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How to Build Your Ideal Practice

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By Dick Vessels (An excerpt from our Fortune Management book: How to Build Your Ideal Practice)

“Culture is magical. It cannot be bought, set by policy, directed, or memoed. It cannot be rushed, hurried, or pushed. It starts with a dream, an idea, a feeling. Close your eyes and picture the perfect office, the perfect experience, the perfect day. Once you see it, then set it. Your dream is now your goal, your focus.

“Two years ago we met the Fortune Management team, and we were asked to picture our dream practice. Closing our eyes, we saw patients who accepted prescribed treatments, a team of experts who pushed each other toward greatness, double-digit growth, the ability to care for those who can’t afford it, and a practice that is not wholly dependent on the owner-doctors being in the office. Our coaches reviewed our dream with us, took it from a dream to a plan, and committed to helping us work the plan to achieve our dream. They not only committed to working with us as doctor-owners, but they committed to our team to work with them, too. As I write this, I can positively say that we are on our way to achieving our dreams.”

—DR. AARON WERNER, El Cajon, California

TThe significant difference between mega-successful teams and those who are at or below average is rarely clinical talent. It’s simply the discipline to live and honor co-defined culture agreements. Top-notch, A-plus dental teams — those who are the highest paid for the emotional and professional value they bring to each other, their patients, and the marketplace — are formed in an environment of mutual respect, safe communication, and accountability. These top-notch teams also consistently reach goals that support integrity, value, and lasting relationships. Egos are secondary where continuous practice growth, sustained practice profitability, and high compensation reside. This level of success begins and ends with a defined winning team culture.

Of course, every dental team aspires to be a winning team and have the rewards that come with being at the top of their game. And, obviously, winning does not just miraculously happen. Instead it takes dedication, devotion, and commitment. I believe these five fundamental elements define what is required to perform at a mega-successful, A-plus level:

1. The “Be” Mission: How will we serve? What values are absolute? Why are we here? How will we make a difference? This is the absolute guidepost of existence and needs to be addressed daily with emotion and energy.

2. Culture Agreements: How will we behave in the workplace toward our team members and patients, while being individually accountable? Define clearly the character, attributes, and people skills necessary to be involved in an A-plus culture.  Acquire them diligently.                                      

3. Vision: Where specifically are we going? Where will we be? Who will be with us? What will we look like in one year, five years, and ten years? How will we be accountable? This includes daily, monthly, and yearly goals, as well as specific provider commitments.

4. Communications: What specific process or processes are we committed to? These must be rehearsed and utilized with impeccability by all stakeholders regardless of status.

5. Celebrations: As goals are attained, share them generously and evenly. Play as an A-plus team, learn as an A-plus team, and win as an A-plus team!

These simple five fundamentals are at the core of every peak performing practice or business I have had the privilege to encounter. A commitment to them is richly rewarding. Master these, and expect success beyond expectations!

Cerec 30 for FREE in 1, 2, 3…

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It’s no surprise that continuing education is an integral component of building and sustaining a successful and profitable practice. Whether you’re looking to grow your practice vertically or horizontally, there are a variety of both clinical and practice management CE opportunities available to you. Many doctors, however, find that getting quality CE can be expensive and burdensome. As a result, they find themselves scrambling toward the end of the year to find the quickest and cheapest CE courses available. What if I told you that you could take any course you wanted for FREE? What if I told you that you could go anywhere in the world, participate in the highest quality courses, delivered by the most well known speakers, and it would cost you absolutely nothing? Where would you go? What courses would you take?
For Dr. Paul Bass, a practicing dentist for more than 21 years, cost was also a consideration. He too wanted his team to have access to the best courses available. He wanted to be able to attend major events around the country without creating a financial burden. During a team meeting, he and his team became very curious. They asked a profound question that ultimately led to a solution that can be replicated in every practice, even yours! They asked, “What would have to happen for us to attend these major events and it not impact the bottom line?” The answer was, “The Travel Game”. The Travel Game is a simple three step process that will allow you and your team to attend any event you desire, without it impacting your profitability one cent. You can use these three steps to take your team to the largest digital dentistry event in history for FREE! This is how it works:

1. Estimate The Costs

Estimate how much it would cost for you and your team to attend the event. Consider costs such as air fare, hotels, meals, tuition, cabs, shopping, etc. Let’s say you have five team members, not including yourself, and you have estimated costs of approximately $20,000 to take your entire team to Cerec 30 in Las Vegas on September 17th – 19th, 2015. Now we move to step 2.

