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What “Moneyball” Taught Me About Dentistry

“Moneyball” is a 2011 movie about changing the business of baseball.  Last week I wrote this post about how “Scarface” taught me a few lessons about the business of dentistry.  Something also jumped out at me when I saw “Moneyball” that reinforced a management philosophy of mine.  First, here’s the premise:

Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) have a radical approach to playing baseball.  They look at the game with cold, analytical eyes.  Rather than looking at a player’s charisma or the attractiveness of their swing, they crunch numbers.  For example, one of their primary evaluations is “on base percentage, ” a simple measure of how often a player gets on first base.  Beane and Brand don’t care if the player got there because of a hit or a walk; all that matters is that they got there.  No more overpaid super stars.  Bargain baseball players could be found who had key statistics in a few crucial areas.  Combine the ingredients together and you get a balanced team that is ready to win games.

This completely different approach ended up redefining how general managers do their jobs.  But it wasn’t an instant success.

When Beane and Brand introduced their philosophy, their own team was very much opposed to making changes.  Coach Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) refused to utilize the players the way Beane and Brand had intended.  Howe was coaching the team in the traditional manner, but the team he had was designed to be nontraditional.  The result?  Many, many losses.  Watch the movie to see how Beane turned things around.  So here’s my management philosophy:

Your vision will fail if your team isn’t fully committed to it.

You have a vision for your practice.  You have certain kinds of patients you want to treat.  You want your schedule to be designed a certain way.  And so on.  Your vision is beautiful.  Rock on.

Most visions don’t become reality right away.  It takes time to develop a certain patient following.  You can’t yet afford that $8,000 Peter Lik photograph for your reception area.  It will all come in time.

But occasionally there are real roadblocks on the way to realizing your vision.  One of the biggest barriers is a team member who doesn’t agree with your vision or just doesn’t care enough about it.

Take the time to convince your team members of your vision.  Write a mission statement.  Talk about the future and what you want your practice to look like in five years.  Will you have an associate?  How many days will you be working?  Are you getting rid of some insurance plans? If someone can’t get excited about the vision, then they’re probably going to continually let you down.  Let them go and move on.

Here’s an example: you want your front desk to greet new patients a certain way when they walk in the door.  You want the patient to feel special (check out this post for some ideas).  Despite all of your pep talks, a team member continues to just hand new patients a clipboard and say “Fill this out.”  No special greeting and no smile.

This person needs to be let go.  You have a wonderful vision for your office and this staff person is not on board.  It’s time to move on.  Otherwise, your brilliant vision may never become a reality.


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