For a dentist to choose to work with a coach is still a relatively new concept to UK dentistry. It really comes down to two stages when your practice is not achieving its targets - the first being acceptance and the second stage being the ability to adapt. The market is now fluctuated with people, tools and systems designed to help struggling dentists. So, my question is why would a dentist use a professional coach instead of a practice management consultant, therapist, new associate, industrial psychologist, online course, financial planner, or anyone of a number of other possibilities to help boost their practice? The answer seems to escape most, so let me tell a story.
I’d like to introduce you to a young dentist of 36 years of age, Dr. Davy, who finally became the owner of his own dental practice. The world was at his fingertips and he was ready to work hard, to be a leader and to enjoy the rewards of his labour and training. He had been an associate for the past nine years and it was now time to run his own practice. After negotiations with the owner, he purchased the practice. Soon, he was working closely with the best clinicians, learning to improve his comprehensive dentistry, and watching as his practice grow with new patients coming in steadily. Life was on track.
Then less than a year into ownership of the practice, things started to unravel. An associate left, Dr. Davy’s child was ill so he had to spend less time at the practice, marketing budgets increased but brought in less patients and treatment conversions dropped. So Dr. Davy tried to battle the decline the only way he knew – working longer hours. For several months he was working 70-hour weeks, knowing that he needed long term solutions and not just quick fixes. The stress of it all was eating him up inside, and started to leak into his marriage, friends, other employees, and even his patients. He had reached the stage of acceptance, he knew he needed help.
It had been over a year since he had taken his family away so he combined the family trip with a dental conference. In his mind he couldn’t justify leaving the practice if there wasn’t some kind of benefit to be had. On the program, there was a speaker, a former dentist turned coach, who talked about a range of topics, intertwining financial planning for dental practices with how to increase profits and the importance of the practice owner living a balanced life. After 30 minutes, Dr. Davy knew that he needed immediate help with his money management and work life balance and this coach really seemed to hit home with him. The speaker on stage was offering guidance and had the experience of running multiple practices to prove their track record.
Little did Dr. Davy know but he had just struck the jackpot. He hired the coach. He was now at the point of finding answers that would serve him longer than any short-term business solutions which attracted his interest. Dr. Davy was led to discover that the answers he was looking for would not come from the outside, they were inside and he needed the coach to initiate the process. As he began working with his coach, he was encouraged to investigate his thoughts and feelings more deeply; to understand more clearly his needs, concerns, values and ultimate vision for the practice. This was a radical departure from anything Dr. Davy had experienced before! As he started to get to grips with himself and his ideas of what he wanted the practice to be, he seemed less apprehensive and more approachable, in turn patients responded warmly to him and his colleague’s productivity improved. Despite the looming debt, Dr. Davy had the focus and strength to make it work.
From his personal growth came a natural growth of his business acumen. Dr. Davy was now able to pinpoint where he had concerns and to get the appropriate help from his coach —instead of asking for the right help from the wrong person. Through the advice, Dr. Davy was also becoming a better leader. He was getting more in touch with his own feelings and concerns. Therefore, patients, employees, family members, and friends were finding it easier to discuss their own concerns and problems. Finally, he was beginning to experience a sense of peace and fulfilment that he had wanted for many years, even before his dental University days.
Unlike practice management consultants who give sound advice and strategies to handle business decisions, a personal or “life” coach integrates the “who” of a person with the “what” they are doing — no matter the person’s goals. Historically, dentists looked to each other for support and a morale boost, but it seems this aspect has gone missing from our profession these days.
Now we live in a time of perceived competition, economic uncertainty, an increased threat of malpractice, and the difficulty in finding the right, qualified employees. It seems that our feelings, concerns and vision end up taking a back seat to working in our practice each day. By now, most dentists have heard of coaching, but many really do not know how these professional services can help them. For many dentists, coaching may seem to be reserved for CEOs of large companies. More than 25% of the Fortune 500 companies now utilise coaches to assist their executives, CEOs (dentists are CEOs too!) and managers and according to a study completed at The Harvard Business School by Kotter and Heskett, performance-enhanced cultures (those organisations utilising coaches for their executives and top-level managers) showed a greater than four-fold improvement in business success among all parameters.
Personal coaches work with clients looking to enhance and enrich their personal life, find balance and fulfilment in their business life, improve relationships, and much more. A former dentist turned coach, with a 100% track record in improving practice profits by a minimum of 20% almost sounds too good to be true. But the help is out there! Accountability becomes critical in the process. Dentists typically find themselves completely consumed with running their practice and dealing with the unlimited requests that surface daily. Working closely with a coach, dentists have the unique opportunity to work on their business, instead of inside it. They have the chance to reflect on what they’re doing, to identify their interests and values, and have a silent, objective partner—like having your own private board of directors, to guide them. You need to find the right coach and you’ll get the balance you’re chasing.