There seems to be an easy path in dentistry. If you are fresh out of university, you might be looking at dentists with 10 years under their belt. You see their practices, their fancy cars, or nice house and think, “That should be me.”

And it’s hard not to want to talk the talk. You’ve just invested all of this time and money into university to be a great dentist. Now it’s time to reap your rewards!

…Or is it?

Unfortunately, graduating is just the first step in a long road toward becoming an amazing dentist. Not only do you need to focus on constantly improving your clinical skills, but to have a thriving practice, you need to learn the skills of business. While your schooling might have made you a competent technician, curriculums nowadays rarely – if ever – cover business topics.

How do you build a website? Use social media? Make influential contacts? Learn how to sell? How to bring patients in the door again and again?

Surrounding yourself with the accoutrements of success without the groundwork to back it up can creates problems. As your debt level rises, so does the pressure to earn more.

Before you put the cart before the horse, let’s talk about doing the work, creating a solid foundation, and finding success in dentistry and in business. When it comes to your career, you can’t rush it. You need to learn to walk the walk.

You have to climb the ladder.

Luckily, access to education is easier than it was even just 10 years ago. There is so much information online and new techniques are constantly being developed. Technology is just racing along at a brisk pace.

The information you need is out there to learn, apply, and get good at. But there is still a place for mastery. However when you try to master everything, it’s a recipe to get overwhelmed quickly.

That’s why I always turn to the 80/20 rule. Focus on the 20% of stuff that makes the biggest difference. Focus on mastering what is really going to take you the furthest first.

Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, now is your chance to focus down on your particular interest. What do you love doing? How can you be better at it? How can you master it?

It’s about putting the time in. There’s an oft-quoted figure that mastery comes at 10,000 hours of active practice (meaning you’re trying to get better and not just doing it). If that feels overwhelming, pick something to focus on each year. Just spend a year becoming as good at that one thing that you can.

It’s not about despising the lowest rungs on the ladder or trying to jump past them. Instead, it’s thinking, “I want to be at the top of that ladder and I’m willing to climb every rung to get there.” Invest in yourself. Learn those skills. Develop those skills and know that the reward may not be immediate. Build your skillset and knowledge base now so that you’re equipping yourself for great things higher up the ladder.

Fix problems as they happen.

Problems happen in business and dentistry every single day. Mistakes happen. Issues crop up.


Often, it is incredibly tempting to believe these problems are one-off occurrences. Maybe you have a patient in the chair and the crown’s not ready. Not a fun day.

After we’ve fixed the issue, we think, “Surely, it won’t happen again.”

But then a month later, “Man, that’s the second time that’s happened.” Soon, something that is out of character for your practice becomes a common occurrence. These problems can quickly become business killers. Again here the 80/20 rule applies. If 80% of the visit is great, but 20% is not … What do you think your patient will remember after the fact?

Whenever you’re faced with a major problem, it’s time to sit down and ask, “How can we make sure this never happens again?” Piggybacking off of the first point above, these problems are really opportunities in disguise. They’re a chance for you to practice, hone your skills, and create systems for success.

Final Words…

We only see the tip of the iceberg. If you see someone that looks successful, leading the life you dream of remember that you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. You’re not seeing the late nights at the office, the seminars and conferences, the unpaid work that it took to climb to the top of the ladder. Just like with everything else, you might only see 20% of the work someone puts in while there’s another 80% hiding just below the surface.

That being said, I do believe that putting in the work to climb the ladder might be the single most important piece of advice I can give you. The successful business owners are going to be the ones willing to do the work and improve themselves and their businesses as they go. It’s always going to be a work in progress. If you spend a year pursuing one goal, you might be surprised where it takes you.

Finally, please download the Savvy Dentist app and join our Facebook Group! The app is free to download for both iOS and Android on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store respectively. We’ve got a lot of content for you there and adding more resources all of the time. Our Facebook Group is a great, active group of dentists really supporting each other as we all work toward creating true businesses that can scale beyond us. We do training. We’ve got tools and tips to get you started, and more. Head on over there and join us if you haven’t already.