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As a dentist, dental practice owner, entrepreneur and now the founder and president of OPS, I talk with other dentists all the time. More to the point, I to listen to dentists. And one thing I’ve come to realize is that much of what holds dentists back from growing and scaling is their own mindsets.

The Biggest Obstacle to Growth and Opportunity

In my experience, there is one type of mindset that destroys hope and possibility in professionals and entrepreneurs in every industry. I call it growth fear and it is a very real phenomenon. I want to address 3 limiting growth fear mindsets in particular in this post.  

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” 
~Dale Carnegie 

Fear is an effective action-killer. Once fear has its grip on you, you’ve stopped before you’ve even begun. It’s one of the most time-consuming and pointless wastes of energy. Yes, fear is a useful emotion not to be ignored. It alerts us to immediate and long-term danger whether physical or emotional. It can also teach us a lot about ourselves. We need to pay attention to fear when it arises.  

However, paying attention to it is not the usual focus we take in business. When fear arises in us or in our business dealings, we usually don’t immediately understand it, address it or remove the cause of it. When we feel fear in business we ignore it, push it aside or belittle ourselves for having it if we do acknowledge it at all.  

Why is that?

Fear is the First Step in a Challenging Situation

I think the answer is that we don’t recognize fear for what it is when it comes up while we’re working. Fear shows itself in other ways in our business lives: we push plans aside; we repudiate ideas from others as unattainable or far-fetched; or we conveniently forget or ignore valuable insights that can spur growth, risk or investment.

All these responses can be justified as “safe” or “down-to-earth” or “rational” choices. And sometimes they are. But sometimes, many times, these responses are not ‘rational’ but an unconscious reaction to the fear that arises in us when we think about the risk, the work, or the delegation it would take to achieve a goal that triggers fear in us.  

Let’s look at these three fundamental fears and how they affect our business growth and dental practice function.  

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” 
~Nelson Mandela 

Growth Fear #1: Nothing Will Be in My Control in My Dental Practice

When you’re feeling out of control in your business that is a sign of fear or trepidation. It’s time to take a pause. Step back from your duties, your work and your busy day. It’s very easy to get into a groove, or more accurately, a rut in our businesses and get stuck. This experience has plagued every business owner at one time or another. You get stuck working in your business and forget or ignore working on your business.  

What’s the difference?  

Working in your business means you’re sitting in the chair looking into mouths day after day. This is a fine place to be until your dental practice is coming apart at the seams because you haven’t hired a new associate in months; you haven’t thought about raises for your team and they’re starting to revolt; appointments are dropping because you haven’t paid attention to training your staff on a recall program.

There is a part of you that knows action needs to be taken but you are not taking the action required because it means monetary investment, or stepping up and out of your dental chair which is where you’re most comfortable; or you rationalize that the time away from the chair will hurt your income and profit. But that’s where the thinking stops because you’re too afraid to dig into the feelings and discomfort that these situations bring up.  

The solution is to give yourself time and patience to learn to work, not just in your dental practice, but to work on your dental business. Sometimes, taking the leap from dentist to dental entrepreneur is scary and uncomfortable. But it is a necessary step for your success.  

Growth Fear #2: Growing My Dental Practice Means More Work for Me 

This is a big and often unconscious fear for dental practice owners. The thinking goes, “if I try to grow or scale my dental practice, I will just be giving myself more work.” So, they put that idea aside for “one day.”  

More work with growing your practice is a distinct possibility. However, that is not the only possibility. It is possible, preferable and optimal to grow your dental practice after having identified and delegated the goals and responsibilities for growth to your team. This step requires that you get agreement and buy-in from your team members. And asking them to see and agree to your vision and assist you in that attainment is scary. It means putting yourself, your dreams and your personal desires on display and asking people to agree with you and fight for your vision alongside you.  

That’s a big ask and it requires your vulnerability. So scary. I remember coaching a dentist on this very issue. And it took a while to uncover that this was actually the issue. We were working on ways to establish more revenue and profit for his practice. I offered up the idea of scaling his business and almost immediately started offering excuses as to why it wouldn’t work.  

We took a break from our coaching session for lunch where we both got a chance to breathe and relax. I asked him why he didn’t think scaling was an option for him and in all honesty, he said that it would mean more work for him while he was already feeling spread too thin in his current responsibilities. There it was. We got to the core of his fear – more work. I explained that this need not be the case and we went back into our coaching session focusing on solutions that ensured no added responsibilities to his workload. It turned out to be a very productive session for him.  

Growth Fear #3: Growing My Dental Practice Will Cost Me Big 

The final area where fear stealthily stifles growth is the thinking that growing your practice cuts into profit and revenue with no guarantee of ROI. You may have had thoughts of growing your practice in the past and the minute you have those thoughts you think, “welp, it’ll be too expensive to implement those changes. Never mind.” And you move on as quickly as you start thinking about it.  

On the face of it, that thinking is logical, obvious and safe. Yes, growing your practice does incur expense and require investment, but that is the initial short-term aspect of all growth. If you were to stop there then, of course, you would never see the ultimate results of your investment or work.  

But I challenge you to look at this fear in another way. Your fear of not seeing a return on your financial investment might very well be rooted in your lack of confidence in your or your team’s ability to see your actions through to the end.  

Why do I say that?  

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. 
~Marie Curie  

Because a financial investment in your dental practice is a bet on your abilities. Full stop. You’re betting that you’ve got the courage, the know-how and the endurance to build, test and grow your systems until they start yielding the results you want. So, what’s the real fear? The real fear here is you wondering if you’ve got what it takes. But once again, you can’t grow your practice alone or in a vacuum. It takes an entire team to bring your vision into reality.  

And the sooner you can be honest with yourself about the root causes of your fear the sooner you can address them and begin to take effective action in the direction of your choosing. And that is what real freedom is about, isn’t it? The ability to respond as you choose.

It’s Only the Entrepreneurial Unknown You Fear

In fact, all these fears are rooted in questioning yourself and your abilities. Why? Because, most likely you’ve never done this before! You leave dental school striving to be an expert in dentistry and then spend years perfecting your craft. Where is that same level of expertise, perfection and mastery for your business??  

Many dentists come by their business acumen through trial and error and many mistakes and missteps. It takes years of exhaustive efforts to build a successful dental practice. So, when you start to ask yourself bigger questions about growth, the fear leaps up and instantly quashes the hope and then camouflages itself as something else: non-interest, overwhelm, logic or practicality.  

The #1 Fastest Way to Growth Success in your Dental Practice

Now that we’ve uncovered all the ways we put roadblocks in front of our growth and success, let’s look at one effective solution to all these fears around growth. I came upon this solution in 2014 while working on my own growth fear issues. That answer is the most effective tool I’ve discovered for tackling my fears, finding success and discovering that I’m not alone.  

I’m talking about joining a mastermind. I joined my first mastermind in 2014 and never looked back. There I found answers to my growth stagnation, I found a brotherhood and sisterhood I could lean on for answers and support and I found connections, solutions, resources and strategies for the success I quickly started to realize over the next several years in my dental practice organization.  

In fact, I believe in the mastermind format so much that my business partner, Josh Gwinn, and I, started our own! And we want you to join us. Masterminds are effective tools in addressing your fears, your biggest obstacles and learning about the most effective solutions from your peers, the people who have faced the same exact situations you find yourself in.  

Are you ready to tackle your biggest fears, gain great insights and receive the answers you’ve been looking for? Join us for our next virtual mastermind and discover that you are not alone.