“Money isn’t everything…but it ranks right up there with oxygen.”

How important is money to your practice? As an orthodontist, how do you feel about the title of this post? It’s actually a quote from one of the most respected motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar. He was a huge inspiration in my life when I was a young dentist. I would listen to his tape series (yeah, an actual cassette series) on my way to work every day and I realized that for every hour of clinical CE I took, I personally needed 10X more time working on my business growth and profitability. How about you?

But Ziglar’s comment tended to rub me the wrong way at first and I needed an explanation to better understand it. After all, I wanted to help people. Saying that I wanted to make money sounded, well, disrespectful. Zig’s point is that if you don’t make money, your ability to practice and help others dies.

My experience with my fellow orthodontists is that most consider themselves artisan health care providers first and business owners second. As a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible to have a discussion about a new clinical approach or a way to be more profitable without someone adding “but always do what’s best for the patient” as if the best clinical outcome and most profitable almost have to be in conflict with one another. We also tend to get more excited about a new clinical technique and not so much about a new book on leadership or marketing.

Let’s move forward in agreement that almost every orthodontist I know wants what’s best for the patients and tries to give their best outcomes for every situation. But, we need to make a living and we need to acknowledge that money is the reason we go to work every day. Orthodontics is the profession that allows us to make the aforementioned money and Ziglar’s comment tells us to never forget that.

Allan Dib, author of “The 1-Page Marketing Plan” states: “If you didn’t go into business to make money, then you’re either lying or you have a hobby, not a business.”

Are you OK recognizing that you run (or plan on running) a for-profit business? I know that you’re doing everything you can to become the best clinician you’re able to become, but are you doing everything you can to become the most profitable business owner too? Reducing overhead often requires many tough emotional decisions and we need to be prepared to make them.

Yes, we must serve our patients well, but I knew an amazing clinical instructor in dental school who actual declared bankruptcy twice because he was so focused on clinical outcomes and not the business side. His story isn’t unique. A dentist friend of mine (an amazing clinician) recently shut his doors and while chatting on the phone, he said : “I wish I had worked harder ON my practice and not just the clinical.”

I beg you to PLEASE focus on the business side of your practice. If you’re diligent, you already have the skills to become a great clinician. You were trained for that, but I’m asking you to work on becoming more profitable, focus on your business strategy, read business books, find business mentors, go to business meetings, because you need these things to help your practice succeed.

Sure, there are new clinical techniques you need to learn and new technology you have to understand, but keep in mind that you were trained in clinical and not business. And if your business doesn’t make a profit, like my clinical instructor, you won’t be able to help others. In addition to being your clinical best self, strive to be the most profitable orthodontist you can be. And never forget my other favorite Zig Ziglar quote:
“Honesty and integrity are by far the most important assets of an entrepreneur.”

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 7.35.31 AM

Are You “Just Plane Smart”? Ortho Lessons We Can Learn From this Genius

If you’re old enough to remember a time when Southwest planes could only fly in the State of Texas, then you certainly will remember how Herb Kelleher changed the way Americans flew. He passed away this previous Thursday at age 87, but his story should continue to inspire those who want to learn from it. There are MANY lessons that orthodontists can learn from the way Mr. Kelleher ran Southwest Airlines.

Risk: Mr. Kelleher was an attorney who had no history of wealthy parents or dreams of running an airline. He was simply smart (or crazy) enough to take the bait when one of his clients suggested that he join him in opening an airline that flew exclusively in Texas and from 1971-1978, that’s exactly what they did. He competed with much larger established companies and figured out how to become profitable doing more with less (at first, they served only 3 cities in Texas and focused on doing it well).
In today’s competitive orthodontic market, we can learn many lessons from Mr. Kelleher related to taking on calculated risk and serving needs that may be right in front of all of us. The term “core competency” is overused, but finding ways that we can take calculated risks to grow our practices should be something we strive to do.

