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Who Does the Future of Dentistry Belong To?

July 24, 2013

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Philosophy — Tags: , , — Barry @ 11:42 AM

shutterstock_73633585I come from a long line of small businessmen.  Independent taxi cab owners, hardware stores, candy stores.  When I look back on those businesses I don’t see many modern day versions.  Like pet shops and bookstores things change and continue to change.  The same is true of dental practices.

For those who are too young to remember there was a time when a dentist either went into the military, or public health or opened up a fee-for-service private practice.  Most dentists chose private practice.  Those were the days that we refer to as the Golden Age of Dentistry.

I used to take pride in thinking I was an entrepreneur because I owned my own business.  In truth I was no more than a small business owner.  Yes, it was something to be proud of, but I wasn’t an entrepreneur.  Today, in order to run a successful fee-for-service dental practice, the dentist must develop significant entrepreneurial skills.

There are books that discuss the entrepreneurial mindset—they call it the start-up mindset these days.

Just today I was reading a blog post at Spear Education titled What if Steve Jobs Had Been a Dentist.  It discussed Jobs’ entrepreneurial spirit.  Who was more iconoclastic than Steve Jobs?

He was never satisfied with the status quo…a true innovator who always looked to create a better future.  One of his famous quotes was, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself someone else will.”  That quote reminds me of my favorite quote by Jack Welch:  “Create your own future or someone else will.”

Both of these great men were entrepreneurs in the true sense of the word—not just business owners.

In Mitch Joel’s new book Ctl Alt Delete, which is geared toward people who need to change or reboot their careers, he defines an entrepreneur as someone “who has an uncanny desire to create the future—a future that doesn’t exist.”

The true entrepreneur is someone who sees the inefficiencies in the way we work.  They actually fix the stuff that we complain about everyday.

What do dentists complain about everyday?  A lot more these days than when I first started.

The problem with most business owners including myself, is that we get complacent.  The older we get and the more successful we get—the more content we become with the status quo.  We lose our innovative spirit and our desire to change.  As Mitch Joel says, “Business owners just try to mitigate risk and minimize mistakes.”

As time moves on—they stop creating their own future.

The gatekeepers are taking over the profession.  Fee-for-service private practice, as a business model is being threatened.  Those with an entrepreneurial mindset will control their own future.

The future of dentistry belongs to the entrepreneurs…not the business owners.

Forty years ago, when I started, being average worked.  Today new skills and mindsets are required.  The key to success is to destroy the gatekeepers (metaphorically—so calm down…I am not starting a movement), and take responsibility for our own lives.

 Today, in order to compete at a higher level the dentist must become an artist.  Learn new skills.  Develop his or her core message, make it clear, learn to express himself through excellent presentation, learn to use social media, write a blog, and use photography.

Essentially it comes down to what we already know…create your vision, develop your core message and your core promise.  Then, and here is where things have changed, use every tool available to get your message out.

People receive their information differently these days…make sure your message is clear and your reach is tightly targeted—then YOU will own the future.



My son Joshua a ceramist knows exactly how to do this—he actually teaches me.  Child is Father to the Man when it comes to today’s entrepreneurs.  Here is a link to his latest YouTube Video—clear message—expertly delivered.



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  1. You are very fortunate Barry. I hope you realize that. The golden age of dentistry is past. What you describe here is just not all entirely true. It sounds good though. You are very fortunate. Things are much much different in the 21st century. Other forces have taken hold. Those with the “entrepreneurial mindset” and pure profits are controlling the future now- such as corporate holding companies. There are much better, and saner ways to make a living than the constant push push push in the dental world.

    Comment by Roger — February 24, 2014 @ 10:41 PM

  2. Roger, you make some really good points. Points that I have thought about over and over again. I can talk to your issues forever. It’s a lot more difficult these days to make private practice work. Ten years ago I discussed the “forces” in Art of Examination. Today there are more forces. But who better than the dentist to take control and bring on a new Golden Age…actually this is the only way I see it playing out as we evolve as a culture. Look at the lab industry as an example…what will we do with all of this new technology if it’s not affordable for dentists to purchase if patients can’t get the dentistry done. My mindset has never been to throw in the towel…it comes down to energy persistence and self development. Now more than ever.
    Great comment…thank you.

    Comment by Barry — February 25, 2014 @ 11:43 AM

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