Three "bottom lines"

Sept. 1, 2010
As small business owners, we have a distinct advantage over publicly traded companies who have a special preponderance for "bottom line" thinking.

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: Three bottom lines, "In Search of Excellence," McKinsey 7-S model, purpose, L.D. Pankey, Dr. Michael Schuster, The Schuster Center.

As small business owners, we have a distinct advantage over publicly traded companies who have a special preponderance for "bottom line" thinking. I know you aren’t General Motors, but for your own sake, don’t act like them. In 1973, GM made a mistake that has cost them, and now us, billions of dollars in losses. The mistake was this statement: "We are in business to make money, not cars."

The moment business owners forget why they are in business – "to serve the customer or patient" – then that business is on its way out. In 1982, Peters and Waterman sold a landmark book called "In Search of Excellence," in which they outlined the best practices of top companies. There was only one problem. Within five years, at least 50% were bankrupt, bought out, or closed.

The platform Peters and Waterman used and upon which the research and theory for "In Search of Excellence" was built was the McKinsey 7-S model:

McKinsey 7-S model elements are: structure, strategy, systems, style of management, skills – corporate strengths, staff, and shared values.

It was later simplified. Contrast this with what became the essential message of "In Search of Excellence" – people, customers, action.

After more than 10,000 dental practice evaluations and more than 32 years of working exclusively with dentists, this is what I’ve witnessed. Money is important, but the focus on production is flawed, just as it is for GM and now Toyota (who wanted to be No. 1). The end is always in sight. I fully concur with McKinsey’s 7-S model elements. While the simplification may be nice, it isn’t complete.

There is something missing in both models: purpose. Purpose is the reason your practice exists. Purpose is what gets you up in the morning and excited about going to work. Purpose is your primary aim. Purpose is what brings meaning to your life and value to your patients. Without purpose there is no passion, without passion there is no excitement, and without excitement there is no engagement.

Your purpose is your gift to the world. Your purpose is not about you, but about how you use your gifts to serve others. Forget this and you are on the way to a slow, angry, difficult experience practicing dentistry. Any time any business spends more than 50% of its time concerned about its own welfare rather than spending that time being concerned about the welfare of its customers or patients, it’s headed for the dump.

So, here’s an alternative approach that the best run companies and dental practices in the world focus on: The three bottom lines:

WORTHWHILE WORK – The work you do must bring value to the lives of the people you serve or it won’t bring much value to your life. The more your intention is to make a difference in the lives of your patients, the more you will grow, evolve, and be engaged in your practice and life.

ENJOYMENT/FULFILLMENT – Worthwhile work brings meaning and fulfillment to your life. Too many people think that "work" has to be difficult, stressful, and taxing. The reality is that worthwhile work (work that is meaningful to you and your patients) becomes not only a focus but a measure of your daily success in practice and life.

PROFIT – Stephen Covey said, "No margin, no mission." I say, "No profit, no purpose." So it is – these standards become the three bottom lines you can use to measure the success or failure of your life and practice.

Each standard is intimately related to the other. No organization of any kind or size can be great without values, principles, and a perspective that respects and honors the individual. Tom Watson of IBM understood that "People, not money or things, are any company’s greatest asset."

There are also three commitments that go with the three standards of a bottom line:

1. Since people (patients and staff) are our greatest assets, every effort must be made to treat every individual with dignity and respect.

2. Provide an exceptional service and a great experience for every person the practice serves. This alone is an unbelievable differentiating factor to every exceptional practice.

3. The third commitment is excellence in everything we do. As far as dentists and our relationship with our patients, I use the time honored statement from my mentor Dr. L.D. Pankey: "I want to do the best dentistry that I can deliver and the patient can accept, pay for, and appreciate."

Enough said.

A practicing dentist, Dr. Michael Schuster founded the Schuster Center in 1978. Guiding thousands of graduates to achieve wealth and freedom, the Schuster Center is the first business school created exclusively for dentists. Dr. Schuster is a cadre and former director at the Pankey Institute, adjunct faculty at the Dawson Center, OBI, and LSU Cosmetic Continuum. Dr. Schuster can be reached at (800) 288-9393,, or [email protected].

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