10 Lessons for Work and Life
A profitable business goes beyond numbers
Sometimes in business we get lucky and get something right on the first try. More often, we make mistakes and learn from them. That is called experience. My grey hair serves as a symbol of the lessons I have learned. Let’s explore some great tips that those far smarter than me have penned to capture the essence of this experiential education. My job will be to fit them to the dental laboratory profession, not just life.
Behaviors drive results—you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
This is the principle that I have used diligently with laboratories when consulting for them. MicroDental is rigorous in data collection and analysis to help us make better choices and predictions. Identifying the right behaviors and measuring them in real time grows our business more predictably than anything else. Retention and monthly average laboratory balance are far more important than simply adding more new clients.
Plan your work and work your plan.
We should pay as much attention to this axiom for our businesses as we do to the restorative solutions we prepare for our dentists. Random actions and chance are rarely associated with preferred outcomes. A laboratory owner’s academic credentials and/or work experience are more likely to be in the dental laboratory profession than in business. Yet the driving factor that will make laboratories more effective and successful is how well we run our business, not a better crown. Spend half your time working on your laboratory and the other working in it.
Change is inevitable; growth is optional.
You have probably heard this along the way: “How many laboratory technicians does it take to change a light bulb? Seven. One to actually change it and six to sit around and talk about how good the old one was.” The digitization of the dental laboratory has changed the landscape of the industry. If we are not on the bus, it will leave without us.
Sometimes a relationship is more important than being right.
Don’t mishear me: If someone is always wrong, end that relationship. Sometimes, however, our desire to be right hinders unconditional love, nonjudgmental responses, and being fully present with family, friends, dentists, and our team. If it is a quality control issue, correct it. But eliminate the tendency to correct all of the other little things around us. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and no, it is not all small stuff.
Take advice sooner.
My son once told me that his biggest regret was not learning to take advice sooner. All the great business advice in the world is useless without the discipline to implement it. This list is another example of that opportunity.
Know how much is enough, or you will never live on less and save the rest.
We live at a time when the media and social pressures make us feel as if we should be living on 110% of what we make. Instead, live on 90% and save the rest. Those who start this at age 15 will never want for anything. Those who start too late? Start NOW! Create a budget that includes saving for retirement or you may work forever. Teach your technicians this as well.
Perfectionism is a disease; excellence is a worthy goal.
This noble profession preselects personalities that are susceptible to this virus. Beware of the siren’s song, “Never Good Enough.” It compromises your friendships and professional relationships, and drives you mad. Every restoration we make could be better. The key is to know what adds value for the client and what just makes us feel better.
Meaning trumps money.
I would rather attend my daughter’s soccer game and my son’s track meet than stay late and make a few more crowns to make more money. This does not mean it is unimportant to get work out on time; it is about knowing how much is enough. Your family will not remember how much you made as much as how much time you gave. Plan your work and work your plan, including how large you want to get and how much is enough.
Life and your laboratory, keep an accurate journal, no matter what you write down.
You can fool your family, friends, and dentists—but not yourself. You are what you do, not what you think you are. The circle of life always finds a way to even the score, and karma wins the day.
Do the right thing, do your best, and treat others as you want to be treated.
I heard former University of Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz preach this 30 years ago. Your personal and team integrity, the quality of your work, and how well you live by the Golden Rule provide a strong scorecard. If you do these things well, you are likely to succeed at football, in the laboratory business, or in life. Sage advice indeed.
Mark T. Murphy, DDS, FAGD
Wealth is not always measured in dollars and cents but rather in dollars and sense. Maintaining a work/life balance and control of finances will keep your personal and work life on the right track.
Mark T. Murphy, DDS, FAGD, is the Principal of FunktionalTracker.com and Lead Faculty for Clinical Education at MicroDental Laboratories. Murphy has lectured all over the country and holds Board positions with the Foundation for Dental Laboratory Technology and the Pankey Institute.