When You're a Prisoner in Your Own Practice


You diligently battled through dental school. You picked a great location and set up your practice. You hired people for the positions you needed, bought equipment, bought a home for your family and got to work. You've done it all "right", yet you're feeling stuck and if we're totally honest, alone. Each month you hope you can pay your bills and have a little left over and every single day feels like it's a repeat of the previous 500, like you're a hamster on a wheel. The mirror shows more wrinkles, less or grayer hair, and the glimmer in your eyes has faded. Add to that all the people who are quick to tell you when all your work simply isn't enough and they need more from you. More? How can they possibly want more? You've given so much there's nothing left for yourself and the pressure versus the joy in your life are way out of balance.

Today I want to talk about some practical steps to take if this sounds like you, even a little. Becoming a prisoner to your life is something that happens slowly, like the frog put in the pot of water coming to a boil over time and killing it. Yeah, same thing for most practice owners. The debt and responsibility of this profession can be overwhelming, but there are things you can do. The first three steps include two pivotal mindsets: you must build your inner circle of support, and you must accept that this is an investment and not a place to cut corners.

#1 - Hire a good manager.

If you've read this blog at all you know how I feel about managers. Let me dig in here a bit though, to the nuts and bolts of why I'm so passionate. To be frank, you don't have the time or skills to be an effective manager if you're diligently being an effective dentist and business owner. That's too many jobs to do well, so something has to go, and it's usually management. When your business isn't managed well, you pay for it over and over in a million ways. I've got a list for you to use in drafting the job description for your manager, as well as a post about the typical struggles faced when it's time to bring one in. This person is your right hand and should be the best you can find. They should have high business acumen, clear talent with people and strategy, integrity, and the ability to know what tools they'll need from you to get things done. You must pay them well. I can go on and on about why, but for brevity's sake in this post I'll just say it like it is: don't be cheap with your inner circle.

#2 - Hire a good accountant.

I know, so obvious! But really, what's a "good" accountant, and how do you know if you have one? You need an accountant that has a passion for making small businesses thrive, not just handling quarterlies and quickbooks reconciliations. You want someone who will help you look for areas to trim and areas to grow. Help you set clear financial goals and put automatic systems into place with timelines so you can see the debt going away and your bank balance increasing. They'll cost a bit more, but it will pay off exponentially in time.

#3 - Self-care is a must.

Meditation, golfing, yoga, running, riding horses. You've got tremendous pressure on your shoulders and as my grandmother used to say, "you can't pour from an empty cup." If you let your own tank run dry then everyone counting on you loses and you lose, worst of all. Find the things you love and prioritize them. Period. Anything you can do that helps your mind shut off for a bit to reboot and give you clarity will be extremely beneficial over time. Meditation and activities that simulate moving meditations are very powerful and will help you consistently key in to areas you need to improve or address. Thankfully, you'll have an excellent manager and accountant to make those changes happen while you're working! If all you need is permission to take care of yourself, consider it done. Go take care of yourself.

#4 - Give back.

We hear it, but do we do it? Take some time to write down things you're willing to do and hand them over to your manager to implement. Perhaps it's a day or a case each month where you serve the needs of the community or perhaps it's the smile make over for your dental assistant. Do something that reminds you how good you truly have it to be able to do something some so powerful in the lives of others. It's hard to feel bad when you see a lopsided smile of gratitude from someone you just blessed. Don't put strings on it. That's why you start with what you're comfortable giving away and build from there. Warning: this can become addictive!

#5 - JUST DO IT.

Pick one from this list and make it happen by the end of the week, month, or quarter. Make it a priority. If you fail, learn what you needed and apply that to the next attempt. Don't let your failures be a reason to stop trying, let them catapult you as a wiser decision maker onto the next level and toward your success! Make yourself a timeline, or better yet, get yourself a manager and have them make you a timeline and a plan to ensure all of these aspects are in place within 6 months. The first step is always the hardest.