The Dream Team: Step 1

My two favourite words in 2007 were:

1. Delegate – the work you give to the people on your payroll, and;

2. Outsource – the work you give to people that you hire from outside.

Over the months ahead I want to slowly guide you towards creating a better life, both professionally and personally.

That will primarily be achieved if you create teams of people around you who can do the work, leaving you free to focus on what should be your two unique abilities:

1. Delivering the dentistry that makes your day, and;

2. Leading a team of people who do all of the work that makes your business function profitably and predictably.

My clients average 8-10 weeks of vacation every year; they enjoy one full day a week of business development (seeing no patients, working with their teams and suppliers on strategic development) and average 24-27 hours a week of clinical time.

They are the most profitable dentists in the UK and, I would suggest, some of the happiest. Would you like to join them?

Gerber distinctions

Before we start to work on your team, we have to do some work on you (as Stephen Covey says: ‘If there is a problem with your team, the problem is you!’).

So I want to begin by asking a question regarding your ultimate ambitions and aspirations as a business owner (or someone who contemplates business ownership in the future): Why are you doing this?

Another favourite quotation of mine is from Michael Gerber: ‘I’m self-employed and I work for a lunatic – the lunatic is me.’ I’ve been doing a bit of thinking this week about the Michael Gerber distinctions between technician, business owner and entrepreneur, prompted by a client conversation on this subject that has been rattling around inside my head ever since. It seems that there are some clear distinctions:

• T (technician) – generates own income through technical work and uses own money/borrowings to fund it;

• TBO (technical business owner) – as above but also has other income generators at work (still using own money/borrowings);

• TE (technical entrepreneur) – stops doing income generation, allows others to generate income but still uses own money/borrowings;

• PE (pure entrepreneur) – has stopped doing income generation and is delegating or outsourcing all income generation and work, and is using external money/borrowings to make it happen.

So the pure entrepreneur is combining other people’s work and other people’s money to create personal wealth. How about you? What category are you in at the moment? Do you want to evolve to a higher level? If so – what would that look like, how and when would it happen?

The majority of dental practice owners are TBO (technical business owners) by Gerber’s definitions and my expansion on his ideas. They are using their own money and borrowings to finance a business in which they still do some of the technical work but have associates/hygienists/therapists generating income alongside them.

The point at which you would become either a TE (technical entrepreneur) or a PE (pure entrepreneur) would be when you stop doing wet-fingered dentistry – and I have met very few of those individuals on my travels, even though business logic suggests that they would become the wealthiest.

Hitting the sweet spot

It’s not all about the money, though, is it? I know it isn’t, because clients tell me that their ‘sweet spot’ – the moment when their job satisfaction is at the highest – is when a patient says an earnest ‘thank you’ for getting them out of trouble or delivering a new sense of self-confidence.

So I’ll accept for the moment that the vast majority of owners would be much happier if they could comfortably sit at the TBO (technical business owner) level – making a good living with plenty of time off.

There is a problem – and the problem is defined if we go back and repeat that definition of the TBO: They are using their own money and borrowings to finance a business in which they still do some of the technical work but have associates/hygienists/therapists generating income alongside them.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the ‘technical work’ that we are referring to here was just dentistry – but for most of the owners who are reading this article I would

suggest that technical work includes:

1. A full day in surgery – at best delivering interesting dentistry and at worst, lost in a world of check-ups;

2. Preceded, including and followed by an ongoing responsibility and preoccupation with:

a. Financial management;

b. Marketing responsibility;

c. Customer service


d. Clinical review of others;

e. Operational matters;

f. Human resourcing issues;

g. Relationships!

Hardly surprising that dentists are often overwhelmed, burned out and disillusioned? Attempting to ‘run their business’ over breakfast, during the school run, in between patients, at lunchtime, after hours and finally on the dining room table at home in the evening with a half-bottle of wine inside them. Not a pretty sight.

So, in the series of articles that follows, we are going to take a journey towards delegation and outsourcing. And next time we begin with the most difficult step of all – let’s get it out of the way: enrolling (or removing) the existing staff members who are going to create the biggest roadblocks to your progress. Those existing staff members who don’t want anything to change.

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