Do you have the “water sense” you need to be a successful practice owner? I have just returned from a week out on the waters of Desolation Sound, which is a collection of islands, bays, fiords and deep-water arms stretching between mid-Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC, north of the Sunshine Coast. As I write this, I can still feel the rhythm of being on the water; a gentle feel of roll beneath my feet, which I love. After a week of cruising, kayaking, hiking and swimming in the ocean, my batteries are recharged! I was honoured to be invited to accompany my friend Tamara on her Uncle Jim’s boat (he’s really a good friend of the family, but considered an uncle). For us, he is Captain Jim. Jim’s boat is a 43’ well-equipped power boat, a retirement investment he made a couple of years ago. He is still getting to know his boat, how she handles and her nuances.
Captain Jim has “water sense” – an awareness of how to read the ocean. I was surprised to learn that he grew up in Ontario and spent most of his boating career there and in Alberta, because navigating rivers and lakes is very different from being in ocean waters. Tides, currents, winds, hazards and how the water reacts to all of them play such an important part in navigation and handling a vessel at sea. Jim tells me that in Ontario he learned to be comfortable on the water and that is definitely step one.
It made me think about all the dentists who find themselves in business – an environment that is new, unknown and maybe a little frightening. Does this describe you? How prepared are you for all the elements that affect your success in private practice?
I grew up on Vancouver Island and lived in a boating family. Although my parents did not own a boat, my uncle and grandfather did. I grew up being comfortable on the water. Later, when I got interested in knowing how to sail, I also learned how to read charts; to know the rules of navigation, what they markers and buoys mean, how to plot a course, how to read where the hidden rocks, currents, drying shoals and other hazards are. I also learned how to pay attention to the wind and know what the tides were doing and I learned boater’s etiquette. It’s been awhile now since I spent time out on the water, so prior to this week away, I refreshed my Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card. I was shocked at how much I had forgotten! That made me doubly admire Captain Jim, who is no stranger to the water, but relatively new to these waters. He takes understanding these waters very seriously.
Your success as a practicing dentist depends on your doing exactly what Captain Jim has done:
- Spend time understanding how to navigate the waters you are in. Read, take courses, get coached so that you become familiar with the currents, trends, and forces that affect you.
- Take nothing for granted. Toss any laissez-faire attitudes out the window. This is serious business and you must know the rules of the road. Danger lurks all around you and you must know how to read the wind, water and what is below it that you can’t see.
- Be vigilant at all times. Develop a sixth sense about being “on the water”. Listen to what your staff and patients are saying; learn to read between the lines. Watch what is going on around you in the practice. Don’t get lost, believing that you are only there to fix teeth.
- Plot your course. Plan ahead so that you know where you are going. Clearly define your values so that you can use them like a chart to stay on course.
We can all learn from Captain Jim. One of the most valuable lessons is to acknowledge that you are captain of your own ship, master of your own destiny. But in order to navigate the tricky waters of running a dental practice, you must also be fully responsible for your ship, your crew and your passengers. That means arming yourself with knowledge, using the resources available to you, being vigilant always, and to know where you are going. Develop your “water sense” and be calm, confident and in control of running your practice!