What Defines a Successful Practice?

  • by John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD, DMD, FAGD
  • Feb 2, 2017, 15:13 PM
After a reading some blog posts focused on what it takes to have a successful practice, I started to ask myself about success. I started to ponder what a successful practice looks like. Of all the things I read, there was one aspect I wasn’t seeing being discussed — how to set up a practice in order to be happy, not just profitable. Somehow, we have always equated success with making money and the bottom line. This is what we all seem to be chasing after: profit. Look, this is what I have chased and am chasing after. But I can tell you that money does not buy happiness.

I know, I know, you are saying that you know that, but you would like to try it anyway. Does having a practice that makes good money make it a little bit easier to buy happy? Heck yeah. But once you have earned a certain amount of money, the amount you thought would put you on top so you could easily pay for all of the tuitions and the cars and the loans, you always want more. 

American industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller was once asked: “How much money is enough money?” He answered: “Just a little bit more.”
Take it from me, and from Mr. Rockefeller, the amount of money you have never seems to be enough. When I made $100,000, I thought: If I ever made $150,000, that would be it. Then I made $150,000, and I was still living paycheck to paycheck. I needed to make $200,000. And so on and so on. 
Because here is what happens: Once you start making $100,000, you start living like you make $100,000. You buy a house, and you buy a car, and the kids are getting older, and they start kindergarten, and that’s costly. Then they join the T-ball team, which costs more money. You want to start them in an additional activity, and that costs money. 

Then you make $150,000. You start to buy into the practice. Now your first kid is 10 years old, and now you have kid No. 2 and No. 3, and you have to pay tuition for two kids and daycare costs for kid No. 3. You buy a minivan. Then there is tutoring, baseball and football, and at that level, you have to have a special coach for a couple days a week. Your 5-year-old daughter is in dance class, and the studio wants $350 for the dress for the recital. You have moved into a bigger house because you have outgrown your first house.

At $200,000, you have bought 50 percent of the practice, and you are paying a big mortgage and three tuitions. Then there is baseball (Little League and travel team), football (Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with membership at a football agility-only gym), dance, driving school, drama and voice lessons. You buy the oldest his own car to get to all of his sports and SAT prep commitments. Oh, and now you think, I better start putting money away for retirement. 

Are you getting it? It is never enough. No one ever wins the rat race — and we all are in the rat race. But here is my philosophy: I want to own my rat race. I want to make my rat race fun. 

I want to be happy. 

After 21 years, I think I have my ideal practice. I have the practice that I dreamed about. But guess what? It is small. I work 36 hours a week. I work out of two rooms (but could really do it out of one, 75 percent of the time). I love my staff, and I love coming to work every day. Doesn’t that sound successful?

In my next blog post, I will tell you about my practice and how I practice. It is probably going to look a lot different than you think. 
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