Think Differently

In Launchpad by Dental Entrepreneur

Contributing to Dental Entrepreneur is such an interesting and exciting experience for me! This is an honor, as it didn’t seem that long ago that I was reading this magazine as a dental student in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., from 2008-12, and now, I’m writing an article as the owner of The Practice | Beverly Hills Boutique Dental in Beverly Hills, Calif..

Within the first month of dental school, I met my wife, Dr. Stacey, and we quickly realized how much we thought alike, but differently. Wait, what? We had both just completed masters degrees in business before our D1 year. As a dental student or recent graduate reading this article, you know how unusual this coincidence would be in the dental-school landscape, where very few students have taken any business courses, let alone completed business degrees. Anyway, both of us also quickly saw how well this publication linked the two worlds of business and dentistry. Within our class, we were known to research the archived issues and recommend articles when classmates asked for advice on writing CVs or what type of disability insurance they should get. Since everyone knew we went to business school, we often got questions on topics from practice management class when everyone was too shy to ask the professors. Thanks to Dental Entrepreneur articles, we didn’t have to repeat ou
rselves 120 times! I even did literature reviews on articles I thought would be beneficial for our co-residents at UCLA. I am so happy to have the opportunity to contribute to this great magazine.

We both grew up in families that owned small businesses. Stacey’s father and four other family members were general dentists that owned their own practices; my dad owns a custom drapery and curtains business. Growing up, we both had a pretty good idea that we would likely own our own businesses as well. With that in mind, when we had difficulty getting into dental school during our initial application cycles, we both decided that degrees in business would serve us well. Having the business training prior to becoming a dentist allowed us to learn the fundamentals of all businesses, before specializing in dentistry. This unconventional thinking turned out to be a great decision for both of us, and it led to our early success. We truly feel that thinking differently will help dentists with private practices continue to compete in the ever-changing landscape of dentistry.

I’ve basically been thinking differently my entire life. What other 8-year-old kid is unwavering in their desire to become an Dustin Cohen, MS, MBA, DMD Power to Succeed orthodontist? I mean, yes, I also wanted to be a karate master, rollerblading champion and NBA superstar, but always in conjunction with being an orthodontist. Since I had two masters degrees before I was accepted into dental school, I was becoming concerned with the amount of time it would take to become an orthodontist and decided general dentistry was my best option. Well, that, and the fact I thought the Intro to Orthodontics class in D1 year was super boring. After analyzing the business models of general and specialty dental practices, I was able to envision a general dental practice that had all the benefits of a specialty practice and a better lifestyle. That was the foundational thinking for The Practice | Beverly Hills (#TPBH).

When we started to discuss our goals and visions for our careers, Dr. Stacey’s goals were not quite as lofty and as grand as mine. But what she lacked in flash, she made up for in organi- Think Differently Dental Entrepreneur Spring 2018 29 zational skill. Dr. Stacey has an incredibly organized way of doing business. Without her, we are all show and no go. Her experience of working in the front office of her father’s dental practice, combined with business and dental degrees, and a slight obsession with Microsoft Excel, make her unlike anyone I’ve ever met. In the early days of our discussions, she was always thinking about how to make our ideas more efficient, more effective, and more importantly, different than the way it’s done in most dental offices. Dr. Stacey saw first hand the common problems that dental offices run into, and the problems consultants lecture about. Instead of looking to the same solutions as everyone else has tried, she thinks of something new.

*TPBH BIZ TIP #1: For a look at the best employee manual video we’ve ever seen, search YouTube for 10 Bullets by Tom Sachs. If you can get past the quirkiness, you can learn a lot. The “Always Be Knolling” section makes Dr. Stacey very happy … you will understand her much better after seeing it.

The last real summer vacation I had was between business school and dental school. That summer was spent voraciously reading business books and taking note s… while on a cruise in the Caribbean. In that stack of books, I found the book I didn’t even know I was looking for. Purple Cow by Seth Godin reinforced my ideas that we need to think differently to succeed. The basic premise of the book is to stand out from the crowd. A purple cow gets noticed. If you go this route, people will either love it or hate it. And that’s exactly what you want. The people who hate you will leave to make room for the people who love you. What kind of practice is full of people who love you and very few people who hate you? That’s what we call a DREAM PRACTICE!

*TPBH BIZ TIP #2: Another great book that gets you to look at your business in a different light is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It makes you look at what type of person you really are to better understand where your business may be in need of help.

About half way through our one-year residency program at UCLA, we realized that we should start looking for jobs. Los Angeles is an extremely saturated dental market with comparatively low wages for a new dentist. When we asked for advice, many people recommended speaking with the local dental association or to send hand written letters to offices in the area. Some even recommended we move to another city! When we got the same answer from so many people, we knew we would have to do something different to stand out amongst all of the competition. Since we had become members of the California Dental Association earlier in the year, we decided to do some research using the member directory section of their website. We searched by zip code and perused a list of doctors already practicing in our desired areas.

Dr. Stacey had the idea to target dentists who had been practicing for 20-plus years because they are more likely to be looking for an associate or selling their practice. Once those doctors were identified and placed in an Excel spreadsheet (of course!), we crafted an introductory email to introduce ourselves, politely informed them that we were looking for work and asked for general advice on practicing in Los Angeles. Along with this introductory email, we attached our perfectly polished CV. This approach was significantly less time intensive than mailing or handdelivering CVs and did not cost anything. Yes, we sent out hundreds of emails and received a response from only about 5 percent of them; but we were also the only residents in our program to find full-time work before the residency ended. That included the phenomenal practice that we ended up purchasing two and a half years later.

Thinking differently can be hard! It is a real challenge to look at a problem or situation from a completely different perspective than how everyone else looks at it. There are many times thinking differently about an issue just doesn’t work, but that’s OK. In order to excel (with a lower case “e” this time) at what you do, you need to see the full picture in every situation … thinking differently will help you achieve that. Being a great dentist is a third clinical skills, a third patient management and a third practice management, so that means you’ve got a lot of thinking to do!

Dustin Cohen, MS, MBA, DMD & Stacey Cohen, MMI, DMD are the owners of The Practice | Beverly Hills Boutique Dental, a fee-for-service cosmetic and general dentistry practice in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Dustin attended the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship where he received his Master of Business Administration degree prior to entering dental school. Dr. Stacey attended The University of Toronto’s Institute for Management and Innovation where she earned a Master of Management of Innovation. They met at Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine and afterwards both completed UCLA’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry program. Their newest endeavor is The Practice | Management, where they focus on helping other dentists in all aspects of dental business. Website: Instagram: @ThePracticeBeverlyHills Hashtag: #TPBH Email: