Dentists spend more time planning a vacation than they do making plans for their professional career. Americans spend 7000% more time watching TV than they do on their finances. Let’s all agree that each of us should spend more time working on our practice than just working in it day to day. Today is the first day of planning your 180 Degree Dental Journey. Before we embark on this life changing trip, there are a few things that we need to put in order. Like most trips, you begin from where you are. A vacation would usually begin by leaving your house with money in your pocket, cloths in a suitcase, the mode of transportation all taken care of, and a detailed plan on where you intended to arrive and what you would do once you got there. If it was a car trip, there may even be stops along the way.

The challenge for most dentists is that too few actually know where they are right now. They can’t tell me the key practice numbers off the top of their head. I tend to find that most dentists want to just do the dentistry and not have to fiddle with staff issues and problem patients, or leadership and management. In this case, remember that we want to take the staff on this journey too, so they need to know where they are starting from also. If your intention is to arrive at a far better place than you left, we need for you to know the black and white of where you are. From production to profit and everything in between, we need for you to have a baseline to compare to the improved results you will experience along the way. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. And we can’t do a 180 degree change in trajectory without knowing your current heading.

Currently you could use a compass and map or your GPS on a vacation or trip. For our purposes, we need a concise way to self-diagnose so that we have a foundational understanding of the important numbers as well as each number’s implication on our results. These key numbers will become your true North. Thankfully I have written at great length about how to do just that. The first step is for you to gather the information you will need to determine your exact numbers. Everyone will be different, but everyone will have the same categories of important KPIs. This exercise will separate the people that are just voyeurs from the real participants on the field. This will be the most difficult thing I will ask you to do on the journey. This will separate the “wanna be” from the “gonna be”; the “doers” from the “dreamers”.

Yesterday’s solutions won’t solve tomorrow’s problems. What brought you here won’t get you to where you want to go. It’s come down to Success or Failure. The successful make progress, and the failures in life make excuses. We all fall in love with our excuses. This is the point that you identify them and kick them to the curb. It’s pretty much a fact that anything worth doing is going to be an up hill climb and takes a commitment and effort to Summit. I truly believe that each of you are exactly where you want to be. If you weren’t, you would change. Yet, I see doctors doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This is one definition of insanity. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Don’t miss the simple brilliance of beginning the journey.

Hopefully you are reading this because you are searching for a breakthrough: Motivation to take your practice to the next level. This journey should rekindle a new vision, supply the knowledge, communicate by example, and provide the all-important momentum for change. I will keep reminding you to include your team in this journey. If you don’t include each member of your team, you will have missed an incredible opportunity to shortcut the process of taking your practice to another level of excellence. A quantum leap can occur when the team catches the vision and they have the tools and support they need.

Let’s look at our practices like a Physics problem. Let’s see how change and directions of effort are affected by our choices.

Correction Recognition: Change only happens when you have identified a need. In addition, this need has to be more important than the emotional challenge you face to make the change. This is huge. As a society, you could generalize that people spend more money, time, and effort avoiding what they really need to do than just doing it. Think about all the products that guarantee you flatter abs, sexier body, or quick weight loss that people line up to buy instead of just exercising and cutting down on what they put in their mouths. You have to want the change more than your fear of the pain associated with actually doing it. Fear is a powerful emotion that most of us will struggle to tame. Subverting fear is the mark of a good leader. Just do it. Regret is way over rated. Kind of like removing a band aid on your hairy extremity. Do you want to do it slowly or quickly? This is a reality that every doctor has to face. They accept the fact that there is a powerful need to change. They recognize they are falling short on results, and they’re ready to put on their big girl panties and deal with it. They are tired of mediocrity. They want more: They want Purpose, Prosperity, and Peace of Mind. This need will take the form of lack of results, new patients, poor strategies, and profitability. These are all symptoms of a deeper problem: A lack of, or wrong direction of, effort. That’s why we all need to have a 180 Degree Mindset.

