Advice From a Founding Father

In Culture by Dental Entrepreneur

There is one thing—one nagging mindset condition—that is common to many new dentists, and it’s not just the anxiety from the mountain of school debt they are carrying. It’s the feeling of not being in control. It doesn’t matter if you’re an associate, a new owner, or an employee in a corporate environment, the feeling is similar. It’s the feeling of being pulled along day to day by circumstances, of responding to patient needs, team needs, and practice needs, but never really feeling in charge of your career path.

But the fact is, as long as you have an operatory space and a patient in front of you, you are in control of your future. You are the one who is completely in charge of the way that patient experiences dentistry today. And if you build on that experience visit after visit, consistently creating value and developing the relationship, you will be responsible for how they think about dentistry for a lifetime. Not only that, if you are demonstrating that kind of commitment to excellence, and to always improving your own clinical skills, it’s going to inspire the team around you. And as the results improve, you yourself will be inspired to even greater levels of achievement.

So how do you find the time and energy to devote to clinical and value-creation excellence, when it seems like it’s all you can do to keep up with the crush of daily demands? For the answer to that, let’s go back to the 1700s, and the advice of Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin was the prototype of the American self-made man—a school dropout, a newspaper publisher, a writer, an inventor, a diplomat, and a lover of knowledge and learning. If ever there was a busy man, it was Ben Franklin. But he recognized that no matter how busy he was, he always had to make time for self-improvement. It’s as simple as that. He made time, in the form of what has come to be known as the five-hour rule. One hour, five days a week, devoted solely to making himself a better, more well-rounded person. Here is how he spent that time:

  • Waking up early to read or write – we can all benefit from quiet, focused early morning time.
  • Setting personal goals and tracking results – something every successful dentist must do.
  • Turning ideas into experiments – just as great dentists turn CE into clinical advances.
  • Having morning and evening reflection time – such as strategic daily huddles.
  • Spending time with like-minded colleagues – who want to improve themselves and their community.

That last one is more difficult for dentists to do, but it so incredibly important. Dentists tend to work in isolation, on their own little “islands.” To expand your dental world view requires that you venture out and see what your colleagues are doing – to share in the excitement of what is happening in the profession.

This effort is especially important for new dentists, who often come out of dental school with sharp skills and energy and desire, but who are looking for the kind of expert guidance that can only come from spending time with dentists who have spent years in a successful practice.

If you are that dentist— a soon-to-be graduating student or a recently-in-the-game practitioner, I have a recommendation. Next month, I am returning to host the GOLD program at the annual Hinman Meeting in Atlanta. The GOLD (Graduates Of the Last Decade) program will be on Friday, March 24, and is designed just for you. It features both clinical leaders and financial leaders. And, this time, there’s even an astronaut—all there to answer the big question: what do I have to do to have a great life in dentistry?

I don’t often get on stage anymore, but this event is one that I could not pass up because it is so close to my heart. My career in the dental industry is in its “legacy” phase; that’s why I get so much gratification from seeing the next generation of dental leaders get off on the right foot.

I hope to see you at Hinman March 23-25. You may not be like Ben Franklin now. But if you attend, you will get a head start on what it takes to be a leader in dentistry’s next generation. Do yourself a favor and register now.

Imtiaz Manji