I’ve owned my practice since 2004. In the middle of the Great Recession, 2010 was our best year up to that point. Last year, 2012 was our best year ever. Of course, I’ve spent time thinking about why those two years stood out.
In 2010, my wife and I traveled to China to adopt our daughter. China required us to stay in the country for three weeks. That, of course, meant that I would be out of the office for three weeks straight. If you include the week we close every year for vacation and the Christmas break, I was out of the office for at least a month and a half. Yet, up to that point, 2010 turned out to be our best year ever.
In 2012, our daughter spent a total of two weeks in the hospital due to a rare condition. Additionally, I was out sick for one week. Those three weeks plus the same weeks off in August and Christmas meant that I was once again out of the office for about a month and a half. Yet, 2012 turned out to be our best year EVER.
As you may know, I do not have the luxury of having an associate fill in during my absences. Interestingly, the years when I have spent the LEAST amount of time in the office turned out to be our best years. As my staff likes to point out, we have identified the weak link in our organization.
Have you ever had days when production actually goes up when you are NOT there? I certainly have. If we know ahead of time that I’ll be out, we schedule procedures that staff can complete. It may vary by state, but they can do sealants, some impressions (like whitening trays), and hygiene can see most of their patients without my presence. When I come back to see how the day went, I usually end up thinking wondering if they really need me around here.
Since these concepts have become clear, it has become easier to take the occasional day off. It is a lot easier to schedule my week-long vacation when I know that my patients, my staff, my office, and the world in general have survived my three-week long absences.
I have learned not to turn down invitations or opportunities just because “I have to work.” Some of those invitations may include attending events at my daughter’s school or joining family and friends from at the amusement park. Maybe my wife just wishes to have a long weekend in wine country. I have learned to say, “Yes.”
When I was writing this, I was preparing to leave for Rome, Italy, to attend my cousin’s destination wedding. When asked if I could attend, admittedly, my first thought was that I would miss at least a week of work. But, upon further reflection, my answer was, “YES, we’ll be there.”
If I am correct, my office, my patients, and my practice will all survive my absence.
Andy Alas, DDS