Three years ago I was fortunate to have some one-on-one time with Coach Chuck Daly who coached the Detroit Pistons and the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team." Coach Daly has since passed away, but his lessons live on in my own life. One of the many truths he shared with me was this: "It is the player's job to play, but it is the coach's job to make sure the team wins." Some of the best coaches in history never played much ball including Coach Lou Holtz, one of the greatest of all time. It is because playing and coaching are two different skill sets. Just because you can do something does not mean you can coach someone else effectively to do it. The converse is also true. Just because you can teach it, does not mean you can do it.
I am not a dentist. I have never been a dentist and I will never be a dentist. And from what I am told by many IN dentistry, that is a great asset. I have always tried to look at dentistry from the patients' viewpoint (because I am one) as well as from an organizational and business standpoint. It is a unique and different approach that, for many, has yielded some impressive results.
Having worked with dentists for over twenty years, I too have heard the cliché time and time again, "Those who can, do and those who can't, teach." I am sure one can find many examples to which that cliché applies. After all, if you have drawn a conclusion before you know the all facts, you tend to look only for facts that support your conclusion. You can miss a lot of valuable wisdom that way!
But just for the heck of it about six years ago, I thought it would be fun to put that cliché to bed for good in this case. So I put my own personal money on the line, signed the lease, bought the equipment and started a dental practice from scratch (yes, it is all legal - the attorney for the Texas Dental Association is my legal council and it has all been signed off by the Texas Board of Dental Examiners) to prove to myself (and others) that it is possible to "teach" and "do." Fast forward to today, we have multiple offices that we operate on a daily basis. It is where we test everything we "teach" first, on our own dollar, before we ever roll it out to the rest of the industry. I have always told our entire team that we do not have the right to ever recommend anything that we are not doing successfully ourselves. That is our standard. That is our commitment. While I do not personally drill or give injections, (and that is not a problem since that is not what we teach) we do put our own money where our mouth is in the specific areas of practice success like strategic planning, marketing, case acceptance, profitability, leadership, etc. to make sure that what we "teach" is proven every day.
One of the many things that "doing" AND "teaching" has taught me about dentistry is that most dentists want to talk about production, but most don't want to talk about profit. Profit is one of the best-kept secrets in the industry. For every one hundred dentists that will brag about what they produce, you might find one who will be honest enough to talk about what they are really making. Production numbers without disclosing profit is fiction, not reality. You don't know the REAL story until you see the bottom line. That is why I have always been a big believer in open book management. I will put any one of our hygienists, dental assistants, or business assistants, or dentists for that matter up against any dentist in the country in terms of being able to read, interpret, and action plan from a practice Profit and Loss statement. It is part of knowing and understanding the reality of dentistry. Yet, it is one of the most hidden secrets in most practices. Most dentists don't get it. But that is because they are the "player" first and are "playing" the game most of the time and have not taken the time to stop and seek a good "coach" who will make sure they "win" the game over the long haul.
So who is really a good source for learning and growing? I sat through a business course recently presented by a less than inspiring speaker. He was a real sleeper for most of the crowd. I left inspired, however, because his ideas and wisdom were invaluable. His presentation skills were lacking, but his mind was brilliant. It reminded me that we are all too quick to judge in life and because of that, we miss valuable insights, lessons, and wisdom that might otherwise have been ours, many times from the most surprising sources. It is possible to learn from just about everyone IF you are open to learning and IF you are always seeking the truth. If you limit your sources, you limit your learning.
Finally, some of the biggest breakthroughs in history have been made by those from the "outside" who dared to think differently because they did not know any different and were not constrained by conventional thinking of the "insiders." You could start your list with Christopher Columbus. Thank goodness he did not "subscribe" to and believe everything on the "sailor's message board" of the day. If he had, he would have never done the unconventional. Similarly, dentistry, if you are not careful, can be an incestuous experience if you only listen to "conventional wisdom."
Sixteen years ago, I spent the last week of Dr. W. Edwards Deming's life with him. Named one of the top one hundred most influential men in business of the last century, he revolutionized quality in hundreds of industries around the world. The funny thing about him was, he never ran a business, he never manufactured a single product, in fact, I am not aware of any company where he even sat on the board of directors. Yet his RESULTS are indisputable.
Deming did have a few choice words for dentistry buy-the-way. He said: “How many dentists do magnificent work? The question is impossible to answer, for the simple reason that there has never been a definitive study of quality in the dental profession; nor is there likely to be one. Partly because they tend to work alone, dentists resist the idea of being evaluated, or even observed, by others. And because inferior dental work may not be discovered until years after it is performed, patients are seldom in a position to make informed decisions.”
Serious food for thought from a man who changed the world. But then again, what did he know? He was just a "consultant!" He never picked up a drill or gave and injection, so how could he know anything about dentistry?
Steven J. Anderson (Not a dentist! Maybe a consultant! But always a seeker of truth!) Founder
Total Patient Service Institute - www.TotalPatientService.com
Crown Council - www.CrownCouncil.com
Smiles for Life Foundation - www.SmilesforLife.org
LEAP Youth Foundation - www.LEAPfoundation.com