Are you a dental shark or a dental guppy?

Are you a dental shark or a dental guppy?

Do you rule the dental world or do you get swallowed up by the competition?

Everyone seems to love the TV show Shark Tank. And why not? It’s fun to watch people pitch their businesses to the sharks – a panel of wealthy investors who can turn from welcoming to brutally critical at the drop of a BeardHead Beanie Hat. We even had one of the sharks, Daymond John, at TBSE a few years ago and he was a huge hit!!

So here are seven Shark Tank lessons from the most famous shark of them all, Mark Cuban. They certainly apply to your dental practice!! (Some will be paraphrased for dentistry!)

1. Learn to sell. You are always selling – to your patients, your fellow team members, and your community. But don’t sell a product – solve a problem.

2. “Everyone has the will to win – but the winners are those who prepare.” You can dream of having a great dental practice all day long, but what are you actually doing to achieve it?

3. Your patients can tell you what is broken and how to fix it. But you have to listen to them. Listen!!

4. One thing we can all control is effort. Put in the time to become an expert in whatever you’re doing. It will give you an advantage because most people don’t do this. This is not just clinical expertise, it’s people skills and running the practice.

5. “The beauty of success, whether it’s finding the love of your life, the right job or financial success, is that it doesn’t matter how many times you have failed – you only have to be right once.”

6. Get an advisory network. No one has all the answers or ideas.

What do you think? We think is great advice that will work for anyone at any practice! One thing is for sure – learning from successful people (like “The Sharks”) is much better than asking that floundering schmo at the local study club what he thinks!! It’s time to swim with the dental sharks!

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You seem like the type of person this blog post is for.

Here is some really cool information for you that will help when discussing treatment needs with your patients!

Last week we sent an interesting story about treatment plan acceptance based on a story from Dr. Robert Cialdini’s excellent book “Pre-Suasion.” The response was so great that this week we will go back to that book again with another cool story and lesson!

Have you ever been at a mall and been approached by someone with a clipboard, asking for “just a few minutes of your time to give your opinions for some market research?” Even when the pot is sweetened with a free gift or cash, the percentage of people who comply is very low.

A study was done to see if there was a simple way to boost response. (A study about a study – how meta…)

In the control portion (just asking people to help with the survey) 29% said yes. But then the same steps were taken with one difference. Before asking people to take the survey, this question was asked:

“Do you consider yourself to be a helpful person?”

Following brief reflection, nearly every person said “yes.” (We all consider ourselves to be helpful!!) Then, once the public affirmation was made, the researchers asked for help with their survey. This time 77.3% of the people volunteered to help!!

We are not fans of the old car salesman technique of presenting a humongous treatment plan and then asking, “Is this the kind of dentistry you want?” That strategy just smells a bit funny.

But there is certainly nothing wrong with asking pre-emptive questions to have your patient affirm what they want.

If you are about to discuss periodontal disease, why not “pre-suade” the discussion with something like “You want to keep your teeth for the rest of your life, right?”

When a patient presents with a shattered molar, before explaining the core and crown, why not say – “Good news – we can repair this tooth and make it solid and strong again. Does that sound good to you?”

Getting someone to publicly affirm their belief can be a great way to lead to a commitment towards dental health. And you do want your patients to have excellent dental health, right?

How would MacGyver handle 2017? How would you?


The name is synonymous with many things. Resourcefulness is one.

Look up resourceful in the dictionary. There’s his picture. Okay – we’ll do it for you.


[ri-sawrs-fuh l, –sohrs-, –zawrs-, –zohrs-]
able to deal skillfully and promptly with new situations, difficulties, etc.

The original MacGyver was a 1980s American action-adventure television series character. This guy could get out of any life or death situation with his trusty Swiss Army knife and a roll of duct tape.

He was the master of improvisation. In minutes he’d craft a bomb out of a paper clip and his own earwax if necessary.

MacGyver was resourceful to the max.

With all due respect there’s an unmentioned and perhaps non-apparent Achilles heel in his story.

MacGyver was constantly getting out of bad situations with the grace and skill of a ninja. Yet you have to wonder why he didn’t avoid some circumstances altogether.

MacGyver is the model for resourcefulness, no doubt. And that is a skill that will help every doctor and team member. But an even better skill is…

Don’t get into difficult situations to begin with!!

Be honest with your patients. Keep them comfortable. Anticipate their questions. Speak in plain English. Make sure patients understand their insurance and financial arrangements ahead of time. In short – solve problems before they happen!

But how about some different types of problems? Dentistry is evolving, and the evolution of dentistry demands that you be on your toes. Insurance changes, the increasing rise of corporate dental structures and systems, the abundance of dental providers in your region, and an often apathetic patient base are a few of the things we can look forward to.

