Christian Coachman recently had the pleasure of opening the COVID-19 Dental Conference 2020 with his good friend Kirk Behrendt of ACT Dental.
A first of its kind event, the online conference brought together dentistry professionals from across the globe to talk about the one thing on everyone's mind – how COVID-19 will affect the dentistry industry in the short term and the long term adjustments we will all have to make to survive this challenging time.
As ever, Christian spoke with optimism about how to make the best of a bad situation and his talk titled ‘Doing what you can in uncertain times’ was well received. His talk touched on points he discussed in his open letter here.
Read here for a summary of what Christian had to say on the current global crisis and how he thinks dentists should be approaching the situation.
Could we actually enjoy this moment?
“What a crazy moment in history. I think we all understand why the reaction is so intense and so tense.
We are all so fragile and vulnerable and that's the beauty of accepting that things are not always under our control. But we have a choice of how we respond, remembering that things can always get worse...
Everything can happen, things can get much worse. But how do we stay positive? I think that’s the choice of choosing to behave with clarity and serenity, or behave with anxiety and fear.
Can you believe that we could actually enjoy this moment?
We can do things in the next few weeks and months that will not only bring calm and clarity, but will generate joy and will create happy memories that we can look back on in five years. Think, this is a moment when we can define who we are and show people who we are.
People may say ‘Christian you’re not responsible, or you’re naive because your company is doing well’. But the reality is, I’m running a startup that has very little room for error and very little margin to survive moments like these.
And even though I’ve been in the business for many years, I don’t have that big of a margin to put a smile on my face.”
Being grateful when times are tough
“Even when it’s bad, it’s good because we are alive. And I’m so grateful for that.
I’m grateful, even for worse things that can come – and disasters can happen. The ultimate level is to be grateful when the worse things happen and you continue to be grateful after that.
Smiling because even if the worst happens, the worst case scenario is that we start all over and I can work for somebody down the street and I can start from scratch – and that feeling is very powerful. It’s our choice to have clarity and serenity versus anxiety and fear.”
"It's our choice to have clarity and serenity versus anxiety and fear."
I’m going to be ok, but I will exercise losing everything mentally. You need to be grateful regardless.”
Optimism is part of the future strategy
“I hear it all the time, I am a genuine optimist. But my response is, I believe that in tough moments you need to learn how to be optimistic – a smart optimist.
Being a smart, positive person means that you’re not naive or irresponsible, because being a smart optimist means you use your brain and fill the space to remove fear and anxiety. You use that space to strategize and be clear about what is the best you can do – understanding what is in your hands and what is not in your hands.
And what is not in your hands, stop worrying about, regardless of the consequences. Focus your energy on what you can do and are able to really do.
It’s easy to say that, but not believe it in your heart.
When I’m smiling, I’m deeply smiling. When I’m facing a challenge, I’m calm. You need to really live in that moment.
We need to think about how to take advantage of these moments and create smart strategies for this year to survive. And I think these moments will also show how we can help each other. This is the beauty of tough moments; the best of humankind comes out. Think about how your business can be protected in this modern environment where things can change.”
Why do people believe everything needs to grow?
“I think what is happening will also help us to consume less and to waste less money on things that don’t matter. And stop with the idea that the industry needs to grow – this is something that needs to stop.
Why do numbers need to grow? Why do countries need to grow? Why do companies have to grow? Why can we not be happy with the situation where it’s stable?
It’s not about growth, it’s about happiness. It’s about stability. It’s about when one goes down, the other goes up and whoever goes up, helps the one going down. It’s not a competition between countries, cultures, races, it’s understanding how the world can be happier together.
And this virus is coming to us and slapping us in the face – wake up! Who do you think you are? You think that everything is under control, money buys you everything?
I think the beauty of moments like this is that they shake us. And hopefully they shake our leaders and the people that don’t care about other people. They shake people that only care about money. Everything has a different perspective.
Instead of hating this thing, say thank you for waking me up!”
You need to financially and strategically plan for the future
“Since many dentists have very little financial background, they are fragile in this respect. Together we should start generating information on how we can unite forces to create combined strategies, because I don’t think governments will be able to reach out to us that fast.
What do we do if we have no income for two months? Before you have to start selling stuff, firing people, selling your house, what are the things that we can do together to help each other?
Firstly we need to:
1. Forecast our spending and look at what we have
We need to prepare. Maybe things are going to be shut down for two or three months. Me and my team have made a realistic forecast of how much our income will drop by and how our costs will stay at the same level, how we will protect our staff members and employees and how we will work to keep everyone employed.
And still, looking at the numbers, instead of going crazy, taking a deep breath and smiling.
