F + R = D

June 1, 2003
The phenomenon of choosing the wrong action in the face of facts that indicate another, wiser course is widespread and has many repercussions for you and your dental practice.

Dr. Michael Gradeless

The phenomenon of choosing the wrong action in the face of facts that indicate another, wiser course is widespread and has many repercussions for you and your dental practice. Every one of us has warned certain patients about the need for a filling, only to have them return much later with severe symptoms that only endodontic therapy or an extraction will relieve.

Behaviorists have extensively studied this issue and have developed a simple formula that can explain this phenomenon. The formula is "F + R = D," or "Facts plus Reason equals Decision." We all know what the "facts" portion of the equation is about. "Reason" equates the emotional component of the equation. The problem is, most of us weight the "R" in this equation with 10 times more value than the facts. This explains how millions of lottery tickets are sold in this country every day. Decisions that are overly-weighted by emotion often turn out to be wrong.

One of the most emotionally charged decisions we will ever make is purchasing or starting our own dental practice. If there is only one practice for sale in the area you want to practice, and this office is not very desirable (because of an outdated building and equipment, for example), will you wait until another opportunity is available, start a new practice from scratch, or go to another area that has a more financially lucrative opportunity? If you purchased a practice and agreed to keep the existing staff, was this an emotional decision or did you actually gather facts by interviewing your potential new employees? What about equipment purchases? The penchant for dentists to purchase equipment at dental conventions is almost legendary. Are these purchases based on strategic business planning or emotion?

All decisions are emotional. In fact, you must be emotionally invested in the outcome of a decision, or your success will be limited. If you don't care deeply about your dental practice, it will not prosper!

While we do not want to remove emotion from the decision-making process, we also do not want to allow emotion to hijack the decision-making process. Here are three steps that can help you balance the facts and emotions in your decision-making processes.

Step 1:Recognize when you are about to be "hijacked" by emotions.

Awareness is easy to develop once you see the formula in action. Be on guard when you find yourself thinking, "I must," "I have to," or "I would never."

Step 2:Run the numbers.

Most people don't like to look at the numbers because they are afraid their head will tell them something their heart doesn't want to hear. In a practice transition, hire someone for a certified appraisal and a cash-flow analysis. Examine the numbers and then run them again. This may be the largest and most important purchase you ever make.

Step 3: Motivate your patients with F + R=D.

Dental school taught us the science and facts behind the need for dental care. Excellent case presentation requires us to communicate our knowledge in ways that will appeal to our patients' emotional needs.

"F + R = D" is a very powerful equation that helps explain many facets of human behavior. Balance facts with emotion when making decisions and you will be assured of making the right one — for you and your practice.

Dr. Michael Gradeless, a 1980 graduate of Indiana University, practices preventive dentistry in Indianapolis with an emphasis on cosmetics and implants. He is an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University where he teaches the Pride Institute university curriculum of dental management. He is also the editor for the Indiana Dental Association. Contact him at (317) 841-3130 or email: [email protected].

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