Profitability: Southwest airlines remains the only major US carrier to never file bankruptcy and has been profitable every single year after their second in business. After 9/11, Kelleher had the foresight to lock in contracts for fuel when the prices were low. Kelleher added just a few routes at a time, growing in a way that allowed the company to remain solvent and profitable.
Southwest is a great example of a company that grew within its means and used every possible strategy to protect its financial viability. Be smart with your finances. It’s not what you produce, but rather, what you “take home” that matters.

Commitment to Employees: Early in their history, when finances were tight, Mr. Kelleher chose to sell off a plane instead of laying off employees. Can you imagine what kind of message that sent to his employees? Under Kelleher’s reign as CEO, employees were well paid and a spirit of fun was instilled in the company. He was so well liked that when he stepped down as CEO at their annual meeting in 2008, not only did he get “an ovation usually reserved for rock stars” but the Southwest pilots’ union, in the middle of negotiating a new contract, took out a full page ad in USA today thanking him for what he had done.
The success of our practices is dependent on the culture we build, the loyalty of our team and the smiles on our employee’s faces. Don’t be “penny-wise & pound foolish” by skimping on your most valuable asset, namely, your team members.

Humility: Mr. Kelleher was famous for boarding random Southwest flights just so that he could chat with passengers. I have no doubt that when he introduced himself, he was “Herb” and not “the CEO for this airline”. Customers loved him and when asked by the media how he became CEO, he responded: “Because I am unable to perform competently any meaningful function at Southwest, our employees let me be CEO.”  When Southwest and Stevens Aviation got into an argument because they both used “Just Plane Smart” as their taglines, Mr. Kelleher suggested that instead of a long legal battle, he and the other CEO, Mr. Kurt Herwald simply arm wrestle to see who could use the tagline. Kelleher lost the match, but Herwald felt that the publicity was so great and Kelleher’s approach so unique that Herwald simply let Southwest use the tagline.
Sure, we have graduate degrees and have made it through the crucible that is the orthodontic education process, but we need to remember that we serve the needs of our patients and we need to listen to what they want. We need to be in touch with our team members’ needs and care for them while being respectful to those around us.

Values: While there were many high end air carriers, Southwest’s niche was about efficiency over frills. All decisions were borne out of the set of values Mr. Kelleher infused into the company. He was quoted as saying: “If somebody makes a proposal, and it infringes on those values, you don’t study it for two years. You just say ‘No, we don’t do that.’ And you go on quickly.”
Define your set of values for your practice, write them down and use them as a guide for all future practice decisions. Be true to your vision and you and your team members will always feel great about your practice.

Herb Kelleher was a visionary who changed the way the entire US airline system worked. He opted out of the larger reservation systems and cut out the “hub” concept, allowing a fledgling operation to be profitable when no other carrier could make money. He did all of this while respecting his employees and loving and serving his customers.

Think of that. Making money while laughing and having fun, surrounded by customers and employees who loved him.

We can learn a lot from Mr. Kelleher’s legacy. May he rest in peace.

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 7.35.31 AM

All facts about Mr. Kelleher’s life in this post were taken from his 1/4/19 NY Times Obituary.