2. Determine Your Net Production Per Day

Let’s say you determine your net production per day to be $5,000. This means you only need to work an additional four days that are not currently working days to fund the trip. Since you are utilizing these days to fund your trip to Cerec 30, employees are not compensated, nor are the doctors. The days will be used to earn a FREE trip.

3. Schedule The Days & Execute The Plan

The only thing left to do is to schedule the four days necessary to fund the trip, hold the funds until you incur the expenses, and execute the plan.
The Travel Game represents the ingenuity and creativity of people who constantly strive for improvement, and desire all of the experiences that our creator has made available to us. It is up to you to take advantage of this incredible opportunity and prepare your team and practice for the digital revolution. You can use The Travel Game to take your entire team to Cerec 30 and share in the excitement with practices all over the country. We look forward to seeing you there!

3 Simple Steps to Increasing your Profitability

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Whether you’re a few years into owning your own private practice, mid-career, or seeking to transition, you have most likely asked yourself this question, “Where is my money going?” We all know what the answer to that question was when you were in school: books, tuition, fees, and for a fortunate few, entertainment. But now that you own and operate your own business, where is it going? How do you make and keep more of it? Profitability is arguably the single most important factor in running a successful dental practice. In this issue of Fortune Management E-News, we will share with you three simple steps for increasing your profitability without doing more dentistry.

1. Fee Positioning

Notice that step one does not say fee increase. That is because I do not believe that increasing fees is an appropriate strategy for improving profitability. I have, however, found that the fees of many practices are not consistent with their brand. This sends a mixed message to consumers. You can’t have Nordstrom prices with JC Penney quality and service. Conversely, you won’t be in business very long if you are providing Nordstom quality and service with JC Penney prices. For many practices, fee positioning gets neglected, which results in diminishing margins. Simply positioning fees so that they are consistent with your brand will increase your new patients, maximize your active patients, and increase your case acceptance with those patients to which your brand appeals. Your position should be a direct reflection of your brand. Is your angle convenience, impeccable service, economy? Determine what your brand is, and then evaluate how you have your fees positioned. If you are not positioned appropriately now, simply plan periodic increases of no more than 12% per year, until your fees are where they need to be. Once your fees are positioned appropriately, I recommend an annual increase of 10% to compensate for inflation.

2. Insurance Negotiation

This is an area that is often overlooked, and can be an area of tremendous opportunity. Many practices don’t know that they can renegotiate reimbursements each year. This is also one of the reasons that the fees for many practices aren’t positioned appropriately. If you don’t raise your fees to compensate for inflation, insurance companies have no incentive to increase their reimbursements. Over time, as your costs continue to increase, your margins dwindle away and you’re wondering why your payroll, lab, and supply costs are above your accountant’s recommendations. It’s not because you’re paying too much; it’s because your business model and strategy are not compatible with one another. Although there are some dental insurance companies that will not renegotiate, the vast majority will. If you don’t feel that you or a member of your team is equipped with the skills to negotiate with insurance companies, there are several companies that can support with this process. One in particular is Profitable PPO’s. It takes about six months to complete and can have an extraordinary impact on your bottom line.

3. Cost Containment

When is the last time you looked at your Profit and Loss Statement? Do you have specific and strategic allocations for each and every cost you incur? Do you have a targeted profit margin? For many practices, reviewing the Profit and Loss Statement seems to be an insurmountable task. What goes into each into category, and more importantly, how do I keep them within healthy ranges? The answer is focus, awareness, and individual accountability. The first two steps will naturally bring many of your costs within a healthy range, but that’s not enough. For something to improve, you must monitor it. I recommend reviewing your Profit and Loss Statement each month with your team. That’s right: with your team. They are not just administrative coordinators, assistants, and hygienists; they are Vice Presidents for the departments of your practice for which they are accountable. It’s time they be empowered with sufficient resources, and held accountable for playing the game at a higher level. Most team members will jump at the opportunity, and the few that run are probably not the right team member. Identify different people to be accountable for specific line items on your Profit and Loss. The five to focus on are Payroll, Lab, Dental Supplies, Office Supplies, and Marketing. Leadership is about results. Give them the freedom to achieve your desired allocations in each area, and hold them accountable to the result.

