As both a dental coach and a practicing dentist, I owe a lot to my own dental coach. In fact, he is one of the reasons I became a coach in the first place – so I could help other dentists to enjoy the success and personal fulfilment that was missing from my own life for so long. Having spent several years working with a dental consultant and experiencing minimal personal and professional improvement, I turned to coaching in desperation. Through my work with a coach, I developed better business skills, greater leadership abilities, and a sense of personal fulfilment. I also learned communication skills that enable me to share my journey with my own clients.
How It All Began
Like most young dentists, I was an idealist. I was just starting out. I owned my own practice. Life was good. After just nine short months of practice ownership, the world turned upside down. My business partner committed suicide. His death deprived me of his friendship and left me in shock. It also left me $600,000 in debt to my partner’s estate. With no legal way out, I started to work at a breakneck pace, taking on as many clients as possible. Working 70 hours a week, I lost my passion for dentistry and my sense of purpose. My goal was simply to keep from going under.
Working with a Consultant
After about a year working at this level of intensity, I decided to try dental consulting. Having heard a presentation on financial planning for dentists, my goal was primarily financial. I wanted to get out of debt and stop feeling overwhelmed. At first things seemed to go exceedingly well. We made changes in my practice and my team was onboard. After the first several months, however, we seemed to plateau. My consultant had a rather formulaic approach to things. Rather than finding out the methods that worked best for me, I felt I was following a script that had been written for someone else. We all gave it our best shot, but nothing felt quite right. We did bring in some new patients, and staff turnover was fairly low. However, something was missing. Nevertheless, I kept on working with the consultant for three years, thinking eventually something would click. Eventually, I hired several other consultants, but no one seemed to be a good match for me, my team, or our methods of working.
When Consulting Didn’t Cut It
At this point, I was tired, I was frustrated, and I had spent a lot of money on consultants. Trying to improve my practice was beginning to seem like a futile dream. Then someone suggested I try dental coaching, and I agreed to give it a shot. The difference was radical. Coaching was tailored to me and my team. Our coach encouraged me to take an honest look at myself and my practice. He asked me to identify personal goals and areas in which I could improve. Surprisingly, I found that these more personal areas and the practical side of my business were closely linked. As I learned to define goals and improve my communication skills, my practice started to grow. Suddenly, my employees were happier and more productive. I learned to identify and value their unique desires and ways of working. My patients were more satisfied, and they felt like I was really listening to their needs.
So What’s the Takeaway?
The point of all this is not to knock the work of dental consultants. As I said, I did see some practice improvement with my own consultant. However, I urge dentists to be honest with themselves. If they are truly satisfied with the trajectories of their careers and if they have defined goals, a consultant can help them improve financial planning, marketing, and other business strategies. However, if a dentist is still trying to find out what he or she really wants, coaching may be a better solution. A coach can help him or her to complete an honest self-assessment, define goals, and establish a plan to achieve those goals.