(An excerpt from our Fortune Management book: How to Build Your Ideal Practice)
“Everyone needs a coach, even the most successful professional athletes. Why? To remind us of the goals we have set and to open our eyes to new possibilities. Since becoming a member of the Fortune family, my practice has grown exponentially more than I ever could have imagined. Even more important, my vision of what is possible personally and professionally has expanded massively.”
—DR. NELSON DALY, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
When a college professor in Brazil approached him about participating in a first-of-its-kind photography course, Teco Barbero thought the idea was absurd. After all, Barbero was legally blind, just like all the other students invited to take the class.
But after taking the course, Barbero and his classmates understood that photography for the visually impaired was possible if they strengthened their other senses, and they also realized that any limitation on their potential was self-imposed. Today, Barbero — an accomplished journalist, photographer, and instructor — is described as a man who records images “with the vision of the soul.”
Make no mistake: a well-conceived, smartly executed vision can stir your soul.
What do you see when you close your eyes and think about the potential of your dental practice? Do you have a vision for the future? One that can make a difference in the health and lives of your patients? One that can change the dynamics of your office?
Unfortunately, many doctors limit their focus to more mundane concerns. Some talk about the need to increase productivity or hire more qualified employees. They complain about having to repeat instructions to staff and about dealing with interoffice gossip. The list can go on and on.
Unlike Barbero, these doctors are missing the big picture. They don’t have a clear vision for how to develop and grow a truly successful and inspired practice. Because of that, they become mired in day-to-day challenges, allowing those episodes to dominate the direction of their business.
One office with a vision statement had the statement displayed artfully in beautiful calligraphy, and it was hung prominently on the office wall. But when pressed about its meaning, most of the people in the office had forgotten the “vision” even existed — let alone what it meant. The framed words, like the magazines in the waiting room, had become part of the office décor instead of the philosophical and practical backbone of the business.
This office, like others that can’t see past the daily cloud cover that envelops their practice, had lost its way. Thankfully, it’s never too late to rediscover a path that leads to success.
Seeing is Believing
As coaches with Fortune Management, we regularly work with forward-thinking dentists who know they want something better for their patients and practice but who need practical support and advice in getting there. One of Fortune’s coaching workshops involves facilitating a discussion between doctor and staff that begins with the following question: If you had the perfect practice, what would it look like?
People respond to a vision. Generally speaking, everyone likes to know where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. But people also like to have their voices heard. That’s why we ask workshop participants to describe, in clear detail, what they believe the practice needs to thrive. Such involvement produces a sense of ownership; with that, the team has a personal stake in the vision to which they’ve contributed.
Doctors who successfully implement their vision don’t just live in the present; they determine what they want their practice — and their lives — to look like in one, three, five, even ten years. So we always ask our clients to address questions that speak to the five crucial engines that power their practice.
1) Sales and marketing: What will the patient base look like? How many patients will you serve? How will you reach them? What will you emphasize in your marketing/sales strategies?
2) Clinical/technology: Where will the practice be? What type of dentistry will you offer? What does your standard of care look like? What equipment will you use? How will you decorate your office spaces?
3) People: How many doctors will be involved in the practice? How many specialists? How will you treat your patients? How do you expect to be treated?
4) Finance: How much will you charge for your services? What’s your insurance strategy? What are your financial and collection policies?
5) Organization: What systems will you implement to ensure an efficient, effectively run practice? Who is in charge? Who is responsible for what?
A vision lives in the abstract — until, that is, you make it concrete. Think about the difference you want to make in this world and how you want to affect your community, your patients, your staff, and even your own family. Once you answer these questions, your vision will become that much clearer and you will be able to map a practical plan to realize it.
A Sight to Behold
One of the practices we serve has created a vision based on eliminating the divides in health care. This office, understanding that much of what goes on in the body can be diagnosed in the mouth, decided to focus on the connection between the worlds of dentistry and general medicine.
For instance, plaque on the teeth can indicate plaque in the heart, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. By partnering with medical doctors and delivering preventive insights, this practice altered perceptions and changed the direction of its “core story,” the context for what they do and who they do it for. Patients now come to this office expecting and receiving more thoughtful and comprehensive health care.
Along the way, the practice has created a stronger emotional connection between doctors, staff, and patients. Ultimately, that connection holds the key to a successful vision.
Most dentists and industry professionals tell us that they chose this line of work because they love the difference they can make in the lives of their patients. They love seeing patients smile: smiles that have benefited from the service and expertise available at their practice.
The practices with which we work also love the empowerment that comes from building on a solid foundation. They ask and answer all the right questions. They encourage staff participation and, in turn, they create staff commitment. They see their future, and they understand how best to get there.
We often find that the leaders in those practices return to their vision on a daily basis. They use this blueprint to align their thoughts, actions, and decisions. Is everything consistent with the big picture? If not, they adjust their mindset accordingly.
When something happens to throw a wrench into the day — an upset patient, frustrations over an insurance claim, personnel squabbles — they refer to the vision and ask themselves, What can we do right now to regain our focus?
Remember, an unused vision is worth nothing more than the paper on which it’s written. Let your vision be the driver of your success. If you can envision it, you can accomplish it.