A Nasty Trend in Orthodontics

I had a really nice new family in my office on Friday. Their story was a common one. They started orthodontic therapy in Houston about 4 months ago, but the flood and a job relocation has caused them to move to Dallas.  Their 15 year old young son, a star football player, was in my chair with a full set of brackets and a desire for me to continue his care. They were a “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” family; Kind, sweet and very respectful. They weren’t looking for anything more than for me to continue care for their child and they didn’t have a negative thing to say about their previous Houston orthodontist, who was fine with the transfer.

So, why am I writing about this?

When I asked how they found us, she replied that we were he 6th office they called, but the first who would accept them. I asked her what that meant. She said that the first 5 offices either said that they “didn’t accept in-state transfers” or, without having seen her, they told her that they would “need to remove all of his braces to start”. This was all based on telephone conversations.  She was so incredibly thankful that we would even see her son for an exam, and this just seemed so wrong and unnecessary.

Before everyone throws the front desk “under the bus”, I have heard those exact two aforementioned statements from the mouths of my colleagues, so I know it happens a lot. I don’t understand it. Why would anyone summarily not “accept in state transfers”? I understand if a prospective patient has a story that includes an orthodontist from down the block, but why would you summarily not accept a transfer from 300 miles away without having examined them or hearing their story? Again, I know that everyone will say that they’ve never heard of such things before, but I’ll repeat that I’ve seen it. A lot.

Remember, her first statement was that they were coming from Houston because of the recent flood. I’d think that might help override some practice policies.

I have no problem meeting any patient. Yeah, my time is valuable, but even if they are in braces from the next town over, or just started, I’ll still see them. It doesn’t obligate me to do a thing, but there are always two sides to a story and a little investigation never hurt anyone. I’ve seen some awful people try to blame a colleague for issues that were clearly their making and I’ve seen cases where a friend orthodontist told me he’d be happy for me to take over the case.

I’ve seen braces placement that made me envious of the skill of the previous orthodontist and I’ve seen brackets placed in such a way that removal and replacement was the most expeditious way to finish. But, if placed properly, are we not able to finish a case with someone else’s brackets?

I rarely take off existing brackets if they look good and I always take new patients from anywhere, if (note the “if“) I get the current orthodontist’s blessing. So, why are scheduling coordinators telling patients that they need to take off all brackets and that they won’t accept in-state transfers? It’s coming from somebody in the office. If that’s not your policy, double check to see if your front desk is saying the wrong thing to prospective patients.

I see tons of posts on social media from orthodontists claiming that they take great care of their patients and others asking how to increase new patient flow. Well, here’s your chance. Policies of inclusion rather than exclusion and a willingness to observe, investigate and help others might just be the thing you’r looking for.

There are a lot of patients out there who are looking for orthodontists for a variety of reasons. I would NEVER recommend “poaching” a patient from another practice or interfering in a relationship in which we don’t belong. However, there are many offices (I know because I’m told by colleagues) that do not accept transfers from within their states, even considering the recent catastrophe in Houston. This leaves a lot of folks (like the ones I met on Friday) in a huge bind.

Most of us love our patients. But what about other office’s patients? That’s up to you.

Wishing you an amazing day,

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Glenn

If you want to come to learn more about an amazing business meeting for orthodontists, simply visit OP2018.com . We’ve got a world-class lineup of speakers, amazing food and an ambiance that will make you want to come back year after year. You can always email me at Glenn@OrthopreneursRD.com or message me on Facebook. I’m here to help.

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Is Your Advertising Working For You?

Both my dad and my grandfather were dentists, so I remember what dental practices were like 45 years ago. It was truly a different world. I remember my father telling me how one could actually be “in the black” (making a profit) in as little as a few months, and there was literally ZERO advertising (it was actually not allowed). In case you didn’t think you read that right, he spent no money whatsoever on advertising. In his words, and the words of many of his colleagues from that period, you could “throw a dart at a map”, get an interest free loan from an equipment company, set up shop where the dart landed and  make a living rather quickly.

Crazy, huh? Could you imagine zero advertising today? No Facebook ad, no school sponsorship, no mailers, no gift baskets and no patient reward system. Seriously, can you imagine that?!?! Nowadays, unless you have a very unusual practice, you do need to advertise in some way, even if it’s just subtle. But the real question is: “How much does one need to spend on a marketing budget?”