So what can you do? One thing is for sure – doing nothing is sure to get you nowhere fast.

Marketing challenges? Insurance margins encroaching?  Competition on every corner squeezing you?

What would MacGyver do? He would probably wait until his practice was sinking and then magically solve everything with a 204S scaler, a bib clip, and a couple of old amalgam capsules. But (fortunately) you’re not MacGyver…or MacDentist…or MacTeamMember.

Now is the time to identify potential problems and plan for them.

Failure isn’t the issue. Not trying is.

The best teacher you and your team have on occasion is failure. Perhaps even better is to anticipate where it can and potentially will occur and have a ready Plan B.

Plan B thinking gives you hope, help, and heroic opportunities.

Here’s a thought…

While you’re closing the books on 2016 in a few weeks do something different.

List some bold initiatives for 2017. Then go a step beyond.

Picture where failure could occur. Stare it down and…

Plan B the crap out it!

That’s enough to make Mr. MacGyver (and those competing voices of fear) stand up and take notice.


Everyone loves some good and simple tips to help their practice and their life, right? That’s why we asked some of our TBSE 2016 speakers to share some of their favorite ones with you! We will be presenting them from time to time throughout the year.

For the first stop in this series, we will visit Dr. Ric Zambito. “Dr. Z” was a surprise guest speaker at TBSE 2016, and even though he wasn’t on the stage for a long time, his incredible message really resonated with everyone there! Ric is a general dentist who has one of the most successful, productive and happy practices we have ever seen. His figures easily put him in the top one percent nationally, and he does it all in the small and depressed town of Wheeling, West Virginia!

One of the best things about Ric is his leadership abilities and the way he deals with his team. These four tips from Dr. Z will give you some insight into how he accomplishes this – and how you can too!!

1. Leadership is the process of getting everyone to the place they are supposed to be.  It is the opposite of controlling people.  No one can be a leader unless they are trusted and possess the number one characteristic that staff and patients want – integrity.

2.  The only way a team member will know what you expect is consistency.  You must constantly be teaching your staff, and be sure to compliment them when they achieve the success you expect.  Complimenting may be important, but so is helping your staff grow.  Making them aware and accountable when they have fallen short is equally important.  This will lead to improvement of your team.

3.  Why would anyone want to settle for being an average dental office? That is the best of the worst and the worst of the best.  Dreamers and achievers will never stop at this level.  It is always the doctor’s opportunity to help team members become the best they can be.

4.  Have you noticed that your dental office takes on your personality?  By speaking to just one employee, you should be able to decipher the tone of the entire office.  If you have a positive doctor, it will permeate throughout the office to the rest of the staff.

Want to hear more from Dr. Z and get his tips delivered to your inbox on a regular basis, including some fantastic ways to handle 14 scary situations that are probably happening in your dental practice right now?

Just visit

Do your patients really want freedom of choice?

Is freedom of choice hurting your practice’s bottom line?

In 1980, the great Devo song Freedom Of Choice declared:

“Freedom of choice is what you got
Freedom from choice is what you want!”

Let’s move to this morning.

5:30 AM – on the elliptical machine, frozen. Why? The all-important decision – what music to listen to. If you have Spotify or another streaming app on your phone, you have pretty much every piece of modern music ever made available right at your fingertips, rendering the decision “What should I listen to this morning?” pretty much impossible.

If you’re a baby boomer, you certainly remember the day when your TV choices were pretty much limited to three channels – and that was great! Even in 1992 Bruce Springsteen realized there were “57 channels and nothin’ on!”
Many millennials who use dating sites such as report that it makes finding a boyfriend or girlfriend extremely difficult, because with hundreds of choices available, you’re always looking over your shoulder for the next date. “Sure – I like this person, but will lovesdogs347 be better?”
We have so much freedom of choice these days – but is it always a good thing? Maybe not when it comes to your patients!

The fact is, people love to be led. When they have a relationship with a trusted professional, they like to be told what to do. So while it’s tempting to thoroughly discuss a bevy of options, in most cases the best thing to say to a patient is…

“I see what the problem is, and this is how we fix it.”
Boom. That’s it.

“Freedom of choice is what you got
Freedom from choice is what you want!”

Is your practice being skewered? Don’t let it…..

It is amazing how the small actions of one person can totally undermine an otherwise fantastic practice or business. Don’t believe it? Check this out.

Our hometown of Baltimore is constantly receiving accolades as one of the best restaurant cities in North America. Why should you care? Because of this.

Recently a brand new Peruvian restaurant called Inka Grill Fusion was reviewed in The Baltimore Sunpapers. (Despite the downfall of newspapers, they still have a lot of clout when it comes to making or breaking a restaurant as their reviews are not only read in the paper but sought out online.)

