The best dental practice owners harness the power of habits to make their success nearly inevitable. Some of the best habits are one-time actions that only require effort once and then become an automated success system yielding results over and over. Preventing embezzlement is a perfect example.

Embezzlement is a consistent pain point for dental practice owners and a fear of dental practice buyers. I know dentists who deal with employees who steal every few years and I also know others dentists who are aware it could be a problem but never seem to struggle with the issue.

Employee theft was a problem John Henry Patterson struggled with in Dayton, Ohio in 1844 as told by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. Patterson owned a small supply store for coal miners. Like many dental practices today, Patterson’s supply store was consistently busy but struggled to turn a consistently high profit.

That was when Patterson discovered employees were stealing from the store.

In that time, employee theft was a huge problem. Paper receipts were everywhere and easily changed. There were no video cameras or software. And, unless an owner constantly hovered or did all the transactions themselves, money frequently grew legs and walked out of many businesses of the time.

Patterson discovered a new invention called “Rudy’s Incorruptible Cashier” – the first cash register – and bought two of them for $50 each. The register locked after each transaction making receipt altering significantly more difficult.

Employee theft vanished overnight. The store went from barely making money to making $5,000 a month (over $100k/mo in today’s terms). Installing one machine made making good decisions the easy, default option for employees. And the best part was that Patterson, as the owner, only had to make the decision one time. His one decision automated good behavior, thus making the habit of not stealing inevitable leading to better results for everyone.

As a current or future dental practice owner, one of the best actions you can take is to harness the power of habit to ensure your success. And the best habits to automate are those you can make with a one-time decision.

Take embezzlement: If you make the decision to hire a dental CPA that understands embezzlement controls and reviews them with you on a regular basis you’ve just created the habit in your business of proactively preventing the most common causes of employee theft. The results are continuous, yet you only had to make the decision once. You may pay a bit more than a less-sophisticated or less-organized CPA or bookkeeper, but you’re paying to automate a good business habit.

Other good business habits can be a one-time decision. Other examples include:

  • Setting up your 401k contributions on auto-pay with your payroll, making retirement savings inevitable.
  • Using software to survey patients after appointments for feedback and ask them to leave you a review on Google.
  • Hiring a compliance firm to schedule, train, and track OSHA requirements for staff.
  • Asking your bookkeeper to deliver your monthly financial statements on a consistent day each month and to include notes on trends and opportunities.
  • Buying a house in the reasonable neighborhood where you won’t be surrounded by neighbor’s expensive toys and the pressure of keeping up with a standard of living that will drain your bank account.

Don’t just make good habits easy. Make good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible.

If you’re a dental practice owner or aspire to be one someday, spend some time thinking through the types of habits that the most successful practice owners you know take on a regular basis and ask the question: “Is there a way to make this decision once so the habit is automated?”

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Read more below about how to buy a dental practice because good advice is important!

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