I have an oral surgeon friend who is extremely successful. He has a huge practice and sort of owns the area where he practices with nobody a close second to him. Every year he invests almost 9% of his gross income to marketing. The more he makes, the more he puts back. If he’s grossing $2million/year, it means that he’s reinvesting $180,000/year into just marketing his practice. One could say that he’s spending too much, but others would argue that’s what is helping keep his practice so successful.

Other specialists I know have chosen to spend a lot of money (up to 10%) in the early years to get name recognition and then have eased back when they’ve become more successful, kind of like an airplane reaching cruising altitude.

Yet other friends have taken the exact opposite approach, borne mostly out of fiscal responsibility. They spend very little early on (1-2%) allowing their practice to grow simply through word of mouth, then growing the percentage lightly every year until it hits a comfortable level and just leaving it there.

The point is that every successful orthodontist I know has a certain amount they spend on their marketing, but it’s done using a plan they’ve developed. They set aside a certain amount with the idea that they will use it in a specific way. Whether you’re a young startup with a tiny budget or an established practice with a marketing team, you need to be judicious in the way you spend every penny and it all starts with a plan.

Forbes magazine had a great article in May 2017 where they offered the following advice for businesses developing a marketing budget:

“Determine your business goals by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are your business objectives for the quarter?
  • What are your business objectives for the year? How about three years out?
  • How many of those contacts need to be delivered to your sales team, based on their close rates, to impact revenue enough to achieve those objectives?

It’s common for small businesses with revenues less than $5 million to allocate 7-8% of their revenues to marketing, splitting that between brand development costs such as websites, blogs, sales collateral, and promotion costs, as well as campaigns, advertising, and events. Never base your marketing budget simply on what’s left over after covering all other expenses.”

Did you read the last line of that quote? Unfortunately, that’s how many clinicians develop their marketing budget.

The end of the year is coming and it’s a great time to sit down and develop your marketing plan for the coming year. Whether you spend a lot or virtually nothing, it’s up to you, but have a plan, stick to it, then reevaluate it again next year.

Unlike my father and grandfather’s eras, advertising and marketing is simply a part of our lives and we need to embrace that. Nobody is saying that you need to spend $100,000/year to market your practice, but while making my budget I often remember the  advertisement the local movie theatre used to display to get people to buy advertising space there. It flashed across the screen before the feature presentation and read:

“A funny thing happens when you don’t advertise…

Nothing.”

So, go out there and do something.

Wishing you an amazing day,

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Glenn

If you want to come to learn more about an amazing business meeting for orthodontists, simply visit OP2018.com . We’ve got a world-class lineup of speakers, amazing food and an ambiance that will make you want to come back year after year. 

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What Our Teams Say About Us

As clinicians and business owners, we rely on our team members to serve specific needs for our practices and patients. After all, how can we perform our best orthodontics without someone to help us? We rely on our team members from the moment the phone is answered until the final recall visit.  But, do you view your team members as integral parts of your practice or as replaceable cogs in a wheel that will spin no matter who is there?

I remember hearing someone once say: “If my team member can’t show up for work on a regular basis, I have no use for them.”  I can understand the sentiment, but it has to be looked at from different angles.

On one hand, every member of our team needs time and energy invested into their training. We simply can’t hire someone (or shouldn’t) and tell them to go do the job. It takes time to hire and train the right person and if we view them as expendable, we’re in for a lot of work, while we constantly hire, train and fire workers. Sure, there are a lot of practices out there who view their team members as expendable parts of a bigger machine, but I’ve never looked at it that way.

I’ve always considered my employees to be much more than folks who just show up, work and get a paycheck. They’ve been invited to my family celebrations, they know my kids and wife and I care about them as people, first and foremost. And when the work relationship ends (usually because they’ve moved on to bigger and better things in their lives) we’ve stayed in touch. I invest in them well beyond their job responsibilities. Note the word “invest”. I’m not talking about parties and going drinking with them, but rather, spending the time and energy to help their lives outside of the walls of our practices.

YOU have to make the decision of how the employer/employee relationship will play out, but I couldn’t imagine working with my team and not helping them grow and become better in their daily life struggles because it makes ME a better person along the way.

It starts with finding the right employees and if you spend the time hiring people you know you can count on (more on the hiring process in another post) and let them know that you care about them beyond what they can do for your practice, you’ll create a culture where people feel taken care of. But, you need to “walk the walk”, which means that if you tell your team that you want them to feel like family, but fire someone the second they make a mistake, you’ll be seen as a charlatan and you’ll get back what you put in.