Regardless of where you are in practice, profitability is an extremely important consideration. If you’re just starting out, the additional cash flow will help you market effectively and make the necessary investments to build your practice. If you’re mid-career, it will allow you to keep up with the advancements in technology and make facility upgrades to support your competitive edge. If you’re seeking to transition, it will ensure the financial capacity to compensate an associate as you help him or her build their patient base, without taking a hit on personal income. As the saying goes, “Cash is King”. Follow these three simple steps and I am confident you will not only see an immediate impact on your bottom line, but reduce personal and professional stress simultaneously.


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Ever wonder why team members fail to follow through even though you have made the same request time and time again? Ever wonder what it would be like to have a team of people that just DO what needs to be done, rather than wait to be asked? After studying the connection between leadership, performance, and accountability for a few decades now, there are certain characteristics that seem consistent in every high performing, high producing business, even dental practices.  When these habits are part of the owner’s daily ritual of leading his/her team, the team members give their hearts and souls to the vision, the patients, and their teammates.

There are four cornerstones that every leader must develop to be effective and have effective people on your payroll.  Take the LEAD:


You must understand that this practice is only one facet of your employees’ lives, and that when they leave the office, they have another team that is waiting on them at home. You must develop a genuine interest in the lives of your team members. Be empathetic when they are having difficulties, celebrate the successes of their children. This does not mean that you have to become “best friends” with your employees, it simply means that when you take an active interest in what is important to them, they will take a more active interest in what is important to you.


I sincerely believe most people are capable of more than they are allowed to do in most cases. Owners fear giving over too much “control,” or they fear the mistakes that may arise from having someone less familiar take on a new task. As leaders, we must understand that mistakes are part of learning, part of developing new skills, and being able to add new value. Empower your team members to take on new tasks and let them know you have faith in their ability. Train them and let them practice this new skill. Be okay with a few mistakes, and when a mistake does occur, don’t overreact. Simply bring the mistake to their attention (lovingly) and then ask them to make the appropriate correction. By allowing them to make a few mistakes, you calm their fears of failure and increase their confidence, thereby increasing their willingness to take on more.


The biggest complaint most employees have is that they are unappreciated: that the smallest mistake brings major focus but when they do something well, it goes unnoticed. When we fail to acknowledge small steps of progress, small contributions, we teach people that those things are not important. We teach them that there is no reward in working hard. Understand that performance is largely based on how individuals feel about themselves. You must actively look for things to acknowledge them for, things they can feel good about. Look for ways to make your employees feel significant and important. The more important they feel, the more valued they feel, the more they will contribute and the better they will perform.


Trust and assume that you have great employees who are ready, willing, and able to take on new tasks and responsibilities. Give them the opportunity to add more value by delegating things that you do not HAVE to do. Don’t assume that just because it may be a complicated task, or something with which they are unfamiliar, that they would be unwilling. Give them the chance to surprise you. Free up more of your time so you can focus on patient care and allow your team members to do more. With appropriate monitoring and team meetings, you can follow up as often as needed to ensure a job well done.


LEADership is an art, and a skill that must be crafted over time. As with all things, practice makes perfect. Begin to sharpen your LEAD with your team members and you will be amazed by the changes in their attitude, their performance, and their overall value.


Paying too Much for Supplies?

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Has your supply bill been steadily increasing over the past few years? Do you find yourself researching less expensive models or brands for your most commonly used supplies? Have you changed suppliers in the past few years certain that you were overpaying?

The evaluation of overhead is much more complex than just assessing the dollar amount you are spending with your supplier. It is actually an evaluation of investment and return, an evaluation of resource maximization, and an evaluation of value delivered versus value gained.

In order to properly assess your overhead, you must make certain that purchases are being classified properly. Remember “Garbage In, Garbage Out”? If we are not coding or classifying properly, then how can we truly be certain we are over spending or under spending?

