I once worked for felons. Yep, actual, plead guilty to fraud in federal court, serve time in prison, felons. As a really young dentist just happy to have a job, I didn’t see all of the warning signs when I worked for them, but I guess looking back now, the fact they carried guns everywhere they went, had extra ones hidden in the office and even bought me one was a pretty good sign that something wasn’t right. But, they did teach me one really positive lesson.

Every single day in their morning huddle, they reminded the front desk and the rest of the team that we needed to give away THREE things for free that day. Best of all, the team got to choose-on the spot-what they got to give away. Maybe it was a free filling or a free cleaning, but when the team told them what they had given away at the end of the day, the owners beamed with pride and were genuinely thrilled that they had helped those in need. It certainly was a Robinhood-esque sort of existence with the whole steal from the rich, rob from the poor mentality, but their lesson of giving to those less fortunate has stuck with me to this day.

As orthodontists, we live blessed lives. Our complaints really are “first world” problems and thankfully, even with student debt, we have the ability to change the lives of those around us. We are indeed fortunate.

While orthodontics is very different than general dentistry in that we don’t have many “small ticket items” to give away for free, we should still do our best to give something to people when we get a chance. Maybe it’s a free retainer, or free whitening or something else you typically charge for. Maybe it’s a significant price reduction on treatment just because you know someone is in need. Maybe it’s doing a case free every week or month. I don’t propose to know what you can and can’t afford to do, but here’s the thing: Don’t do it for gain. No asking for a Facebook review, or tell everyone about it on your office Facebook page or ask them to send you a friend in return. Do it because it’s the right thing to do and end it at that.

Most importantly, make sure you and your team discuss it afterwards. Let them revel in the generosity of the office, and the life-changing decisions we all make together. Many of our team aren’t in a financial position to give money freely to others and this is a nice way to use our profession to give back from EVERYONE on the team.

You may go as an office to volunteer at charitable causes, and that’s awesome. Your business may donate a ton of money to local schools or charities and you should be proud of that. You may personally give a huge amount of charity and never brag about it and that’s a beautiful thing. But the next time you have a morning meeting, let your TC know that he/she has the right-no, an obligation- to take money off of someone’s treatment plan that day because of an expressed need. Watch the way your team looks at you.

Yes, you might get fooled by someone playing the charity card and that’s on them, not you. Remember that the gift is for the giver. And don’t let the receiver know it’s “charity” because it isn’t. It’s one person doing a nice thing for another. They get to choose. It’s an office thing and while you can’t help the entire world, you can make a difference in a family or individual’s life. It will give your team one more reason to jump out of bed in the morning.

At first, they’ll be astonished. “Wait, don’t we want collections to be as high as possible?” Eventually, they’ll catch on and everyone will clamor to be the one to help others. Of course, there need to be ground rules, but you’ll figure it out.

Admittedly, I haven’t done this in ages and it’s time to get back into the swing of it again. I can remember how awesome it felt to make sure that giving happened every single work day. Give it a try and see if it fits your practice.

I didn’t keep in touch with the dentists I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I don’t know where they are, or if they are even still practicing. But, this was a great lesson to me that no matter where I worked, or with whom I was working, there are amazing life lessons to be found everywhere.`

Wishing you the best,

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GLENN KRIEGER IS AN ORTHODONTIST WITH 20 YEARS OF RESTORATIVE AND COSMETIC DENTISTRY EXPERIENCE BEFORE HE RETURNED TO ORTHODONTIC RESIDENCY. DR. KRIEGER LEARNED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WELL-DESIGNED PRACTICE POLICIES AND SYSTEMS DURING A YEAR AT THE SCHUSTER CENTER FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA, AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF GENERAL ACCOUNTING PRACTICES AND INDUSTRIAL PSYCHOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL’S “DENTIST AS CEO” PROGRAM. HE IS THE HOST OF “THE ORTHOPRENEURS PODCAST”, MANAGES THE ORTHOPRENEURS FACEBOOK GROUP AND RUNS THE ANNUAL ORTHOPRENEURS SUMMIT.

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