I recently visited the practice of Dr. Jim Stork in Iowa. It’s an example of a successful, fun and team-oriented practice. I watched his team work like a really well-oiled machine. It was evident that a lot of time had been put into training. During lunch I and had a chance to sit with his team and ask them about their jobs. Each and every one of them said that they loved the fact that Dr. Stork showed how much he cared about them and that they knew he wanted to see them succeed. It showed and they were successful because of it. They would do anything for him and his practice was successful because they would go that “extra mile” without being asked. Sure, he could have hired less capable and less positive people and treated them like employees, but he chose to treat them as a part of his family and their work ethic showed his investment in human capital.

Your attitude will show beyond those fun team building bowling nights or holiday parties. I’ve seen teams go through money management courses together and do book clubs as well as having speakers come in to help the team learn skills to help them succeed in life. I remember my dad paying to get a phone installed for an employee who didn’t have one, just because he knew how it would help her in her day to day life.

The less experienced and corporate bosses tend to talk about team members like they’re pawns on a chessboard with no lives outside the office, with no realization that those who have committed to us rely on our practices to pay their bills, take care of their kids and meet financial responsibilities. I’ve always felt a personal responsibility to my team members and while a mean or dishonest employee loses my emotional investment, I often realize that it was my missing something during the hiring process and it was generally my fault. So, I live and learn and keep taking care of those around me, not letting that previous failure ruin it for the rest of my team.

As Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines used to say: “Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”

In this age of instant gratification, it’s important to remember that we’re put on this planet to make an impact and leave the world a better place than when we got here. If your goal is to take and take and take and not help those around you, I’m sure you can do that, but I couldn’t imagine living like that. For me, the value of my team members goes way beyond anything I’ll see on a P & L and making sure that those who care about me and my success get tenfold in return.

Wishing you an amazing day,

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Glenn

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 or fill out the form below to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot

Contact me for anything you want to discuss related to your practice life

 

Relationships That Will Shape Your Future

The year was 1992 and I was just out of dental school. I was working in several chain dental offices, doing the best I could in a system that simply isn’t geared for high end patient care. I spent a lot of time with my non-dentist friends and a number of the other GPs with whom I worked at the “chain”. I really wasn’t headed anywhere and didn’t have a plan.

Fast forward 4 years. We moved to Seattle and I found a mentor. Someone who genuinely took an interest in my personal growth. He introduced me to some of the most respected dentists and specialists and I started spending my spare time in their offices, soaking up whatever wisdom they dispensed. I found my practice growing, and my clinical skills become better. Some could make the argument that I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and that’s why I was growing. Others could make the point that I was simply further out of school and progression was natural. I have a different feeling on the subject.

It’s been said, time and again, that we are the average of the 5 people we spend time with. If you’re hanging out with a bunch of folks who party all weekend, use their spare time to plan said parties and rarely work on personal development, chances are you’re not going to be as productive as a person who surrounds themselves with high achievers with life goals.

My experience in my early days in Seattle taught me that I needed to be around people who helped me achieve more. If you’re a younger clinician, you need to surround yourself with people who will help you “raise the bar”. So, please allow me to offer a few quick suggestions:

1. Find a mentor. It doesn’t have to be the kind of relationship where you meet with them every week, and it doesn’t have to be someone 25 years older than you, but there is immense value in having a mentor in your life. They’ve walked the steps you’re taking and can help you avoid common pitfalls. It could be as simple as getting together for coffee every now and then or a text exchange when you have a quick question.

2. Hire a coach. There is a difference between a mentor who helps you and a professional coach who guides you. There are a ton of coaches out there, both clinical and business, who can help you set goals and achieve them. While a mentor can be that business savvy guy or gal from down the block, a coach is someone who is generally trained to assist in personal development. Ask for references and if it doesn’t feel right, move on.

3. Join groups. Years ago, I had to join a local study club to meet peers. Nowadays, we can meet online in groups, both paid and free. There are many choices, and if you aren’t sure what you don’t know, just join any number of groups and within a few weeks, your eyes will open to the areas you need more help. You can still join a local study club and they have a purpose, but if the “set meeting times” thing doesn’t work for you, online groups might be the answer. Above all, be active. Don’t be the whiner or complainer or worse yet, a cynic whose only voice is one of doubt. Keep an open mind about everyone and everything and contribute useful and positive information. You’ll get out what you put in.

4. Spend time at other practices that are where you want to be in 5 years. Learn from those who have taken the steps that got them to the next level. These aren’t mentors, per se, but rather places to visit and learn. Sure, you may keep a friendship going after your visit, and the energy and lessons you bring back will help your practice get to where you want it to be.