How to Have Your Best Year Ever

The goal of every business owner is to see profits grow every year, and as far as profitable businesses go, orthodontics is pretty solid. If you’re not doing as well as you’d like, there are usually a few easy ways to correct that. So, how do you ensure that you’ll finish 2019 better than 2018?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Plan your upcoming year properly.  Things don’t happen by accident. There are too many moving pieces and while you might get lucky by just simply showing up for work every day and growing by brute force and sheer determination, great businesses grow by focusing on growth strategies that were planned out in advance. Figure out your plan for growth, for personnel and any other major aspects of your practice that can guide you in the coming year.
  2. Make an HR plan. Have you found yourself simpy adding team members when you needed them? You’re bursting at the seams, so you throw in a new front desk or assistant? After you determine your growth plan for the coming year, figure out your strategies for adding new team members and be prepared for that growth rather than having that growth put you into a place where you’re stressed out and find yourself in crisis mode. You can almost always anticipate when you’ll need an additional assistant or administrative team member and use your numbers to confirm it.
  3. Figure out your “niche”. There are a lot of orthodontists out there, and unfortunately, being a great orthodontist alone is no longer enough to see your practice explode with growth. So, figure out what sets your practice apart.  Do you provide some service that would set you apart from the rest of the community? Do you have a passion within our specialty that would allow you a subspecialty within your practice (airway, TMD, etc)? Figure out what sets you apart and double down on it. Remember, the first one to a niche is often the one who owns it long term.
  4. Make a plan to manage your overhead.  The old saying says that it doesn’t matter how much you produce, but rather, what you take home. Many of us produce quite well, but can’t figure out how to take home more because our overhead keeps expanding. As your practice grows during its infancy, many fixed expenses will start to get smaller as a percentage of your production, but focus on the variable expense items and see how you can be more efficient. The best way to do this for 2019? You got it. Plan ahead, and now is a great time to do it.
  5. Develop a CE plan. Think you know it all? If you do, I definitely don’t want you practicing on me. The one thing that the best clinicians have in common is a voracious appetite for continuing education and that doesn’t mean simply getting clinical tips on Facebook and using that as your strategy. If you’re worried about meeting your state minimum for CE, there’s a problem. To have the best practice, you need to be taking a lot of CE, and it should be a well balanced diet of management, clinical and leadership. Step outside of orthodontics and take some courses on managing a team  better or sales. You’ll be surprised what it’s like when you learn sales with folks from outside our industry.
  6. Visit other practices. As I’ve previously written, visiting other offices is the best way to change your practice quickly. Seeing others at work in successful practices will help you learn “best practices” and you’ll be amazed at how quickly these small changes can help you grow or mange your practice. I’ve also found that the positive energy I bring back from other practices is infectious and my whole team gets excited when I come back from my monthly visits.
  7. No excuses. Yes, I know you have a young child. Yes, I know you have vacations planned. Yes, I know that you have very little money. You know what we call those? Excuses. Your practice doesn’t care about your life. Sorry, but it’s true. It’s going to grow or not grow based on your effort and the more time you put into it (to a point) the more it’s going to grow, so, get on it.

Great practices don’t happen by accident. I’ve visited a lot of them and they all share one thing in common: A leader who is passionate about growth and works on it constantly. While there are many different styles and sizes of successful practices, only YOU can determine the type of practice that’s right for you. So, with the new year nearly upon us, what better time is there than now to figure out how to make 2019 your best year ever?

Go ahead and work on your practice and make 2019 the year that brings you the success you always dreamt of!!!

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 7.35.31 AM

Sorry, you’re not a candidate for aligners…

If you listened to the 3rd episode of my Orthopreneurs podcast, you heard Emily, a 30 year old Uber driver/cocktail waitress talk about her reasons for seeing a GP for Invisalign and how, in retrospect, she would pay far more if he had realized what an orthodontist could have done to make the process smoother and faster. It was an AMAZING insight into what we can learn to do better in terms of marketing ourselves as specialists.

Bit did you catch what she said about her two friends?

To me, the most important part was when she said that two of her friends went to see orthodontists for Invisalign and were told they weren’t candidates, so they went to GPs who ended up treating them. Moreover, Emily said that she didn’t even realize that Orthodontists were comfortable doing Invisalign because of her friends’ experiences. She thought that most Invisalign was done by GPs because her friends were turned away by specialists but treated by GPs. We don’t know what their cases looked like beforehand,  but it sounded like they were refused treatment with anything other than traditional orthodontics. We don’t know what the outcomes looked like after the GPs were finished, but she didn’t remark that her friends were unhappy.

