By now just about everyone agrees that goal-setting is a worthwhile way of driving results for just about anything in life worth pursuing. And yet, in my work with dentists, I still sometimes come up against resistance when the topic turns to setting revenue goals in the practice.


That resistance comes from the best of intentions. Usually it’s because a dentist feels that setting goals like that is putting the focus on the wrong place—they feel like they would be putting their own material rewards ahead of providing great patient care.  

I think they are right, of course, to believe that the best interests of the patient always come first. That is a very pure approach to great dentistry. But I believe it is a mistake to think that delivering great care and enjoying economic success can be unlinked, or that setting economic targets in any way implies compromising on clinical integrity. Quite the opposite.

A fine illustration of how clinical and economic success go together is the Mayo Clinic. When my wife was stricken with cancer that is where we went, and I was blown away by the level of attention and quality of care there. It’s where I went to deal with my recent back issues. They don’t accept my insurance plan, and they are expensive, but I knew they were worth it. They are expensive because it isn’t easy to be the best and they have to invest in research, technology, and recruiting the top people in their fields. Nobody can deny that the Mayo Clinic delivers some of the best health care in the world. You can also be sure they are just as committed to remaining as profitable as possible, so they can continue to invest in setting that gold standard for care.

To bring it back to dentistry, I have often said that success in the practice can be seen as a chain of related successes. You can’t collect payment unless you do the production. You can’t have the production unless it’s appointed. It can’t be appointed unless the patient says yes. The patient doesn’t say yes unless they value the treatment. They don’t value the treatment unless you show them the value. It’s all connected.

This is why you shouldn’t be afraid to set tangible goals. It’s not a matter of choosing between focusing on either patients or revenue. It’s about recognizing that they go hand in hand, and that success is easiest to measure in numbers. You need to have a tangible indicator.

In that sense, setting and meeting economic targets in the practice is the mark of a conscientious clinician. It’s a yardstick that tells you that the links in your chain of success are strong and that your patients are getting the best care you can deliver.