Are you making bold moves or retreating to safety?

April 1, 2008
I have been asked why some doctors have really pulled it together, while many perceive they are happy where they are and still others struggle to make decisions and take action.

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: successful dentists, behavior, take action, make decisions, behavior choice.

by Bill Blatchford, DDS

I have been asked why some doctors have really pulled it together, while many perceive they are happy where they are and still others struggle to make decisions and take action. There are lots of reasons why we are all different, yet I have observed certain characteristics of very successful dentists. It is about behavior, and behavior is always a choice unless someone has a gun to your head. In all situations, there is behavior that works and behavior that doesn't.

The growing tendency in America is to blame someone else for our behavior that doesn't produce the results we want. Or we don't know what we really want but whatever we are doing isn't it. Dentists are small fish in a big pond, yet most of us spend time comparing, idolizing, wishing, and hoping. But when it comes time to make the big decisions, we retreat back to our comfort zone.

Successful dentists exhibit bold behavior. They have taken the time to see themselves clearly and define their position. Their vision is in place, and they believe it will happen. They have surrounded themselves with a team who sees and supports that same vision. They act like their leader. They exhibit behavior that keeps them on the path, and they act as if they have reached that position.

When I asked Tom Watson, Jr., the president of IBM, how his team became so successful, he said, "We figured out what we wanted IBM to look like in 10 years, and then we started behaving like that from the start."

Most people say they'll do almost anything to change their lives. Generally, people behave in a manner that is comfortable for them. They will do anything that doesn't require them to step outside their comfort zone. But the moment they reach the terror zone — that point where they have to take the proverbial leap of faith — most would rather step backward into safety than step forward into growth.

Most people (and dentists are especially good at this) base their goals on what they have accomplished before. If they have always increased productivity by 5 percent, then that is their goal. Base your goals on what you really want, and then make the bold decisions to see that dream goal become a reality.

What does it take to move you out of your comfort zone? The pain of the present must be acute enough that you can taste, know, and feel the better results, and it will be worth going through the unknown to achieve the goal. What would it take to support a new, bold goal — moving, adding another practice, changing the direction of your practice and treatments?

Changing the behavior of the doctor must come first. The right team members will see the change and want to be a part of the growth. The right people will support your decisions. Behave as if you are on the path now.

We need strong systems to support a change. Do you have business systems in place that create respect from your patients, your team, and yourself? Time is a big indicator of respect. Do you have a systematic daily booking that allows your guests to feel well served in a timely manner, or are you still double-booking, with single crown prep appointments that keep patients holding on for two hours?

Making bold decisions creates a team with systems of accountability and rewards. They behave differently because they are needed and wanted. They hunger for regular and clear vehicles of communication. Do you value your team enough to train together on a monthly basis so everyone speaks as one? Or do you have layers of paperwork and managers of managers with more people doing the paperwork than the actual dentistry?

Do you have hygienists and assistants scheduling, entering treatment, producing insurance forms, and collecting money? How would this change the sense of service in your practice?

Furthermore, do you feel the pain enough to see how hard you are working to produce $1M and take home only $200,000 (and that includes debt reduction)? Behavior that works is being bold enough to do something about your pain. Are you ready to change your behavior? Do you deserve to win bigger?

Dr. Bill Blatchford is a leading dental business coach who has worked with more than 2,000 offices to help dentists achieve more time off, more net, and more enjoyment. Become a member of Blatchford FILES, Dr. Blatchford"s monthly CD on winning at dental business. The first two months are free. Call (541) 389-9088 or visit for more information.

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