Originally published in 2012
I was recently inspired to write this article after attending a panel discussion which involved industry experts from all areas of dentistry. Practice owners, laboratories, distributor sales reps, consultants, and marketing leaders among others met over an informal breakfast to discuss the current status of our economy and its impact on the field of dentistry. I was amazed at how divided the individual perceptions amongst the group were. For every viewpoint expressed, numerous others held opposing opinions. Some thought the economy is doing well and some didn’t. Some felt we are in a slight recession while others were convinced we are on the verge of a depression, and still others felt there is no economic slowdown whatsoever. A few even believed we have entered a significant period of economic re-growth and opportunity.
Each individual was so passionate in defending their viewpoint that an outsider might have easily mistaken the venue for a University Debating Tournament. It was interesting to hear everyone’s personal accounts and experiences regarding the state of their local economies. It was also quite confusing because everyone substantiated their differing viewpoints with valid real life stories supporting their positions. I began to wonder how a group of such knowledgeable and experienced industry professionals could be so divided in their thinking about the current state of the economy and its impact on dentistry. How can experts working within the same geographic region perceive their local community economies so differently?
In his international bestseller You’ll See It When You Believe It, Dr. Wayne Dyer suggests your belief in something before it actually exists in your life has everything to do with your ability to create/achieve it. He further explains our emotional responses to everything in life are caused by our thinking about a situation and not by the situation itself. Most of us erroneously believe otherwise. If you believe the economy is the pits and your practice is victim to the economy then it will be impossible for you to tap into greater opportunities that may be available to you, even if they are staring you directly in the face. Henry Ford was right when he said, “If you think you can, you’re right! If you think you can’t, you’re right!”
What really determines your practice success? Is it the economy or is it our internal strategic activities? After some thought I have come to realize this question is as confusing as the parable about the chicken and the egg. In dentistry we can ask ourselves “What came first; the state of the economy or our practice results?” After all, doesn’t our practice result contribute to the state of the economy … or is it the state of the economy that causes our practice results?
As a society we tend to blame things on our environment thereby cleansing ourselves of our contributing actions or inactions that lead to our results. Yet if we blame the environment around us, we actually disarm ourselves of any control or influence we may have. To break free of our external circumstances we must become internally driven and develop an attitude of abundance. If we are to compete effectively in the 21st century marketplace we must raise our belief in ourselves, our services, and in our patients, especially during periods of economic slowdown.
Of course we cannot fully dismiss the impact of the economy on our dental practice. I am well aware that certain communities thrive on one or two local businesses/employers and these communities can be greatly impacted if one of the employers suddenly decides to shut down or relocate. This example is an exception to the rule. For the average practice, the question remains how much weight and power are you willing to give “the constantly fluctuating economy” over your viability and success. Even in a grossly down-turned market, not all sales dry up. People are still purchasing and patients still require dentistry. Commerce doesn’t come to a full and absolute standstill.
If your office is doing well merely because the marketplace (economy) is doing well, you’re not really in control of your level of success. You could even be stuck! If your dental business that produced $1 million last year produced $1.1 million this year, you could argue your business is growing but in actuality it may have been the marketplace that has grown without any proactive or strategic action on your part. In such cases, when the market dries up, it takes the stuck practice down with it. Therefore linking your practice opportunities to the status of your local economic marketplace cripples any control you may have over your level of success. We must always ask ourselves the empowering time tested question: What role do we play in our results?
In a slowed market, it becomes even more important for each practice to strategically compete for their patients’ discretionary money. You must believe you are worth more to your patients than what you sell. The way you package the entire experience of your care will determine how well you are able to compete. It will also determine how well you are able to influence your customers to prioritize and see greater value in your services. We must see and feel our own value first; and then we must package and deliver that belief to our customers in a positive and creative fashion that inspires them to act on their best interests. It all comes down to how well we serve our customers. There is a difference between good clinical dentistry and good patient care. Good clinical dentistry is delivered into a mouth but good patient care is served into the life of the human attached to the teeth. Remember, service to others is the rent we pay for our room on this earth.
The following are six personal growth and development initiatives that will enable you to escape the forces of a slowed local economy:
- Attend practice management courses that teach you about the business aspects of operating your practice.
- Strengthen the effectiveness of your team meetings so you continuously innovate and recreate yourselves.
- Spend time strengthening your positive beliefs by talking with those clinicians who are doing well and not perceiving an economic slowdown.
- Boost your patient communications by learning the art of questioning techniques and high level listening.
- Develop a healthy view of selling and strengthen your sales skills through courses and reading.
- Enhance the people skills of your entire team. Developing deep bonds and healthy personal relationships with your patients is a tribal effort.
So it turns out that life truly is a mirror. If you stand in front of a mirror and make a pleasant face, a pleasant face looks back at you. Our practice life is no different. The results we experience are a mirror reflection of our output which is an expression of our beliefs. We can all heed the advice of the late Dr. Jim Pride of the Pride Institute who often said stop blaming – your team, your location, your patients, dental insurance, the economy, or another external factor – and adopt the attitude “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.”
I recently read a story about an Italian immigrant who arrived during the Great Depression and opened a chain of successful restaurants. Years later he was asked in how he did it. In a thick Italian accent he responded, “Aahh it was easy; when I arrived to America I did not speak English, so I did not know there was a Great Depression!!!” Society may predict our circumstances but it is WE who ultimately determine our destiny. We are limited only by our imagination. It’s a recession if it’s around us; it’s a depression if we surrender to it.
Peter Barry is a Practice Mastery Coach and founder of Successful Practice Architects, a coaching company dedicated to serving the Growth & Development needs of Dental Professionals. He is the creator of “The Dental Olympics Advantage™ Growth & Development Programs” and provides customized group and one-on-one success coaching to dental teams across Canada and the U.S. FMI: firstname.lastname@example.org or 416.568.5456.