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How Lacking the 2 Cs Can Rob You of Your Freedom


The absence of confidence and competence is a big barrier that could be holding you back.



As dentists, we are expected to wear many hats. We are expected to spin a handpiece, run a business, and think like an entrepreneur…and let’s not forget possibly being a spouse and parent. On top of all these roles, we are trained to expect perfection from ourselves and others in every aspect.

Let’s discuss the impact the 2 Cs have on our ability to handle all of these and live a fulfilling life with the freedom to choose what we want to do and how we want to do it. The Cs I am referring to are confidence and competence. The absence of either one is the biggest barrier holding you back from the freedoms that very few dentists seem to experience.

As a wet-finger dentist for almost 20 years, a director of a residency program, and a coach of many dentists, I can affirm that your ability to truly feel confident and competent will greatly expedite your journey to freedom.

Confidence, the first C, is the creator of much freedom. Why do many seasoned dentists excel at enrolling patients into treatment? Why do young dentists struggle to enroll patients in treatment? Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s abilities or qualities.

How can you develop or improve your confidence? Confidence is being bold. We can all agree that it is easier for some than for others to portray confidence or boldness.

There are 3 ways to increase your confidence. The first is through education. If you are not getting the results you desire in any given aspect of clinical dentistry or the business of dentistry, you must seek the knowledge to become more confident. Whatever situation your practice is in and whatever financial situation you are in was created by you. You can recreate them.

The second and maybe most important step is preparation. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed and spontaneous you are. We have all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect.” Can you imagine a professional athlete having ultimate confidence in their craft if they never practiced or prepared for the game? Preparation means doing whatever it takes because the journey is not going to be easy. Determine you will never go back to just getting by, and this will keep you motivated.

The last way to increase confidence is a little more difficult because it requires self-talk and limiting your self-criticisms, as well as harnessing the power of positive affirmations. We are all trained in dental school to be great at evaluating our own work and being hypercritical of it (being a perfectionist, you might say). As great as this skill appears on the surface, it has created this mental picture that we must be perfect or we are failures. What if you can learn to forgive yourself for not being perfect and not feel shame or guilt? I am here to tell you that you will never be perfect in your clinical skills or your business, and that’s OK. How about the idea that you are doing the best you can and there are many aspects of this game we call dentistry that are beyond your control. Therefore, we will all have failures.

The most successful people have failed many times. What makes them different is their ability to get back up and try again, their ability to be bold. Boldness is the action of being confident. It is the power of positive affirmations and believing in them daily and acting them out. Doctors, don’t let your lack of confidence hinder your ability to experience true freedom and joy.

The second C that is robbing you of your freedom is a lack of competence. You have all passed the minimal competency exam required to practice dentistry in your particular place of business. However, are you really competent in your ability to deliver predictable results? As stated earlier, dentistry is a very difficult game, and we cannot predict variables such as behavior, tongue size, opening size, and our patient’s ability to care for our sometimes heroic work

More important is competency in running a dental business. You can be the best clinical dentist in the world and be unsuccessful in business. My mentor and friend, Omer Reed, used to say, “Your patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” We all want to be the best clinicians we can, but none of our patients know or understand what that means…but they do understand what success looks like. Understand the competencies of running a business to truly become the CEO of your company. Yes, if you own your dental practice, you are more than likely the CEO of your business.

You do not need an accountant or financial advisor to help you understand that money is vital to what you’re trying to do. Also, if you don’t teach your team about money, you will continue to get the same results you have been getting. Your team is your most valuable asset, and they must all relate to money very personally. They must all understand the financial impact of what they do every single day in relation to the profit and loss of the company. The entire team must think like an owner. They need to understand how money works, where it goes, how much is left, and how much everyone gets at the end of the day.

