Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Trying to Find Balance

Reading the blogs of our colleagues, I noticed that many of them took the time to introduce themselves (which I thought is a great idea). I have decided to follow a similar path in my second entry in The Daily Grind.

As I stated before, I come from a family of 13 kids in Toronto. In the late 1970s and 1980s in Ontario, there were limits placed on how much money you could borrow to go to school. I had reached that limit by completing my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Science degrees. The dental school curriculum was tough enough that I could not work, even part-time, and go to school. (I have no idea how some of my classmates did it, but I do have tons of admiration for them.) Given that my father had died suddenly when I started University, and my siblings were mostly newlyweds with young families and mortgages above their eyebrows, my family could not support my education. I joined the Canadian Forces and they paid my way through school, owing them time afterwards. That was an incredible experience and is a story for another blog. But that is how I ended up in Calgary.

Graduating in 1987, I spent my first three years in the Forces caring for our soldiers and learning a ton of dentistry without worry about money, practice management, marketing, human resources, etc. “First you get good, then you get fast” was a statement I heard in dental school. I have preached it to young people in all aspects of dentistry. My experience in the military afforded me that incredible opportunity.

The Canadian Forces were also committed to quality continuing education. I participated in some amazing learning opportunities in oral surgery, periodontics, prosthodontics and aesthetics & bonding.

When my contract ended in 1990, given the number of dentists in the Canadian military in peacetime (months before the first Gulf War), I was encouraged to consider leaving. I chose to stay in Calgary. My mom wasn’t happy that I didn’t return home, but as my brother told me to “do well and fly home often.” That is something I have been able to do.

I started as an Associate in a shopping mall dental clinic. There I got to learn about marketing, human resources, financial management and more, without having to invest my own funds. I was a sponge, learning as much as I could about what I liked about private practice and what I did not like about it.

I did not like shopping mall work hours, the location of this particular shopping mall clinic, or the types of clients it attracted. I purchased a solo practice from a terrific dentist who wanted to retire after 44 years of practice, and I have been the owner of this practice for the last 19 years.

I now have a 4-day per week practice, and a consulting practice for the insurance and legal industry for trauma victims (mostly automobile and workplace accidents). This “hobby” has turned into a second full-time job, with appropriate income capability, in a matter of a couple of years. My life has rapidly fallen out of balance. Married almost 19 years, with two teenage daughters, a mid-50s need for exercise, time for continuing education, for reflection, contemplation and service within my faith, I am horribly out of balance. Fitting my life into a timetable with 2 full-time jobs is difficult!

I have a plan to regain balance in my life. I am going to take my large general practice office, consisting of four ops in less-than 1,500 square feet with ageing 42-year-old equipment, and move it to larger premises. I am about to sign a lease on new space in a great location (4200 sq. ft., 10 years with two five-year options). It will open in about 11 months. I want to bring in one or two more dentists who will associate for a fixed period and then buy in as partners or in a cost-sharing situation. Then I will cut back my hours in general practice which will allow me to pursue other aspects of dentistry and life.

In the next 12 months, I’ll have tales to share about designing and building a new office, leases, new equipment, construction, finding new associate dentists and associated team members, creating and installing new business systems to ensure success, marketing, and more. On top of that, I will be nurturing my independent consulting practice, and have been invited to lecture about how to do this business at the 5th Anniversary Symposium of Occlusion Connections in October 2013. I will also be promoting a graphic novel project created by one of my brothers called USNA: the United States of North America.

For the remainder of the year, I hope to share with you the path I am taking to regain balance in my crazy busy life. I also have ideas I want to share about periodontics (we have to change our language about ‘polishing’ and ‘rubber cup prophylaxis’), about marketing and ethics (how do we provide enough information for the general public to have an opportunity to choose us as their dentist without making statements about being superior to our colleagues?), and my take on occlusion (and how it relates to camping - no kidding!).

Life’s an interesting journey. It’s better when it is shared. Thanks for reading.

Larry Stanleigh


Dr. Andy Alas said...

Great introduction.

I, for one, am interested in learning more about your second career. I am always curious to learn about what dentists do work-wise when they have a second gig.

Anyone else doing moonlighting?


Sue Seufert said...

Larry, for the length of time I have known you I think your spirit of fun, caring and giving attitude brings mental balance. If you grudgingly did all you have done without enjoyment you, your family and the business would have suffered.

Never go too far away because you know I won't see anyone else. Not for your dentistry but for who you are.

Congratulations on the new lease.

Sue Seufert


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