While I’m now comfortable with the term entrepreneur, I wasn’t always.
It took a long time – and a few entrepreneurial peaks and troughs – before I felt I could really own it.
In this regard, I’m not Robinson Crusoe.
A view held among many dentists, the perception of entrepreneurship is filtered through a lens of patients first.
Essential for our patients, and admirable though this may be, it leaves business in a kind of distant second position if we want our practice to thrive.
I’d argue – and I know there’s a growing number who agree – this is a luxury few dentists can afford now.
The vastly different operating environment that’s today’s reality for most dentist demands a balance of patient care and savvy business know-how.
Fortunately, the tools for thriving – in life and business – as an entrepreneur are within reach of any dentist ready to rock.
Here are just a few of those tools to start applying straightaway.
Keep it real
We’ve all heard the ‘fake it till you make it’ maxim.
But have you ever considered there’s a point where faking it can be unhelpful. Especially if you’re checking out other people’s ‘reality’.
The ubiquitous nature of social media means we’re constantly exposed to others’ wins and successes; at least those they’re willing to share with the world.
Too much time in that realm is dangerous.
As entrepreneurs, we can be left feeling we’re the only ones who haven’t nailed it, scaled it, and riding that big wave of success.
Next time you feel this way, take a reality check.
Know for sure there are no overnight successes or silver bullets. Really.
Know too that many people who are ‘out there’ spruiking their successes could actually be ‘Instafaking it (officially a new term!).
The people who are doing it for real don’t need to publish their every business move – and neither do you.
And ask anyone who’s made it and they’ll tell you: ‘overnight success’ doesn’t happen overnight. It also requires a lot of hard work.
Keep it real and don’t get hung up on what you think others are doing.
Find your tribe
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely.
A network, tribe or community of like-minded others where you can share and be yourself, entrepreneurial warts and all.
The truth is, all business owners share similar experiences (but different challenges).
Maybe your current business challenge is different to the next entrepreneur. Maybe they have a people issue and your roadblock is marketing.
It doesn’t matter that the challenge is different. What matters is the shared experience of business ownership.
Ironically, connecting and sharing honestly with others about challenges and experiences can be rewarding and liberating.
Counter-intuitive for most humans, we’re not inclined generally to expose where we perceived we’ve made mistakes or failed.
However, it can be very helpful – for you and those with whom you share.
Sharing authentically gives others permission to do the same. And the bonus? Everyone benefits.
These moments of vulnerability when we say, “hey, it didn’t work out”, create opportunities to learn and help each other in community.
Find a tribe or community that works for you, then share and grow.
Solve a problem
Marketing guru and serial entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk summed it up when he said the best marketing is caring.
In entrepreneurial terms, caring means solve a problem.
I’m going out on a limb here and taking that one step further.
Don’t just solve the problem. Solve it your way.
Be creative. Differentiate. Be unique and add value. And have a reason for doing so.
Nothing saps life energy more than a business without purpose.
By contrast, a person with an inspired purpose that solves a problem is virtually unstoppable.
As much about understanding your market as it is about professional fulfilment, getting this equation right will enhance your entrepreneurial life.
It will make you real – and really appealing to your market too.
Take calculated risks
With precision and focus the hallmarks of good dentistry, it’s not our natural inclination to take risks.
But the reality is, a thriving entrepreneurial life asks that of us. It requires we give due consideration to calculated risks.
Entrepreneurial life also asks we add resilience and flexibility to the mix too. Courage to make hard decisions needs to show up as well.
Calculated risk taking means we have a plan, but maybe not all the information.
It requires we use instinct and tough things out, even when we feel like giving up.
And because part of the entrepreneur’s lot is to take action, calculated risk taking might not always work out.
This means we sometimes need to concede a certain pathway isn’t working – and pull up stumps.
There isn’t a success story today who hasn’t had to swallow a bitter entrepreneurial pill or two in their time.
It could mean absorbing losses from a less than optimal investment.
Perhaps it means letting an underperforming team member go.
Or it could involve pulling back on a marketing initiative that’s not working.
As entrepreneurs, it’s essential we assess risks using available information, and take action anyway.
A bit like going to the gym and muscling up, the cultivation of resilience takes time – and usually a challenging situation or two.
It was Robert Schuller who said, “failure is never final”. He also said “tough times don’t last, but tough people do”.
This means we needn’t be defined by our “failures” in business. In fact, so-called failures are often the seed of our greatest learning.
And those tough times? Well, they eventually pass.
They too are also wonderful opportunities to cultivate resilience.
In fact, I’d say, resilience is forged through our failures and challenges.
Embrace them both and feel your resilience muscle really grow.
The take-away for you?
Recognise that owning a dental practice is a great vehicle for unleashing your inner entrepreneur.
Know that as an entrepreneur, some days are great and other days are tough.
But with a balance of timely reality checks, connection with like-minded others, calculated risk taking, and resilience muscle building, there’s every chance you’ll crack the nut of thriving in business and life.