Below are the Most Common Coding/Classifying Mistakes:

1. CEREC BLOCKS: Of those practices leveraging the power of Cerec Technology in their practice, I find that many list Cerec blocks with their supplies. The truth is that, the blocks should actually be coded under lab expenses. Why? Because theoretically, the block is a foundation for a “finished product” we would have to order from the lab without this technology in place. Additionally, the savings would show up in your overall lab expense. Listing it with supplies gives the false illusion that your supply bill is out of control.

2. PATIENT COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS: Another item that creates some confusion is patient communication systems such as DemandForce, Solution Reach, Patient Activator, or Revenue Well. If the system was purchased from the supplier and the bill comes on the same bill with other clinical supplies, it will usually get lumped in with clinical supplies on the profit and loss statement instead of under “office supplies” or “advertising and promotions”. Patient communication systems are used to keep your message/brand/education in front of your patients. From that viewpoint, it would most accurately be allocated under “advertising and promotions” and not under clinical supplies.

3. IMPLANT SUPPLIES: Implants are becoming more and more common in general practices and many are noticing their supply bill sky rocket as a result. If you are providing implants in your practice, consider creating a line item on your profit and loss statement for “Cost of Goods Sold” or “Implant Supplies”, and create a new revenue column for “Implant Revenue”. Implant supplies are much more expensive than the usual and customary dental supplies and the service comes with a higher fee per unit as well. To be able to effectively determine the value of implant services and the cost, a separate allocation is really needed for each.

Proper classification of expenses allows the practice owner to be better informed when making spending and investment decisions for his/her patients and practice. Many times if overhead is higher than industry standards, there is a challenge in your practice with the maximization of resources (patients, team, time). If specific line items seem higher than industry norms, it could simply be due to improper classification, and a closer analysis may be needed.

Team Motivation and Accountability

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As coaches, office managers often ask us, “How do I motivate my employees and hold them accountable to their duties?”  Motivation and accountability are important leadership skills that are not taught in school, yet they are talents you can cultivate.  When team members are motivated and excited about their work, it’s easier to hold them accountable, and the whole mindset of the team is transformed.

Let’s examine motivating and inspiring employees first.  While we might think motivation is intuitive, there are some concepts that, when used, can create immeasurable results!

First off, let’s get one thing clear:  work IS about the money.  People work to support their families and lifestyle; money provides the avenue to do so.  While it may be true for some team members that taking care of patients fulfills them and inspires them, they also love achieving financial goals.  As Dan Pink outlines in his book Drive, pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.

Once you have set up salaries and benefits that are competitive, here are four recommendations that should help create motivated employees who will be inspired to do great work:

  1. Allow people to control their work:  When team members have the ability to set goals, impact decisions and decide on tasks performed, they will be more interested in their work.
  2. Communicate important information:  When team members receive timely information, participate in team meetings and understand progress made on goals, they will be more motivated.
  3. Provide opportunities to grow: Training, coaching life skills, increased communication skills and team participation will help team members grow as people.
  4. Ask team members what motivates them:  A simple question of “What would motivate you to achieve these goals?” can elicit some surprising information.  Pay attention; everyone has different ideas of how they want to be motivated and knowing that information can be priceless.

Always give each employee personal time and attention, and acknowledge publicly a job well done, no matter how small.  And remember, the attitude of the office manager and doctor in the morning huddle can set the tone for the day – manage your state for maximum team performance.

Want to de-motivate your team?  Simple:  keep negative and non-performing people on the team.  When you let non-performers go, the rest of the team respects you more and is motivated to perform.  Keeping those folks on the team is demoralizing and brings about negativity.

Once you have created a motivated team, take a look at team accountability. I am consistently finding office managers who are frustrated with team members not stepping up or committing to projects that remain incomplete.  This creates undue stress and distraction for the leadership of the practice – both office manager and doctor – who must be focused on running a successful business and performing great dentistry!

We recommend each practice implements the system of “Sourcing and Accountability.”  No matter what kind of dental practice you manage, there are three main Departments:  Administrative, Clinical, and Hygiene.  These are the departments that must have department heads or “Source” people.  In addition, each dental office has three “Accelerators”:  Hygiene Reactivation, Patient Reactivation and Marketing.