We live in interesting times. We see patients getting ortho done through the mail, in malls and with GPs. This is NOT the orthodontic profession of the 80’s, 90’s or even the first decade of the millennium.  As Bob Dylon wrote: “The times, they are a changing” and the question is :”Are you changing with them?” We don’t have to like the changes and akin to the digital camera movement of the 90’s, when film companies refused to believe they needed to change their model, many in our profession refuse to accept that the billions of dollars behind the clear movement is shaping what consumers want and how they expect to get it.

And, at the same time I hear many of my peers complaining that their practices are too slow and they’d love to have more patients. But…

Every single day I have at least one adult patient who comes into my office telling me that they saw another orthodontist who told them that they “aren’t a candidate” for clear aligner therapy. However,  I generally look at their case and figure out a solution with clear aligners. Sometimes it includes some appliance to help with A/P correction. Sometimes it’s understanding attachment protocols. But there’s generally a solution to give them a good outcome based on their limitations.

However, I didn’t get here overnight.

I was an Invisalign provider as a GP, starting in 2003 but stopping two years later. I was that rare GP who realized that I couldn’t do it as well as my Orthodontist and I sent every spec of ortho to them starting in 2005. When I graduated ortho residency 4 years ago, I was so firmly anti-aligner (from my previous experiences and many faculty who espoused that belief) that I tried to talk every patient who wanted plastic into brackets, and I did so very successfully. But there were some who simply didn’t want aligners and they went elsewhere.

I started taking every aligner CE course and fellowship I could get my hands on and analyzed the results of my cases so I could get much better with plastic. Little by little, that improved and as my skill got better, patients started seeking me out for aligner therapy. Now, I have a 62.9% aligner share of chair (SOC) for all new patients coming into my office. I’m not saying that’s what you should do or that it’s for everyone, but my point is that I rarely see a case that I can’t successfully treat with aligners. For me, it was about getting more comfortable with the “tool” and figuring out a financial model that worked for me. I just didn’t like talking people into something they didn’t want. They came in looking for plastic and they deserved that.

This isn’t a clinical discussion, but rather a customer service one. There are many, many peers out there who are far more experienced with plastic than I am and the point of this article isn’t to tell you HOW to treat cases. Rather, I want you to remember the story of Emily’s friends who showed up at two ortho offices to get Invisalign and were turned away. Two patients who could have become raving fans.

Two patients who didn’t realize the remarkable difference between getting teeth straightened with an orthodontic specialist who only moves teeth and a GP who does it as a small part of their practice.

Two patients who might have shown up to my (or your neighbor’s) office saying that their previous orthodontist told them that they weren’t a candidate for Invisalign.

Two patients -whom I (or your neighbor) may have started- who could have started in your office.

Just some food for thought…

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 7.35.31 AM

To staff or not to staff. That is the question.

4 years ago, when I started my practice,  I had one team member. She was my my phone answerer, my TC, my assistant and pretty much everything else. Thankfully, we grew and I found some great team members to help our practice expand along the way.

Like many of you out there, I still have a younger, growing practice. I tend to add team members when I feel I must and I watch with mixed feelings as I see my peers post images of their teams that include 10,15 or even more employees.

On one hand, I tend to relate the number of team members to success. After all, no sane person would simply hire folks to take up payroll without a need, right? So, when I see a large staff, I naturally equate that to healthy practice. I think of all of those extra marketing, lab and clinical efficiencies I wish I had in my younger practice. But, extra team members come with a few costs, right?

Of course, the payroll costs go  up, along with optional costs of things like medical expenses, bonuses, uniforms, etc and anyone who has practiced for even a few months knows that the more team members, the greater the chance for friction among personalities.

But, more team members also has benefits when properly implemented. You can run so much more efficiently, apply individuals to specific tasks that might be underserved with a smaller team and more can be delegated.

However, if we’re in business to serve our patients AND make a living, every penny paid to a team member is a penny out of our pockets, so it’s wise to keep an eye on staff salaries as they relate to overhead.

