Monday, September 16, 2019


Master the 'Never Quit' frame of mind

Hello, dear Practicon friends. This month, I'd like to share some non-dental (or maybe I should say non-clinical) thoughts with you. The concepts mentioned below apply to the discussion of anyone's personal well-being in the dental profession. As I've written many times, there's more to life than the four walls of your dental practice.

Many of you know that Practicon is located in Greenville, a mid-size city in eastern North Carolina. We're in the flat coastal plains, just inland from the Atlantic Ocean with its bays, sounds, and barrier islands. The western part of the state is mountainous, hosting 95.7 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) within our state and another 224.7 miles along the shared border with Tennessee. The AT is actually the focal point of this article.

The AT is a continuous footpath, stretching 2,192 miles from Spencer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, and covering over 400 mountains, the highest of which are along the N.C./Tennessee border. The entire length of the trail can be traversed by most thru-hikers in five to seven months, and to be a thru-hiker on the AT is one of the ultimate achievements in the hiking world. Scott and Brad, two of our sons, have hiked about 100 miles of the Trail and testify to the intensity and difficulty, as well as to the pride and satisfaction of the accomplishment.

I've recently read a book by a young Floridian, Kyle Rohrig, who completed the AT and gained the wisdom of a lifetime in the process. On the final page of his book, Lost on the Appalachian Trail, Kyle writes:
If I had to describe the entire experience of the Trail in just a few words and give you the single most useful piece of advice for thru-hiking and life in general, it would be this:

The Trail has its ups and downs and you have to decide how you are going to react and handle each and every one of them. What you take within your backpack is not nearly as important as what you take within yourself. Bring a sense of wonder and a willingness to learn and adapt. Keep a positive attitude and your sense of humor at all times, even when the lows are at their lowest. Find humor in everything and laugh at all the bad things that happen to you. Realize the subtle nuances of your suffering are nothing more than blessings in disguise. Pursue your own definition of happiness in the truest and most honest form that you define it to be; but most importantly, NEVER QUIT! Do this and you cannot fail, because everything is what you perceive it to be and what you make of it. Master this frame of mind and you will master yourself and everything that you do.
[I challenge you to apply the concepts Kyle mentions to your practice of dentistry and how you feel about your profession.]

Human life is fleeting, and in the grand scheme of the universe, our existence doesn't even register. We have a short time with which to make the most of our lives, and in this day and age many people have trouble finding the joy as well as the positives in their life. In our flurry of activities, schedules, trials, and tribulations, we sometimes forget to stop and smell the roses. We forget to acknowledge the moments and events that have positive or neutral impacts on our lives, maybe even taking them for granted. We often overlook our blessings in disguise and fail to see them for what they are, or could be. Learn to slow down and recognize more of these seemingly insignificant instances that are buried through the chaos of our lives, and you might find that extra bit of peach and happiness we are all searching for...
Further, Kyle writes:
Being out there had taught me the purpose of life, or at least my own purpose to life. The purpose wasn't long distance hiking; the purpose is happiness in simplicity. Life is about simplicity and experiences—food, water, shelter, good friends, loved ones, and great memories. Anything beyond that is a bonus and should be viewed as such… Life and living is simple. We are the ones who complicate it.

Are you ready for a new challenge? Something different in your life? Freedom from the day-to-day routine? A new way to face the challenges of managing your practice? Read Kyle's book or peruse his website at You may decide a new challenge is just what you need at this time in your life. Maybe even hiking the whole 2,192 miles of the Appalachian Trail!

And check out our Free Resources for Your Practice for additional insights, information, and practice management tips.

Monday, September 9, 2019



As the leader of the "band" (your dental practice), one of your most important tasks is to convince each and every team member that they are KEY to the operation, service, and patient care that constitute the output of the office. Make this "YOU MATTER" tune a constant refrain in your practice.

Recognize the TEAM for what it is: the means by which patients are recruited, scheduled, received, educated about restorative needs and their own oral health, treated, cared for, recalled, and valued. Then recognize INDIVIDUALS, each in turn, highlighting each one's special contribution to the practice, to patients, and to coworkers. Each individual is KEY to the way the team functions and interacts, and she or he needs to be told that again and again.

The following amusing piece is a graphic example of the vital importance of every person on your dental team:

You Arx a Kxy Pxrson

Xvxn though my computxr is an old modxl, it works vxry wxll---xxcxpt for onx kxy. You would think that with all thx othxr kxys functioning propxrly, onx kxy not working would hardly bx noticxd; but just onx kxy out of whack sxxms to ruin thx wholx xffort.

You may say to yoursxlf, "Wxll, I'm only onx pxrson. No onx will noticx if I don't do my bxst." But it doxs makx a diffxrxncx bxcausx to bx xffxctivx an organization nxxds activx participation by xvery onx to the bxst of his or hxr ability.

So, thx nxst time you think you arx not important, rxmxmbxr my old computxr. You arx a kxy pxrson!

Suggestion: provide each team member with a copy of the Key Person piece above. Emphasize the concept during staff meetings, in morning huddles, and in one-on-one conversations with individual team members. Talk and walk this concept. Your staff will respond positively to your expressed conviction of the value of each of them.

Please see our Free Resources for Your Practice for additional insights, information, and practice management tips.

Monday, September 2, 2019



Almost every general dental practice treats a few patients with special needs—physical, developmental, mental, or emotional—and they do so quite well. Pediatric practices treat a greater number of special needs patients, and, in my experience, each dentist, pediatric or general, and team members who see these patients demonstrate extraordinary skill, patience, humor when appropriate, and just plain love.

