Creating the successful dental practice

Jan. 1, 2004
It takes more than money to achieve success. Vision, goals, and, above all, personal satisfaction are key to a happy life and career.

by Dr. Bill Dickerson

Any business must have a formal business plan before going to a bank for a loan. Why do banks require this? They understand that if an individual has no idea of where they want to go and how they are going to get there, then they probably won't get anywhere. Do you know where you want to go? What do you want to achieve? Is it money? My friends, money is not enough of a reason; it's just a scorecard on how you are doing.

Also, why do you want that vision or goal? Henry Kissinger said, "Perhaps the worst form of tragedy is wanting something badly, getting it, and finding it empty." Truer words have never been spoken. You need to be sure that the reason you want to achieve your dream is truthful.

Also, stretch your paradigms on determining your vision. Don't let a distorted interpretation of reality hamper you. Those things that you believe to be impossible may very well be possible. But you also must be realistic. For example, I always dreamed of playing for the Lakers, but since I'm not 21 and seven feet tall, I'm pretty sure this will never happen. You also must be willing to adjust and change your goals along the way. And when you do achieve your goals, make new ones immediately. Never be content with your position. Remember, life is the journey, not the destination. Don't fear the failure to achieve your dreams. Fear more the failure to even try.

Desire, will, persistence

Do you really want to achieve your vision or goal that badly? How hard are you willing to work for it? Is it worth the effort to you? I would love to have Arnold Shwarzenegger's body. But I don't want to work as hard as he does to achieve it. He wants it more than me. I understand that. You may dream of achieving something, but do you really have the desire to work hard enough to obtain it? Without that desire or will, you will never get what you want. Remember what Vince Lombardi said, "The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."

Let's not forget the role ethics plays in personal success. Would you do anything to achieve your dream? If "anything" means behaving unethically, then you obliterate two of the necessary ingredients for success: happiness and enjoyment. You will never be happy if you can't feel good about your success.

It's also important to understand that reaching your goals means facing obstacles along the way. We all have problems; there is no way to avoid them. Take the problems and turn them into something positive. It won't be easy. But things happen for a reason, and it's up to us to make a reason for why things happened. You need to turn every obstacle into an opportunity. Be flexible with your dreams or goals, and be willing to adapt and recover.

Creating a win/win

No business venture can be successful unless it's a win/ win situation for both parties. Success will be short lived if the client is on the losing end of the scenario. I remember a businessman in dentistry telling someone that he wins in every business venture, and that there has to be a loser. I couldn't disagree more. This person achieved some short-term success, by the way, but no long-term success. It just doesn't work.

Ask yourself: Is benefiting the patient part of your current vision? It's a matter of ethics once again: you must do what you feel is right. This is so important to create long-term success. Omer Reed told me years ago that a fair fee is anything someone is willing to pay and you are willing to accept without remorse. The same is true for your business ventures. Is there remorse by either party? If not, then you are doing the right thing.

At Las Vegas Institute, we strive to create a win/win outcome for our doctors. Their success is intertwined with our own. We want them to succeed, and we work hard to help them achieve their goals.

Customer service

Contrary to what you were told in dental school, we are part of a service industry. Even if there is a product, it's the service of delivering that product that creates success in most businesses. It's all about perceived value. Does your patient perceive the value of what you provide? Is it a memorable event? How can you improve your service? Think outside the box. Don't just look at other dental offices to determine how you should treat your clients. Ask yourself: Is it the best I can do?

Starbucks is a perfect example. They provide a product — coffee. Yet people are willing to pay $4 for a 50-cent cup of coffee. Why? Because of the environment, service, and atmosphere. This company created a new market based on the service. I love to go to Starbucks because everyone loves their job, they are all so friendly, and it's cool. I could buy an espresso machine and make my own at home, but I would be missing out on the "experience." Think about creating an experience in your office.


It's hard to be good at anything you don't like doing. If you are not happy in your work, you probably will never be successful at it. If you are not happy at work, ask yourself these questions:

? What don't you like about what you're doing?
? How can you fix it?
? What effect will this have on your business?

The results could be good or bad. Is your happiness worth the possible negative effect these changes could have on your business? In an ideal world, what would make you the happiest? Can it be accomplished? When?

In life, happiness really does surpass money. My greatest thrill is when doctors tell me that they've never enjoyed dentistry more now that they've been through LVI. Sure, it's nice to hear when dentists have dramatically improved their income, but it's even better when people tell me how much more they enjoy their work. It's my opinion that you need to do whatever it takes to be happy in your chosen profession. It may mean getting rid of a negative employee or to stop doing procedures you don't like doing. Whatever it is, do it!

Personal happiness is the final missing link. If you are not happy personally, then any success will be hollow. Is work your mistress because you are not happy personally? Do you expend all of your passion at work because it's 0missing from your personal life? Channeling every ounce of energy into your profession may benefit you materially, but eventually you will have to deal with the void in your personal life. It may require difficult decisions — some costly and some painful. But unhappiness is a cancer — destructive and soul eroding. People with cancer have to undergo treatment that can be painful and costly. But eliminating the cancer is worth it. Are you infected with this malady? Or are you surrounded by people who love you, support you, encourage you, and are there for you?

The most important thing in life is happiness. What a shame to miss out on it. Strive for happiness, and success will surely follow.

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