Australasian Dental Practice

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30 Sep 2021 | Australasian Dental Practice

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Financial Success for Dentists - Rules for how to approach your dental career

By Joseph Allbeury

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. This profound statement of unknown origin, often wrongfully attributed to Mark Twain, pretty well sums up how a lot of dentists view the non-clinical aspects of dentistry.

Many dentists start (and sometimes end) their career clinging to myriad fallacies, often of equally unknown origin, about how dentistry works as a business and their role as its labour-force.

One common goal of all working in the profession, however, is typically to be financially successful; yet the path to achieving that success is often unclear. Being a dentist is no longer a guaranteed smooth-sail across a sea of gold.

Fortunately, there are a veritable army of consultants, internet gurus, bloggers, influencers and the like out there who are only too happy to offer advice. And like everything, the most successful people will pick and choose the advice they follow wisely from a variety of credible sources.

Graham Middleton, perhaps Australian dentistry's original finance and management influencer, has published sage advice over the past 30 years through more than 150 articles in Australasian Dental Practice magazine, plus online, in email newsletters and a number of books.

Now retired from his career running a consultancy offering professional advice to dentists that included accounting services and practice valuations, his latest book, Financial Success for Dentists – Rules For How To Approach Your Dental Career, distils his wisdom into a well-paced 200-page read.

Graham devotes chapters to everything from the ideal size and structure of successful dental practices, staffing, buying and selling practices, start-ups, partnership dynamics, associate agreements and owning and renting premises through to fee setting, finance, profit margins and ultimately retirement strategies.

Whereas the young could quickly dismiss Graham's writings as old school and behind the times, nothing could be further from the truth. Why? Because Graham, as much as anything, chronicles the eternal and unchanging toll human nature imposes on the dental setting and how that plays out when money... and greed... and jealousy... and ego... and power... and stupidity... are all in the mix.

Graham leans heavily on his real-world experiences that can only be gained from sorting out other peoples' problems over a long career of consultancy. Using real life case studies - simplified and with name changes – he applies his considerable experience to solutions for common problems that many dentists may often only encounter once in their dental career.

Much of Graham's advice incorporates a common-sense approach applied to the dynamics of dental practice ownership but equally, he highlights a number of "extinction level events" for both your professional and personal life, particularly in relation to buying into bad partnerships or investing in schemes that flog dead horses, to be ignored at your peril.

Graham's writings have a distinct bias towards maintaining the vitality of private practice dentistry and championing the rights of individual dentists to successfully practice independently or in small groups, in many ways as the profession has always done. His strong aversion to the corporatisation of dentistry and the influence of private health insurers affecting the quality of care based on cost alone are evident throughout. Rather than wholesale opposition to the collective changing of the profession, however, Graham's advocacy of the status quo is based on both what he believes is right for the profession and its patients as well as the practitioners delivering the care.

Anyone working in the dental profession in Australia will benefit from digesting Financial Success for Dentists – Rules For How To Approach Your Dental Career and its content will at some point resonate with the past, present or future of your dental career.


Financial Success for Dentists - Rules For How To Approach Your Dental Career is available by making a donation (minimum $60) to the Delany Foundation, a registered charity established by the Patrician Brothers, which contributes to schools in Papua New Guinea, Kenya and Ghana. For more information or to donate, visit www.grahammiddleton.com.

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