As A Dental Practice Entrepreneur, Are You in Prison?

As a dental professional, I have experienced firsthand the challenges of building and managing a successful practice. But unfortunately, I have also witnessed the paradox of success, where the same systems, processes, and teams that once propelled your practice’s growth become obstacles to further progress. This phenomenon, which I call the “dental entrepreneurial prison,” inspired me to write my book,  Extraction: The Surprising New Formula to Systemize, Scale, and Sell Your Business, and to found Optimize Practice Services to help my fellow dentist entrepreneurs escape this trap and unlock their practices’ full potential.  

So how do you escape the prison you, yourself, built? I’ve got some thoughts about that… 

As A Dental Practice Owner, Do You Even Know You’re in Prison?  

As a dental practice grows and evolves, it is typical for the systems and processes that once facilitated its success to become outdated and hinder its progress. Unfortunately, many dentist entrepreneurs, me included, have been trapped in a never-ending cycle of managing and maintaining the structures that initially brought them success. The dental entrepreneurial prison is a paradox where growth and transformation become increasingly complex and recognizing that you’re trapped is the first step to overcoming it.  

So how do you know when you’re beginning to see obstacles where there were once only opportunities? One of the tools I use is a chart I created to help me figure out where my business is progressing. I call this chart the Lifecycle of a Business. Every business has a lifecycle. You start out strong, on the upswing, then maybe you hit some stagnancy and have to reassess your systems and processes. Next, you go through some restructuring, which brings a downturn in growth until those new systems run smoothly and you’re on the upswing again. These evolutions are much more intricate than that, but there is a basic flow to every practice’s growth, stagnancy, decline, and renewal, almost like seasons in a year.  

All of this is very natural. The problem comes when you can’t see where your business is in its Lifecycle or where it’s heading. You’re essentially blind to obstacles and blind to the path to freedom.   

My journey to escape the dental entrepreneurial prison began with the concept of extraction. By identifying when and where to extract ourselves from outdated systems, processes, or teams, we can free up time and resources, allowing us to focus on expanding and improving our dental practices. This involves outsourcing specific tasks, hiring new personnel, and sometimes implementing new technologies to streamline operations and enhance patient care. So how do you identify and diagnose where our business is and where it’s going?  

Identifying Where Your Dental Practice Is in Its Lifecycle 

As I said, an essential aspect of embracing extraction is understanding the Lifecycle of your business. Recognizing the various stages of growth and transformation, from inception and launch to expansion and eventual maturity and transition, is the responsibility of every dental practice owner. By understanding these stages, we can better identify when and where to extract ourselves, allowing for a more efficient allocation of resources and increased focus on practice growth. 

Ok, how do you identify where your practice is in its Lifecycle? Every business faces issues almost daily, so how do you know if the current problems are quotidian or if they indicate systemic issues that need to be addressed? This is where you let yourself out of prison. By teaching yourself, as the dental practice entrepreneur, to work on your business rather than just in your business, you will have a greater understanding, control, and a more holistic view of your practice rather than just the view from the dentist’s chair.  

Optimize Practice Services

Caption: Lifecycle of a Business chart. Credit: Nida Zafar

Three Keys to Unlocking the Dental Entrepreneurial Prison 

There are three keys to help you figure out the obstacles your business faces and how to deal with them. These keys will allow you to take a 10,000-foot view of your practice and determine where it is in its Lifecycle. You can prescribe the proper remedy when you figure out where your business is. So, what are these keys that unlock your freedom?  

1. Measuring and Testing 

As the saying goes, you can’t improve what you don’t test. Although a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on Measure What Matters; check it out for greater insight into what and how to test and measure for growth.  

As the owner of your practice, the literal buck stops with you. If you don’t know how well your business is doing, you won’t know where to improve, when to expand, or how to scale to keep growing. Therefore, you need to develop strategies around measuring and testing that allow you to see immediately how well your efforts are performing, where to put your investment dollars, and when to upgrade old technology or outdated systems. Many services allow you to keep track of this kind of data nowadays, and it is worth the investment to track how well your business is doing and see the trends. 

Every business has lead measures as well as lag measures. These indicators allow you to see what tools and strategies have been successful and which have not, and they also allow you to look back into the past and see what didn’t work so you can do things differently moving forward. Therefore, it behooves every business owner to invest their time in studying these measures and use the right tools to decipher these measurements correctly.  

2. Team Communication 

The most important key to unlocking your prison is communication with your team. You may not know if the new software system you just upgraded to is helping or hindering workflow, but you know who does? The team that is using that software. You may not know if your patients like the new scheduling platform, but who communicates with your patients the most? Your team.  

