Owning a Dental Practice – Like Driving in the Fog

10 Oct Owning a Dental Practice – Like Driving in the Fog

It was foggy as I drove my kids to school one morning. It reminded me of when I first started ownership of Lisa L. Knowles, DDS, PC. It felt like I was driving into the abyss–little knowledge of the road ahead and all sorts of things waiting to pop up and cause harm. Despite this, I couldn’t wait to get the new sign up and see my first new patients. In retrospect, I was likely a bit too eager. Fortunately, this pep and vigor was needed for the next couple of years as I began to make my way through the fog of dental practice ownership.

Below are my top 5 tips for navigating through new ownership fog:

1.Go slowly. This is not a road race to success. It seems like you are on a destination to get to success and the good life. Yet, just like driving in foggy conditions, you know there are hazards out there if you go too fast. Consider an extraction, for example, when you really want the upper molar to come out and then, after pushing too hard, you break the root tip. You learn that you pushed too hard, or perhaps you chose the wrong instrument. Ownership is a balance of getting the right systems in place to create structure and accountability, yet not too quickly that you cannot even remember what you changed.

2. Have a map. No GPS’s in practice ownership. You need an old fashioned map in the form of an office manual. It helps you remember the course when the fog is really thick. In the beginning, there are so many decisions to be made and systems to be implemented. It is hard to keep track of all of them. Assign this task to your best record keeper/task manager. Personality testing is extremely helpful to identify who are the task masters in the group. http://www.discprofile.com/whatisdisc.htm

3. Use all of your senses. Consider how you have to roll down the window to hear if traffic is coming when the fog is so dense? The same holds true for ownership. You must be looking, listening and sensing what is going on in your practice. Otherwise, someone will run your practice for you and maybe not in the way you would want it run. Once you find that someone, then you can transfer that responsibility on, but until then as you look for this person, or grow this person, you will need to be the omnipresent dentist. You are everywhere with hands in many things until you know how things operate, and until you transfer that trust into someone else’s hands. I found it very helpful to know basics on how most things operated in the office–from computer software basics to business and accounting basics–even some equipment repair was helpful. Be the Jack (or Jill) of all trades.

4. Observe your surroundings. Try not to panic when you cannot see where you are going. Most dentists have little vision or mission statement training. So, when you start day one in your practice, there is a tendency to react to what is happening. Life becomes like a fire fighting free for all. Emergency patients are thrown in haphazardly. Staff crisis erupt. The computer system locks up again. You want to call the local fire department to help you from burning up, but there is no time to do this. You feel like you just have to keep hosing down the current problem. Not so. A clear purpose and a well thought-out plan is what you need. This takes time, and this takes a coach or someone who is good with vision planning to help you sort things out and devise a plan. Once you know where you are going, even if there is dense fog, you will make your way out of the fog and arrive safely to your destination.

5. When the fog is so thick you cannot see– STOP! Sometimes, owning a practice can be suffocating, frustrating, and unenjoyable. This may mean it is time to step away. Vacations are perfect times to rest, rejuvenate, and respect your body’s needs. The fog will lift, and it often does faster when we stop and reflect on what we can do better when we return. Without stopping occasionally, we end up doing and doing and doing. In reality, let the dense fog be a change indicator. Pause and think about what change options are out there. You may need to ask for directions when you cannot see a thing. A good coach, consultant, or classmate can often be the ray of light needed to help burn off the haze.

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