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Any dentist can

Oct. 26, 2016
Ken Rubin, CPA, PFS, offers perspective on succeeding in dentistry today.  

Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't-you're right." A positive attitude can be the most important factor in your success. It's easy to succumb to a negative attitude when your practice is struggling, and it can be next to impossible to magically shift to a positive attitude when overwhelming challenges seem to be coming at you from every direction. You are the leader in your practice. Your attitude is contagious and sets the tone for the office, so you must do whatever it takes to avoid negativity and be positive.

We are in an unprecedented era in dentistry. Throughout history, there has never been a period of greater challenges, and at the same time, there has never been a period of greater opportunity. In the good ol' days, almost every dentist could simply hang a shingle and enjoy an excellent career that would provide an enviable quality of life. Dentists did not have to advertise, have websites, or know anything about search engine optimization (SEO) or online patient reviews. There were no threats of competition against dental support organizations or practices owned by savvy nondentists. There were far fewer PPOs causing dentists to perform grossly discounted dentistry. And I could go on . . .

But on the bright side, many dentists-especially younger dentists-are aware of what they need to do to be successful today, and they are achieving incredible success very quickly. They are generating high new-patient counts from various Internet strategies. They understand that dental practices are businesses, and they are treating them as such. They leverage technology to reap astonishing benefits. In fact, many dentists who "get it" are building empires and owning multiple practices. But sadly, for many other dentists, it's still business as usual. These dentists have not embraced change by making the necessary adaptations.

There's a Chinese proverb that applies: "A man without a smiling face must not open a shop." Think about it! Dentistry is a people business, and people want to be around people they like. The best kind of marketing is internal marketing; it's free and effective. Your patients should be raving fans who refer their friends and family to you and make your new-patient count soar. Think about this: "No tooth has ever walked into a dental practice on its own." Teeth are attached to human beings, so focus on your relationships with people.

Growing up, I had the good fortune of having a role model and mentor who was incredible at building relationships with people. My father, Budd Rubin, DDS, MS, is a retired orthodontist who enjoyed the pinnacle of success available to dentists. He has a genuine interest in other people and the ability to strongly bond with almost anybody in less than 30 seconds. When he is with someone, he is completely present and focused on them. Very early in my dad's career, a GP who liked him referred Diana Ross to him for ortho. Diana Ross later referred 10-year-old Michael Jackson one week before the Jackson Five debuted on the Ed Sullivan show, and my dad quickly made him a flipper appliance.1 He had many celebrity patients, but the point is that they were all very comfortable with my dad, and many became friends with him. My dad knows that every person from every walk of life has a unique story, and he gets them to share that story. If you remember to truly "be with" people, you will see your new-patient flow increase.

When I consult with my dentist clients, I tell them to put a mirror next to the phone of the person who answers incoming calls. Have that person look in the mirror and smile before answering each phone call. There is only one chance to make a first impression with a potential new patient, and if the person answering the phone is smiling, the person on the other end will feel the warmth, friendliness, and love. People don't care how much you know, but they do know how much you care. You can do it, Doctor!


1. Wilkie J. Orthodontist Budd Rubin makes a nice retainer treating grown-ups now, including a wallful of celebs. People. February 25, 1980:39. http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20075891,00.html.

Ken Rubin, CPA, PFS, has been helping dentists improve their practices for 30 years. He is a frequent author and lecturer, and he is the cofounder of the Academy of Dental CPAs (ADCPA). His CPA and business advisory firm, Ken Rubin & Company Dental CPAs, helps dentists with practical and proactive advice. As a broker, Mr. Rubin has helped hundreds of dentists successfully transition their practices during the past 12 years. He teaches a course to business valuation specialists at the California Society of CPAs on dental practice valuation and is a courtroom expert witness on the subject. He can be reached at (619) 299-6161 or [email protected]. Visit his website at KenRubinCPA.com.

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