There Ain't No Silver Bulletin Business

by Howard Farran, DDS, MBA, Publisher, Dentaltown Magazine 

In dentistry there's so much noise about the next big thing that will save your practice or make you a millionaire. "You want to be successful? Learn the new secret recipe, or start placing implants, or start doing orthodontics, or buy this shiny toy." It seems like there's always some "cutting-edge" advice and next big thing you have to do to compete with the big boys.

But you know what the bottom line is? There ain't no silver bullet. The next-best thing to a silver bullet though, is this: get a consultant.

When I talk with dental consultants, they all tell me that the successful practice owners (everyone who has a million-dollar practice or more and who is taking home $400,000) keep it pretty simple. They don't have shiny objects, they don't have every fancy new toy, they don't place implants, they don't do ortho, and most of them don't even do endo.

Instead, they have this fairly traditional practice where they get about 30 percent from hygiene and the dentist just does restorative dentistry. They do fillings and crowns.

You would think that the people who hire consultants would be the desperate people with messed-up practices, right? Nope. The people who hire consultants are usually the people who are already successful but who are humble enough to accept help as they go to the next level.

Now, maybe the practice owners from the first group I mentioned (the desperate people in terrible shape) don't get consultants because they're scared to spend the money. That's understandable, but can be a costly mistake; a consultant may be the very factor that turns everything around.

You may think consultants are know-it-alls who actually don't know much. Not the good ones—the good ones can help you get where you want to go.

I've used half a dozen consultants in my life and I love to ask them questions about their work. Every time I ask a consultant, "Whose office are you doing?" Or "What size is the practice you're working with?" They go, "Oh it's a really nice place—doing one, two, three million dollars—and we're just fine-tuning a couple departments."

And then across the street from that dental office there may be an office that's doing $500,000, that's losing money some months and where everything is out of control, and that person will never use a consultant.


Again, it could be a lack of finances, but it's often because of arrogance too. Because he's a doctor. He knows everything. He got A's in calculus, physics, geometry and bio chemistry, so why would he need to use a consultant?

That person often thinks there's a magic bullet of some new procedure to offer. There's certainly nothing wrong with learning a new skillset. You should learn how to place implants and do ortho … if that's what makes you happy. That's your passion? Then do it.

If you like toys and you can afford them, buy them. I have a CBCT. I have lasers. I have every shiny toy there is. I get it!

I raised four boys and if I put them in the bathtub with no toys, they were out in two minutes. But if I put a bunch of boats in the tub they'd stay in there until their fingers were prunes. Buying new equipment and products can be great, but it's not a silver bullet.

Most millionaires do two things. First, they get their house in order. They get their people, their processes and their product in order. I cover this in my book, "Uncomplicate Business: All It Takes Is People Time and Money." And the second thing many millionaires do? They get a consultant.

Quit focusing on the noise and the magic solutions. Let's get back to basics. Let's say your business is in chaos. You know what sounds really good? To get the hell out of town. You may want to fly some place where you can take a course on a procedure that you think will make you a lot of money, when really you're just wanting to leave all the crazy stress of your practice for a while. See through that. Get your house in order.

You want to take a trip to learn to be a cosmetic dentist? Then go be one. But at the end of the day, we still need this house in order. We still need the right people, the right processes, and the right product.

Your dental consultant needs to bring expertise and financial know how, and contacts who can bring you extra help when you need it. Do all that and you have a good chance at getting rich. If you decide then that you want to run off and learn how to surgically place implants, go for it.

But learning how to surgically place implants isn't your silver bullet. It isn't going to get your house in order. Get a consultant and you'll learn all this, and a lot more.