Why Mentors Are Critical to Success.
The statistics don’t lie. If you want your dental practice to flourish, you need to utilize some type of mentorship. A 2014 study conducted by The UPS Store showed that 70 percent of small businesses that succeeded for at least five years or longer had received some type of mentorship.
Successful people in all industries know the value of mentorship. Denzel Washington, an Academy Award-winning actor, summed it up this way: “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well, I’m sure that someone was cheering you on or showing you the way. A mentor.”
Dr. Jason White of Lubbock, TX, knows the value of mentorship all too well—he has experience in running a dental business from both sides of the equation. He knows what it’s like to start out in the dental field without a mentor and the struggles that go along with that. He also knows what it’s like to have a team of mentors who can provide him with the answers, expertise, and guidance to make his practice grow. Because of his contrasting experiences, Dr. White knows firsthand why pulling together a team of mentors is one of the best things you can do for your dental practice.
A Change of Plans
When Dr. White graduated from dental school, he was fortunate enough to be offered an associate position with an established dentist, Dr. Paul Johnson. During Dr. White’s undergraduate years in college, he had worked with Dr. Johnson and had grown to respect his keen business sense, entrepreneurial skills, and progressive clinical work in implant dentistry. Dr. White was eager to join the practice, knowing that Dr. Johnson would not only make a great partner in the dental field but also a perfect mentor.
However, three days after Dr. White signed a business agreement with Dr. Johnson, tragedy struck. Dr. Johnson and his wife were both killed in a small plane crash, in a plane that Dr. Johnson was piloting. Dr. White said, “At the moment of receiving this devastating news, my world felt like it had been flipped upside down.” Not only had he lost a good friend in the crash, but Dr. White had also lost the future that he had envisioned in working with Dr. Johnson.
Since the papers were already signed, Dr. White could essentially step into the practice immediately as the lead dentist. However, he wasn’t sure he wanted to just to take over someone’s practice so soon after graduating from dental school.
What had made Dr. Johnson’s offer so enticing was the fact that Dr. White was going to be able to work alongside a trusted advisor. “So, I immediately started looking around for other options,” Dr. White explained. Yet after about six weeks, he felt that he needed to assume the responsibilities of Dr. Johnson’s practice, even if he had to go at it solo.
Dr. White explained, “I was green around the ears and essentially thrown into the swimming pool with no water! I was 26 years old and I was on my own. Even though I knew it would be challenging, as is the case with everything I do in life, I dove in headfirst. I was determined to really give it a go.”
It wasn’t long into running the practice that Dr. White discovered a truth that most new dentists eventually figure out. He learned that dental school had merely provided him with the clinical foundation on which to build a practice, but he still had a lot left to learn about being a dentist and running a business. “You really learn dentistry when you get into a practice, not in dental school,” he explained.
Not only did he long for a mentor in the clinical area of his practice, but also in the business end. He had a myriad of questions and no one to help provide the answers. How should he handle the day-to-day operations of the business? What is the most effective way to manage employees? What is the best way to run a practice smoothly and efficiently? How could he make sure he was making a profit?
Dr. White tried to reach out to his local dental community to find a mentor, but was ultimately unsuccessful in his quest. He explained that it can be challenging to find a mentor among the competition. Furthermore, there seemed to be an underlying feeling that he was out of his league—that he had no business running an established practice straight out of dental school.
Down and Out
When looking back on his first few years in practice, Dr. White said, “Initially, I made some great decisions. But I also made a lot of bad decisions. By the time I was about five years into my practice, I had really lost my interest in dentistry.” He explained, “My practice was more insurance-driven than patient-driven, and as a result I had a very high turnover rate. The practice was going nowhere for me. I literally hated turning the key to my office and coming into work every morning.” At the time, Dr. White began exploring other career options and seriously considered abandoning dentistry altogether.