5. Meet successful business owners from outside our profession. We tend to follow and learn only from those in our profession and forget that the nature of business is the same for almost all business owners. Things like business plans, HR, leadership and management are topics that are addressed by all owners and I would argue that most clinicians-even the successful ones- have a lot to learn in these areas. Some of the best tips I’ve gotten have come from non clinicians.

6. Evaluate who you spend time with. Yeah, I know, this isn’t the fun part, but is that friend of yours who sits on the couch playing Madden ’17 all day in a weed infused stupor the guy who’s going to help you grow? Do your weekend party friends really have a great influence on you? It’s been well proven that the people you spend time with have a huge influence on your future. So, don’t just drop them. Inspire them to do more and to grow if they want to be a part of your future. You can meet for the rare drinks or fantasy football league, but it’s been proven, time and again, that if you’re the most accomplished person in your circle of friends, it may be time to evaluate your social group.

Experience is a great teacher and you’re going to learn most of these things on your own. My goal is just to give you some ideas that I still live to this day, 25 years out of school.

Be positive, be curious, make a plan for your future and never stop learning. The people you choose to be around are going to make or break your success, so choose wisely.

All the best,

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Glenn
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 or fill out the form below to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot

Contact me for anything you want to discuss related to your practice life

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out…Or Not…

If you’ve ever seen the movie “A Christmas Story” you’ll remember that all the lead character “Ralphie” wants for Christmas is a Red Rider BB gun. He envisioned the fun he’d have with it, but all he heard from everyone (including Santa) is “you’ll shoot your eye out”. Was he overconfident? Were those around him just too worried? What does this have to do with our practices? It’s all about dreams and fear.

When I graduated, I was worried about every possible contingency that could occur in clinical practice. I guessed that everyone felt the same way.  I don’t care how cool you are, or how excited you are to finally be working, when you sit down in front of that first patient who needs your help, it’s got to be natural to be at least slightly nervous. Eventually, experience teaches you lots of lessons and you learn to trust your training, or you go out and get more education to increase your confidence. Some outgrow their fears and others cling to them, but if you’ve ever owned a practice, you understand how many decisions you need to make every single day and the role that fear can play.

When it comes to decision making, we’re all wired differently. Some are “emotional” leaders, while others are “technical”. Some leaders jump into decisions without thinking things through and other never “pull the trigger” because they’re too scared. But most interesting to me is the difference between leaders who see the glass as half full, versus those who see it as half empty.

You probably already know what I’m talking about. How often have you seen a post about an idea and the immediate response is how it can’t be done, or worse, all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it? Someone says they want multiple offices, the respondent says that it’s too much trouble running more than one. Someone asks about giving free retainers and the answers are all about how patients will try to take advantage of you. Mention providing free sports mouthguards for teams and many will talk about the liability you’ll incur or the cost of making them. Negativity seems to hover over the discussions and often squash the dreams of those asking for help. If you’re of a cheerful and optimistic mind, don’t let them get you down.

I was once fortunate enough to attend a remarkable lecture by Dennis Finch, one of the pilots of flight 232 which crashed into the cornfields of Sioux City, Iowa in 1989. It is an unbelievable story of heroism, problem solving and optimism. (The story can be found here.) While the flight did lose all navigation control, they were able to successfully find their way to an airport using thrusters alone, saving 185 of the 279 on board. It was a miracle of an outcome and Dennis Finch repeated, over and over again, that “attitude affected attitude”. Optimism helped land that plane.

Every day we’re faced with decisions about our practices and how we want to treat our teams, patients and communities. We can choose to face it with optimism and hope and make the decisions that we know will help our practices. Or, we can be pessimistic and look for all the ways that others can take advantage of us and never do the things we want. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but I suggest that when in doubt, let the voice of optimism take over.

You went into business because you had a vision of what you wanted for your life. You had dreams and goals and probably lots of debt. It’s scary. I get that. But, when the spark of entrepreneurship strikes and a new idea takes hold in your mind, think first of all of the possibilities and don’t let others talk you out of what you see as a potentially exciting idea or opportunity. While you should always do your due diligence and speak with your advisors for any legal issues, don’t let the naysayers drag you down. People will tell you why you can’t do something and like the overplayed song says: “Haters gonna hate.”

Sure, Ralphie almost shoots his eye out but the final scene is of him fast asleep with his trusty Red Rider gun by his side and a look of absolute peace and joy on his face. The reward is often worth the risk.

