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The dental playbook for being successful

March 1, 2009
There has never been a better time for dental success. Warren Buffett, entrepreneur and investor extraordinaire, said that he has been waiting for the downturn for 10 years.
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by Gary Kadi

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There has never been a better time for dental success. Warren Buffett, entrepreneur and investor extraordinaire, said that he has been waiting for the downturn for 10 years. He understands that there are unique opportunities to buy low when the economy takes a plunge and come out not only dry but prosperous, both professionally and personally. Now is the time for you and your team to win the games you have been playing for years, or haven't but have always wanted to, and not just win — but win big! You'll be surprised at how ready you are to win the game, but first, before we get into the play-by-play, you've got to do a little work on your personal skills.

The first step, or exercise, in winning your game is to stomp out your ANTs. I'm not talking about the little, six-legged creatures that wait for you to leave out food or ruin your picnics. The ANTs I am referring to are Automatic Negative Thoughts. We all have them, and they often dictate the actions we take in life. They are just as annoying as their insect counterparts and, until now, have more than likely ruined the picnic that is your dream life. ANTs are those thoughts that come up and tell you that you don't deserve something.

For example, you may want a team that works together, has the same mission, and communicates with clarity and without drama. Your ANTs tell you that it's either not possible or that you don't deserve to have that kind of dream team. The exercise here is to recognize those pesky ANTs when you hear them, stomp them out, and then keep moving toward what it is you truly want. Eventually, the ANTs will get very quiet and you will have to exterminate less and less often.

The next step is to take back your power and leadership. Sometimes people live a life that is shiny on the outside but a little less glossy upon closer inspection. Now, consider that you are operating your life a little the same way. Let's suppose you have a designer practice, your house is the envy of the neighborhood, and your kids are in private schools.

However, if one were to take a closer look, your books are in the red (and they have been there for a while, and you have uncashed checks to yourself in your wallet), you've been driving the same car since college, you and your spouse have been throwing the “divorce” word around, and your kids are constantly pressuring you for spending money and a new BlackBerry® — while you still have the first Motorola brick phone in the carrying case. Well, maybe not all of that is the case, but you get the picture. I call this your “secret shame.” You are hiding out in life and pretending to be something other than that which makes you happy.

Once you understand you are living a life that is externally successful but internally in turmoil and once you confront your ANTs and create agreements and boundaries for your life (both in your practice and at home), then you will be set free and your authentic leadership can arise.

Exercise three is to create a standard of integrity. Integrity is doing what you said you would do by when you said you would do it — in other words, honoring your agreements. Integrity is not good or bad — it is just the bare bones of workability. Whenever there are any upsets or drama, there are two things at play. One, there is a missing agreement, or two, there is a broken agreement. It could even be both.

When you restore integrity and take responsibility for what's been going on, amazing things start to happen. Your dream team will appear and move toward you like a beacon in the fog. Honor yourself and others for where you are right now, not for where you think you “should” be. This will allow both you and your team to get to work on the game.

Now, on to step four — raise your HDL (Healthy Deserve Level). HDL is a realization I had about success. I've worked with teams around the world and implemented systems that had their books well into the black (or green $$) with time working on their side and where stress was no longer an issue. But no matter how well these practices were doing, a common ailment always showed up — a lack of contentment and happiness. Then it hit me! I was transforming the doctors' businesses and teams, but not their thinking.

In life you don't get what you deserve, you get what you think you deserve. So, the exercise here is to look at where your wants are inconsistent with what you think you deserve. If you think all your patients are like dear Mrs. Penny-Pincher and that you don't deserve otherwise, then those are the kinds of patients you will have. What you think dictates the actions you take. If you think you deserve a great body, you will take actions consistent with that. If you think you don't, then you won't.

Now, where are you selling yourself short on what you actually deserve? Guess what … you deserve to have it all! I'm not just saying that because you are reading this article; I'm saying it because you are a dentist who cares about people, their health, and your team and family living big lives. Yes, you deserve it!

At the beginning of the article, I said that there's never been a better time for dental success, and I meant it. You have several aspects working in your favor. Marketing, advertising, and investing in equipment and technology is cheaper.

This will not only show to others that you are growing, but that you are actually being successful in the face of external factors. No more simply looking good on the outside! All of this sounds like leadership and HDL to me! When it comes to working with patients who may have lower economic confidence, you can help them in a way that leaves them empowered to get their dental care done. It will provide for patients what they most desire in life — a healthy body to be able to play with their children, a beautiful smile to beam at their spouse or partner, or even the confidence to nail that interview that will help them get their dream job.

It is vital during challenging economic times that you tie the treatment to the Patient's Personal Motivator™ and not his or her wallet. During these economic headwinds, it is urgent to take new action now. Health care is the least affected industry, and dentistry is the least affected within that category because we have a built-in repeat business mechanism called hygiene. It is a recession-proof practice no-brainer to have your hygiene department generate case acceptance.

Once your hygienists get your patients interested in dental care, it is your job to set up a case-closing system that fits the treatment tied to the patients' desires into a payment plan that fits their lifestyles (key verbal skill: learn to counter “no one has a budget for dentistry”). Let's learn from the automotive industry about how they eliminate money as a barrier to a vehicle purchase. They do not ask how much you want to spend on your total purchase.

Instead, they ask how much you want to spend per month and fit the lease, options, and residual into it. CareCredit has financial options software that automatically calculates monthly payments less insurance estimates. It rocks, and every client of ours has it on his or her desktop.

It's halftime and when you look around, you see a practice that is flourishing, patients who come in smiling and leave smiling, a home life that is nothing short of sublime — you've even bought a new Jeep Commander (because you're paying yourself now ... oh, yeah, and you and your spouse are having twins, and your kids are actually joining in and asking for family outings), and a team that is working like a well-oiled machine. You have turned the “m” in me, to the “w” in we.

Yeah, things have definitely changed. But the game is still going. It's up to you to keep brushing up on your skills to keep winning the game. Now is the time to be like Tiger Woods and find a coach to win your games — a coach who has a proven track record in guiding dental teams and who guarantees a return on investment. By the way, there is no “game over.” Just keep playing, keep playing, keep playing …

Gary Kadi, founder of NextLevel Practice, author of “Million Dollar Dentistry” and “Raise Your HDL: Healthy Deserve Level,” and international speaker, is globally recognized as the dental expert for profound results in the lives of dentists, dental teams, and their patients. Call (866) 926-0914 to get an answer for the No. 1 question in your practice, or visit

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