Do you remember the movie Jerry Maguire? The main character, played by Tom Cruise has a late night come to Jesus moment about his chosen profession. He stays up throughout the evening at a big conference where all his contemporaries are in attendance. He writes a brilliant letter about the current state of sports agency and the future path they must take. He takes a tremendous chance by doing this, because his idea of a better future involves less money for his company. He rushes a printing of the letter and makes certain that all the attendees get a copy before they check out the next day. At some point he realizes that the controversial stance he has taken will likely be frowned upon by his company and put his job in jeopardy. As people continually congratulate him on his great “memo,” he says, “It was just a mission statement.” I guess he hoped that would soften the consequences a bit. Well, after I ask one question, here is my “mission statement” for the future of my profession.
What if you woke up tomorrow and your practice and real estate weren’t worth a dime?
I don’t think the above question is out of order. What can you do to protect yourself, your family, and your practice in today’s world?
I think for the last several years, we dentists were inundated with false ideas and concepts about what it meant to be a successful dentist. Think about it, how many times have you seen a slick looking trade journal with some Taj Mahal office on the cover? They have a great looking staff and the dentist proudly proclaims that he or she only does quality dentistry. You know, only the type you would put in your mouth or your family’s. At some point in the article you will probably see something about the dentist not having to be “everybody’s” dentist and how that’s okay. Most of the time the dentist is also proud that his fees are in the 95th percentile and that he mainly does big reconstructive or cosmetic cases.
Hey, I’m no bah humbug toward a nice office. I have hundreds of hours in aesthetic restorative. Certainly, I have no gripes with an attractive staff. Can’t say I mind the occasional 10,000 dollar plus reconstructive case. BUT, I am concerned that our profession has gotten away from its roots. I hear more and more that new graduates are reluctant to return to a family or general type of practice. Albeit anecdotally. I do know that a general practice has lost its luster in recent years. Maybe it is true that you can enjoy a wonderful life as a big city cosmetic dentist. Perhaps you can work 12 hours a week and have an adjusted gross income approaching 7 figures. Who knows, you might even get so good that they invite you onto one of those new medical reality shows that seem to be popping up all over.
Just stop and think about it. Do you really believe that you have a good chance of that happening to you? Hey, I am a big believer in the right to do what makes you happy. This is America, and for the time being, you can still pursue happiness. If you dream about the enchanted lifestyle of a cosmetic specialist, go for it. I believe that a person can become anything the want badly enough.
I just think that the path to true happiness for MOST of us is to simply serve our communities. Look around. People are everywhere. People live in big cities and small towns. There are lots and lots of people around who need a dentist. Sometimes they need a dentist for a crown. Sometimes they just need an extraction. Sometimes they only want to go to the dentist every few years when something hurts. Guess what, you are still their dentist as long as they aren’t going somewhere else.
As I have written before, I began my solo career with the idea that I only wanted to do the best dentistry. I believed that I could do it here in Mississippi and I gave it a good shot for several years. However, I found true dental happiness when I scrapped the big cosmetic treatment plans and started being “just a general dentist.” I found that a glut of patients makes up for a lot other problems you have to put up with in a volume general type of practice.
Now, it is true that you have to learn how to perform more procedures in a given amount of time if you want to max out your doctor capacity in this type of practice without hiring an associate. Heck, you really should always want to max out you capabilities no matter how many dentists work with you.
I have a vision for the future of all this. I call it Capacity College. Dentists will recognize the term capacity within dental circles as the ability to see more patients and do more procedures when the opportunity arises. I first heard of this from Greg Stanly in his lectures and tapes. When I changed my practice style, I used the theory of increased capacity to help build my new practice model. Now that I have a model that works and works well, I want to teach it to anyone who wants to learn.
I am prejudice, but I think anyone can use this model to succeed, ANYWHERE. We already have started having workshops and soon we will have books, reports, tapes (CDs), DVDs, and manuals arranged into programs of study. These programs will be housed under the umbrella of Capacity College. I must admit that I have high hopes and dreams for this endeavor, but, just like the fancy dental practices, I need to not forget about the basic concept behind all this.
Teach regular dentists how to reach their goals in a system that will actually work.