Sometimes you just gotta dream big and go for it!

All the best,

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Glenn
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 or fill out the form below to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot

Contact me for anything you want to discuss related to your practice life

Just Do Good For Good’s Sake

During online discussions, we get swept up into the financial side of practice often discussing money, marketing and how to make our practices grow, sometimes forgetting that we (hopefully) went into this profession to help people. For younger clinicians, it’s easy to get drawn into the “focus on money and growth” angle, particularly when you’re in the early stages of your practice.  I’m writing this particular post to remind myself that we need to focus on the people more than the profits and hopefully you’ll also find it helpful.

I recently received an email from a patient asking me if I could remove her braces. She had some issues occur in her financial life and simply couldn’t afford to make payments anymore. I corresponded with her and found out that this is only about money. She respects our relationship, can’t afford to keep the payments as she promised, so she felt that the right thing to do is to remove the braces because she can’t keep her end of the bargain. This is the kind of situation we see posted in online groups everyday by confused clinicians, followed by a “what should I do?”

We could sit here and debate all the ways the situation could be handled. How about new payment arrangements? Should we send her to collections? Should we charge her a debond fee? If she can’t afford to pay the debond fee, should we not do anything until she can? What should we do in the meantime? And on and on and on…..

For me, the answer is easy. If she wants to straighten her teeth, I’m going to do it for free and let her pay later, if ever she can. Why? Because it just feels like the right thing to do. She’s been honest, she’s a nice person, she hasn’t tried to manipulate me and most importantly, I want to help her.  Sure, it simplifies my life, but more importantly, it makes me feel good to help others with no strings attached.  I need to stress this last point because I see a lot of people attaching conditions to doing the right thing. 

I don’t ask for a positive online review or tell her to give me a shoutout on social media. To me, that’s manipulation and taking advantage of someone in a situation using your leverage. I’d rather you never know her name and that the community never finds out. It’s between me, my Maker and her. It’s the same when we make free retainers and sports guards or write off a balance on a patient who’s fallen on hard times or going through personal issues like a divorce or medical treatments. If she wants to help us online, that’s fine but that’s her choice with no prodding from me.

The “Golden Rule” has been stated differently by many cultures and religions but summed up tells us to treat others as we would want to be treated. If YOU fell on hard times, how would you want to be treated? Would you want someone to do you a favor and then ask you for a positive review or to post to your timeline? I ask for those things when a patient compliments our practice and when we are on a level relationship, but not when I hold the cards.

There’s an old saying: “Karma’s a b*tch.” There’s no denying what goes around comes around and the good that you send out into the world will inevitably come back ten fold, and in my experience, that’s what happens. Not right away and not necessarily in a way that will help you pay your loans, but it will come back to you. Nobody ever went out of business doing the right thing for their fellow man.

I’m sure that I’ll get a lot of folks who think I’m crazy. I’m sure there will be people who tell me that I haven’t been an orthodontist long enough to understand the ramifications of what giving away free treatment means. That’s OK. I’m at peace with the decision and really couldn’t care about what others think of it, but I’m offering this to you as a lesson from my life experience. Not everyone is wired to do the right thing or help those in need. Sometimes it just takes time for you and your practice to develop this culture. Sometimes you work for someone who won’t let you do this. I get it. It can be difficult.

But do the right thing because it’s the right thing and keep in mind one of my favorite quotes from a famous 18th century Rabbi, Nachmon of Breslev:

“If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?”

All the best,

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Glenn
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 or fill out the form below to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot

Contact me for anything you want to discuss related to your practice life

Are you the socket or the plug?

It’s hard to understand now, but people were calling Aaron Feuerstein crazy. They said he was nuts. What kind of CEO does the sorts of things he was doing? “That’s no way to run a business!” Of course, the haters were few and far between, but to many of us it was impossible to believe that anyone could hate this guy. What did he do?

It was 1995 and Feuerstein’s company, Malden Mills, was doing great. 1n 1979, they had invented a new lightweight replacement for wool referred to as “polar fleece” and their personal brand “Polartec” was selling very well. It’s important to note that instead of patenting the concept of polar fleece, Feuerstein decided to let it be produced cheaply and widely by many vendors. That’s the kind of guy Feuerstein was. People thought he was crazy, but he did was he felt was right. Then came the fire.

