What sets excellent leaders apart? There are probably a thousand different answers to this question, but I think one of the most important factors is that leaders have specific goals and plans. Basketball legend Michael Jordan once said, “I'm a firm believer in goal setting. Step by step. I can't see any other way of accomplishing anything.” It’s hard to argue with an NBA Hall of Famer who has six championship titles. When it comes to your practice, I say: Be like Mike. For further success, I strongly recommend that every dentist complete a five-year plan.
Start With the Basics
The idea of creating a five-year plan may sound daunting. It requires taking the time to think about where you want to be in five years and mapping out goals for each year to help you get there. I’ve helped many doctors develop five-year plans, and it’s one of the most powerful exercises, in terms of personal and business achievement, that a person can perform. It forces you to evaluate what you desire, what matters most and what is achievable. It’s not about chasing the impossible or building the next billion-dollar company. It’s creating a realistic plan about where you want your practice and personal life to be in five years.
Building the Plan
The following method will be helpful for building your five-year plan. There is a great deal of psychology embedded in this method in order to help anyone — even those who think they can’t — work toward finalizing a plan.
- Get rid of all distractions and brainstorm. Start by sitting down in a room with a blank piece of paper — no TV, no music and no cell phone. Then, focus on one question: Where do I want my practice and personal life to be in five years? Draw a line down the middle of the paper and, on the left, record business goals, and, on the right, record personal goals. Even if you have no idea what to write, stay focused on the question, and ideas eventually will begin to flow. Don’t worry about whether your answers are good or bad. I recently was talking to a national bestselling author who believes that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. According to him, writer’s block is simply people setting their standards too high. So, get out of your own way, and get something down on paper.
- Categorize your ideas. Putting your answers into categories is the first step to organizing your plan. For example, business answers might focus on categories such as staffing, office expansion, new services, continuing education, management or marketing. Personal categories can include family, finances, fitness, health, community involvement or self-improvement. Feel free to create as many categories as you like, with as many or few ideas per category as you need.
- Review the categories. See if any categories can be combined, expanded, eliminated or altered. This is where the hard work begins. You have to think deeply about each idea and evaluate whether and where it fits. Remember to eliminate all distractions — any interruption will break the flow of thinking.
- Create deadlines. Record deadlines next to all of your business and personal goals, and then put them in chronological order. Don’t worry about how you’ll achieve them. Also, keep in mind that it’s unnecessary to have the same number of goals for each of the next five years. Some goals are larger and more complicated, and others are simpler. Sometimes, a big goal can be accomplished in the first year, and a simpler goal might not fit until the third or fourth year.
- Evaluate goals. Examine your goals year by year. Ask yourself if accomplishing your yearly goals will give you the professional and personal lives that you desire five years from now.
Once you’ve finished your five-year plan, make time for a weekly review of your progress. Many people have created fantastic goals but never look at them again. A weekly review will help you focus, stay on schedule and find any necessary resources. This is how goal setting works.
In today’s world, we are constantly hearing about incredible people who built billion-dollar companies in one year. While this is possible, it’s incredibly rare. Remember, as great as Michael Jordan was, it took him and his teammates seven years to win an NBA championship. Having success like Mike doesn’t mean shooting the winning basket in the last seconds of the game. It’s as simple as having a five-year plan and moving forward day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc. To comment on this article, email firstname.lastname@example.org.