Developing greater business intelligence Roger P. Levin, DDS




Dental school teaches people how to be clinicians, not business professionals. To make running and sustaining a practice more enjoyable, however, dentists must learn how to be productive chief executive officers. Owning a practice can be stressful when a dentist’s ability to make decisions on business issues is slowed by a lack of confidence or experience. Therefore, dentists need to take it on themselves to advance their knowledge. Where should dentists begin? Below are 5 approaches for acquiring knowledge that will help dentists perform the business essentials of dentistry with less stress and more efficiency. READ EXTENSIVELY

Performing a quick search on Google or browsing in the local bookstore will yield an array of titles and authors. Dentists should begin by reading more academic books that lay out a clear, step-by-step process for running a business. Such taskrelated books can contain a great deal of material that can be challenging for nonbusiness readers to grasp. Nevertheless, these books cover vital information that dentists can put to use immediately to improve practice organization. In addition to reading books, dentists can benefit from reviewing industry-related publications and respected Web sites. For example, the American Dental Association

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(ADA)1 provides its members with a plethora of online resources. The ADA Health Policy Institute2 reports on various subjects, including dental practice economics, and the ADA Center for Professional Success3 offers information on leadership development, patient dental benefits, team management, and more. LEARN VISUALLY

Videos, including YouTube uploads, webinars, and DVDs, represent another beneficial avenue for business learning. For example, TED Talks4 on subjects such as inspiring a team and innovation are engaging, exciting, and interesting. GO BACK TO CLASS

Although many dentists may find it impractical to pursue another degree, they will find that numerous academic institutions offer business classes and certificates. And with the advent of online education, many of these programs are accessible from any locale that has an Internet connection. Business classes often deliver a fundamental understanding of business principles, whereas pursuing a certificate allows students to explore a particular area of expertise without committing to a full degree program. The ADA also has created an executive-level certificate curriculum and other continuing education options in practice management and life mastery, available both online and in person, through the Center for Professional Success.3 JOIN OR CREATE A BUSINESS STUDY CLUB

Study clubs are dentistry’s membership-based form of continuing education. They provide

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dentists the opportunity to meet with other dentists and dental team members, typically on a local level, to support each other, share knowledge and expertise, brainstorm, debate, and explore topics of interest. Participating in small groups makes it easier to discuss everyday systems and build valuable referral networks. Study club members also can bring quality speakers directly to the group, eliminating the need for travel. WORK WITH ADVISORS WHEN APPROPRIATE

The most successful people learn from others, and having a set of business advisors can make a tremendous difference in your career. At different times, dentists may need an attorney and an accountant. It is best if these advisors have some level of dental experience so they understand the nuances of a dental associateship, partnership, or practice buyout. Dentists also should consider hiring a financial advisor to help guide investments and retirement planning. Executive coaches can work directly with dentists to enhance their leadership skills in areas such as practice vision, goal setting, and teamwork. CONCLUSION

The biggest challenge is that the general business knowledge gained through books, videos, and classes will not be specific to dentistry or dental practices, unless the source is the ADA or another dental organization. Although dentists can directly apply managerial skills and business regulations, they will have to adapt other information—such as insurance and financial


management, staffing, and making systems work—in an environment where the dentist-owners spend most of the day productively engaged with patients. The best approach is to become knowledgeable about universal business activities, trends, and methods and then focus on more specific areas. As top business leaders do, dentists should continue to identify areas that need improvement and

access educational resources for those particular topics. n

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or official policies of the American Dental Association.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2015.01.018 Copyright ª 2015 American Dental Association. All rights reserved.

Dr. Levin is the founder and chief executive officer, Levin Group, 10 New Plant Court, Owings Mills, MD 21117, e-mail [email protected] com. Address correspondence to Dr. Levin. Disclosure. Dr. Levin’s company, Levin Group, offers executive coaching.

1. American Dental Association. Available at: www.ada.org. Accessed February 12, 2015. 2. American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. Available at: http://www.ada.org/en/ science-research/health-policy-institute/. Accessed February 12, 2015. 3. American Dental Association Center for Professional Success. Available at: http:// success.ada.org/. Accessed February 12, 2015. 4. TED. Available at: www.ted.com. Accessed February 12, 2015.

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