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Four Steps to a Better Practice

“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
- Thomas A. Edison

Step 1) Take 100% Responsibility

I used to work construction with this grumpy guy named Hank. Hank would have a baloney and mustard sandwich in his lunch every day. And every day he’d complain about it. One particular afternoon, after a rather animated bout of cursing at his baloney sandwich, he turned to me and said that if he has one more baloney sandwich for lunch he’d throw himself right off the building. I asked if he ever talked to his wife about making him something different. He replied, “Wife!? What wife!? I make my own dang sandwiches !”. Ok, it’s not a true story but it does illustrate a mantra that every success guru preaches. The lesson is that there is only one person responsible for the quality of life you live. That person is you. It is commonly known that if you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that you experience in your life. That means giving up all the excuses, all the victim stories, all the why you can’t and why you haven’t and all the outside circumstances holding you back. You have to give them all up forever. It’s a simple equation really: Event + Response = Outcome. The thing about this equation is that once the event happens, it’s done. What we do have 100% control over is our response to the event and thus our outcome. Taking 100% responsibility does not mean that you were necessarily responsible for the bolt of lightning that hit your practice last night. But you are definitely responsible to how you react to that fact. It does not mean that you are directly responsible for every mistake that is made in the office but it does mean that if you are not achieving the desired results in your office you need to make changes. Taking 100% responsibility is a pre-requisite to good practice management.

Step 2) Decide What you Want

“If you are bored with life, if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.”
– Albert Einstein & many others.

Once you have realized that you have created your current experience, then you can uncreate it and re-create it as desired. But the question then becomes what do you want? This is where goal setting comes into play and it is probably the most fun part of managing anything. We can let our imagination run wild and dream as big as we can on this step! Here are a few helpful guidelines when goal setting:

Ideas vs Goals

Dreaming and imagining is fun but not particularly helpful unless we get specific and measurable. When there is no criteria for measurement it is simply something you want, a wish, a preference, a good idea. Here are a few examples of good ideas vs goals:

Chuck it Down

Take each goal and chuck it down into sub-objective and timelines. The more specific the better. If your goal is have a gross revenue of $1 million dollars a year from now you definitely have some sub-objectives to define and measure. You could start by taking some current measurements then setting more specific weekly and monthly goals. Some initial measurements could include:

  • How many brand new patients entered the practice last month ?
  • How many of those new patient had what you define to be major fees?
  • What was the total value of the discounts you gave out last year?
  • How many equilibrated dentures did you sell compared to standard dentures?
  • How many quotes have been given out in the last 4 months which have not been followed up on?
  • Generate a list the all patients in your practice who are under 90 years old, have insurance, and have not had a reline in the past 2 years?

Once of you have a starting point you can make weekly or monthly measurable goals. Each goal should have an action plan with time deadlines outlined.

Review Daily

If you are serious about achieving these goals you MUST review them daily. Make a sticker on the inside of your wallet that reads “$1 mill - May 31”. Take out your goal book every morning and read the fact that your revenue will be $1 million dollars on May 31st, 2009. Review what needs to be done today, this week, and this month. Even if you had not tasked yourself something tangible to accomplish on a given day then just reading your goals solidifies something psychologists often refer to as “structural tension” in your brain. Your brain wants to close the gap between your current reality and the vision of your goal. Athletes understand this and have it down pat. The same principal can be applied to goals of your practice.

Bruce Lee’s Letter

If you ever get a chance to visit Planet Hollywood in New York City, look for the letter hanging on the wall that Bruce Lee wrote to himself. It is dated January 9th, 1970, and it is stamped “Secret.” Bruce wrote, “By 1980 I will be the best know Oriental movie star in the United States and will have secured $10 million dollars… And in return I will give the very best acting I could possible give every single time I am in the front of the camera and I will live in peace and harmony.”

Step 3) Take Action

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
- Abraham Lincoln

The steps listed here are not ground breaking and likely they are nothing that you don’t already know. But despite how many people will say they know all this stuff so very few people actually act on what they know. They have their reasons: “I’m too busy, I don’t have time, I don’t need to improve anything”. Well, if you are following these steps then you’re done with excuses. Now is the time to take action. Put first things first and take control of your practice by starting now.

Step 4) Kaizen

“He who stops being better stops being good.”
- Oliver Cromwell

So, maybe you followed through to step 3 and you took some action -- perhaps it didn’t go as well as planned or maybe it went absolutely brilliantly. In either case, there is only one thing to do and that is to take more action! Event + Response = Outcome. In Japan, the word for constant and never-ending improvement is kaizen. Not only is this an operating philosophy for modern Japanese businesses, it is also the age-old philosophy of warriors – and it’s become the personal mantra of many successful people. Achievers - whether in business, sports, or the arts - are committed to continual improvement. After struggling to develop a viable electric light-bulb for months and months, Thomas Edison was interviewed by a young reporter who boldly asked Mr. Edison if he felt like a failure and if he thought he should just give up by now. Edison replied, "Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp." And shortly after that, and over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.

Dean Fenwick is the lead software developer for the DOM (Denturist Office Manager) practice management system for denturists. Dean has been helping denturists improve practice management across Canada for the last 8 years. Before his work with denturists, Dean was a computer science and business teacher at both the high school and college level.

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