KDA Today

KDA Today

For Immediate Release

Date: Oct 17th, 2013
Contact: Dr. John Thompson
Phone: 800-292-1855
Email: info@kyda.org

I Still Like Maps!

My wife and I have had the time to do quite a lot of traveling, lately.  I am really too cheap to pay the roaming fees for GPS tracking for my phone in Europe and I still love the paper maps. Using maps is also a ready-made invitation for her to be able to say, "I told you so." or "Why don't you stop and ask?” I then get to remind her of the time, at her insistence, in Florence Italy, when at four in the morning, in absolute desperation, I stopped to ask a beautiful lady of the night for directions to the airport. She turned out to be a man who didn't speak English or Italian. This happens to be the only retort I have in my repertoire.

I saw this little sign by the desk in our Paris hotel, “People often ask us for a map, but maps are no good if you haven't decided to go somewhere new.” I made a note of it in my “what if” notebook and forgot about it. This past month I was at our office (they still have a desk they let me use) and my partners were telling me about a great continuing education course they had attended with the staff the previous Friday. It was one of those all-day events sponsored by a major dental supplier. The consensus was, from both the partners and the staff, that the presenter had been talking directly to them and that there were so many things from this course that could be incorporated into the practice. There was a buzz created in the office as a result of the group event.

For some reason the little sign popped into my head and I said, “It sounds like you found a new map.  Now, what are you going to do with it?” I have practiced dentistry for forty-two years and I wish I had said that to myself after so many of the wonderful CE programs I have attended over the years. Yes, there were those that profoundly affected my practice decisions. I was lucky enough to spend time with Dr. L. D. Pankey and Dr. Pete Dawson in the late seventies and early eighties. I did buy the maps and I did go somewhere new.  I have loved practicing dentistry and enjoyed asking myself, “If not, why not?” whenever I made changes to my practice philosophy or methodology.  At the same time, I look back and realize how many “pearls” I picked up along the way and somehow lost, because I put the map in a drawer and never made the trip.

This new economy that has been provided by the still protracted “Great Recession” has a lot of practitioners feeling that they are not where they would like to be. While I am not speaking of geography, I might as well be.  If we don’t like where we are, we can choose to go somewhere else, but it helps to know where we are going.  It must have been a great philosopher who said, “You won’t know when you get there, if you don’t know where you are going.” I have always liked that saying and maybe that is why I like my maps. I also like to draw little targets along the routes of my maps and big circles around where I am going.

I don’t think it is much different when you want to change a practice. What do you want your practice to look like? Who do you want to have as patients? What services do you want to provide and who is going to be working with you? Once you can answer these questions you have a good idea of what the circle on the map looks like. At least in this hemisphere, you don’t generally head north for a tropical vacation in February.  I generally get my maps from my great travel agent in Cincinnati. She and her husband have been to so many of the places we want to visit and they can provide us with the advice and specific recommendations we need for successful travel, based on their personal experience.

We all know colleagues who have made successful transitions and may have been or are, in fact, where we want to go with our practice aspirations. Ask them how they got there. Being asked to mentor is a great compliment for most of the dentists that I have known.  When I was teaching practice management, I always told my students to choose someone in their vicinity who had the practice they respected and the model they wanted; then ask them to be a mentor.  I cannot recall any feedback which would make me retract that recommendation.

There are travel agents, excuse me, consultants who have made transitions in their profession. They can provide expertise and business plans based on real world experience and a knowledge of the road conditions created in this new economy.  There are many excellent continuing education courses available at our professional meetings that will provide a vision of what can be. The beauty of our national and regional meeting CE is that fellow colleagues have scouted to find the really credible presenters who truly have expertise and credible results.  Is it really where you want to go and what are the steps required to get there?  It is a whole lot easier to investigate the destination and look at what it is going to cost to make the trip than to arrive and have to ask, “What was I thinking?”

I may be naïve in thinking that business plans and maps have so much in common, but to me it makes sense.  By the way, my partners and staff are actually following through on the list of “to do” actions that they made following that CE program. When I do go back to the office, my desk may be gone.  In the meantime, our travel bucket list has been exhausted and I am looking for a few new maps.  I do hope you are having a great day; I am. 

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