GPS dentistry: Discover your direction and destination

May 1, 2010
It is amazing that a handheld global positioning satellite unit can pinpoint your position within a few feet.

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: Ken Runkle, debt, expectation, affirmation, focus, direction, destination.

It is amazing that a handheld global positioning satellite unit can pinpoint your position within a few feet. Signals are sent and returned and your location is fixed on a screen.

In the same way, 25 years of in-office consulting has taught me how to pinpoint the position, direction, and eventual destination of most any practice. I do not have a handheld device to sell you, but I do have three powerful questions I use every day to help dental practices discover their destination and direction.

What do you expect?

The Law of Expectation simply says that you get what you expect. I know it sounds a bit like psychobabble, but I’ve seen it play out over and over again with both positive and negative results. Wrong thinking and negative expectations can be dangerous. I remember a conversation with a client of mine whose practice had just experienced a tragic event. Upon meeting with him, I was astounded to hear him say, “I kind of expected it to happen.”

What?! He went on to explain that after years of growth, he knew something bad was bound to happen eventually. He had a clear expectation that disaster would befall his practice. Coincidence? Or, do we get what we expect?

I remember meeting with a doctor and his wife about their new-patient expectations. My goal was to get them on the same page. The wife expected 40 new patients each month of the previous year while her husband expected only20. Miraculously, after we looked at the practice’s performance in the past year, they had 361 new patients — an average of 30 per month. Coincidence? Or do we get what we expect?

Take a few moments and write out your clear expectations for your practice including your staff, your patients, your income, your time invested, and everything else that makes up your dream practice. Find people who will be supportive and share your dream expectations with them. Then share it with everyone connected to your practice.

Do it now and see if your results move closer to your expectations.

What are you focused on? Part 1

The Law of Attraction simply says that you will attract whatever you focus on. This law has become popular of late, so let me clarify from the beginning that I am not talking about some magical potion to make $10 million arrive in your mailbox tomorrow. However, experience has taught me that what you focus on, you will attract.

After speaking about this concept at an event, I was pulled aside by a frantic doctor. He went on to explain that his grandfather and his father died with massive debt. He resolved never to be in debt like they were and yet now, at age 50, he found himself in over his head with debt.

How does that work? His focal point of attraction became “debt, debt, debt.” It should have been “abundance, abundance, abundance.”

If your town is like most, you have a few great dentists that attract great patients and also your share of weirdo doctors that attract weirdo patients. Two practices may be within walking distance of each other, using the same signage and advertising with both providing good dental care. Yet, their staff and patients couldn’t be more different. Why? The law of attraction is at work.

Focus on what you want to attract, not what you want to avoid.

What are you focused on? Part 2

The Law of Expansion simply says that whatever we focus on expands. One sure way to see the number of problems expand in your practice is to focus on them. Focus on “no shows” and cancellations in your practice and you just might experience more holes in your schedule. Focus on collection problems and watch as you collect less and less. Focus on bad patients and watch their number grow.

The good news is that the opposite is also true. Focus on opportunities and watch them grow. In the average dental practice, the dental hygienist sees about eight patients a day or about 224 teeth every day. With two hygienists, that works out to 448 teeth coming into the average practice daily.

A meticulous dentist focused first on good dental health and yet also focused on opportunity sees 448 potential opportunities. Is it possible that 1 percent of those teeth might need crowns or some other work? One percent would result in four new crowns every day.

Focus on what you want to expand.

What do you talk about?

The Law of Affirmations simply says that whatever you talk about is what happens. Once you have a grasp of the first two laws, it’s time to change what you say to yourself and others. What you say is directly related to the person you will be and the practice you are building.

At seven years old, I took my first job as a newspaper boy and have been working hard ever since. During my childhood, I had to pay for my own clothes, activities, and even dental care. As a result, I had a chip on my shoulder and when pushed by others would often say, “I’m the hardest working guy I know and nobody has ever given me a thing in my life.”

A few years back, my wife and I were involved in a “high-decibel discussion” as sometimes happens in a marriage. With conviction I said, “I’m the hardest working guy I know and nobody has ever given me anything.” Through tears she said, “Ken, you’ve said nobody ever gives you anything so much that nobody ever does give you anything. Please don’t ever say it again.” I wish I could say that was the last time I said it, but I can be stubborn.

A month later, I pulled through the drive-thru to get some coffee. Being a morning person, I was chipper and friendly. The young girl, taken by my positive outlook on the day, said, “I’m going to give you two donuts for free.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Why do you seem so surprised?” she inquired.

“Well, because nobody ever gives me anything.” I paused, reflected, and my wife’s words came back to me. I said, “You know, I guess I should stop staying that.”

She agreed that I should never say it again. I wasn’t smart enough to listen to my wife — I had to learn it from the drive-thru girl. I know it may sound strange, but from that moment on, I started saying, “People give me stuff; people want to give me stuff.”

It has been eight years since my drive-thru conversion and now I can hardly keep people from giving me things. Doctors give me paintings right off their walls. Companies give me free parking. A few weeks ago, the owner of a restaurant gave my wife and me free meals for no other reason than he liked me. People love to give me stuff!

What you talk about is what happens. I don’t always understand it, but I have known it to be true in my life and in the thousands of practices I’ve served. Does what comes out of your mouth match your dream of whom you want to be and what you want your practice to be?

Time for action

Based on the laws above, what changes do you need to make in your life and practice?

Take some personal time this week to evaluate your life and practice according to these laws. Consider whether your current direction matches your anticipated destination.

Write out your expectations and make sure your affirmations are aligned with your written expectations. Use whatever tools work for you to begin to focus on what you want to attract and what you want to expand.

Now is the time to take action to change your thinking in a way that will help you reach your dream destination.

Ken Runkle, America’s Profitability Expert™, is founder and president of Paragon Management. He has helped dentists reach peak profitability for 24 years. For more, visit

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