Accounting & Tax

Successful Dentists’ Playbook


David Chong Yen


October 20, 2021

October 20, 2021

Having had the benefit of serving dentists for 38+ years, we have been able to identify certain traits and principles which make them happy and successful as well as other actions which lead to their demise. Let’s explore the playbook of successful dentists.

1. Definition of Success

Many happy dentists define success in terms of family, friends, and experiences they have accumulated during their lifetime and place less emphasis on financial score cards or material items they have amassed.

2. Staff is an Asset, not an Expense

Staff salaries are treated as an expense on a dentist’s income statement. Successful dentists focus on staff engagement and well-being and less on salaries as a percentage of billings. Covid emphasized the need for a happy team.

3. Run Your Own Race. Your toughest competitor is you.

No one else knows the hurdles you are facing, your starting position, your access to different resources or your responsibilities. Trying to “keep up with the Joneses” is a recipe for disaster.

4. Dentistry is a People Profession

People/soft/interpersonal skills separate successful individuals from the rest. It is a prerequisite when working with staff, negotiating with suppliers, or communicating with patients. Successful dentists enjoy interacting and learning from others.

5. Fishing Rod vs. Fish

Successful dentists appreciate their fishing rod and won’t compromise it to gain fish. A dentist’s fishing rod generates cash such as their practice, dental building, rental property investments. A dentist’s fish consumes cash such as a sports car, plane, boat, etc.

6. Spend less than they make

Happy dentists spend less than they make and usually, treasure experiences versus gathering things.

7. Bet on Yourself

Successful dentists bet big on themselves. Others bet big on others. Some dentists will be attracted to investments and/ or a tax shelter designed, managed, and controlled by others; while successful dentists will risk buying a dental building to accommodate their dental practice. Some dentists will spend on upgrading their clinical skills which they use to generate more billings and smiles, whereas others can’t justify this expenditure.

8. Perfection vs. Improvement

Successful dentists pursue ongoing improvement while others spend decades trying to achieve perfection, waiting to gather and analyze all pertinent information. They will finally decide long after the opportunity has been seized by others.

9. Cost vs. Value

Successful individuals focus on value and place less emphasis on cost. Value is what one receives, cost is what one pays. A dentist asked me if they should agree to a $2/hr increase for a key staff member. I responded by asking them how much in billings they would lose if this employee went to their competitor.

10. There is a Real Cost to Ignoring Opportunity Costs

Compare your present position with your alternative. If your alternative, although bad, puts you in a better position than your current position, then consider pursuing this alternative. Alternatively, your time is valuable and worth money. Hence, if you can save $1000 by foregoing your current activity which generates $2,000, forego this $1,000 savings.

People / soft / interpersonal skills separate successful individuals from the rest. It is a prerequisite when working with staff, negotiating with suppliers, or communicating with patients.
11. 80/20 Rule

20% of the things dentists do, give them 80% of their headaches. Successful dentists avoid, eliminate, or hire someone else to handle this 20%, and focus their energies on the 80%.

‍12. Don’t Forget to Love Yourself

Successful dentists love themselves too. They set aside time in their busy schedule for, “me time”. Passionately pursuing activities outside of the profession reminds them they are not defined or constrained by their profession. It is cross-training for their mind and body.