE courses regularly and reading journals and books on both subjects."

"Find a mentor, whether it’s a fellow colleague or a practice coach. It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off and have someone to hold you accountable to your goals. This allows you to grow your confidence both clinically and in handling the business."

"Spend time reviewing and monitoring your practice numbers (e.g. new patient flow, gross production, collections, accounts receivables, etc.), and then develop an understanding of their purpose, balance and composition. The ability to understand and control the everyday practice activities and numbers help determine the success of the business."

"Keep it simple. Exhibit a caring attitude when talking with your patients.  Learn to speak to patients confidently and with compassion. Treat them like you would like to be treated (viz., the Golden Rule).  Keep case presentations simple to understand." 

"Know and understand your limitations. Do dentistry that you are comfortable and competent doing.  If you’re not sure, refer it to a specialists."

"Have daily morning huddles.  Hold regular 'celebratory' events for the team outside the office.   If employees do something well, praise them publicly."

"Learn to lead people and manage processes--not the other way around.  Lead your team by example and treat them very well.  Connect on a human level with them by regularly meeting with each team member one-on-one to learn more about them, how they are doing, what you can do to support them better, and how you can help them and other team members."

"Consistently follow-up with patients by calling every patient that receives an injection that same day. This shows your patients you care about them. You will also learn more about what is working well with patients and what is not."

"Be careful about how you manage your debt. Start saving now. Be realistic about what you purchase. Ask yourself is it a real need or just a want.  It’s important to invest in yourself and your practice, but never get in over your head.  Get good advice before plunging into significant expenditures. Try to pay off your loans inside 15 years from graduation and put away savings every month, even if it’s initially small."

As with any “pearls of wisdom” there are rarely any “quick fixes” or "get rich quick" schemes that will translate into long term practice success. Some management systems and practice growth methods only treat the "symptoms" but do not cure the "illness." In other words, they do not address the fundamental elements of character, interpersonal relationships and genuine concern for staff and patients.  They only treat the short-term, bottom line figures with approaches that may not be sustainable long-term because they do not make investments in relationships. The solution to most challenges lies in attitudes and beliefs—not in circumstances or methods.  While it is relatively easy to instruct others on how to do things a different way, it is much more difficult to teach others how to be a different way.  Success of this kind comes from changing attitudes and changing perceptions--both of which require sincere effort.  The book, Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbringer Institute, is a great place to start.)

Happiness and success are found by doing what you know to be good and right. It is found by looking for the good in others and developing sincere gratitude for what you have been blessed with. What you believe and think about yourself, your staff and your patients will determine the kind of practice you create. With the proper courage and discipline to explore and apply some or all of the aforementioned "pearls of wisdom," it is likely we will soon be asking you to share some of your own for the next edition of this article.




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