It seems the setting was beautiful and the food was great. Yet the restaurant received a lousy review. Why? Because the reviewers felt their waiter did a horrible job. In line with Peruvian cuisine, they “skewered” him! (You can read the review here:

This is really sad, and maybe a little bit unfair. After a sizable investment, lots of planning, an incredibly creative chef, and doing so many things right, they were ultimately judged by the poor behavior of one person.

You can be sure that after this review came out, this server got a tremendous ass-whooping if not a firing. And here is how this relates to your practice.

No matter how great your office may be, oftentimes you are judged by one person who doesn’t care to give every single patient a memorable experience every time they visit or are on the phone. It can be anyone in the practice – a hygienist, a dental assistant, a business team member, and perhaps more frequently than we like to admit…the doctor!

You can be doing 99 out of 100 things right and all of it can be undermined by a single person doing a single act. The beautiful crown you are about to cement is forgotten if a patient doesn’t feel completely appreciated. The gentle touch you provide is not as valued if you ran twenty minutes late. The beautiful office is undermined if the patient doesn’t get their questions answered in plain English. And on and on and on and on…..

So take a lesson from Inka Grill Fusion. Hopefully they will clean up their act and survive the bad opening review; then again they may not. Don’t let the same thing happen to you and your dental practice!!

And the fact checker says…

Fact checking! You’re hearing a ton about that these days.

It’s a political season. Go figure.

It’s also a healthy kick-in-the-butt to monitor what you say.

But also…

How you say it.

Treatment plans. Financials. And the stuff that makes-your-world-go-‘round.

The facts speak for themselves but your priority is to make sure they’re heard, understood, and even better…accepted.

Facts aren’t always a guarantee of compliance. You’re aware that patients can stare them (the facts) in the face and deny their reality.

That is, after all, the “political” thing to do. But we digress…

It’s not enough to diagnose a “bombed-out” tooth and inform your patient that their infection is spreading a fast as the latest political gossip. Why?

Two reasons and two solutions

Reason 1-Facts don’t always connect with emotions.

Your patients are no different than the general population when it comes to a buying…um… treatment decision.

Fact: “People buy for emotional not rational reasons.”

Reason 2-Facts come with a price – good or bad.

Your patients want to trust your diagnosis but the cost can outweigh their willingness to make a decision. (Sort of like having to choose between the lesser of two…we digress yet again…dang politics!)

Fact: “People need to justify their emotional decisions with logic.”

We promised solutions. And we do what we say we’re gonna do (take that fact-checker).

Solution 1-Tap into your patient’s emotion.

All it takes is one…emotion that is. Refuse to diagnose and treatment plan without knowing at least one compelling reason they would accept the facts.

How? It pays to listen.

Solution 2-Guide them to a logical outcome.

Not every diagnosis and treatment plan sounds logical. It’s clear to you – you’re the professional.

Patients see it differently. What they need is some logical justification for following their emotion to a, “Yes, take care of that tooth today…!” outcome.

How? It pays to be perceived as the provider of solutions to problems that only you can solve.

That will stand the test of time and any ‘ole fact checker.

10 ridiculous things people say to dentists and team members

Here are 10 ridiculous things that people say to dentists and team members:

  1. “Ugh – I could never stick my fingers in someone else’s mouth. It’s gross!”

Which is usually followed by…

  1. “…but if you don’t mind, I think I chipped a tooth. Could you take a quick look?”

Sure! I’ll be glad to give you a free, ungloved, professional opinion in public!

  1. “Why is dental school four years? Is there really that much to know?”

Of course you idiot! There are 32 teeth, and we learn eight per year!

  1. (When sitting down in the dental chair) “I just had lunch and I didn’t brush…”

Glad I’m not your proctologist….

  1. “I hate needles. I hate dentists.”

Maybe you should have thought of that when you were feasting on sugar and not brushing or flossing…

  1. “I’d rather have another baby than get this root canal!”

Just let me know what you decide so I can adjust the chair properly.

  1. “There wasn’t any pain before you did the filling, but now my tooth hurts. I knew I shouldn’t have gotten that done!”

Hey buddy – if you had some diseased tissue in your arm bone and an orthopedic surgeon drilled it out and replaced it with a synthetic material, wouldn’t you expect that to hurt for a while?

  1. “I don’t want any x-rays.”

Great! How about if I just do the entire exam with a blindfold on?

  1. “I paid for your Porsche, doc!”

No you didn’t. You paid for my extreme professional expertise, intense difficult education, huge overhead, the write-off from your cheap-ass insurance, and a zillion other things. I think a modest profit is pretty reasonable. Besides, it’s not my Porsche, it’s the lawyer’s next to us.

  1. “I guess I just have soft teeth. It runs in my family.”