There are those out there who recommend being slightly overstaffed when a practice is young so that it is always ready to embrace the next phase of growth. Others believe that overhead is key and that you shouldn’t employ the next new employee until you’re “bursting at the seams”.

There are metrics by which one can measure their team size versus efficiencies, but for growing practices whose numbers are rapidly changing and often unpredictable, it can be tough for an inexperienced orthodontist to know when is the right time to add someone.

I don’t know if there’s a right answer to how many team members one should have but I believe it all comes back to the written plan for the practice. How do you feel about overhead control, efficiency, patient experiences, in-house marketing, etc? Let your written plan guide your decisions.

The good news is that if you’re a younger practice and feel like you need to add a team member, it probably means that you’re growing and that’s not a bad thing.

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 7.35.31 AM

So, you’re all that?

Lou Reed was an amazing musician and a pioneer, but I simply can’t agree with that quote. However, many in our profession do and frankly, it’s gotten old. How?

Let me start with a short story to explain…

It was 1996. I hadn’t yet moved to Seattle and had been a dentist for 4 years. I practiced as an associate for a gifted GP who took over a prosthodontics practice and I did a lot of “clean up” work. I took every course I could get my hands on and racked up hundreds of hours of CE. I paid attention and learned  a lot and me and my wife decided that we wanted to get out of the “rat race” of NY and move to Seattle.

I went out there on a few scouting trips and one of my meetings was for coffee with a gentleman who would later become my mentor and a huge part of my future professional and personal growth. He introduced me to some of the best clinicians in the world, leaders in education with booming practices, who took an interest in my growth and taught me a ton in their spare time. I joined the burgeoning Seattle Study Club network and flew all over the world seeking out the best restorative docs, periodontists and oral surgeons to observe and learn from. We’d meet once a year at the annual Seattle Study Club Symposium and sit and talk dentistry and I’d come home with a renewed vigor and reduced ego.

I was in awe of their knowledge and their skill. They were able to accomplish things that I could only dream of. They tested the boundaries with new materials and applications of said materials. Their outcomes were gorgeous. I soaked in as much as I could.

The thing is, they were doing massive surgically driven restorative reconstructions (or restoratively driven surgical reconstructions depending on your perspective) and yet, they managed to stay, for lack of a better word, nice and kind and respectful. Upbeat and cheerful and collegial.

There was no social media to speak of, but they didn’t preen like a peacock when they showed their results. They didn’t try to bully those who aligned themselves with companies so they could test new materials and procedures before everyone else. They didn’t go out of their way to be nasty or rude to their peers. While they were often pushing the boundaries with their new treatment modalities -which carried with them significant risk- they were more than happy to show us their failures and none of us laughed at them or reveled in their failure. We learned WITH them from their failures and it helped us come to grips with why our cases didn’t work out. They certainly used every opportunity to question and learn and if they had a problem with someone, they took it to them…privately.

They were giants and I was honored to be associated with them, even in the smallest way. Some have retired. Some have passed away. Some are still at the forefront of dental education.

But I ask myself why our profession is so different today. Is it social media? Is it the ability to hide behind a keyboard? Why do so many orthodontists I meet tell me they’re frustrated with the few (but very loud) online voices that “go negative” at every chance and think they’re “all that”? Great, you showed an awesome result. You’re a great clinical orthodontist. That’s admirable but it doesn’t allow you any moral high ground over anyone else. If you think I’m referring to any single person in particular, I’m truly 100% not. But you probably have a few names in mind from your own experiences in the Facebook world. I know this because you tell me privately and when we meet in person.

I see so much vitriol from people who have a blessed life. Conversations start with skepticism and hostility rather than positivity and kindness. New procedures are attacked before the discussion has even started and speakers are disregarded because they’ve decided to take 20 cents on the dollar to lecture versus what they would have made if they chose to not leave their families, get on a flight, sleep in a hotel room and show a presentation that took them dozens of hours to create.

