My dental journey began in 1961 as a teen dental assistant/receptionist in a small dental practice in West Virginia, USA.
It has spanned over five decades as an employee, employer of ten employees, speaker, consultant and author. When I look back over the past 50 years to evaluate the principles that guided my own dental journey and the journey of my clients and my colleagues, I see a common thread among us. We are guided by a passion for the daily work we do. This includes the love of dentistry, a sincere interest in other people and an unquenchable thirst for learning how to perfect our skills even more.
What drives this passion that some people in dentistry never acquire and others have, yet lose it somewhere along their journey? Several factors drive this principle but the strongest factor is a sincere desire to succeed and to see others (their patients, staff and clients) succeed. These are very fair people. They are never jealous, never greedy, but fair. They treat everyone as they would like to be treated. Making others look good makes these folks giants in the world around them. In other words, they celebrate the success of others, which is why they are so successful. They have an "attitude of gratitude" for everyone who has helped them in their particular journey. In feeling so blessed, they have a need to "pass it on". They are selfless, never selfish. They are born leaders in every organisation to which they belong. They empower others by kindness, encouragement and hope. Others who don't have it yet envy it, often look upon their passion with criticism.
The old adage, "it's lonely at the top" can be understood by the dentists who stand head and shoulders above others in their profession. These dentists strive for excellence in every thing they say or do. They extend a hand to others who have not found the journey as rewarding financially or emotionally. They are born leaders by WHO they are, WHAT they do and with WHOM they choose to surround themselves. They select their friends and advisors well. They match the level of dedication to one's chosen profession by the level of passion these friends and advisors possess. They spend more hours in the business of dentistry than their counterparts who allow themselves to be naïve about the business side of dentistry. They invest their hard-earned money wisely realising that their future is secure if they do not live beyond their means. They take care of their team and their team becomes as dedicated as the leader, taking care of the dentist and their patients with the same level of excellence that keeps the practice set apart from other practices in their community. Their religion, family and country are of utmost importance to them.
The second reason these people are happy, successful and looking forward to "passing the baton" of their practice when the time comes is that they know that letting go is sometimes the key to continued growth. They know that in the INFANCY of their practice, their learning process was just beginning. In the Growth or GO-GO Stage, they knew that change was inevitable for growth and therefore they embraced the many changes that presented to their practice. These changes included staff changes, systems of business, communication, technology and technique changes along with paradigm and mind shifts. In the PLATEAU of their practice, they know in advance the importance of bringing in an associate dentist or selling their practice. In bringing in an associate dentist, they knew how to integrate that person into the practice so that it becomes a successful solo to duo transition. They prepared their team and patients for this change by setting a good example of acceptance and support for the associate dentist. Therefore, their "Golden Age" years in practice will be the best years of the journey.
These dentists and team members never lost sight of the fact that the patients always came first; the practice as a healthy business came second... with the dentist(s) and team last. These smart journey men and women realised if the patients were happy, and if the practice was profitable, there would be many rewards both financially and emotionally for the dentist(s) and team. These professionals did not sell their souls to outside forces that robbed so many other healthcare professionals of their happy journey. They refused to sell themselves short and be governed by entities that asked them to compromise the care of their patients by huge reductions in reimbursements or time spent to build relationships with patients and their team.
If these principles are ones that brought you to where you are in dentistry or are principles that you and your team need to be reminded of often, come spend the day with me along with Dr David Moffet and Jayne Bandy in either Melbourne (August 3) or Sydney (August 10). Not one or two management pearls and growth strategies will be shared... but instead, the whole string of pearls!
About the author
Linda Miles is an internationally recognised consultant, speaker and author on dental practice management and team development. She is a successful businesswoman who not only founded LLM&A, a leading INC 500 dental management consulting firm in 1978; but also founded the Speaking Consulting Network in 1997. She sold those two businesses in 2007 and 2010 to devote more time to Oral Cancer Cause (OCC), a non-profit that saves lives by creating awareness of early staged head and neck cancer. Linda has spoken in all 50 states of the US and on four continents, authored four books and mentored many other dental consultants.