A dentist reflects on the best piece of advice he ever received

The year was 1991, and I had been out of school for 20 years. I was feeling comfortable with my practice growth, and felt I should start looking for some non-dental investments to grow my net worth and cash flow outside the practice







The year was 1991, and I had been out of school for 20 years. I was feeling comfortable with my practice growth, and felt I should start looking for some non-dental investments to grow my net worth and cash flow outside the practice. A medical doctor friend told me he had an opportunity that looked like it could have great growth. He had a financial advisor who said it was a sure thing and, for a small fee, he could help us manage this with little or no effort. Sound good so far? Two doctors with no retail experience, opening a bookstore, with another friend who was going to take care of all the details. All we had to do was come up with $100,000 each. Luckily, our new financial friend had a willing savings and loan officer who was eager to give us both personally secured notes to fund the project.

With our great skill and experience, we were able to keep our new endeavor out of bankruptcy for a little over a year, with the loss of our investment, some additional expenses, and all our inventory and working revenue we had received from sales.

What I was left with was a personally secured note and some very sad memories. What was I supposed to do?

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It was about this time a dentist friend listened to my whining about my poor luck and the dilemma I was in. He was sympathetic for a couple of minutes, and then he said he had something he thought I should read. In a couple of days, I received a newspaper clipping with an article by syndicated writer Dave Barry had written about that time. The paraphrased title was, “Dance with the one who brung ya.”

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It was an article about Dr. Denton Cooley of Houston, Texas, who was one of the world’s leading heart surgeons of that time. He felt like me about investing, only on a much grander scale. He bought into the Houston real estate market … which had a terrible collapse right after he bought in.

It spoke of his ability to earn huge amounts of money, but he felt the need to look at things he knew nothing about for investments. He had gone into bankruptcy with all the debt he had incurred and he had gone to court with a plan to pay back 100% of the debt.

When Barry had tried to contact Dr. Cooley, he was unavailable because he was in surgery. His plan was to work longer hours at the thing he knew best, repairing hearts through his skill as a surgeon.

My debt was much, much less, but still daunting for the amount of income I had at the time. I decided to quit whining, buckle down, work 5½ days per week, put the extra income toward the debt, and pay off my debt. I paid the total $100,000 off in a little more than three years by doing what Dave Barry suggested: “Dance with the one who brung ya.”

I am not suggesting you do not invest … just don’t invest in things you know nothing about. Limit your liability by being smart with the people you trust to control your investments. Get good advice from trusted sources.

And with all that, when you make your first, bad investment, know that you can always fall back on that investment no one can take away from you … your ability to restore patient’s health and smiles through your skill as a dental professional.

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Editor's Note: Photo by Elvert Barnes from Hyattsville MD, USA

(108.DixieCups.Storm.SFLF.WDC.8jul06) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons