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The Backwards Dentist from Australia

“For many years I felt inadequate because I found business very difficult. I thought that everyone else found it easy. Business is hard, and people often find that their work is stressful, unfulfilling emotionally and doesn’t return the financial rewards they feel they deserve for their efforts. Once I realized that, I didn’t feel so isolated and stupid.” – Paddi Lund, The Happiness Centered Business

Most people don’t realize it, but the dental profession has one of the highest depression and suicide rates of the entire medical industry.  Let’s face it: nobody likes going to the dentist.  Most people associate a tremendous amount of pain to the thought of seeing the dentist.  After all, you only see the dentist when you’re in pain.  And then . . . they cause you more pain.

It isn’t easy having a job that makes people wince at the mention of it. But, I digress – let me tell you a true story:

There is a dentist in Australia named Paddi Lund, who was beginning to feel extremely depressed and seriously considering taking his own life.

Here’s what one of his associates had to say:

Have you ever had a hard day in your business? How about a hard month? Or a hard year?

Well, Paddi did. Quite a few of them, in fact.

A whole string of stressful days and worrisome nights while, like most of us, doing everything he could to build his new business. Early in his career as a business owner Paddi,

o    Borrowed as much money as the bank would allow to fit out his practice,
o    Put up as big a sign as he could get away with at the time,
o    Worked all the hours he could squeeze from a day – 6 sometimes 7 days a week,
o    Took any warm body that graced his doorstep as a client,
o    And hoped like hell they’d appreciate his skills and expertise enough to buy his dentistry.

After about 5 years, Paddi was doing all right – he had several thousand clients and was, packing, filling and slinging amalgam like it was going out of fashion. He was just ahead of the bank draft, but he was a bit tired from the constant effort.

After 10 years Paddi had a nice house and ate in nice restaurants, but he was getting a bit ‘thin’ and jaded. After 15 years, despite a healthy bank balance, he was on the edge … and he eventually toppled over it. He had a break down. Literally, his business broke him!

As you probably realise, Paddi recovered and in a spectacular way (for the full story listen to Paddi tell his story in his own words at http://www.solutionspress.com.au/page.asp?nid=yzltpp&name=AudioAndVideo_OriginalPaddiAudioStory) but not before he went right to the very depths of his misery and pain, and of particular relevance to us, wondered how on earth his business had managed to bring him to this point.

But it was this point that proved the catharsis. It was at this point that Paddi asked himself one simple question that changed the destiny of his business and life forever…

Paddi’s life-changing Question:

“If a business can be designed to make money, why can’t a business be designed to make ‘happiness’ instead?”

In other words, what’s the point of making money if misery is part of the equation? For Paddi, that was a sharp left turn onto the road less traveled right off right off the highway of convention. Everything that’s different about Paddi’s business stems from this simple realisation.

“But what has happiness got to do with running a business,” you might ask. Well, plenty. And in ways you can’t possibly imagine until you hear the story.

We’ll talk about that in detail in the next edition of the Paddi Pages. Before I sign off though, consider this last thought:

What would your business look like if it were designed to bring you pleasure and enjoyment?

Or to put that another way, what are the biggest frustrations you’d have to sort out before you could possibly say you’re having a good time at work?

How did this happen?

A friend of his convinced him to attend a marketing training.  At this seminar he realized the all-important life lesson that: there are no rules.

He realized that he had been unknowingly, and unwittingly, limiting the level of his income, the level of his happiness and the level of his connectedness to all of his clients.

He went back to Australia inspired and he made some significant and powerful changes. He did everything backwards.

“Lock your doors, take your name out of the phone book, stop all advertising, and get rid of half your customers!”

He started to do, essentially, the opposite of what every other dentist was doing. Like what? He fired over half of his clients (the ones who were draining him), he took his name out of the phone book, got rid of any signage or advertising, took a chainsaw to his reception desk and locked his doors.

What happened? Paddi and his team moved from average dental income to 3 times average income, from a 60-hour week to a 22-hour week, from two months production in debts to negative accounts receivable, and from stress to joy at work.
Currently, he has a waiting list over two years long, and people will pay over $600 for the plane ticket to fly and see him for an appointment.  He has zero receivables in his business — he is not waiting for any of his clients to “pay up on their tab”. His clients revere him and treat him like a dear and cherished friend and a trusted adviser.

I’m not making this up. I was recently speaking to Michael Basch, who was one of the founding Vice Presidents at Federal Express.  He told me that he had actually visited Paddi Lund’s dental office.  I was excited because, while I had certainly heard stories about Paddi Lund, I’d never met anyone who had met Paddi or visited his clinic.  So, I asked Michael, “what was it like?”

Michael told me that he thought Paddi Lund’s dental office was the best run business on the planet.  He told me that his experience in Paddi Lund’s office was the closest experience he had ever had to experiencing unconditional love in a business context.

I began to realize that what Paddi Lund did was certainly not limited to dentistry.  That every single business owner could have the equivalent of that success for their own industry.  Every single business owner could have raving fan clients like Paddi, every single business owner could only work with the most perfect, ideal clients – people who they like and respect.  Every single business owner could create a business where they no longer have to beg or feel like they are losing their integrity in order to sell their product or service. It’s just that nobody thinks this is possible, and even the ones who think it might be possible have no idea how to do it.

But, before I continue, let me also say that I don’t have all of the answers. I may not have the answers you need. I just have what I have. It may not be the answers you need to hear or presented in just the right way that you need to hear it.

But I hope that in sharing my experience with you and what I’ve learned that it might help you at least uncover one or two pieces with which to move forwards.


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