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What “Scarface” Taught Me About Dentistry

“Scarface.”  The epic 80’s cult film starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana, a fictional crime boss who quickly rose to power and lost it all.  If you haven’t seen it, I’ll warn you that it’s not for the faint of heart.

More than just a story about drugs and violence, “Scarface” is actually a great parable about business.  A lot of what Tony Montana does is unethical, mean, and just plain dumb.  But there are a few lessons we can learn from his example.

For those who haven’t seen the film, check out the clip below which shows Montana rising to power.  Or just watch it because you love awesome 80’s montages with cheesy music!


Anyway, what can “Scarface” teach us about the business of dentistry?  Let’s do this…

(1) Seize opportunities

Never play chess with me.  Seriously, I’m a frustrating opponent because I take forever to calculate my next move.  When it comes to chess, I am guilty of paralysis by analysis; over thinking a situation to the point that no progress gets made.

Fortunately, I don’t make the same mistake in business.  I adopted the philosophy of “Ready, Fire, Aim”, based upon the book of the same name.  The idea is to make some basic preparations for an action, then do it, then make corrections and calculations.  If you take the traditional approach of aiming before firing you may over think the problem.

Thinking about creating a Facebook profile for your business?  Contemplating advertisements in a local newspaper?  Ever want to lecture to a study club?  Just do it.  Now.  If the results are less than perfect, then figure out what went wrong and get back in there.

Tony Montana’s greatest talent as a businessman was his ability to recognize a good opportunity when he saw one.  He made deals quickly without worrying about the details.

(2) Don’t wait too long to start your own business

Are you nervous about taking out a massive loan to start or acquire a practice?  You’re supposed to be!  Learn everything you can from your first few jobs.  But don’t make the mistake of waiting too long.  Branching out will never be easy and you will never feel 100% ready.  Plus, the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to leave.

As time goes by, you become more accustomed to your steady paycheck as an employee.  Maybe you buy an expensive car.  Maybe you buy a house.  Maybe your start a family.  The financial pressures and non-work responsibilities begin to pile up and, before you know it, starting out on your own is less viable.

Tony Montana wasted no time assuming control of his business.  He learned the ropes from his mentors and made the leap to ownership as quickly as possible.

(3) Don’t let the stress of ownership turn you into a jerk

Sometimes I look at my bills and get a bit frustrated.  And sometimes I have to make difficult decisions about how to best run my practice.  That’s the downside of ownership.  But there are so many wonderful upsides about being your own boss that it more than makes up for the occasional bummer.

If you’re a bit stressed, don’t take it out on your team members.  Misplaced aggression is a morale killer.  Not only will some poor soul have his/her feelings hurt, but it breeds bad vibes that will be hard to eliminate later on.  When it comes to leading a dental team, it is always better to be loved than feared.

Yes, you will be under a lot of stress.  But that doesn’t give you license to be mean.  One of Tony Montana’s many faults was letting the challenges of his job affect his personal relationships with his team.

To be fair, being a crime lord is a little more stressful than being a dentist.


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