It ruined his production facility and there was nothing left.  He could have taken the check and moved his company to another city with better tax advantages or to another country altogether, which was something that many of his competitors were doing. But Feurstein realized that his company was a huge fixture in the small production town of Lawrence, Massachusetts and with no factory came no jobs. He cared about his employees and the town and couldn’t imagine taking the money and leaving.

What he did next is still being discussed in graduate business programs today.

Not only did Feuerstein announce that Malden Mills would be rebuilding in Lawrence, but moreover, he would personally make sure that every employee received their pay while the factory was being rebuilt. He had no production facility and no new sales of any kind, but he cared about his employees so much that he was willing to ensure their financial viability at a time when they didn’t know what the future held. THAT’S commitment to employees.

Or, you could look at the story of Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani’s amazingly philanthropic owner (whose story of success is so amazing that I will feature it in another post) who believed BEFORE building his billion dollar empire that “…for the sake of our communities and our people, we need to give companies the ability to create a better life for more people.”

So, let’s come back and focus on orthodontics. I know there are a million reasons why we could argue that we’re different, that our smaller practices can’t be compared to these large companies. How we have such tight margins that we can’t just give to our employees. That if someone doesn’t help us, well, we don’t need them around. But is that really a fair way to look at it?

I’m not saying that we need to keep incompetent or overpaid employees on our payrolls. But, how many times has an employee asked for a day off for personal reasons such as  closing on a house or to attend a child’s event and you’ve given them grief before begrudgingly letting them go (or not even letting them go altogether)? How many employees had to beg you for a raise or fight with you over amounts of money that wouldn’t impact you in any way? How many practices get rid of older, more experienced employees to get younger, cheaper labor at the advice of a consultant, throwing away years of honor,  loyalty and relationship with the former employee?

I remember a time, 30 years ago, when I saw my dad (a dentist) pay to have a home phone installed for an assistant because she couldn’t afford one. It was at that moment  that I realized how blessed we are to be in our profession and his example of philanthropy has remained with me ever since. We have the opportunity to help make better lives for those around us who may not have had the same financial, educational or familial opportunities that we did. To our employees, we may be the most successful people they have ever met and we need to help raise them up at every opportunity instead of ignoring or keeping them down so we can better afford them.

I’m not saying (or suggesting) that we be our employee’s best friends, but I am saying that if you treat your team like they were family and give them the respect, credit and yes, love, that they deserve, not only will your practice succeed and have a line of employees waiting to work for you, but you’ll go to bed at night knowing that you’re making an even bigger difference in this world. It’s not about having a drink with them or having a huge bonus system or a big holiday party, but rather them knowing that you care about them as people and that you’re willing to be there for them no matter what.

As my friend and iconic orthodontist, Dr. Anil Idiculla taught me, we can choose to be the socket or the plug. Are we going to be the one giving or the one draining power? Every day I try to create a positive vibe to help those around me and I come home with more energy than I left the house with that morning.

So, which are you: The socket or the plug?

All the best,

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Glenn

If you’re not a member of our free Orthopreneurs Facebook page (with over 1600 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.

Eat Sh*t

Gary Vaynerchuck is one of my favorite speakers to listen to. If you don’t know who he is, you should. He’s arguably the world’s leading expert on social media marketing and he runs Vaynermedia, an international marketing agency, where I got to spend a day a couple of weeks ago.

“Gary Vee” speaks like theNew Yorker he is; fast, with a fair amount of profanity. Nonetheless, most who listen to him gladly sift through the foul language because his message is so strong. One of his favorite statements is that young business owners must “eat sh*t” for a while during the growth phase. What does this mean? I’ll explain.

Last week I was called by a young dentist who is moving to Dallas with his wife, also a dentist. They’re going to open a new business and he wanted my advice about what he should do to succeed. I passed on Gary’s advice on his new suggested diet of manure. He didn’t understand, so I elaborated.

“When your friends decide to play beer pong” I said, “you need to be at home working on your business. When your buddies are playing softball, you need to be working on your business. When your friends buy a Range Rover, you need to be driving your beater. When your friends fly to Peru for a “guy’s trip” you need to be home working on your business. Sure, you’ll be able to take some time off when the practice starts to produce an income, but for the first 2-4 years, you need to eat a lot of sh*t.”

I later found out that he told my friend that I was “really intense”. Welcome to the big leagues buddy, and here’s your bus ticket back to the minors.