Some folks online take every opportunity to laugh out loud when someone makes a small misstep and others choose to deal in the currency of ridicule and hostility, providing no meaningful help or dialogue except their own opinion on how others suck.

Yeah, times have changed over the last 26 years since I graduated from school, but I laugh out loud behind my keyboard at how seriously some take themselves. This is orthodontics. It moves like a supertanker, not a speedboat. Our liabilities are pretty small compared to most of dentistry and we often need to simply take a chill pill and relax. Don’t believe me? Sit in front of a 38 year old patient who is intubated under general anesthesia (because of their fear of dentistry) and you’ve got 26 teeth prepped for crowns and you’ve got to start refining your paths of insertion on a 14 unit provisional bridge that isn’t quite seating. Make orthodontics seem pretty slow paced.

And that’s all perfectly Ok, but…

I’m just suggesting that we chill and realize that what we do, while rewarding and fun isn’t neurosurgery. Let’s be nicer to one another and act as if the person was in front of us, not behind thousands of miles of cable. Let’s not jump on folks and scream “gotcha” when they make a mistake. Let’s strive to give far more than we take. Let’s try to pay things forward when we get the chance. Let’s try to contribute to the solution rather than the problem and let’s have professional and reasonable dialogue where all points of view are considered.

There are more than a couple online groups I’ve chosen to avoid because of anger and hostility and for lack of a better word, haughtiness. 2018 is wrapping up and for me, it’s been a blessed year on so many fronts. I am proud to tell you that I am a neophyte in the world of orthodontics and am learning as much as I can from those around me on a daily basis. There are leaders who are blazing paths in the social media world and they inspire me. YOU give me strength and nudge me to be better everyday and I will not stop pushing the envelope or trying to innovate and collaborate or share what I’ve learned just because of a handful of nasty spirited folks, who don’t understand that we sink or swim as a community.

I’m not “all that” and don’t plan on being “all that” any time soon, but I do plan on being the best version of me that I can be and I hope you’ll  choose to join me.

Let’s bring our profession forward together and in a positive way!!! We got this.

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 7.35.31 AM

 

 

Should You Worry About Your Student Loans?

Shortly after I graduated dental school back in 1992, I would spend my weekends out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean fishing for big fish like Shark, Marlin and Tuna. We’d go out on a boat owned by “Gene”, my next door neighbor and an accountant by trade. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that Gene wasn’t just an accountant, but rather a partner in one of the biggest and most respected Accounting firms in our area.

Sitting on a boat, 30 miles from land with a case of beer while waiting for fish to bite can lead to some great conversations and every week Gene would give me nuggets of advice on finance and management. I distinctly remember the time he asked me how much debt I had. I told him and his response was: “Personal debt is a bad thing. Make sure your home is paid off. Make sure your cars are paid off. Don’t live above your means. BUT…business debt is an altogether thing. It’s OK to have debt as an investment in your company’s future. Don’t be scared of it and if have a way to pay it off, it’s gonna help you grow.”

Fast forward almost 30 years and even with radically different tax laws, much of Gene’s advice rings true. However, one thing that many of us face that wasn’t an issue 30 years ago is the presence of significant school debt. I remember back in 1992 when my dental school buddy told me that he was going to graduate with about $80,000 worth of student loans for him and his wife. I almost collapsed when I heard that but today most of us have far, far more student loans than that. So, should we feel bad about our student loans?

There are lots of great articles out there discussing how investment in ones education is a great idea and how to calculate how much student debt is considered OK. (Forbes Article) Thankfully, Orthodontics is a profession that when diligently practiced allows a nice income. However, there is a huge difference in lifetime earning potential depending on whether one wants to be an associate or a practice owner and that plays into the long-term equation. Each model comes with significant pros and cons, but for lifetime earnings, owning will almost undoubtedly come out on top.

