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Become a Better Business Owner

business community education knowledge leadership mentor practice management Jan 14, 2023

When you make the decision to buy your own practice and become a dental entrepreneur, you’re putting yourself on an incredibly rewarding path. However, it’s also a difficult path, especially when you’re just getting started and don’t have someone to listen to or talk to. Leadership can be lonely, so Dr. Barrett Straub and I recently interviewed the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Dental Association, Mark Paget, about a fantastic partnership that seeks to improve the lives of dental entrepreneurs: the Dental Entrepreneur Program (DEP). A partnership between ACT, the Marquette School of Dentistry, and the Wisconsin Dental Association, the DEP will help dentists take the next step in becoming more successful entrepreneurs and business owners. 

Expand Your Skills

Mark noted that he sees young dentists graduating from dental school with outstanding clinical skills, but lacking confidence in the business side of dentistry. He said that while Marquette does a great job of educating dental students, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to teach the business skills. To be successful business owners, dentists need to know how to:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Train their team members
  • Develop leaders in their team
  • Run meetings
  • Read a cash flow statement
  • Understand a Profit and Loss statement

If you went to dental school and worked hard, you will have the hand skills you need to perform the procedures. Dentistry becomes the easy part, while the other things are more difficult. But that’s where the DEP will step in to provide the training and skills to take that next step—whatever it is.

Overcome Your Fears 

There are a lot of fears and challenges as a young dentist in owning a practice, but the biggest is just the unknown. Dentists like predictability—when things start and end on time, it’s easy to create a consistent plan. Your life works best when your business worries are at your least, so it can be frightening, especially when just starting out, to not know where you’re going. However, what’s even more terrifying is not having job security, but when you own your own business, that’s not an issue. I’ve said it before, but “the only job security is owning your own thing.” When you’re the one calling the shots, you create the value that attracts patients and makes them want to come back, so it’s your hands that are in control. In my 25 years of doing this, I’ve seen very few dentists in private practice actually fail, and when they do, it’s because they’ve done something truly silly. As long as you’re providing great clinical care, you’re going to do just fine.  

You’re Not Alone

Dr. Barrett Struab added that while owning your own practice is challenging, it’s the best thing in the world—it just takes some intentionality, effort, and mentorship. It’s true that leadership can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Part of the DEP’s purpose is to act as a mentorship program because it’s that ability to have another person around to learn from and bounce ideas off of that makes such an incredible difference. Because their focus is on helping others, a dentist needs to know that someone has their back, which is why the DEP wants to be there to help them with everything else. 


Dentistry can be anything you want it to be. You’re not going to be pigeonholed, labeled, or put into a corner; there are so many opportunities out there, so follow your calling and create the life you truly want. However, you can’t just shut down the practice for a week and work on it, and it’s too hard to try and figure everything out at the end of the night before you go to work in the morning. You need the skills, tools, and mentors that the DEP provides, and putting a dose of them in your practice will make it a little better. 

Becoming a dental entrepreneur isn’t a journey you have to undergo on your own: become a member of the Dental Entrepreneur Program to learn the skills to manage your business, and reach out to the ACT coaches to receive expert advice about how to get your practice running like a well-oiled machine. Our goal is to help you build a Better Practice, and a Better Life, and that starts with becoming a better leader and taking charge of your future.

Kirk Behrendt is the CEO and Founder of ACT Dental    

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220 E. Buffalo Street Suite #320
Milwaukee, WI 53202
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