Actually, a soft brain runs in your family.

Pretty amusing – but what’s the point?

Patients (and other people) say ridiculous, annoying and stupid stuff to us all day long. It goes with the territory. But it’s our job to let these types of comments roll off our backs and give our patients the very best we can offer.

So the next time someone says “Nothing personal, but I hate dentists!” – instead of saying what we would like to say (e.g. “Nothing personal buddy, but I hate assholes!”) suck it up and say something like – “Well – it’s my goal to make your treatment here as comfortable as possible!”

“Hey doc – I paid for that Mercedes!”
“Thanks – it drives beautifully!”

And so on and so on. Treat your patients respectfully at all times, no matter what they say. And maybe one day soon you’ll here this…

“You know Doc, I used to hate the dentist, but I actually enjoy coming here!!”

The “Cadillac” of dental practices – is that a big deal? Maybe!


Those are the numbers that Carl Sewell, of the esteemed Dallas Sewell Cadillac dealership, once crunched. It’s what he discovered was “the lifetime value of a loyal customer” as relates to automobiles purchased and services provided.

The strategy behind the number?

He wanted to compel his employees to become “owners” in their departments by brainstorming ideas about how to “astound” the company’s customers.

Initiatives for outstanding customer service included painting the floor of the service garage a (classy) glossy white and dry-mopping the repair floor for each service drive-in, etc. 1

Your take-away?

Small changes focused on improved customer experience create new service benchmarks.

What would $332,000 of Patient Service Value (PSV) look like in your dental practice?

Good question. Your answers must go beyond the standard C-T-T-M approach of most dental practices.

C-T-T-M? You know…your lobby lure (ahem) amenities – Coffee-Tea-TV-Magazines!

Come on, you gotta do better than that. We’re talking Lifetime Patient Value (LPV) here.

It’s time to convert your dental practice tire-kickers.

Since we’re on the automobile dealership theme here – they’re the $1 Exam and X-ray patients. Those who watch their mailbox for the latest mailer the day they develop a toothache.

You’ll greet ‘em…treat ‘em…treatment plan ‘em…and guess what? Never see ‘em again, right? (Face it, your lobby coffee didn’t do the trick.)

Crank up your P-S-V (Patient-Service-Value)

Lose the dollar value at this point. Instead get practical and explore how the value-principle creates some momentum.

At your next team meeting or huddle talk about how you can increase your PSV. And implement this new mindset at every level of your practice TODAY:

Everyone thinks like an owner” and no one acts like an employee.”

For example –

Front desk “owners” stand-and-greet with eye-contact when EVERY patient signs in.

Clinical “owners” have a concierge attitude chair side (“Are you comfortable…can I get you a blanket…?”).

Remember…small things.

Dr. “owners” see the patient’s emotional desire behind the treatment (tissue please). No, seriously, tap into the deeper reason(s) they’ll agree to your diagnosis and treatment plan and help them understand the real value of their investment.

Turn your “owners” loose. Create a running PSV list.

We’re talking LPV (Lifetime Patient Value). Might not add up to $332,000 but why limit yourself?



Source: James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser, Jr., Leonard A. Schlesinger, The Service Profit Chain – How Leading Companies Link Profit and Growth to Loyalty, Satisfaction, and Value, p. 65.

Are we targets?

Have you noticed that there are more products, consultants, courses, seminars, supplies, gadgets, and services than EVER that are being marketed to you?

Just last week one of us counted 64 emails recommending that we buy stuff ranging in price from $17 to $85,000.  All in the name of making us “more productive” and “more successful.”

And there are webinars, targeted Facebook ads, live streaming videos… there is no end.

If you took everyone’s advice on what they recommend for your success you’d certainly be bankrupt.

Is the reason there is so much stuff being thrown at you because you are an easy target?

Perhaps yes.

OK, so knowing this, what do you do?
First thing is to take a step back and take a deep breath. We have the answer.

Secondly, do not buy anything on impulse. No matter what someone tells you, you do not need that “thing” today. We have found sleeping on important decisions is always a smart move.

Third, decide what you want. What would you like your practice and your life to be like? What are your visions?

A very effective way we have found to figure this all out is through goals.

Yes, goals. They work. We have both been tremendous believers and practitioners of goals for decades!

“Setting goals is the most powerful thing you can do in your life.”
~a very wise person
Docs ask us all the time if we have a goals worksheet that we can share. The answer is yes. Please CLICK HERE to get your copy. Totally free. A gift from us.

Dedicate a small amount of time every day to work on your goals and you will see them becoming reality sooner than you can imagine!

So remember, don’t live your life impulsively. Slow down and plan.

Both of us have always been fans of getting back to basics. We are simple guys. Because simple generally works best. And there are few or no headaches with simple.