I see school loans as a necessary investment in ones future, but graduating from a residency program isn’t a lottery ticket; You aren’t guaranteed anything. The end of school simply means the beginning of your financial life and you’d better take your loans seriously. But, if you work hard and develop your own practice, you’ll be able to overcome almost any school debt over time.

Should you pay off your student debt as quickly as possible?

Not necessarily. While there are many orthodontists out there who are proud to tell you how they paid off their loans in a couple of years, not all financial advisors agree with that philosophy. You see, many loans can be refinanced to very low rates and money invested early in your career has the time value associated with it. This means that $300,000 loan (refinance at 4.25%) paid off in the first 5 years of your practice life may have saved you a few of hundred thousand dollars in interest, but had you been aggressively saving it into a retirement plan, 27 years after saving it (at 8% annual return) that $300,000 would be worth  $2.4 million.

Of course, the peace of mind of paying off your student loans may be more important to you now than any far off retirement plan, but the bottom line is that most reading this have no control over what their loan is; It’s already been done. So, don’t sweat your loans. Think of them as a part of your business investment in your future earning potential. Be as smart as you can with your lifestyle, find a great financial advisor and follow their advice.

Orthodontics is an amazingly fun and fulfilling profession. You did what you had to do financially to get through school and get your degree/certificate. Enjoy the fact that you are changing lives on a daily basis, do the absolute best care you can but realize that orthodontics is a profession AND a business.

Just remember this quote from Henry David Thoreau, one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Sounds like you, right? Don’t worry. You’re gonna do great!

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 7.35.31 AM

 

Getting More New Patients

Last week, I posted a poll with the question:”As an orthodontist/business owner your biggest challenge/struggle is:”

“Getting new patients” was the most popular answer…by a wide margin.

New patient flow is obviously the lifeblood of any ortho practice and they come to us in a variety of ways. It isn’t easy to be a practice owner when the phone isn’t ringing. But, there are many ways to address not getting enough new patients. Some are “top line” approaches and others are “bottom line” approaches.

For instance, some practices choose to run “lean and mean” with one TC and lower overhead, requiring less new patients and others want to go big with 2 or 3 TCs and an obviously higher need for new patients.

Assuming you’ve decided which approach works for you, here are some points to consider when it comes to new patient flow:

  • How much do you set aside for your marketing/advertsing budget? (Assuming you have an actual budget.)
  • Where do you choose to spend the money you allocate for marketing?
  • What makes your practice special? (i.e.-why would anyone choose you)
  • Do you have a systematic process for asking for referrals?
  • Do you understand the difference between marketing and advertising?
  • How do you track your return on investment for your marketing dollars?
  • What are you doing online to grow your social media footprint?
  • Are there any area where you are continually spending marketing dollars but not seeing a return on investment?
  • When you get new patients in the door, are they ready to buy from you (i.e.-“start) or are they just there for a consult and are “shopping”?
  • Do you have a stepwise approach for case presentation?
  • How do you track your patients after they leave without starting?
  • What is the age of your average new patient?

This is obviously just a starting list of ways to evaluate what you’re doing, and there are many other places and ways to help grow your new patient base.

The days of simply doing great clinical work and watching your practice grow are long gone. As practice owners, we need to be proactive when it comes to growing our practices. It’s not easy and we need to come up with “outside the box” approaches, but with hard work and a great game plan, your practice will grow. It doesn’t happen quickly, but given time, great things will happen.

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

 

Hard Eight Coming Out

On the heels of my Vegas trip for the Invisalign Summit, I figured that this gambling reference would help drive home a point about a vital part of our practice’s future success.

What does a dice combination in craps have to do with our practices? Watch this short video and find out.

All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.

