For twenty-eight years, I had a fee-for-service solo private practice in Wolfeboro, NH. For twenty-six of those years, I had a dentist coach who helped me fathom the challenges of owning my own private practice. My coach was twenty years older than me and as a result had a lot of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Not only was he well versed in the technical aspects of dentistry, he also was an expert in the areas of leadership, practice management, and people management. He was an excellent clinician with a proven track record, one who loved his work, and one who provided comprehensive care for all of his patients. He had a great team, many staying with him for many years. He ran his office with the same precision he used to prepare a tooth for a crown. He had clear and concise written systems and policies; his overhead never exceeded fifty-two percent. As long as I knew him, he was an avid reader and student, he did beautiful dentistry, and was financially successful and happy. Over the years, he continuously sought education from people like Dr. Thomas Basta, Dr. Peter Dawson, and from places like The Pankey Institute and The Schuster Center. I felt blessed to have him as my coach.
For the first two years of my private practice, I fumbled around trying to figure out things like proper scheduling, my fees, patient acceptance of comprehensive dentistry, or effective communication. At that point in my career, my technical skills were pretty good. I had received a great education at Georgetown University, completed a three-year tour as a Navy dentist at Parris Island, and had worked as an associate dentist for three more years. After all that schooling and training, I knew a lot about dentistry, but knew very little about leading a team, managing a dental practice, or communicating effectively. Over the years, my coach helped me grow tremendously in those three areas. I attribute my happiness and financial success to his wisdom and guidance accompanied with my dedication, hard work and perseverance.
As a dentist in private practice, you wear three “hats.” You are the producer, the leader, and the manager of your office. For me, trying to balance all three, especially with little experience in the latter, was overwhelming. At times, I wanted to quit. I finally sought out a dentist coach when I realized I couldn’t do it “all by myself.” Right out of the chute, my practice and family life improved greatly. Having someone I could trust, having someone I could confide in, having someone to hold me accountable, gave me new energy and renewed hope. Whether I had a question or just needed someone to talk to, my coach was there to help me achieve my goals. Not only did he provide me with valuable information and knowledge, he guided me to places of continued education like The Pankey Institute. With his guidance, I gained confidence and discovered new insights for myself, things I never would have thought of on my own. He helped me regain my passion for dentistry and rekindle my love for my family. He challenged me to take risks. And like all great coaches, he held me accountable and encouraged me every step of the way.
Over the years, I was able to make a lot of changes in my practice, ones that made my life more fun and more profitable. With a dentist coach by my side, I quickly learned that “vetted decisions” were “better decisions.” He was a masterful coach who, whenever I asked him a question, would never tell me the answer. Rather, he would lead me through the decision process by asking me thought-provoking questions. Within a very short time, I discovered meaning and purpose in both my work life and in my personal life. As a result, I became more focused on the important things. Decisions were no longer haphazard; rather they were based on my written goals, desired outcomes, and my vision.
My dentist coach also helped me realize what was most important to me, my family and my dentistry. Somehow in the chaos and busyness of life, I’d lost sight of that. Some examples of the changes I made included: spending more time with my family, working a four-day work week, seeing all new patients first instead of them seeing the hygienist first, having a budget with guidelines and sticking to it, fully funding a retirement plan, or learning the DISC to become a master communicator.
I have to be honest, making changes, whether it involved having to let a team member go or replacing an old comfortable procedure with a new one, wasn’t always easy. My coach helped me “stay the course” and persevere through the changes. In the end, the new procedures, the new systems, or the new team members, always proved to be profitable and beneficial for my practice. And as a side benefit, because I was more efficient and happier at the office, I had more time and energy left for my family.
So why should you get involved with dentist to dentist coaching? First, every business needs a leader and every team needs a coach. In a dental practice, so much of what happens is dependent on one thing. . . the leadership of the dentist or more specifically on the dentist’s beliefs and the dentist’s behavior. The initial goal of dentist to dentist coaching will be to help you stop thinking solely about technical dentistry. With your coach, you learn a lot about yourself and what’s important to you. You’ll also learn the leadership, management, and communication skills needed to run a profitable practice.
Once you have gained this new awareness about yourself, your coach will work with you on communicating your vision to your team. You’ll learn other “soft” skills like active listening, team building, and resolving conflict. Having these skills will equip you to build better relationships with your patients and your team. You will now become the coach teaching communication skills like listening, co-discovery, asking great questions, and rapport to all members of your dental team.
In addition to developing your leadership skills, you’ll also learn how to better manage your team, your patients, your schedule, and your practice systems. With your coach, you’ll examine and make decisions regarding insurance participation, collections, financial arrangements, productive scheduling, mix of services, and staff salaries, to name a few. And just like before, the decisions you make will be based on your stated outcomes and desired goals. Lastly, you will constantly monitor your results and make changes where needed. And most importantly, you and your team will celebrate your successes.
I am glad I sought out a dentist coach early in my career. I’m grateful I took that crucial first step, facing the reality that if I was going to grow and improve my practice, I needed help with my leadership and management skills. Over the years, my coach helped me see things I could not see. He helped me get “unstuck” when I felt “stuck.” He always spoke truthfully to me and challenged me to reach new levels and accomplish things I never thought possible. He understood me deeply because first and foremost, he was a dentist.
In summary, the greatest gifts my coach helped me discover were “the truths in my life,” the beliefs and activities that lead me to more joy, more fulfillment, and greater financial success. With his help, his guidance, and continual encouragement, I was able to achieve my aspirations and my dreams.
So, what about you? What’s your next step? Are you ready to get on the path to more fulfillment, more joy, and more financial success? Then why not give dentist to dentist coaching a try?