2. Understand we will all be affected
100% of businesses in the world will be affected. It’s not just you or me, it’s everybody. Companies that have a lot of cushion, they’re in better shape. But it’s going to pass.
Crisis for me is a shortcut. It’s a shortcut to move up, and unfortunately down. And it depends on you.
To move up in life, you usually have to make money and to move down, you have to make many bad things happen.
Usually when things are pretty stable, you’re doing something right. And if you do something wrong, you’re still making the same money.
You still have the same reputation, the same opportunities. Moving up or down in life is not that easy.
When a crisis comes, it takes us all and shakes us. And when you’re shaking everything, it means you’re changing the order of things, the processes, the speed, the levels, in a completely messed up way. But you’re changing. So with smart moves, we can jump levels in one shot – up or down.”
How we act during the crisis will reflect what happens afterwards
“So when we come out, life is gonna go back to normal. But some people are going to be in a better position and some people will be in a worse position.
And it has nothing to do with the crisis.
It has to do with your posture, your attitude and your strategies during the crisis and what you’re going to do on day one after the crisis.
People will go back to the streets and will start looking for dentists again. Usually right after a crisis, the world will have a big international celebration. I can imagine a day when all the governments together will say it’s under control.
And I think that when things go back to normal, they’ll be better than before the crisis.
When you think about all the things that really matter – and this is something that makes me really proud to be a dentist – is that when you think about everything that really matters in life, all these things connect to smiling.
So as a dentist who designs smiles, and who delivers happiness, health and confidence through smiles, I believe that confident smiles will be in high demand when people come back to normal life.
"I believe that confident smiles will be in high demand when people come back to normal life."
The crisis speeds up movements, all of the movements that we were seeing before the crisis in dentistry. Paradigm shifts, digital technology, different ways of treating people that are changing the perception of dentistry completely.”
Now is the time to reevaluate what you offer
“Whatever brought you successfully to yesterday, will not guarantee success tomorrow.
Many dentists believe they are very good dentists. If you’ve been making good money in dentistry for the past 20 years why change? why improve? why try to understand things outside your comfort zone when you’ve been trying to do them well for decades?
Be careful. Today, the most dangerous place to be is inside your comfort zone. And then comes this virus and it’s even more dangerous to be in your comfort zone.
This will move people into the future, into wanting to be associated with companies, services, physicians and dentists that are really into something new, modern and meaningful and with a bigger purpose.
These moments in life put things into perspective. I don’t want to waste another minute of my life – I could die tomorrow. This is what the virus has shown us.
People won’t want to waste any time on something that has no meaning.
I want to focus on things that have meaning. I want to go to restaurants that give me a special experience, I want to buy products from companies that are going beyond the average, I want to be connected to people that have a higher purpose. I want to have better friends, I want to go to dentists that are bringing more than just good dentistry. So for me, the biggest opportunity is to reinvent yourself as a dentist.”
Communication with your team members is key
“This is the moment of core values. You need to be inspirational, to lead and make people believe there’s a bigger purpose to stay together. And to really transmit that, you have to mean it.
If you’re saying that just to save your office, there’s no point. It’s not going to work. To mean it, you need to transmit that to your team and if somebody goes down here in this room, we’re all gonna go down together – meaning, I’m willing to lose my business to protect you guys.
There’s no compromise, we go down together. Now you need to mean it. This is not the moment to save yourself.”
Will people want cosmetic dentistry after this is over?
“Cosmetic dentistry will get hit, mainly because the word cosmetic is already superficial. I don’t even like the word cosmetic because it undermines the value of dentistry.
Dentistry is so much more profound than cosmetic improvements. And yes, the dentists that are based completely on cosmetics, maybe they will receive a bigger hit.
But if you are a dentist that is all about comprehensiveness, real purpose, quality of living, global diagnostics, interdisciplinary connections, and above all, understand that one of the most important things to be happy is to be able to have a healthy oral environment and a confident smile, you will be ok.
This makes dentistry one of the higher priorities when you come back from a crisis. Cosmetic, superficial dentistry will be a lower priority, but getting back your confidence and investing in your health, your systemic health, will be a higher priority. Dentists that understand systemic health and confident smiles and relationships, they’re going to excel and succeed.
I would prefer to invest in my confident smile than buying a fancy car, changing my laptop, buying a new iphone, going to a 3-star Michelin restaurant, to a boutique hotel in Tuscany – than so many things…
This message is for the consumers; when you come out of this crisis, you deserve to invest in your health and in your confidence. And if your health can be improved and your confidence can be improved, your best friend is a modern dentist.”