Editor’s intro: Dr. Albert (Ace) Goerig provides guidance on how to cultivate your practice through his Freedom Practice Model.
Dr. Albert (Ace) Goerig discusses how to cultivate a more successful practice and get more out of life at the same time
For nearly 25 years, I have been coaching endodontists on how to have more successful practices and how to get the most out of life while being an endodontist. For 90% of doctors, the reasons they seek coaching come down to a surprisingly short list of just two priorities.
First, on the priorities list is to pursue financial opportunities. This is often expressed directly as a desire to make more money, but it is also expressed in indirect ways, such as to work fewer days, increase referrals, accelerate their retirement goals, or be able to vacation or travel more. All these things are really just deciding how to channel and surface the benefits of becoming more productive and profitable in the practice.
Second, on the priorities list is to enjoy the practice and profession more. Doctors want to smooth out the daily issues that create stress. They want a full clinical schedule that is more productive without feeling rushed. They want to stop worrying and micromanaging their team about every detail. They want to end each day at the office feeling happy and energized rather than frustrated and drained.
In aggregate, these objectives describe what a great endodontic practice should be like: quality care, stress-free management, enjoyable daily flow, high profitability, and ideal life balance. When you grow your practice to that level of success, you experience an extraordinary sense of freedom and empowerment that transforms both the practice and your life.
The freedom practice model
This “freedom” model of endodontic success is what I practice in my office, and it is the vision we have at Endo Mastery for our coaching clients. We strive to help our clients easily add $200,000 or more to profitability and reduce the number of days worked if desired. That’s a cumulative economic value of at least $4 million over 20 years (not including investment returns), which solves a lot of problems and achieves a lot of goals to say the least. The cumulative time value of fewer days in practice is invaluable. Life is just better.
By comparison, the average endodontist-owner operates in a default model for their practice. They took over a practice, and they’ve been working on it incrementally since then. Some years there is growth, some years are flat, and sometimes years go by without much change because they’ve settled into their routine.
As a result, the typical endodontic practice is producing about $750,000 per year and taking home $250,000 to $450,000 depending on expenses. At the low end of that range, doctors would do better as an associate. At the high end, it is benefiting them more but only marginally — as if they are paid a small bonus more for being a senior manager (on top of being a clinician), rather than being fully rewarded as a CEO.
In business, CEOs invest in growth, and literally the main thing that separates the default model from the freedom model is growth. Yet many endodontists have reported a decrease in cases over the past few years, creating a general feeling that growth is difficult in today’s market. I want to emphasize that I absolutely do not believe this is the case. The market may be evolving as result of any number of factors you care to name, but if you approach it as a CEO, all you see are opportunities.
A study (now 13 years old) by the ADA in 2006 estimated the number of root canals completed annually at 15.1 million with 72% being performed by general dentists. How much things have changed since then is up for debate, but one thing is clear: There is a significant opportunity to grow your endodontic practice. Potentially for every case you do, there are as many as three other cases being completed in general practices on average. In business, that is called a huge marketing opportunity, and any CEO would get excited about it.
Teams and systems drive growth
Every practice has the potential and possibilities in place right now to grow, which really depends on empowering the practice team and implementing market and business-smart practice systems. Usually the systems in the practice are a mixed bag of what the doctor inherited when he/she took over the practice, plus a few changes here and there over time, and a few ideas cherry-picked from seminars. By the same token, doctors face the same challenges with their teams, whose skill levels, experience, aptitudes, and attitudes can vary. Often new team members are hired and just thrown into the mix, which means basically they were trained at their last practice rather than yours.
As an analogy, think about the clinical possibilities for patients today given all of the advances in dentistry and what can be achieved restoratively, functionally, and esthetically by a comprehensive GP working collaboratively with specialists. Now consider that barely a fraction of 1% of patients truly experience that level of care on their whole mouth. Everyone else gets it one tooth at time as problems arise from year to year, which means they are never fully in sync with today’s incredible possibilities. It’s the same with the systems and team in your practice: They’ve been cobbled together over time but never perfectly synchronized to today’s full possibilities.
Effective business leadership is needed for doctors to achieve growth and freedom. Practice systems need to be brought up to date and streamlined while eliminating grey areas that cause stress and issues. Team members need a full vision that engages them, supported by clear job roles with true accountability to reduce management burden, maintain control, expand delegation, and ensure productive teamwork. With these factors in place, marketing systems that increase the flow of cases can drive a strategically designed doctor schedule for efficiency and high productivity.
It sounds like a lot to take on at once, but it’s not. It is many things built upon the foundation you already have in place. Some things are small. Some are a more significant shift that takes effort to adapt to. And you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are practices and teams out there, like mine that are achieving this level of growth and success every day. In fact, one of the first things we do with our coaching clients is invite them (doctor and team) to come shadow and observe my practice and witness how effortlessly we enjoy our day while achieving very high productivity. It is a transformative experience for many doctors and team members.
A great practice life is about freedom, joy, abundance, and enjoying your family. Endodontics is a great way to get there. It’s dentistry’s best kept secret, and it’s your biggest opportunity.
Editor’s call to actionAfter reading Dr. Goerig’s advice on how to cultivate your practice, check out how his career evolved in his practice profile here.