The Source for each Department and Accelerator do not have to do all the work in this area. Rather, they are the ones who are accountable for getting the work completed.  Perhaps they delegate some of the work to another person and then follow up.  The idea is that the office manager or doctor has one person to check in with regarding that department.

Implementing Source people within your team can help alleviate stress, create greater accountability, and foster a feeling of ownership among the staff.  Individuals want to know that they are making a difference and are valuable members of a team.  Additionally, as an office manager, you will grow stronger as a leader by encouraging team members to achieve their very best.

Here are the steps to Team Accountability:

  1. Set the goal or outcome with the Source person
  2. Create a plan in writing with a “By When” or completion date
  3. The Source person declares what they will do and makes requests to others
  4. Monitor the results by asking, “Are we achieving our outcome?”
  5. The Office Manager coaches the team member to the result by asking “What is working?” and acknowledges them; then ask “What is not working and how can I support you?”


The office manager must continue to hold the team member accountable to their commitments by having weekly (or sometimes daily) check-ins.  As the office manager, you must let go of performing all of the day-to-day activities.  Your job is to serve the team members and make sure they understand the outcome and what is expected.  This type of “Servant Leadership” is one of the best ways to become a stronger leader.  While this may be a paradigm shift in thinking, we have found that it is very successful!

For a complementary copy of the Sourcing and Accountability system, please email me at and I will send it to you.

Consistently checking in with your team members is key for motivation and accountability, which leads to success in all areas of the practice.  I have found strong communication skills can increase the level of teamwork, motivate leaders on your team and make an office manager go from good to great!

By Kim McGuire, CPCC & Executive Coach for Fortune Management

A Foundation That Lasts

By | Dentistry Success

A struggling contractor found himself in a bit of bind when the housing market took a turn for the worse. It was difficult to find work and he was slowly approaching bankruptcy. One day, a very wealthy man learned of his troubles and asked if he would build him a new home. He wanted a luxurious, multi-level, 5,000 square foot home with all of the best materials. The contractor was ecstatic and began construction immediately. He knew that the man would never know the difference in materials, and by using a lesser quality, he could increase his profits. He could also cut a few corners and increase his personal profits even more. After all, this man was certainly wealthier than the contractor who was barely getting by. Shortly after the home was finished, the contractor delivered the keys to the man as promised. The man looked at the contractor and said, “You know, I already have a very nice home. I don’t really need a new one. Why don’t you keep it?”

Integrity is Key

As simple as it seems, the right decision often hides itself deep within a cloud of justification. The fact is, circumstances do occur, and it becomes increasingly difficult to see through the cloud when faced with adversity. The foundation upon which our values rest can occasionally become unstable ground. There is, however, one value that must never be compromised: integrity. Integrity in your relationships, both personal and professional. Integrity in your clinical skill. Integrity, or lack thereof, exists in virtually every aspect of our lives. Shortly after the contractor moved into the home, the paint on the walls began to crack. The foundation began to sink and become unstable. Doors wouldn’t close properly and the ceiling began to leak. He soon discovered that it would cost nearly as much to fix everything that was wrong with the house as it did to build it. You see, integrity cannot be eluded. We can’t avoid the inevitable. Every action carries with it a consequence, and we are accountable for every action.

Being a person of integrity is often very difficult, but it is the difficulty that makes it such an admirable quality. It is adversity that strengthens character. Integrity does not require third party perspective because it is your truth that is at stake. It is that which you stand on: your foundation that ensures the walls around you maintain their integrity. It is your integrity that attracts and inspires integrity in your team, in your patients, in your colleagues. One small compromise makes us susceptible to another, and another, and another.  Before long, we’ve lost way, and the fog that surrounds us makes it extremely difficult to see our way. Like the contractor, it is much more costly to repair the result of compromise than it is to sacrifice immediate gratification for a lifelong reward: becoming a person of relentless integrity. H. Jackson Brown, Jr. once said, “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you”. Reinforce your foundation for life with integrity and your foundation will reinforce whatever rests upon it.

