I love being a dentist, that’s not the point. Just like everybody else these days, I have too many people and projects pulling on me. I have always felt like if I were going to do something, anything, I should give it my very best effort. What things deserve my very best effort? My dental office, my family, my faith? When those things are taken care of, hobbies, FUN? What young professional or any professional has enough time?
One thing I noticed at my recent 10 year reunion, WE ALL WORK TOO MUCH!
Now, I know that as a “young dentist” I need to pay my dues. I have to grow my practice, support my family, plan for retirement, support my employee’s families, stay current on my continuing education, involve myself in the community, ETC., ETC., ETC. All this while keeping a smile on my face and getting farther and farther behind on the things that I think I “should” be doing.
THEN I HAD A CRAZY IDEA. Or at least an idea that is foreign to most dentists my age. For sure crazy for a solo practitioner. I wondered what would happen if I condensed my current 4 day workweek into 3 days. Would my staff quit? Would my income dwindle down to nothing? WOULD MY WHOLE WORLD EXPLODE? I mean, my dental office is my most precious asset. It is my most prized material possession.
I would NEVER do anything to harm my office intentionally. But I needed to do something to give my life back a little spark of sanity before it became overwhelmed by busyness. I NEEDED TO BUY ANOTHER DAY OFF.
DID I PULL THE TRIGGER? Well, yes and no. While the wild and impulsive side of me screamed, “DO IT!” The logical dentist side wanted to slow things down a bit. That side wanted to research and find the most logical and scientific way possible to accomplish this major shift with as little practice disruption as possible. If I had a partner or associate I don’t think anyone in my little town of 6500 people would notice. But I don’t and I’m not ready to cross that bridge just yet.
I WONDERED IF I COULD DROP THE 4TH DAY AND ENHANCE MY PRACTICE AT THE SAME TIME. I took my first steps toward this goal without even knowing it. When I first opened my practice, I found myself referring out even very simple procedures due to my lack of education. So I took all the classes I could find on any topic. I even got my Fellowship in the AGD before I was 30 years old. This allowed me to fill my days more fully with profitable procedures. Then I visited the offices of dentists I viewed as some of the best out there. I came away with jewels from each.
The main treasures I sought were in the area of efficiency. I was at Scott Perkins first ever workshop at Destin where he talked about efficient crown preps and root canals. I immersed myself so much in his principles that he later invited me to lecture and assist at two of his future workshops. I came to believe that EFFICIENCY IS KEY IF YOU WANT TO DROP A DAY WITHOUT LOSING INCOME.
As a funny aside, I was scared to death the first time I lectured with Scott. It was the first time I had ever spoken before any crowd ever. Wouldn’t you know that some real sure fire DENTAL SUPERSTARS were in the crowd? I was in awe of those big name guys like Howard Farran, Marshall White, and Jerome Smith. I’ll never forget looking at Howard Farran as I am trying to explain the clinical research on sodium hypochlorite and seeing Howard DEAD ASLEEP. But I will say this; as soon as I was finished Howard stood up and clapped harder than anyone in the room. That made me feel better.
I’ll always hope that Howard had a long flight and I wasn’t really that boring.
Back to my point.
You CANNOT be one of those dentists who enjoy doing a simple procedure for 1 solid hour, undisturbed, and then GO BACK TO YOUR PRIVATE OFFICE AND SURF THE INTERNET until your next patient is ready.
There are 3 SECRET TRUTHS TO FOLLOW IF YOU WANT TO PULL THIS OFF. I say secret. Actually they are not all that secret, but it is imperative that you seriously follow them to the letter if you want to be successful.
1. MOTIVATED STAFF. There are lots of ways to motivate, but the easiest is to pay good people a lot of money. BONUS. Paying a lot is a good thing if your employees are smart and you don*t break the bank (get your staff salary percentage out of line.) Of course, you can*t pay a bad worker enough to make them a good worker.
2. EFFECTIVE DENTIST. Notice I didn’t say efficient. Yes, efficiency is demanded, but it is only a small piece of the puzzle. An effective dentist accomplishes his purpose no matter what obstacles are thrown in his way.
3. CUW. This stands for Completely Utilized Workday. This can be broken down into 5 parts that are necessary to function together. They can be remembered by the acronym S.P.O.T.S. These 5 parts are Schedule, Procedure, Organization, Teamwork, and Systems.
Either the 3 Truths or the 5 SPOTS can be broken down into infinity of minor details. All of which are important by the way. For example under the heading of CUW, the Schedule Spot can only be complete if you have enough patients to fill it. The way I solved this problem was to hire Jay Geier. When I hired Jay’s company, I was averaging 69 new patients per month. After 1 year in his program, we were averaging over 100 new patients per month.
Now this increased new patient flow creates new challenges in the other 4 Spots. And as you solve these problems, new ones will invariably arise in other Spots so that constant recalibration is necessary.
Now probably the biggest challenge of all when trying to magically turn 4 clinical days into 3 is that the staff is so busy seeing patients that they will get behind more than usual. This is when your perfect schemes will become very imperfect. No one wants a sloppy office or piles of paperwork strewn everywhere. How about piles of lab cases thrown around the lab? No way! I could just yell or browbeat the staff and nitpick their every move until they were so miserable they quit. OR I COULD COME UP WITH A RADICAL SOLUTION.
AND ON THE 4TH DAY THE STAFF MADE IT PERFECT. AGAIN.
In our case we work EXTREMELY hard, efficiently, and effectively for 3 days, then on the 4th day the staff works a half day without the interruptions of seeing patients. That way each Monday when we start again, things are as close to perfect as we can make them. This improves the appearance and the spirit of the office. One warning. Staff members must be excellent and disciplined to accomplish all their specific goals and tasks on this special day. Otherwise, some might not fully pull their weight.
THE 3 DAY OFFICE MUST HAVE GOOD TEAMWORK AND CAMARADERIE.
This is just a very basic outline of things to consider if you want to buy back some of your life and get a FREE DAY OFF. Of course you could also use these principles and ideas to work the same or more and just make a TON OF MONEY.
I myself am happy with the extra day off.