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I recently attended a memorial event for a good friend and colleague. This was a moving occasion, but was more concerned with celebrating his life and achievements than mourning his death. Wow, I’ve never started off a blog this seriously before, but there is a point so I’ll continue. One good thing these events facilitate is the meeting of old friends of a similar age and thinking. As we are all in the later part of our careers, this sometimes becomes a Council of Elders’. Last Friday was no exception and talking eventually gets round to work and what we have done over the years.
We found we all had one thing in common concerning our journey through dentistry and it was something we wish we could communicate to the young-guns. Although everyone has to make their own mistakes!
What is our core business?
The ‘Council of Six’, as I’ll call ourselves, had all spent a lifetime building up practices and businesses around dentistry. Most of us had been moderately successful at this, albeit with quite marked ups and downs. Life in dental practice is not all plain sailing and every one of us had experienced tempests as well as mill-pond conditions. The biggest frustrations occurred when we lost direction in the fog that practice can become.
In order to build a business around our skills, we felt that we had to ‘sell’ something. Over the years we invented things to market to our patients and to try to attract new patients to the practices. The very act of ‘selling’ became a core business. We sold crown and bridgework, we sold preventive dentistry and we sold implants. Sometimes it worked, sometimes we worried about the empty seats at the practice, but always we were stressed by selling ‘stuff’.
The amazing insight was that all six of us had relaxed somewhat and began to coast as we approach the end of our working life. We all felt that the one thing we should have sold was ourselves.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. However, in looking back at several lifetimes of working with people, it is easy to see that the patients who stay with you for decades and the patients who are most appreciative feel like that because they believe you care about them. They don’t value the fantastic crown as much as the welcoming smile and the empathy you showed when they had a serious problem.
The Council of Six discussed the implications of this in the light of the new ‘stuff’ which is being sold to patients as more and more practices are focussing on facial aesthetics, botox and fillers. We wonder which came first, the public demand for these services or the marketing machine that sells them. This doesn’t really matter but we did wonder whether in twenty years time, these practitioners will regret focussing on the superficial rather than the person behind the face.
The final thing we agreed on was that just supplying simple dentistry to treat, or prevent, toothache was a lot more satisfying.