The other day I wrote a post about the definition of “success”. One of the yardsticks, and let’s be honest, it’s one of the most common, is financial accomplishment. Having a healthy and thriving practice is important to most, if not all of us. It’s important for us to make money at what we do because as the old saying goes: “No money, no mission”. If we aren’t financially successful, how can we offer services to help our patients and our families?
But many of you reading this are newer to orthodontics. You may be deeply in debt from educational loans or have been saddled with huge loans to buy your practice. Maybe you have personal issues that have affected your ability to focus on your practice like a spouse in school or small kids, or maybe even both! The idea of having a practice that’s on “cruise control” is a fantasy and the idea of having tons of new patients and management expertise are part of the dream scenario that we all want, right?
But, here’s a specific question and I need you to be honest with yourself: How do YOU plan on getting there? Hard work and your clinical skill? If you are a really good orthodontist and are really nice to the local restorative dentists and your patients, your practice will have to grow. I mean, you’re just going through a tough period right now, but if you can just work on your practice for the next year or two, you’ll somehow figure it out and it’ll all be good, right?
I can’t say this enough, but PLEASE don’t believe that’s the case. I think that you made the right move by becoming an orthodontist, but today is arguably the most challenging era to reap financial success and gain that economic independence you so desperately want and THINK you deserve. (Nobody “deserves” financial success. You must earn it.) It’s tough out there. Everyone is doing clear aligner therapy and more non-orthodontists are offering quick braces to solve esthetic issues. Again, don’t avoid the question. If you do not currently have the practice you dream of, how do YOU plan on getting to where you plan to be?
So you joined Orthopreneurs on Facebook. That’s a great first start. After all, it’s free and right now you’re strapped for cash so “it’s all you can afford”, right? You can’t hire a consultant, you can’t pay for fancy CE and you can’t join any other group that costs money because you simply can’t afford it right now. Sound familiar? It should, because I get at least 10 Facebook messages a day from orthodontists telling me that exact thing and if it didn’t break my heart, I would laugh out loud.
Maybe you’re too busy right now. Maybe you have a small baby (or several) or just bought your practice or have a ton of debt hanging over your head. Maybe you’ve “doubled down” on your technical skill by throwing yourself and a lot of money into things that will make you a better orthodontist. That’s awesome. We need exceptional skill, but I won’t allow you to avoid the question. Is your future success dependent on your ability to be the finest clinician around or is it tied to your ability to run a practice effectively? Moreover, what were you trained in the most up to this point? The ability to do orthodontics or the ability to grow your business? Are you throwing yourself into clinical answers for business problems? Where should you be directing your time and money if you want to grow your practice or start one or buy one?
As clinicians, it’s perfectly OK for us to admit that we tend to gravitate to what makes us comfortable. We love being technicians, so we want to learn as much as we can about our field. We also use it as an excuse to run away from the thing that scares us the most, namely, the business and marketing and running of of our practices. But remember that dream you have of having an amazing practice? It’s not going to grow itself.
So, back to the question. Things are tough, money is tight, extra time is non existent, but you want a better practice. How do you plan on getting there? Here’s the answer and I spoke about it a few posts ago. Invest in yourself. Yeah, it sounds cliche, but you have to do it. Do you really want to be that practice that’s been open for 5 years and still hasn’t gotten to where it needs to be? Do you want to be worrying about how you’re going to make payroll after you’ve been open for a couple of years? Do you want to struggle with scheduling, marketing, HR issues, leadership, etc for the rest of your career? Why haven’t you hired a business or life coach? Why aren’t you on the phone right now with a consultant who can help you with scheduling? Why aren’t you part of a paid group where people will share their ideas openly because they know their competitors won’t see it? Do you genuinely have a plan on how you’re going to get there or do you honestly believe that “things will somehow work out”?
If you think this post is being written about you or any specific orthodontist, consultant or group, it isn’t, but every single day I get a myriad of messages (as do my consultant friends) from orthodontists who are in crisis, telling us that they “just aren’t ready right now” or just aren’t “in a financial position to do that right now”. It’s incredibly frustrating for us to hear our colleagues tell us that they want to invest in themselves but “just can’t”. But honestly, who needs the help the most: The orthodontist who is short on time and money and high on stress or the orthodontist who is successful by every definition?
For those of us who have tasted financial success in our practices, every one of us would instantly spend a nickel to make a dime. I know it’s scary to younger docs who have a lot of financial and interpersonal issues going on, but here’s a promise to you and every successful business person will attest to the truth of the statement: You need to spend money to make money and there will NEVER be a good time to work harder on your practice. But, also remember the other saying: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.”
I’m also writing this post to myself because I pay to belong to a peer Facebook group (aside from the one I started) and I’ve hired coaches and consultants. And I know for sure, without a doubt that it’s the right thing to do. I need to hear this same message over and over again because I need every bit of help I can get to be successful.
I appreciate all the kind comments I’ve gotten about always being there to help young orthodontist, and I really am always here to help in any way I can, but every now and then you need a little tough love, so here it is: The next time you’ve convinced yourself that you want to have the practice of your dreams but you just don’t have the time or money to invest in yourself right now and that maybe later you will, realize that you can have excuses or results, but not both. The one you get is completely up to you.
If this post has motivated you in any way, find out what you need to do to get to where you need to be and do it. Now. Don’t wait for life to hand you some answer because it won’t. Don’t wait for things to get easier, but they likely will not. The most successful practice and business leaders have gone out and gotten the help they need and you are no different.
Now go get ’em!!!
All the best,
If you’re not a member of our free Orthopreneurs Facebook page (with over 1000 members as of this penning), there are only two requirements: You’re an orthodontist and you want to join a group of like-minded peers who have come together to solve our common business problems. Click HERE to learn more.