When starting a practice, the first concern is getting the production and income up. But more important than just the money is the free time to fully enjoy the rewards of your production. Sterling has helped me make the kind of money I want and also now the lifestyle I find so valuable.
I started in a group practice in 1980, and when that fell apart, opened my own office in Omaha, Nebraska, where I have worked as a sole practitioner for the past decade.
Six years ago I started with Sterling. My production at that time was about $400,000. This year I will wind up right about at $1 million. But I didn’t do this by becoming a workaholic. No, I love my free time. I do work hard four days a week, I come into the office at 7:00, the clinic opens at 7:30, and I work till 5:30 with an hour for lunch. Then I have my three days off. During that time I will be a gardener, or a driver, or a student. Not a dentist.
But working four days is just a start. My next move is to cut it down to three days or maybe just work every other week. I have no shortage of things I want to do with that extra free time.
It wasn’t always this way. Six years ago, I was doing okay, but not as good as I thought I could. I knew I had the dentistry part down cold, but I was tired of running into wrong answers on the staffing and business side. I was working six days a week and wishing that I could take more time off.
I heard about Sterling and what I found appealing was that they wouldn’t just come in here and give me some advice on how to run the practice. Instead they would train me to be a better business owner so I could make the right decisions on my own.
I came away from the initial training feeling that I could direct the outcome of the practice. The analysis tools I learned gave me the opportunity to look closely at any problems and figure them out, as well as giving me the confidence to make things happen.
I also received a plan on how to better manage the business side of the practice. I knew the clinical side would always take care of itself, but now I had a plan and some tools on the business side to start moving the practice forward and upward. I immediately started working on organizing the business side instead of just putting out fires.
The training also helped me get better at selecting and guiding the staff. As a result, it’s become easier to work and there are a lot less upsets and infighting between the staff. They also feel a lot more confident in the direction the practice is going and the consistency of procedure involved.
We also consistently benefit from the programs we’ve gotten from Sterling on how to obtain new patients.
Now that I have built a million dollar practice as a solo dentist, my next expansion move is to add an associate. Once that happens, I will be working the same hours I am currently when I’m in the office, but there will be more weeks when I won’t be here. Ten weeks vacation sounds very attractive to me.
There is a common misconception that many dentists have: that their income is directly tied to the number of hours they work. They may say that they believe in “working smarter, not harder”, but they do just the opposite, spending too much wasted time at the office without either helping more patients or raising their income to the level it should be.
I know that back when I was working five or six days a week and taking maybe one to two weeks off per year, I didn’t like to be away from the office because I knew that any time I left I would lose $2000 to $3000 in production. Now I take a minimum of three weeks’ vacation every year, plus another week or two for continuing education. Yes, I lose $3000 to $4000 every day I am out of the office, but it is worth it because I am relaxed enough to enjoy the time off and I also know that I can make up the lost production on the days I do work.
Could I have done this if I hadn’t done the Sterling program? I doubt it. The Sterling training has filled in the gaps in my dental education. Sure, I probably would have increased the practice some on my own, but at a minimum doing the program got me there several years faster. At any rate, I know that I am achieving my goals and enjoying life, not sitting around saying to myself “if only…”
Dirk Newington, DDS