Prior to going back to residency, a friend of mine who is a prominent and successful orthodontist mused out loud: “Glenn, do you know why it’s so competitive to get into ortho residency? It’s because they know they’re the gatekeepers to the golden ticket.”
For years, orthodontics was as simple as putting up a sign, opening your door, being kind to moms and local docs and you could be uber-successful rather quickly. All your financial dreams would come true quickly and easily, and those who run programs tend to think that those days are still here, but the world is changing. Outside forces put pressure on us from both the supply side and the influences found in a free market economy. Building a “dream practice” or even just having a decent job can be tough to find. No worries, though, because most of us are programmed to push through and succeed at what we do and orthodontic practice should be no different, right?
It’s no secret that our profession is loaded with exceptional talent. Look around the room at the next ortho meeting you attend and you’re likely to see many who were top students in their dental school classes, many who are fluent in other languages, star athletes, exceptional musicians, Eagle Scouts, black belts, amazing communicators, and the list goes on and on. It’s clear that orthodontics draws people who want to be exceptional and have the drive to follow through on that goal.
So, after graduating from essentially grade 23, our overachievers find themselves in the “real world” without a solid business plan, in debt up to their eyeballs and alone in the world of business. You have no idea what a pro forma or organizational chart is, you have to figure out where to practice, how to practice and don’t have a clue what all of this talk about HR really means. It doesn’t matter if you’re an associate or new business owner. Every day I get business questions from both groups. They’re the same: “Where do I go from here?”
Where’s this golden ticket you’ve been hearing so much about? Now comes the time where the proverbial wheat separates from the chaff. The steps you take could influence the rest of your business life. Ask yourself if you’ve completed your goal (becoming an orthodontist) or if you’re just starting your trip (becoming a successful orthodontist).
When lost in business, many clinicians dive harder into the clinical side, finding comfort in what they know and feeling that if they become an exceptional clinician, things will have a way of working out. But we know that being a great orthodontist is only part of the equation and unfortunately, being the best clinician is sorely undervalued by consumers. Unless you are the only orthodontist for miles around, you’d better learn about business, marketing, leadership and management.
Most importantly, and this is the REAL key. You have 2 choices. You can say: “I’m barely making it, and right now is the worst time for me to invest in myself, so as soon as it gets easier I will.” Or you can say:”I’m barely making it, I’d better invest in myself in order to make things better”? (This “investment” comes in the form of time, money and resources in general.)
I apologize for bringing it up again because you’ve heard me say it so many times but it bears repeating. When I was $700,000 in debt, with a baby at home and no money, I signed up for a $57,000 year-long business and management course and it changed my life. I know that some of us are hard wired to embrace risk and others aren’t but it’s when things are tough that you need to do something to get to a better place.
You have 2 choices. You can say: “I’m barely making it, and right now is the worst time for me to invest in myself, so as soon as it gets easier I will.” Or you can say: “I’m barely making it, I’d better invest in myself in order to make things better”?
It’s gonna be painful to throw yourself into the process, but you’ve likely done it before when you became exceptional at something else. Get up and do it, or choose to cruise and find your way through inertia. The choice is yours, as are the results.
Look around for opportunities to learn more about business and management. Find mentors who have more BUSINESS experience than you. Take online business classes. Read lots of books on leadership and management. Join online business groups. Listen to podcasts and watch Vlogs of leaders from OUTSIDE of orthodontics. In short, create your own business program and invest in yourself. You’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to get where you are and the road to becoming an accomplished business owner takes time and a lot of energy.
One of the greatest places to shorten the learning curve is in online “GEO” groups (NOTE: I have a financial interest in running OrthopreneursRD) and there is no better way to gain valuable insight and knowledge about running a business than these sorts of groups. I started the group because I know the value in group collaboration, and inasmuch as I love running OrthoPreneurs free Facebook group, too many clinicians have told me that their “competitors” are in that group and they won’t share their secrets. I get it. If we’re going to share everything, some aren’t comfortable doing it where everyone can see. But I also agree that nobody gets there alone which is why myself and others have created these groups that should pay dividends far beyond their cost.
So, if you find yourself down about the money you owe or if you’re feeling alone or confused about your next business step, irrespective of whether you’re an associate looking for a practice or a business owner for 10 years, go out and become the best entrepreneur, leader and manager you can become. YOU MUST MAKE FINANCIAL, TIME AND RESOURCE INVESTMENTS IN YOURSELF. Life isn’t going to suddenly give you a boatload of time when your baby finally turns 4 or when you’ve owned your practice for 3 years. It never gets easier and you have to find that time and money in between the things that seem important and consuming right now. Maybe you got lucky and none of this applies to you, but for most of us, this is simply how it works.
You can do this!!! Think of what it took for you to get to where you are. You’re an exceptional person. You’re one in a million and should be really proud of what you’ve accomplished and if anyone can do it, it’s you!!!
So, take just 5 minutes and write down one thing you’re going to do to start your path towards being a better entrepreneur, manager or leader. If you don’t know where to begin, just message me on Facebook or email me at Glenn@OrthoPreneursRD.com and I can give you some quick suggestions . I’m always there to help in any way I can.
None of us has to go through this alone.
All the best,
If you’re not a member of our geographically exclusive OrthoPreneursRD Facebook page there are only two prerequisites: You’re an orthodontist (yes, you can be an associate) and you want to contribute to a group of like-minded peers who have come together to share our practice ideas and solve our common business, leadership and management issues. Email me at Glenn@OrthoPreneursRD.com to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.