Business isn’t for the weak of heart or those who want to just make a quick buck. The free market economy means that anyone can succeed, but if you’re to stand out, you better figure out a way to make your business work and hammer at it like water trying to get through a dam. Work hard enough and it WILL happen eventually. But, way too many clinicians think that getting out of school means it’s time to start making money. Ummm, sorry.

You want to work a 4 days a week, 8-5 and have your weekends free? There’s nothing wrong with it, but I’d suggest that you stay an associate in a corporate chain because the market will swallow you up. Make all the rationalizations you like, but there’s a reason why less than 1/3 of US businesses are around after 10 years (according to USA Today). The market owes you nothing.

I’m not the smartest guy in the room but I promise I’ll outwork anyone. Any success I’ve had in this life (much against the odds) came because I was willing to do the hard work when others wouldn’t. I got out of residency at age 47, with three kids and a brand new practice. Yeah, intense.

You went to school for 23 years, have a ton of debt and are a small fish in a giant pond, but your destiny is in your hands. When it’s 12AM on a Tuesday night and you’re tired and roughed up from a tough day and your policies and systems at work need to be rewritten. You can go to bed or you can work on your practice.

So, embrace your diet and remember what we tell kids. If you want to grow, you better eat…a lot.

All the best,

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Glenn
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 or fill out the form below to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot

Contact me for anything you want to discuss related to your practice life

Orthodontists hate Smile Direct Club because…

Bring up “Smile Direct Club” (SDC) to most orthodontists and they get really angry. Many will start trembling with rage and you might even see some start frothing at the mouth. You’ll start hearing things like: “How is it legal?” “Why hasn’t the state board shut them down?” “Patients need to be educated about why it’s so awful for them.”  Orthodontists take it as a personal affront that this “evil” company would dare besmirch the profession that we all hold in such high regard. The online fights have been epic, rivaling any Ali-Frazier contest.

So let’s discuss why everyone shouldn’t be getting angry. I’m not saying that I like the idea of orthodontist-less aligners to straighten teeth, nor am I agreeing that any sane individual should choose that option, but they are. In droves. To the tune of $20 million/month at this moment. So, I ask all of my peers: Are you offended as a professional or as a business owner? You don’t know the differences? You better.

I’ve posted this previously and it bears repeating.

pro·fes·sion·al
prəˈfeSH(ə)n(ə)l/
noun
  1. 1.
    a person engaged or qualified in a profession.

We all went to school to become “Professionals”. Sure, you could also call yourself a “Specialist” but for the sake of this discussion, it doesn’t matter. We take pride in what we do because we essentially went to Grade 23 to get our degrees and we care about our patients. We struggle over the minutiae of the bite and smile esthetics and most of my colleagues are great people who do the best they can for their patients. So, they become understandably upset when a company comes a long and says: “We don’t care about the bite and we know that all you (the consumer) want is a straight smile, so we’ll happily give it to you. Oh, by the way, you don’t even need a dentist or orthodontist and it’s 30% of the regular price.”  I get that we’re angered that someone has “cheapened” the profession, but do we really have a right to be upset as business owners? After all, these patients who “trust” us and “love” what we do are choosing a technology to bypass us because they feel they do not need us.

News Flash: Someone came up with a cheaper alternative to meet the consumer’s needs (only a straight smile) and the profession did nothing to stop it, knowing that it’s been coming for years. Very few orthodontists read the business journals that mentioned it BEFORE it became a huge company. Now that it’s here, all they want to do is pout that it shouldn’t be allowed and that consumers should see it for what it is. But it is and they aren’t…at least not yet.

Ask Kodak how it felt when digital technology replaced film. Or hotels when airbnb formed. Or Swiss watch makers when quartz movement was invented (in Switzerland, I might add and they passed on it because it wasn’t “craftsmanship”). Or taxi drivers when uber came out. Or how about Orthodontists when Invisalign came out? The list goes on and on back to the days when the car was invented and everyone else was in the horse business.  Disruption happens and we have no right to confuse professional disdain for business innovations.

I genuinely giggle when I  see people screaming about Smile Direct Club. It’s here and it ain’t going away (at least as of this writing), so you better have a strategy. If it’s deemed illegal and the dental boards somehow stop it, or patients have terrible experiences and nobody wants it, OK. But, is that your business strategy? If your bank asked you how you planned on handling this new technological competitor to your business, would you actually sit there and tell them that you can’t understand how it’s legal and it should go away?!?!

