A vision and a philosophy

March 1, 2002

by Drs. Matt & Ann Bynum

This series of articles is meant to take you from starting a practice to its current business status and daily operations. Prior to the whine of the handpieces and the hum of the compressor, you must have an idea or dream of how you want your dental practice to be. This is the beginning. Investigate the options, set the vision, and formulate the practice philosophy.

Last month, we discussed the investigation necessary before starting a dental practice. We covered leasing office space, buying an existing practice, and building from scratch. We chose to do the latter.

With rough estimates, we sat down and designed our dream office. Wanting enough space to practice independently, yet in the same building, we chose to build a fairly large office. Assuming 3,000 square feet of office space for each of us and building costs somewhere around $100 per square foot, we built our 6,000-square-foot office for about $5,000 per month, given a 20-year amortization schedule and prime interest rate plus 1 percent.

In the end we will own something, rather than possibly being forced to walk away from our new location in five years. We also had the opportunity to build a facility exactly like we wanted without compromise. We always hear: location, location, location. What we should hear more of is investigation, investigation, investigation!

Once the investigation phase is complete, you must have a vision of what is to come — a means to get from point A to point B. People often venture into the unknown without direction or conviction. For success to happen, you must plan for it by setting goals and realistic expectations. Your vision determines the course of your actions.

How many days per week do you want to practice? How much time do you want to spend with your family? Do you want to write or lecture?

Successful people write down their goals. Take time to put your personal and your practice visions on paper. Share this with your team, and use it as a guide to establishing your practice philosophy. Note that "vision" and "philosophy" are two totally separate things. Vision spells out goals and direction; philosophy is the way to get there.

Once you have completed your investigation and your vision is in writing, it is time to establish your philosophy. Writing down your philosophy will become instrumental and paramount in your practice's future. Establishing a philosophy is an ongoing process. The one you start with will almost undoubtedly be altered throughout the course of your dental career.

What types of services will you provide? To whom will you provide them? What type of atmosphere do you plan to create? Will you strive to be a fee-for-service practice or integrate managed care? What materials will you use? Will you be influenced by their cost? Are you going to be metal-free? If so, can you stand by those convictions?

You must answer all of these questions prior to establishing your philosophy. Once you have the answers, write them down in a format that spells out exactly what you and your practice stand for.

It is important that you share your philosophy with your team. This is critical to its survival. If your team does not espouse your philosophy, it will fail. It is crucial that you open yourself and your philosophy to criticism. Revisit and revise the philosophy as often as needed. Then, make a copy and share it with everyone who comes into your practice. Frame several copies of it and place them throughout the office for patients and team members to see on a regular basis. Make it known that this is your practice, here for all who want to be a part of it and its success.

Next month, we will discuss the creation and presentation of the ever-important business plan. Stay tuned.

Drs. Matt and Ann Bynum have an insurance-free family dental practice in a suburb of Greenville, S.C. Through speaking, writing, and practice consulting, they have helped hundreds of dentists to free themselves of dental insurance and provide an atmosphere where practice and personal dreams become reality. Ann is a member of the ADA, ASDC, and the AAPD. Matt is a member of the ADA, AGD, AACD, and is a clinical instructor at The Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. They can be reached by phone at (864) 297-5585 or by email at [email protected] and [email protected].

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