Less Talk, More Action

By Ben Burris, DDS, MDS

These are interesting times. Recent discussions I’ve had with dentists and dental students have centered on the economy, the political climate, staffing issues, competition, taxes, lack of opportunity and transition planning. It seems we all have our own personal fears or worries that tend to consume our lives, but oftentimes all we do is talk about it (and talk is a kind word here). We, as dentists and as humans in general, tend to focus on the negative. We worry about the 3% of things that may go wrong instead of focusing on the 97% of the time things that go well. Will I be sued? Will I be disabled? Will patients show up? Will I go broke? These are common questions that haunt many dentists. I am not saying we should not be prepared for these possible contingencies; but, seriously, how many of you personally know a dentist who has been successfully sued? (For the few of you with your hands up, my guess is that more often than not the offense was so egregious or the issue ignored so long that a suit was merited!)

I am suggesting that we should concentrate on what we want as opposed to focusing on what we don’t want. Your thoughts create your words, your words create your actions and your actions create your reality. Read that last statement again. The most successful people – including dentists focus on their goals and deal with problems when and IF they occur. They begin with the end in mind and methodically move towards the goal. Unfortunately most people and many dentists focus on the potential problems to the point that they give up on accomplishing the dream and write it off as “impossible” or “can’t be done”. From the moment they decide that this is the truth, they’re right! Many are defeated before they even start! We hear, “Of course I complain, look at how terrible my life is.” when the truth is that, “It is because I complain that my life is so terrible”. We create our reality with our thoughts and words and our actions spring from them.

Now for the practical application…

A great exercise is to decide what you fear most (the thing that you think about just before you go to sleep, in the shower, alone in the car…) and then face it head on. Today! Our tendency is to shy away from things that are intimidating or scary. This is human nature, but it is only when we are able to conquer human weakness and turn squarely to face our fears that we almost always come to the realization that the issue in question is not nearly as daunting as we had imagined it would be. Even if we discover the issue to be a significant one, there is no advantage to avoiding the problem. In the long run, we must still deal with our fears and the sooner we realize that hiding from them or waiting only prolongs and protracts the anguish.

LET’S DISCUSS THE COMMON COMPLAINTS AND FEARS MENTIONED ABOVE AND HOW WE CAN TAKE ACTION TO IMPROVE OUR CIRCUMSTANCES:

1 THE ECONOMY — As long as anyone has tracked it the economy has gone up and down. This is a normal cycle. Instead of blaming every issue in the practice on the economy (which we cannot control), turn inward and make sure we are answering the phone properly, dressing nicely, have a clean and friendly office, have a great website, are spending time on social networking sites, are visiting potential referral sources (we have time now!), are current with the latest techniques, are doing a great job of internal and external marketing and that we are doing all the little things that make your office THE most attractive office! Make it happen. Believe it or not, no matter where you are there are offices in your area doing great right now!

2 THE POLITICAL CLIMATE — Almost all Americans complain about the state of the country but far less than half vote! That is crazy! Get involved in the process in general on a local, county, state and national basis and involved specifically in your profession by actively helping the ADA with your time and money. Anyone can make a difference with some effort and a dash of luck. Even a nobody from nowhere Arkansas can discuss dentistry’s role in healthcare reform with The President of the United States! http://www.ada.org/ prof/resources/pubs/adanews/adanewsarticle.asp?articleid=3931

3 STAFFING ISSUES — We are told in dental school that this is the biggest headache of practice. If you believe this to be true, then it will be! Change your attitude. Hire only people with great attitudes and train them to do things the way you want them done. Get rid of the Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers no matter how great a clinical assistant or insurance expert they are and despite the fact that, “they know everyone in town”. You will be much better off without them! Now is a great time to find top-notch people who WANT a lob.

4 COMPETITION — Dentists are constantly worried about this issue and the perception is that the dentist across the street is the main source. I totally disagree. We are a commodity competing with other commodities like cosmetic surgery, 4 wheelers, Disney World and automobiles for disposable income. Stop worrying about the guy next door and focus on delivering a great service in the best possible way. Focus on the process, not the results and you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams.

5 TAXES — See above for political activity.

6 LACK OF OPPORTUNITY — Dental students are always saying there are no jobs, no room to start a new practice, no opportunity… This is not the case by any stretch of the imagination!! There is plenty of opportunity in the rural areas and less popular towns and cities across the US. If you must live on the coast or in the big city you may have a more difficult time starting up or finding a job but if you change your mindset and pick a practice location based on need then you will find yourself on Easy Street! Once there you can hop a flight anywhere in the world you want and afford to do it right!

7 TRANSITION PLANNING — Many hear the horror stories and worry. The best thing to do is to hire the best professional you can and be committed to making the process work. If you are Dr. Buyer, be committed to learning everything Dr. Seller has to offer. Don’t think you know it all and miss out on the wealth of knowledge avail¬able. If you are Dr. Seller, commit to making Dr. Buyer as successful as you are. Transfer authority, convince the patients and staff that Dr. Buyer is great by saying things like, “Dr. Buyer is way ahead of where I was at her age”. Treat Dr. Buyer like a peer and the way you would demand to be treated.

Focus on what you do and what you can do to improve yourself and circumstances. No one else will do it for you.

Gandi said it best
” We must become the change we want to see in the world”


Contrarian, philanthropist, rabble-rouser, thought leader, business man, loud mouth, prime mover and visionary. These are but a few of the terms used to describe Ben Burris. No matter which label you choose or what personal opinions you hold, none can deny that Dr. Burris continues to change the conversation in dentistry – especially in orthodontics. Burris is a doer with an uncanny eye for finding opportunities to improve and an unflinching resolve to pursue and implement positive change above all else. Dr. Burris graduated from The Citadel, in Charleston, SC, with a BS in biology prior to receiving his DDS from the University of Tennessee – Health Science Center’s College of Dentistry in 2001 where he then completed his orthodontic residency and received his MDS in 2004. As a clinical professor at Roseman University (www.rosemanbraces.com), owner of one of the largest practices in North America, creator of Smile for a Lifetime Foundation (www.S4L.org), co-owner of The Progressive Orthodontist and The Progressive Dentist Magazines and Study Groups (www.TheProOrtho.com and www.TheProDentist.com) and key opinion leader to some of the industry’s heavy hitters, Ben brings unparalleled perspective to the conversation. More than anything, Ben enjoys teaching the business of running a practice and providing real-world tips on managing a successful dental business. He loves discussing hot topics with those who agree as well as those who disagree with his point of view. He’s always up for intelligent conversation and respectful debate. Ben can be reached at [email protected]

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