In a recent post, “Are You Prepared for Success?”, I talked about the importance of preparing for success by taking "before" pictures in a methodical and timely way. That elicited an interesting comment from a reader, Dr. John Sweeney, who described how he came to realize how important those initial photos are and how he now insists on doing them even if patients may find it "a bit much" at first.

His comment ends with these words:

I read a quote by Henry Ford that said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Instead, he invented a car. This really helped me develop our new patient experience because patients will tend to only want what they have had before. That is, until they experience something better.

That reminded me of another quote from another legendary American innovator, Steve Jobs. Just as Apple was breaking new ground in the world of personal electronics, he was getting advice from marketing experts who were pushing the wisdom of collecting information from consumer focus groups, and using that data to guide the design process. Jobs resisted.

"It's really hard to design products by focus group," he said. "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

That probably applies to a lot of your patients, too. As Dr. Sweeney points out, patients will tend to only want what they have had before. But it's not enough to respond to their expectations. You have to take them to another level – a level they couldn't have wanted because they didn't know it existed. That's what it means to be a leader.


Commenter's Profile Image Barry Polansky
November 27th, 2012
Dr. Sweeny's comments are right on. The role of a leader is to create change. Nothing educates better than photography because vision trumps all other senses (reading, listening). Before pictures should be emotional--helping patients to leave the status quo and create behavioral change. Steve Jobs is a great example.
Commenter's Profile Image John Sweeney
November 27th, 2012
Thanks for the kind words Imtiaz. I honestly think about that Henry Ford quote daily as I approach challenges in practice. It puts things in perspective for me and realigns me back to my vision. When you look at the Henry Ford quote and the Steve Jobs quote there is also more there when you dig deeper too. It's remarkable to think about the vision these guys had, and how committed they were to their vision. They believed in themselves and their team. They were 100% committed to their vision and didn't let customers, or coworkers, or competing companies change what they believed in or what they believed they could contribute to the world. In essence, they didn't really set out to sell a certain number of cars or sell a million iPods . They shared a vision to change the world, to change the way we live and process information. They simply wanted to make a difference. The success they shared was just a result of focused attention to doing their best each day, with maximum effort, and staying true to their ideals, even with the possibility of failure. It's much the same in dentistry. We can change the world one patient at a time if we create the right vision and stay committed even in the face of failure. If we can focus our time on improving ourselves, rather than worry about our competition. If we can charge the fees we feel are reasonable for our time without worrying about what the dentist down the street charges. If we can make our patients aware of all their issues even when are nervous that it might scare them away. And, finally, if we can learn to resist the urge of the "comfort zone", we can turn our vision into reality. I haven't completely gotten there yet but I do try to get closer one day at a time. Everyone at Spear has helped give us the tools to develop this vision and the confidence to make it work. We thank you for that....., john
Commenter's Profile Image Gerald Benjamin
December 1st, 2012
Very few dentists are taught to do a Direct Resin Mockup for patients seeking cosmetic dentistry. Yes, the resin is expensive and yes it takes 5-8 minutes to do but nothing shows a patient how fabulous they can look with a new smile. Patients are unable to visualize the final outcome without doing a mockup...Build value before you quote a fee. Most importantly, the dentist knows everything about the case within 10 minutes of meeting the patient: Correct incisal edge position, how much the tooth can be lengthened AND in which direction(s), whether or not perio-plastics will be needed and PROVING such to the patient. Before and after photos of the DRM to show a spouse how beautiful his wife can look is a heck of a lot better than when he asks, "What did the dentist say?" and her response would be "$18,000" Photography is EVERYTHING