Team communication is essential for you, the practice owner, to know where things are going right and where things are going wrong. Without good communication, you won’t know if something is not working until it may be too late. Fixing a problem with your software or new technology is much easier than restoring your reputation. A tech problem may take a few hours or days to fix. A reputation may take a lifetime for your business to improve.  

So, communicating with your team keeps you current on where to put your energy and focus on solving problems fast and getting ahead of issues before they become obstacles. There is probably no better key to removing obstacles and continuing growth than communication with your team.  

3. Documentation 

Documentation is, in a word, BORING. Amiright?? Who comes to work says, “I can’t wait to document every little thing I do today.” No one. But done it must be. Why?  

To avoid the pitfall of repetition, you must document the way you do things. Nothing gets a business stuck in stagnation faster than a team doing the same thing over and over, in the same way, expecting different results. That’s the definition of insanity, and yet we see it in business every day. For example, you try to make an appointment using a business scheduler only to break down and call them after the 4th attempt. We’ve all had the experience of calling our healthcare provider and waiting on hold while they try to “find your information” in their system. Things that technology promised would be difficult no more become obstacles to success because issues are not resolved.  

One of the biggest reasons issues don’t get resolved is that they get overlooked. And the reason an issue gets overlooked is that it doesn’t get documented and talked about in team meetings. Every business has issues, but if they aren’t communicated and documented, they fester and become obstacles.  

To truly get a 10,000-foot view of your business’s successful and not-so-successful strategies, document the following:  

Documenting these three areas will allow you to develop standard operating procedures and successful strategies for dealing with obstacles as they arise or even avoid them altogether.  

This type of documentation is imperative to a smooth-running practice, especially if you plan to scale your operation. Scaling is so much about duplicating what works; documentation is how you repeatedly duplicate your success.    

Achieving Financial Freedom in Your Dental Practice 

To stay out of dental entrepreneurial prison, you need to know exactly where your business is in its Lifecycle. How do you figure that out? You need three keys: measuring, communication, and documentation. These keys will give you the insights to keep growing your business and stay out of prison. The bottom line is you need to keep working on your business, not just in your business, as a dental entrepreneur. It’s not enough to show up in the dentist’s chair every day in front of your patients. You must know the intimate details of your practice so you can keep growing it.  

Through my own experience and the experiences of countless other dentist entrepreneurs, I have learned that achieving financial freedom goes beyond merely accumulating wealth. It is about making conscious decisions regarding time allocation, resources, and energy, without being tied down by the day-to-day demands of running a dental practice. By extracting ourselves from the quotidian responsibilities of dentistry, we can free ourselves from the dental entrepreneurial prison, enabling us to enjoy the fruits of our labor and focus on future growth and expansion.   

Escaping the dental entrepreneurial prison has been a transformative experience for me, and I am passionate about helping other dentist entrepreneurs achieve the same freedom and growth. By understanding the Lifecycle of a dental practice, making conscious decisions to extract ourselves from outdated systems and processes, and embracing evolution and transformation, we can unlock the true potential of our practices and experience the freedom we initially sought as entrepreneurs. Remember, extraction is an ongoing process, and staying vigilant and adaptable will ensure continued success and growth in our dental practices. 

If you want to learn more about the extraction process, check out my book Extraction: The Surprising New Formula to Systemize, Scale, and Sell Your Business. 

How Optimize Practice Services Can Help You 

At Optimize Practice Services, we understand the unique challenges that dental practice owners face. Our team of experts, led by me, specializes in helping dental professionals, like you, navigate the dental practice lifecycle and unlock your practice’s full potential. We offer a comprehensive suite of services, including vision clarification, systems evaluation, outsourcing and personnel solutions, technology implementation, and ongoing support and adaptability. Our mission is to empower you to escape the dental entrepreneurial prison and achieve financial freedom. So, let’s take the 10,000-foot view together.  

Your Free Assessment and Strategy Session 

Are you ready to transform your dental practice and embrace growth and transformation? Optimize Practice Services is here to help. We offer a free assessment and strategy session to help you identify areas where extraction can promote growth and efficiency in your practice. This is an opportunity to evaluate your practice’s systems, processes, and teams and develop a personalized roadmap for success. 

Don’t hesitate to call us at (702) 996-4888 or email us to schedule your free strategy session and click below to take our free assessment. Don’t let the dental entrepreneurial prison hold you back any longer. Let OPS help you unlock the full potential of your dental practice and experience the freedom and growth you deserve.