What do you want more than what you want?

April 10, 2015
What does your dream dental practice look like? What level of financial success do you want? Is your current practice success what you hoped it would be?

Michael Kesner, DDS

What does your dream dental practice look like? What level of financial success do you want? Is your current practice success what you hoped it would be?

When I started my first practice in 1984, my dream was to have a "big-case" type of practice with high fees and only a few appointments per day. I decided that I would only offer comprehensive treatment to patients who wanted and accepted the ideal treatment plan. No "one-tooth dentistry" or less costly treatment options for my practice-only the best and finest for my patients. I was determined to run a fee-for-service practice for a limited number of very discriminating patients. I did not take any dental insurance assignment, nor was I on any preferred provider organization (PPO) insurance plans. It was basically a cash-only practice.

My "dream practice" eventually turned into a nightmare! I became increasingly frustrated, as most of my patients did not accept treatment. I was tired of struggling to pay the bills. I was tired of not taking home enough money. I was not experiencing the level of success I had always hoped for.

After 13 years of doing the same wrong things over and over, I burned out. I gave up, sold my practice, and worked for the buyer as an associate. A few years later, his wife (who was also a dentist) caught him at a hotel with another woman and killed him. Following this tragedy, I bought my practice back from his estate with an unwavering determination for success. I made the choice to want success more than I wanted my ideal practice. I then grew the practice from $675,000 to more than $4 million per year in only five years.

Have you been using a practice business model that is getting you nowhere? You need a practice model that is practical and that provides what your patients want. I find that most patients want their treatment to be completed in stages due to financial limitations. Many want less-than-ideal treatment options to make their treatment more affordable. Patients want your treatment to be covered by their insurance plans. Most patients want convenience. They want an appointment today or tomorrow, not two weeks from now. If you can't meet their criteria, they will go to another dentist who can.

I believe that, in order to be successful in dentistry, you must "consumerize" your practice and provide what patients want. The doctor and team must know how to inspire the patient to want the dental treatment they need. People will pay for what they want but not necessarily what they need. My patients were telling me that my practice model wasn't what they wanted by not accepting treatment. Most of them were leaving with sticker shock as I tried to "sell" the big case.

Your patients will tell you how your practice is performing by "voting with their feet." If your case acceptance is low and/or your number of new patients is low, you need to make some changes to your practice model.

In reality, I wanted my ideal practice model to work more than I really wanted success. What do you want more than success? Some dentists want comfort, safety, ease, low-risk circumstances, or autonomy more than they want a successful practice. If you want something else more than you want success, that thing will win because what you want more will always dictate your actions. It is futile to continue doing the same thing while hoping for different results. I did that for years.

I have met many dentists over the years whose stories are similar to mine. The stress of running an unsuccessful practice caught up with them, and they burned out after only seven to 10 years of practicing. Like me, many will finally reach the point where the pain of their current situations pushes them to make changes. And some will continue trying to make a practice model work that simply will not.

Building a successful practice requires a high level of commitment because it requires enduring the discomfort of implementing the necessary changes. If above-average success in dentistry were easy and came naturally, everyone would be doing it. When you want a successful practice more than any of the other things you want, your practice will change.

Mike Kesner, DDS, has a practice that ranks on the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing companies in America. He is the author of the book Multi-Million Dollar Dental Practice and the CEO of Quantum Leap Success in Dentistry. They teach more production, higher profits, and less stress. Contact him at [email protected].

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