Beliefs and Limiting Beliefs

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(An excerpt taken from our Fortune Management book How to Create your Ideal Practice)

By Dr. Paul Bass

“Fortune has helped me transform my practice from a small, disorganized but busy practice into a large, efficient, organized, fun, and happy practice. The people I work with (staff) are very much my friends as well as a top-notch, dedicated team.”

—DR. SCOTT BARNETT, Pell City, Alabama

Because of the profound and controlling effects they have on virtually all outcomes that manifest in our lives, beliefs must be included in any review of the methods and personal technologies offered by Fortune Management. Whether conscious or unconscious, our beliefs are paramount in determining what shows up and/or does not show up in our day-to-day lives.

A powerful example can be found in certain indigenous tribes in Australia. The belief is simply that one can be killed by an animal bone imbued with mystical powers. To this day, Aboriginal tribesmen will “point the bone” at an enemy — just pointing, no physical contact — with certainty that the enemy will be dead within four days. Within twenty-four hours of being ritually cursed this way, victims develop flu-like symptoms. Within forty-eight hours, they become severely dehydrated, and within four days, they are usually dead.

What kills them? The bone? Or the belief that the bone had the power to take away life? In a tribe with a collective consciousness of the power of “pointing the bone,” the belief alone will consistently lead to the victim’s demise. If the power of belief is sufficient to take away life, one should never underestimate this power’s absolute influence on far less complex issues, such as specific results that do or do not show up in the management arena of health-care practices.

We all have a mixed bag of beliefs. Some are empowering, and some are disempowering or limiting. I am reminded of one participant in three consecutive seminars who very congruently declared that she would leave the seminar and purchase a winning lottery ticket. The first time she returned with her winnings, the rest of us were amazed. The second time, we were stunned. The third time, we realized that we had stumbled upon profound truth. The interesting thing about life is that most people who stumble over profound truth will simply get back up, brush themselves off, and walk away as if nothing actually happened. (Of course, you’ve never done this, have you?)

On the disempowering side, I know that any practice management coach could list numerous limiting beliefs that are commonly uttered by doctors and staff members, with no idea how much of their self-limiting mindset is being revealed, such as:

“There aren’t enough new patients to go around . . .”  “Patients don’t really care about their health . . .”  “I’ll die with a hand piece in my hand . . .” 
“You can’t practice with excellent quality and do big numbers . . .”  “Hygiene is just a necessary evil, not a profit center . . .”  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

By recognizing limiting beliefs, we create an opportunity to crush them. The most effective way to do so is to have an experience that violates your limiting beliefs. This can be done internally or externally.

An internal (personally experienced) example would be to change a system in the office, and then monitor that system, and thus create a new, empowering belief based on the new result. For example, a practice could increase its hygiene effectiveness rate through a proactive hygiene reactivation game plan. When it goes from thirty percent effectiveness to sixty percent effectiveness, the resulting increase in hygiene revenue and referrals to the operative department are undeniable! Obviously, a new belief can be created this way, and when effectiveness jumps to eighty or ninety percent, the new belief reflects the polar opposite of the old limiting belief.

External (observed evidence) examples can also be extremely influential. Let’s say a dental team visits a colleague’s office where the daily operations consistently demonstrate results that blow all the old, standard limiting beliefs totally out of the water. This can radically alter that team’s view of how dentistry can be practiced.

Knowing how powerful this can be, I once asked a client, Dr. Shellhouse in Ohio, to create an opportunity for other dental teams to visit his practice and see Fortune’s concepts in action. The doctor and his team created The Dayton Dental Academy for one purpose and one purpose only. That purpose was to crush limiting beliefs about what is or is not possible. Virtually every dental team that has visited The Academy says that it was one of the most valuable days in the history of their practice.

In summary, one of the most important roles for any Fortune coach is to help others identify their limiting beliefs, and then assist them in creating rock-solid, totally grounded, and life-changing beliefs that will pay handsome dividends over and over again. By doing so, we help build legendary practices that will create legacies beyond the lifetime of any one dentist, and, in doing so, we transform countless lives. Perhaps more important, a transformed practice will provide better dentistry and will affect the health and well-being of thousands of patients.


Vison and Clear Goals

By | Dentistry Success

(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.