You think I’m using hyperbole? I recently met a representative for an orthodontic company who asked every one of his orthodontists what set them apart and why they would succeed. Their answer? Every single one of them? “We give the patients exceptional new patient experience different than other offices and a great outcome. We are also fun. We are unique.” Yes, like everyone else.  The reason he shared this with me  was because I was the only one who had a different answer and he visibly jumped back when I surprised him. My answer? “I have a written marketing and business strategy to grow my business and grow my market share.” You see, most orthodontists look at the profession first and the business second. But as the old saying goes: “No money, no mission.”

Unless you work for an employer and that’s the career path that led you to become an orthodontist, you are a business owner, first and foremost. Don’t believe me? I want you to focus solely on becoming the best clinician in the world. Just that. No marketing, no HR issues, no leadership, no management. Just clinical. Forget google reviews and Facebook groups and patient testimonials. Where do you think you’ll be in 5 years if you follow the idea that you’re a professional before a business owner? And there lies the problem; Smile Direct Club offends orthodontists because it doesn’t involve a professional and the outcomes are less than ideal a lot of the time. But it is a great business model and I envy the chutzpah of those who thought of it. They are great business owners with a great marketing strategy. And they’re killing it. And as as many of my peers have found out, the state dental boards do not want to get involved.

So, I ask you again: Are you offended as a professional or as a business owner? As a professional, sure, tell your patients to rally against SDC and complain to the state boards. But, as a business owner, which is what allows you to perform your profession, develop your strategy to deal with (note that I didn’t say “compete” or “adopt”) this new market disruptor and realize that you are a CEO of a company whose employees count on you to make the right decisions for their future.

And keep in mind the words of John Foster Dulles, the former US Secretary of State:”The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”

One year from now, SDC will likely still be in existence. Will you still be dealing with it, or will you be thriving? The choice is yours.

All the best,

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Glenn
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 or fill out the form below to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot

Contact me for anything you want to discuss related to your practice life

Are you tired of chasing your tail?

Every day, I am beseeched with questions from doctors about things like where they should practice, how many assistants they should hire, what kind of lease they should sign, should they hire an associate and so on. I’m always happy to help, but I ask a simple question almost every time and then I listen for the sound of crickets because that’s usually what I hear. The question is:

How does this decision fit into your business plan?

After the long awkward pause, I am usually told: “Pretty well. I mean it seems to make sense.”

You see, most clinicians never develop a business plan. They come out of school and just go to practice, eager to start making some money. The idea of a plan never comes into play and they run from decision to decision like the proverbial dog chasing its tail. But, as the old adage states…

If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there.

Here’s my advice for anyone, irrespective of where you are in your practice life: Go to a quiet place like a library, don’t bring your phone, and turn off wifi on your computer. Start typing (or writing) your business plan. Compose, in as much detail as you can, how you view your dream practice in 1 and 3 years from now. What does it look like? How many chairs? What does your schedule look like? What does the decor look like? What kind of overhead do you have? How does patient flow work? How are new patients handled in terms of their experience? Work it out to the smallest detail and do not compromise in any way. This is YOUR plan, your dream practice and you get to write whatever you want.

At first, it’ll be tough. It will take you some time to get going. Don’t stop writing, but rather, keep going no matter what’s coming out of your brain. In time your creative juices will start flowing and you simply can’t imagine how good this will turn out. The ideas of your dream practice will start getting you really excited about things to come and you’ll start picking up speed. The first time I did this in 1996, it was 17 written pages.

Then let it sit for about a week. Come back and revisit it and make sure that it’s correct. Fix anything you don’t agree with and then print it and bind it. Keep it somewhere you’ll always see it.

Every future decision you make needs to be measured against your plan. If it doesn’t fit into your plan, don’t do it without significant consideration and then, rewrite your plan. If your plan is to practice in a suburban setting on lots of kids, don’t buy a practice in an urban setting where it’ll mostly be adults. If you want a small, low overhead practice to work 3 days a week, don’t buy a 2 million dollar practice with an astronomical advertising budget.  If you want a huge practice with 2 associates, don’t buy a practice with 1500 square feet, unless your plan has a way of working it all out.  If your future life is a building, your business plan is your architectural drawing.

Now, here’s the hard part. 95% of you are going to read this post, agree and do nothing. Yep, nothing. The other 5% will actually do what I’m suggesting and take a first important step towards building the life you’ve always imagined and will understand how every decision can play a role in setting you on the right path.

For the rest of you, I’m here, ready to answer the same questions I get every day. Just be ready for my question back at you…

All the best,

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Glenn
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 or fill out the form below to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot

Contact me for anything you want to discuss related to your practice life