Altering Our Direction of Effort: We are all doing what we do and getting what we get. If you think about it, our systems are precisely designed to give us the results we are getting. Our results attest to our success or failure in business. Belief and excuses don’t matter, only results count. So, each of our practices are headed in a certain direction: Schedules, systems, staffing, fees, profitability and production yielding us a particular result, or, in this case a profit or lack of one. If you want a different result, you will need to direct your effort in a different direction. Working harder or longer will not help. If you want a different result then you have to “go to different” to get there. What scares me is that most doctors, team members, and offices are a lot like Alice in Wonderland. Remember the part where Alice is running through the woods trying to escape and there are paths and roads everywhere. She comes upon the Cheshire cat floating in the air and asks: “Which way should I go?” The Cheshire cat answers: “Where do you want to go?” Alice responds: “It doesn’t much matter where.” To which the Cheshire cat says: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”. This is the problem. Where do you want to go? Even better, “where do you want to end up?” Your choices today will make that destination either occur or move out of your reach. This is a huge question you will be able to answer at the conclusion of this Journey. For the first time in your career you will see clearly, you will become intentional about everything you do in your practice, you will control your destiny.

Momentum: So, we’re going in a particular direction at some speed. Maybe fast or maybe slow. Momentum is just speed and mass moving and resisting change. The speed and momentum will either allow you to make a fast or slow change in direction. The faster you’re moving in one direction, the more difficult it is to alter course. Move fast and try to change quickly and you may crash. If you’re going 180 degrees in the wrong direction, you will have to pull a lot Gs in order to turn and accelerate in a different direction. A small course correction is easier, but any change is difficult. Every change is challenging, and you need to actually know which way you should go.

Mass: How big is your practice? The larger the office, the more staff, hours, facility and patients, the more difficulty you will find turning towards the new direction you wish to take. Think of an ocean liner verses a canoe. Ocean liners may require five miles to actually slow and make a turn. A canoe can turn on a dime (less mass and less speed). Be aware that fighting speed, mass, and momentum are difficult and it takes a lot of intentional effort. You should also realize that it is not just your decision. Your team has to have the same paradigm shift in order to be engaged in the process of change. If you think you can do it all yourself, think again.

Intentional Response to the Problem: It’s not enough to just realize the need for change. You have to do something about it. I would have to say that I have seen far too many doctors who agree they are not where they want to be, but still fail to act. What does it take for you to actually be engaged in creating the optimized dental practice through sound practice management and statistical analysis? What prevents 95% of the practices and their doctors from “launching” or actually doing something about it? When you learn you need to first listen, then you need to actually hear what you are being told. Many listen, but never hear. Once you hear, then you have to must believe what you have heard. Believing will then lead to action. This speed of action is what separates the winners from the average.

Speed of change: Complete commitment with no hesitation or procrastination is the order of the day. Set your course and move quickly to correct the direction of your effort. Everything needs to change. It needs to be a full court press. You need to be relentless about pursuing your new direction. Acting isn’t enough if it takes years for you to actually get a different result. A day should not go by without you taking specific actions that create specific results. You have to become a leader for your team. Become a change master by embracing change while guarding those things you consider to be core in your practice philosophy.

Results: If you think about it, results, or the lack of them, are what started this process in the first place. You need goals and measurable results to tell you if you’re on course. If you can’t measure it, you cannot manage it. Results allow you to make adjustments based on fact, not feelings. If you’re not getting the results you need, it’s time to make a course correction. It will not get better by itself. Think about it. If you were traveling North on a highway but you should really be going South, each second you keep going, you move further from the goal. It will take longer to get back to the starting point before you can make a better result happen. Step back and see if you are on the right track. If not, act to make the course correction you need. Become a person with a 180 Degree Mindset.

Course Correction: Like sailing, your course is never a straight line. True, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but straight lines in life are rare indeed. You will need to make numerous small corrections. In sailing when we want to go from point A to point B, we are always heading for the destination, but we have to tack back and forth across the wind in order to continue to travel toward our destination. Some days there is not much course correction or tacking. Other days you spend a lot of time fighting your surroundings before you ultimately land at your destination. Sometimes a good skipper or a better boat makes the difference. Most of the time it is just dogged persistence to getting where you want to go: Set your course, stick to the basics. and keep the destination in sight.

Michael Abernathy, DDS