(Part 2 of 2)
Featuring Dr. Scott Bolding, Dr. Randy Lais, Dr. Susan B. McBeth
All dentists have thought about the practice of their dreams. Some, like Drs. Scott Bolding, Randy Lais, and Susan B. McBeth, have mustered enough courage to make their dreams a daily reality. In the second of two parts, we’ll learn even more from these dentists as you muster that same courage to have the practice of your dreams, in the location of your dreams, performing the dentistry of your dreams.
Dr. Jameson: There had to be a strategic plan as you prepared for the move (of your practice). Do you have anything that you can give us as the basic outline of the steps you followed for this vision to make it a reality?
Dr. Lais: Yes, there has to be a plan because things don’t always just fall in place. To paraphrase Napoleon Hill, “What your mind can conceive and believe, you can achieve.” It’s really a matter of exposing yourself to good information. Make sure that you’re reading the right things, going to the right courses, learning the right ideas, and are around the right people. Your ideal or dream practice will change as you continue your personal and professional growth. If you focus on self-development, it makes almost any of this possible. It’s not so much that you can go out and pursue the dream dental practice, but you develop it over time. I came to a point where my dream was much stronger than any fear.
Dr. Jameson: That’s an important statement about your dream being much stronger than anything that could have possibly been an obstacle. So, a vision of continual self-improvement and applying oneself to that kind of expanded education and enrichment is what really helps become a driving force to achieve the type of practice that a person can possibly envision and wants to make a reality?
Dr. Lais: Yes. I think that your continual development can’t just be in the technical aspect of dentistry. It can’t just be in the business side. I’ve been down all those roads: the technical, the business, and the relational/communication. All three of these areas have to be in place. Each of us, as dentists, will develop a practice that might go a little more in one direction than the other. But they all must have their place in your practice or it won’t function well. If you go too far in any one direction, you can have a failure in your practice. If you’re too focused on the technical - and don’t run the business right and don’t treat the people right - you’re not going to have patients. If you focus only on the numbers and profit, the bottom line, then you’re going to make decisions that are in the profit’s best interest rather than the patient’s best interest. It becomes a matter of integrity. If you get too far into relationships, while ignoring the other two areas, you may forget to perform the dentistry and not make any money to support your practice. Then you can’t take care of your patients anyway. For me, underneath all of that, there has to be an order of calmness. When you’re looking at all these things and deciding what will be emphasized in your practice, you have to start looking at what your values are.
Dr. Jameson: To be able to put all of these areas in balance, you have to be able to address clinical and relational issues as you look internally to your values.
Dr. Lais: Absolutely. You have to identify your real beliefs and values. Unfortunately, too many of us don’t take the time for that. We let other people decide our agenda, or we live with beliefs from our past that aren’t useful any more. You need to evaluate your own beliefs and values and from where they came. If they’re not enough to inspire you, then start working on them. Change your beliefs by changing the information you expose yourself to until you do have beliefs and values that are inspirational. Instead of trying tricks and manipulation, get to a point where you’re coming from the heart.
Dr. Jameson: As a team referring dentists and other specialists in your area, how do you really accomplish the reality of the practice of your dreams?
Dr. McBeth: Great patient service comes from those teams that communicate and have the energy and the passion to sequence the treatment plan perfectly on paper before starting. This precise sequencing, that grows out of the synergy of ideas distilled by the group, creates camaraderie within the treatment team. I think it comes down to caring about your patients so much that you recommend what patients really need, regardless of your perception of their ability to achieve it.
Dr. Jameson: Dr. Lais, I’ve been in your new practice and had a chance to see it. The facility is a true statement of quality and it is certainly state of the art. But, outside of the technical and physical plans, the ambience and the feeling that can be conveyed through the mediums of design, materials and colors are a work of art. What kind of results do you think you have achieved from having that kind of vision for the new facility?
Dr. Lais: When I was designing this space, I placed an emphasis on more personal attention and more privacy for the patients. I was looking to make a statement that we are here to take care of you - not run a clinic in which we’re going to have a lot of people in the reception waiting for us to get free for the next minute to work on them. People often comment on the feeling of warmth or calmness that they get when they come to the office. I also wanted to make a statement of quality that reflects my attitude about the dentistry we can provide. I believe we accomplished that.
Dr. Jameson: Good thoughts. Let’s talk about the physical plan and how that incorporates 1) a dentist’s basic philosophies like the ones you mentioned, 2) scheduling concepts about how seeing fewer patients in a day but doing more dentistry - when and where necessary - on those patients while not having to turn that room around as often, and 3) designing a treatment area so you can communicate value and interpersonal relationship sincerity to each patient. How do you wrap up all this to create a place where a patient reaps the reward of these considerations, rather than feeling like they’re a number in a dental surgical suite?
