The Power of “No”

By June 2, 2016Insights

In my nine-year career in serving dentists, I have worked with executives from some of the largest dental organizations and corporations in the nation – the Big Dogs. In that time, I have said no to some of the most powerful, influential people in the industry.

One asked if my firm would build a 100-page website pro-bono in exchange for lecturing opportunities. I said no.

Another asked for perpetual license to publish my content without my byline or bio. I said no.

A third offered an exclusive deal if we promised not to work with their competitors. We said no.

Each time that I said no, I did so in person or on the phone. Each time, I was prepared with a well-though-out, intelligent reason why the answer was no. Each time, I made clear that I still had the intention of working with them, just on different terms.

And each time, the Big Dog reevaluated their position, continued to work with me on more even terms, and kept the door open for further collaboration. In every case, it felt that the Big Dog actually respected me more.

The Big Dogs aren’t against us Little Guys. They are simply making decisions in a completely different environment than we do. Many answer not to their customer first, but to their shareholder. They are under the gun to make a profit quarter after quarter, year after year. They are conditioned to chase money, and that sometimes clouds the collective judgment.

Others answer to a board of directors first, which may mean that the dentist comes second. Individual intentions are good, and bureaucracy muddies the waters.

When we say no, either individually or collectively, the influence and power shift. Influence and power shift even more when lots of Little Guys say no. When the Little Guys become disruptors, challenging the status quo and ask the Big Dogs to think differently, then real change happens.

Earlier this year it was reported that, “ordinary dentists across the country have filed over a dozen lawsuits” against the “Big 3” suppliers for price fixing. The article continues, “These are all class action suits, meaning that every dentist who bought from one of the Big 3 could be entitled to a piece of the settlement.”[1]

Just last month, news broke of another class-action lawsuit, this time “against 3M over faulty dental crowns.” The claim is that 3M’s Lava Ultimate crowns “de-bond inside patients’ mouths,” and that “dentists have been forced to cover the cost of replacing the crowns.”[2]

Often saying “no” doesn’t have to involve a long, arduous and expensive lawsuit. Symposiums and study clubs are held all the time to collaborate on clinical care. Imagine similar collaboration, except on challenges in the dentistry industry. Imagine how powerful the collective voice would be.

What do you say “no” to in the dentistry industry? What is still happening in your world of dentistry that is no longer acceptable? How can we come together for positive change?

Written based upon an interview with Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, co-founder of Dentistry Unchained and founder of Big Buzz.

[1] Schein, Patterson, and Benco Sued for Price Fixing

[2] Dentists File Class-Action Lawsuit Against 3M over Faulty Dental Crowns