Do you understand money? If you can’t answer this question, you are not alone. Most doctors whom I meet and start to coach have no idea. There is major confusion about how money works in the context of owning, operating, developing, and exiting a dental practice. You have all heard someone at some point in your career preach about working on your business and not just in your business. Most of us, when we hear this, think, “How in the world am I supposed to work on my business when I barely have enough time in a day, week, month, and year to do the dentistry I need to do?”

As a practicing dentist, I struggled mightily with this concept for many years. What did it mean to work on my business? My thought process was always that if I took more time away from spinning a handpiece, I would produce less and, therefore, make less money. This is the thought process of an employee, not an owner. The sad reality is that most owner-doctors are not even putting as much money in their pockets as the average associate-employee doctor.

How can that be? What do most associate employee doctors make? The average compensation for an employee doctor in the United States is 30% of adjusted production. If you own a practice and don’t understand what adjusted production is, you have a huge problem. Let’s pretend your adjusted production is $800,000, then 30% of this number is $240,000. You should be (at a minimum) putting this amount into your pocket. This amount is for doing the dentistry (spinning a handpiece), exactly the same as the associate employee doctor. If this is all you are making, why do you own your own business? As a business owner, you should be getting paid not only this amount but also getting paid as the CEO of your business as well as on the return on your investment. Yes, you should be getting paid in 3 ways.

There are 4 factors of money that you must understand: income, profit, flow, and equity. Income is the money you make for working in your business (spinning a handpiece). Income has nothing to do with ownership. Income is the most important form of money as an associate employee doctor. Income should be the least important form of money to the owner-doctor. Are you starting to see the conflict here?

Profit is the money left over after everything has been paid for and everyone has been paid for a job done effectively and efficiently. If there is no profit, your practice is doing something wrong. Doctors, if you are not paying yourself an income or calculating that when looking at your profit and loss statement, you are fooling yourself. If there is profit at the end of each day, month, and year, and it was done intentionally, you are doing something right.

Profit is the investment capital that feeds and supports growth. It is the bonus capital that rewards people for exceptional work. It is the operating capital that shores up money shortfalls. Profit is the return on investment capital that rewards you, the owner-doctor, for taking risks. Profit is the fuel of progress.

Flow is what money does in a practice rather than what money is. Have you ever looked at your business account and become excited at the balance in there…and, one hour later, it’s gone? How can you produce a profit yet have no money in your account? This is called profit on paper rather than in fact. Knowing where money is and where it will be when you need it is critical for everyone in the office, especially you. It is vital to know how much money is coming in and going out on an hourly or daily basis, never on a weekly or monthly basis. You must be able to forecast flow. Unfortunately, few owner-doctors pay attention to flow until they look in the bank account and they have no money. At this point, it’s too late. You can control the flow of money in and out of your practice by becoming more efficient and more effective.

Equity is the fourth factor of money. Equity is the financial value placed on your practice by a prospective buyer of your practice. If your practice is a true business, it is your most important product, not your services. To enhance the value of your practice (and thus your equity), you must build it right.

You must build a true business that can produce income, profit, flow, and equity. To accomplish this, you must design your business with systems that produce predictable results every single time. You must go to work on your practice’s systems to deliver what you promise every single time and work on your practice to package it and make it stand out from every other practice. The value of your equity is directly proportional to how well your practice works. Also, how well your practice works is directly proportional to the effectiveness of the systems you have put into place, upon which the operation of your practice depends. Freedom boils down to how well your practice works, which is a direct reflection on the systems that are in place.

The concept of freedom has many thinking, “Freedom from what?” Scarcity is a killer of confidence. When we live in a scarcity mindset of money or skills or business acumen, we are inhibiting our ability to be free and bold. Imagine if you had more money in your bank account than you could ever spend. Do you think you would talk differently in a patient consultation? One sure way to build confidence is to never have an agenda. Practice thinking in abundance and never worrying about money or how someone will think about you. True freedom is something seldom experienced by dentists.

Doctors, remember that whatever situation your practice is in and whatever financial situation you presently find yourself in, you created. You can create something different. Make the decision now to become free and live in complete abundance and joy.

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