Dr. Lais: The design of the physical facility is driven by the vision of what you want to accomplish in your practice. Form follows function, and function is a result of your vision and goals. For me, the practice of dentistry is more than exchanging dental services for money. It’s about relationships and helping people. So the design of the office supports that. I don’t have a lot of treatment rooms, which goes along with the philosophy of more thorough, personal, and private care. In a comprehensive approach, a lot of time is spent so patients understand what’s going on in their mouth. It’s long-term implications and their responsibility for making choices about their care. When you don’t ignore worn teeth, thin gingival tissues, muscle and joint pain, and these types of things, then there’s more dentistry to be done to keep someone healthy. If we take the time to get to know a person’s view of health and aesthetics, they often will request more of our services because we can match what we can do for them with what they want. One of the main things I was looking for when I was designing the treatment rooms was to walk in at the 4:00 or 8:00 position to the patient. So, when I stepped into the room, I was eye to eye with them. I learned from the past. We had built another clinic that was all based on efficiency, so it had dual entry in the back. When I would go into those rooms, I felt like I was sneaking up on people. Also, having those dual-entry rooms side by side allowed us to overhear, accidentally, what’s going on from one room to another. I always thought it was hard to make someone feel like they were getting special attention with all the noise and commotion. The treatment rooms in my office are large and comfortable for us and the people for whom we are providing care. It won’t meet the criteria of highest efficiency, but I don’t care how others would judge it because it supports my philosophy and vision.
Dr. Jameson: You are the one who is in control of the practice of your dreams. We have talked about several things in this interview about the practice. There are obviously many things involved in having the practice of your dreams. But if there is one thing that you feel is most important for you to achieve for the quality of your life, for the quality of your team’s lives, and for the quality of your patients’ lives, what do you think that is?
Dr. Lais: One of my favorite quotes is by Vince Lombardi. “… the quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence no matter what their chosen field of endeavor.” But I also want to say that I don’t think you can focus just on the dentistry and be truly happy. Continue to grow and learn in all areas of your life. As you expose yourself to greater ideas, take time to reflect on your beliefs and make sure they hold true for you based on what you’ve learned. Then, make your dream practice a part of, and in support of, your entire life.
Dr. Jameson: You’ve shared that emphasis and now you’re able to provide excellent dentistry in the location of your dreams.
Dr. Lais: It is a dream come true, but the price of success is that you’re going to be given new challenges and dreams at a higher level. So, I’m not done yet.
Dr. Jameson: As dentists out there read your comments and begin to think about this “practice of your dreams” situation, what do you think should be the first step a doctor needs to take to initiate this activity?
Dr. Bolding: The first step for the doctor is to recognize that he or she has a problem or that the doctor is not being able to do what he or she wants to do. Second, once you recognize the issue, you must be able to make a change. I think so many doctors get caught up in where they are - whether it’s financially, physically, or emotionally with the community, the practice or the patients. They are not willing to make the changes necessary to develop the practice of their dreams. The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and over and expect a different result. So, I think the most important thing for individuals to do - once they recognize the problem - is to seek help. One of my philosophies is to surround myself with people who are much smarter than me. It’s wise to let companies like JMI or MaxSurg help walk them through the process of what they can do to have their ultimate practice. In my mind, each dentist has the ability to have the practice of their dreams. But, so many of their colleagues, friends and family tell them that they can’t. And they believe it instead of following their dreams. They surround themselves with bad advisors. If they do get good advice, they have to be optimistic and follow through with the advice. The big “P” disease of dentistry is procrastination. This is just the “Poor Me” syndrome. So many colleagues say, “Well, this is a bad community” or “My patients won’t do this” or “My patients won’t do crown and bridge” or “My patients won’t do implants.” When we talk about the subject of patients not doing a certain therapy, I tell them the dentist is the No. 1 problem in dentistry. It’s not the patients, it’s not the community, it’s not where you live. It’s your ability, or inability, to believe in what you’re doing. If you can’t sell your services, you’ll never be able to clear that hurdle. It’s the same thing with the practice of their dreams; they don’t know their capabilities. Someday, I think we’ll look back and be able to see a little synopsis of what we’ve accomplished, including a category for what we were able to accomplish but didn’t. I think so many of us just get so caught up in that rut of “not able” and don’t even realize what potential is there.
Dr. McBeth: Well, it’s good to take some time to dream. I know my plan is to continue expressing sincere care for patients. I’m going to recommend the best for them and I’m going to do the best for them. Also, I’m going to continue my working relationships and communications with our great professionals here. It’s a lot of work to communicate at this level of detail, but the patient can see when your teams are cohesive. So many times I see dentists who are comfortable with sitting back. They don’t want to “push too much” on their patients. For example, they may have treated a family for 20 years and they are hesitant to recommend what the family member really needs. I would emphasize that dentists who really love their patients and cares for their patients will recommend the best treatment possible, whether it be preventive orthodontics or complicated restorative dentistry. Then, the patient can decide whether or not he or she wants treatment. But, if a dentist cares for patients, then recommends the comprehensive, best treatment, patients will look at the dentist and say, “You know, why didn’t my other dentist say this to me?” That’s how a dentist can be successful. You have to recommend comprehensive, correct dentistry. Offer them optimum dental care, offer them a way to pay for it, and then get out of the way. Stop trying to guess what patients want. The patients will look back and say, “Well, Dr. so- and-so didn’t tell me that I have this severe overbite. Why didn’t he tell me that? He was my dentist for 25 years.” I hear this every day. So, for general dentists wanting to begin to develop the practice of their dreams, my suggestion is to present optimal care enthusiastically.
Dr. John Jameson is chairman of the board of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental consulting firm. Representing JMI, he writes for numerous dental publications and provides research for manufacturers and marketing companies, as well as lectures worldwide on the integration of technology into the dental practice, and leadership. He also manages the technology phase of the consulting program carried out by JMI consultants in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He may be reached at (877) 369-5558 or by visiting www.jamesonmanagement.com.