It was while he was at a particularly low point in 2014 that Dr. White came across an advertisement for the Dr. Dick Barnes Group (DDBG) courses. Many of the offerings looked intriguing, but he was primarily drawn to the Full Mouth Reconstruction course. He immediately signed up for the next available course with Dr. Jim Downs as the instructor. “When you’re down and out and checked out of dentistry,” Dr. White said, “there’s no one better to help pull you out of the slump than Dr. Jim Downs.”
In the Over-the-Shoulder™ course that Dr. White attended, Dr. Downs demonstrated the step-by-step procedure for completing a full arch case by taking students through the process in an actual procedure. At the end of the course, Dr. White told Dr. Downs, “Thank you for showing me that there’s a better way to do dentistry.” And with that, Dr. White had finally found a mentor.
Building the Team
Over the last three years, Dr. White has taken a string of other DDBG courses—each of which were taught by experts in the industry. At each course, he has been able to add additional members to his ever-growing team of mentors.
Today his team of mentors includes a variety of players. Some offer excellence in clinical procedures. Others bring expertise in the business side of the practice. The best part about the DDBG courses, according to Dr. White, is that the instructors aren’t just experts who give a lecture and then disappear from your life. They build relationships with their students and help them with follow-up questions and guidance after everyone has returned to their practice.
Naturally, one thinks of an instructor as being a mentor. But what about your peers? Can colleagues also be mentors? Absolutely. Dr. White has found that the colleagues he met at the DDBG courses have become tremendous mentorship resources for him, too. “At the courses, you meet other colleagues who are having the same issues as you in their practice,” Dr. White explained. “It’s nice to be able to reach out to these colleagues and seek their advice for solutions.”
Dr. White also discovered other mentors in a place where he least expected it: within the walls of the dental lab. “I talk to my lab representatives constantly,” Dr. White explained, “especially when we’re in the middle of a case.” While the dentist is the expert on doing the clinical work, the lab reps are the experts on how the crowns and restorations are actually made. Since they’ve been involved in a plethora of cases with all of their other clients, they can provide guidance and tips on issues that the dentist may not have even thought of.
Pathway to Success
After Dr. White built a team of mentors, everything changed drastically for him and his practice. Not only has he found a zeal for dentistry again, he has also found success at running a profitable practice. He doesn’t dread coming to work anymore.
Dr. White’s pathway to success didn’t just magically happen because he found people to mentor him. He had to find the right people. When searching for a mentor, it’s important to find people who share your philosophies and understand your goals. Dr. White said that one of the reasons he was excited to work with Dr. Johnson was because he was doing the type of dentistry that he also wanted to be doing.
Once you’ve found the right team of mentors, the next step is implementing what you learn from them. You can receive all of the fantastic advice in the world, but if you don’t act on it, it does you no good. Regardless of how long it takes you to make a new concept or skill your own, it’s important to keep trying.
Dr. White found that in his own practice, once he and his team implemented what they learned, they began experiencing successes. As Dr. White’s team started experiencing successes, their level of confidence grew, and more successes followed. Today, Dr. White notices a marked change in his practice. Not only does everything run more smoothly, but every member of the team is happier, too. “The morale of my practice is wonderful. Everyone is working to achieve the same goal,” Dr. White explained.
Moreover, the practice has also achieved a dramatic increase in production since he started working with mentors. “In April 2017, I had the largest production month I have had in 11 years in business,” Dr. White said. “When you implement proven ideas, there’s a calming effect that comes over your dental team. That’s the best starting point you can have when building a doctor-and-dental-team relationship with your patients. You want your practice to stand out above the rest.”
Passing the Torch
Now that Dr. White has experienced a proven level of success, he hopes to someday share his experience with others. “Having a mentor earlier would have allowed me to become a better dentist earlier,” Dr. White explained. “If I can help other dentists who are struggling, and help them turn around whatever it is they’re doing, then I’ll be able to pass this on,” he said.
Dr. White wants to make sure the torch of mentoring is passed on to another generation of dentists. He said, “So many times a good thing doesn’t continue because somewhere along the way, someone doesn’t step up. Because I have benefitted from [mentoring] so much, I feel an obligation to help others so they, too, can reap the benefits of mentorship and a successful dental practice.”