The Real Truth About Money’s Role In Our Lives

The following quote from the Nonfiction Research Group is sobering:

“Almost immediately upon beginning our research, we realized that a staggering number of Americans are leading double lives when it comes to money. To their friends and neighbors their lives look normal, even prosperous. But privately, behind closed doors, Americans are badly in need of help with money and the emotions around it. We discovered that 52% of Americans admit to having cried because they didn’t have enough money.”

This past week, I was surprised to see the significant reaction to my Facebook post about ignoring those who brag about how amazing their practices are and simply set your sights on having an amazing day.  The comments were awesome and it’s clear that there are many who base their happiness (or sadness) on their financial well being and perhaps how they view themselves against those posting online. However, one thing was missing: The discussion of money and the real role it should play in our lives.

I want to introduce you to a book you’ve probably never read nor even heard of. It’s Jacob Needleman’s “Money and the Meaning of Life”, published in 1991.

51b91yixypL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_

It taught me the greatest lesson I ever learned about money. But first…

We’re orthodontists, not day laborers, and we are incredibly blessed at the opportunities we’ve earned (yes, earned, not given). As long as we do our due diligence, work hard and develop a decent business plan, we’re going to make a great living, enjoy wonderful working hours and conditions and generally be the masters of our professional future. But we’re also so hung up about money. I’ll often be watching a speaker and someone near me will whisper “How big do you think his practice is?”  My question is: “Who cares?”

I’ve seen $6 million practices with 70% overhead and $1million practices with 50% overhead. It’s not the size of the practice, nor is it the take home income, but rather the life behind the numbers. Please don’t misunderstand the last statement. I’m not talking about the time spent playing with kids or time traveling the globe. I’m referring to understanding Needleman’s treatise on money, discussed in his book. More specifically…

How do you view the role of money in your life?

Needleman asserts that money is a commodity. A dollar bill in your pocket is no different than the dollar bill in mine. It can buy no more or no less. It cannot make you happy and it cannot make you sad. It isn’t anything to be proud of owning or sad if you don’t have enough. In short, money is just, well, money. It’s a piece of paper with a number stamped on it and you can trade it for goods and services. But only WE can cause ourselves to be happy or sad depending on how we view money. Don’t believe me? There are millions of people out there who don’t have a ton of money but lead very happy lives and those who are fantastically wealthy (by my standards) who are depressed, wishing their lives were better. Money needs to be taken in its own context as simply another tool in our lives and  the sooner we realize that it alone cannot rule our emotions, the faster we will realize what’s really important and the role that money can play in our happiness. The amount of money that speaker takes home doesn’t really seem so important now, does it?

Free yourself from the idea that money can have an impact on your emotions and you’ll find it so much easier to go through life. Forget about comparing yourself to what others have and you’ll find incredible satisfaction in what you do on a daily basis. Every single day is a blessing because we’re alive, have those who care about us and we can positively affect the lives of those around us. Period.

Sure, we need to pay the bills and the lack of money can create psychological stress, but take a step back and realize the worst consequences. You won’t be living on the streets and the worst outcomes are money-based. Yes, there are rare exceptions and we’ve all been there, but for most of our money needs, they will work themselves out and we need to have more faith in ourselves and keep a positive attitude. The worry does you no actual good and actually can have incredibly bad impacts on your emotional well being.

In my 26 years of practice life, ever since I read Needleman’s book, I’ve had maybe 1 or 2 nights of restless sleep about money-and I want you to think about what kind of finances I had going back to residency at age 44 with three middle school age kids. I refuse to allow money to take over my mindset and affect the way I look at my future or treat my fellow man. I affect my financial future, and as pilots say “attitude affects altitude”.

So, the next time you think about money, your retirement, your bills or your financial life in general, put it in proper context. Money is just, well, money. YOU have the ability to control your happiness and sadness and not some green paper. More of it doesn’t make you a good person and less of it doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

Strive to help your fellow man, make the world a better place and be a giver, not a taker. But that message is an altogether different post for another time.  😉
All the best,

signature 2

Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, 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.ORTHO22final spot