Many pediatric practices with which I have consulted offer appointments on certain days each month to special needs patients so that the entire office can gear up to meet their needs. These special needs days are often fun, loud, challenging, rewarding, stimulating, exhausting, and cherished by the dentist, team members, patients themselves, and parents of patients who are free to chat, sharing their ideas, methods of coping, frustrations, blessings, and victories with other parents while in the reception area.

On one of the these appointment days in an office in which I was working, I met a mother of a special child who was eager to share her philosophy of parenting. On the spot, she gave me a copy of a poem she always carried with her, ready to cheer and to refocus herself or other special needs children's parents she met. Perhaps you or someone you know would like a copy of this touching verse.

Heaven's Special Child
by Edna Mazzimilla

A meeting was held quite far from earth;
It's time again for another birth.
Said the angel to the Lord above,
"This special child will need much love;
His progress may seem very slow;
Accomplishments he may not show;
And he'll require much extra care
From all the folks he meets down there.

He may not run or laugh or play;
His thoughts may seem quite far away.
In many ways he won't adapt,
And he'll be known as handicapped.
So let's be careful where he's sent,
We want his life to be content.
Please, Lord, find folks who will do
A special job just for You.

They may not realize right away
The leading role they're asked to play;
But with this child sent from above
Comes stronger faith and richer love;
And soon they'll know the privilege given
Of caring for a gift from Heaven.
Their precious charge, so meek and mild,
Is Heaven's very special child.

Please see our Free Resources for Your Practice for additional insights, information, and practice management tips.

Monday, August 26, 2019



If you've been in practice over six months, you may agree with the observation that leading the dental team is one of the most challenging aspects of practice management. Each team member is motivated and stimulated by different drivers (hot-button likes and dislikes, needs and wants). Trying to meet the needs and preferences of a team of people can baffle the team leader unmercifully, leading to misunderstandings, poor communication, dissatisfaction among staff members, and sheer frustration for the dentist/team leader. On the other hand, understanding the different aspects of individual team members' drivers, personality, and interpersonal style can make leading the dental team a rewarding experience, resulting in increased harmony, efficiency, productivity, job performance, and professional enjoyment in the office.

The use of psychological assessments can alert the dentist/team leader to the various drivers that affect different personality types. In short, these assessments allow a dentist to customize motivational factors in the workplace to meet the needs of individuals in appropriate, effective ways. The more a leader knows about what motivates each team member and how he or she best communicates with others, the better the team will operate.

Two of the most widely used psychological assessments are the DiSC Profile and the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Either instrument is a valuable tool in managing a work group.

The DiSC Profile, published by Wiley, is a "non-judgmental tool used for discussion of people's behavioral differences." Over 1 million people per year use this tool to improve teamwork, communication, and productivity in the workplace. It allows individuals to better understand their own drivers (motivational factors), response to conflict, stressors, and problem solving skills. It strengthens working relationships and interpersonal communications, and increases understanding of the priorities and personality characteristics of co-workers. Additional information is available here.

The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator is an instrument developed by a mother-daughter team of psychologists. "MBTI is a self-report inventory designed to identify a person's personality type, strengths, and preferences. It is the most widely used personality assessment test worldwide." Professional human relations specialists do not agree unanimously on its reliability, but, nevertheless, the MBTI is widely used in the business sector. You can read more about the MBTI here.

While both of these assessments can be self-administered with proper instruction, it is wise to bring in a consultant experienced in working with a group through completion of the instrument and its interpretation. I have experience with both assessments and can attest to their effectiveness in solving interpersonal problems within a work team. Either one is well worth the investment of money and time it will take to enrich and strengthen your dental team.

Please see our Free Resources for Your Practice for additional insights, information, and practice management tips.

Monday, August 19, 2019



A budget is a master plan to reach production and collection goals and to contain expenses.

There are two ways to increase practice profits: earn more and spend less. A budget can help with both.


Set production and collection goals for next year. Note that these are not the same (unless your practice has a 100% collection rate, in which case, congratulations!). The targeted collection amount is the sum of (1) projected overhead costs, (2) dentist's compensation, (3) debt service, and (4) desired profit, or the doctor's return on investment (ROI).

Divide that sum by the number of days to be worked next year to determine the daily collection goal. Multiply the daily collection goal by the average collection percentage rate (typically 93% to 97%) to determine the daily production goal, the amount that must be produced daily to assure collections are sufficient to meet the financial plan for the year (in other words, the budget).


Would you set off on a cross country road trip in unfamiliar territory without a GPS, or at least a road map? Of course not! Then why begin a year of practice that affects not only your current income, but your family's future and your retirement without a financial GPS by which you can plot your course and make corrections as the year progresses? In their book Budgeting Basics, Jackson and Inez Ramsey write, "A budget is the translation of the future plans of a business into dollars. A budget is the financial portion of your business plan."


September and October are the best months to plan for next year. Consider all aspects of the practice:

  • Personnel needs (additional team members? increases in staff compensation? new benefits?)
  • Changes to doctor's compensation?
  • New equipment?
  • Other increased or reduced expenses?

Following this assessment, set monthly totals to be spent in each of the seven categories of expense: personnel, administrative, occupancy, clinical supplies, lab, equipment/furnishings/contingency fund, and marketing.

Daily goals for production and collections combined with monthly overhead expenses are the skeleton of your budget. Make adjustments quarterly. The first year of the budgeting process is the most difficult. Subsequent years will be much easier and predicted goals and expenses will be more accurate. Working from a firm financial plan has brought about significant positive change in every practice that I have worked with.

Try it, and enjoy the results.