In Ancient Rome, commanders would order bridges to be set afire behind their troops when invading a new territory. It meant that to get home, the troops needed to fight through whatever obstacles were in front of them. The term “burning bridges” has now become synonymous with destroying relationships to which one can never return.

Clinicians do this all the time and think nothing of it. For instance…

You’ve worked with a  bank for a few years. They’ve always been pretty good with you and your banker has come through with funds whenever you’ve needed them. However, “business is just business” and when a friend tells you about another bank with better terms, you apply and get approved to refinance your business loans. Everything at the old bank gets paid off and in classic millennial form, you text your previous banker telling her that you’ve decided to make the switch and wish her the best of luck. The banker asks to have lunch to discuss the change and you have a few choices about what to do, but you choose to ignore them because after all, they’re “just a banker” and they DID make a lot of money off of your account  and you don’t owe them anything. You stop responding to their texts and emails and move on. You’ve burned that bridge, but who cares? You don’t need them anymore…or so you think.

The aforementioned scenario happens all of the time, especially with younger docs who aren’t that experienced in business. Speak to product representatives, consultants, or professional service folks who’ve done their job for a while and you actually will be surprised to hear how rude or dismissive many of our peers can be towards companies and people who no longer serve their needs.

Aside from the fact that it’s just not good manners to treat someone poorly, you could be setting yourself up for trouble later on when you’re dismissive or rude to someone who simply no longer serves your needs. The dental world is small and the orthodontic world even smaller. Word does get around and if you’re used to treating people nicely only when they serve a need, others will find out and it could affect things such as potential new hires and even business advice. I’m not saying that you need to take your former lab technician to lunch, but you should try to see it from their side and be a decent human being about it.

Common courtesy isn’t so common.

Younger docs also often don’t realize the knowledge of the people with whom they work. For instance, a representative for a company that makes brackets may have worked with hundreds of practices over the years. If they’re good at what they do, they’ve seen great marketing ideas, fantastic (and terrible) team members in action and build outs that have worked and those that have gone disastrously. They can offer very good insights when you may not expect them and it pays to stay in touch.

Moreover, many team members who are looking for a change will often confide in these people and they can become walking billboards for an office with a great work culture. Treat these people poorly and it gets around. You’ll lose access to a lot of this knowledge and this applies to accountants, employees, lab technicians and anyone else you’ve ever worked with.

I’m also a huge advocate for the “what goes around comes around” karmic universe theory and if you treat people well and try to keep them in your life, even when you don’t “need” them, really good things can come from that positive energy like finding great employees, hearing about practices for sale or possible associateship positions with great offices.

So, the next time you find yourself about to end a business relationship, ask yourself what you can do to end it as amicably and respectfully as possible. The bridge you don’t burn could be one you need to cross later.

All the best,

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Glenn
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