Guest post by Nelson Kanning, DDS
Why would anyone boast about being a loser, especially if losing involved money? Who in their right mind would consider losing money a gift? Most dental practice owners and even associates would throw a fit at the idea of setting a goal to lose money. But, I’m proposing being a loser can make sense, particularly if you’re a new dentist.
Until recently it was hard to admit that being a loser is one of my greatest gifts. The majority of my experience with teams has been as a loser. High school football; we lost. I played for a Division I football team that was bowl champ the year prior to me joining. Then, we lost. Losing used to be tough. However, now I’m finding being a loser is a joy.
I’d say this revelation happened about six years ago. I was sitting in the audience at the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s (AACD) annual scientific session in Seattle. During one of the opening sessions, I became curious about the awards being given to offices who participated in their Whitening Challenge. Offices who participate in the AACD Charitable Foundation’s Whitening Challenge agree to donate a portion of profits from their whitening to the Give Back a Smile program, which restores the smiles of survivors of domestic violence. And one office received the award for donating the most profit from whitening to the AACD. That office’s benevolence inspired me. Their team was excited about the program. The doctors felt good about the service to their patients and to a much greater cause. That day, I realized that program had to be part of my practice.
It seems fit, here, to reveal that dentistry is my second career. Through my twenties, I made a living as a professional fundraiser asking people to donate money to leadership programs, support scholarships, and buildings for a private liberal arts college. During that time, I was always fascinated by the joy the donor received knowing their money was making an impact for someone deserving. The Whitening Challenge has given me that same feeling of joy. It is a whole lot more fun to give money away freely than it ever was to ask for money.
Does donating increase my bottom line? Who knows. But ultimately, who cares. You’re not a dentist solely for the profit. Remember, you said it yourself in your interview: “I really want to help people and make a difference.” Boom, here is your chance. Finding a cause for your practice, like the Whitening Challenge, can make instant connections with skeptical patients as well as entice new patients into our chairs. It has given my team a cause they are proud to stand behind and excited to share with our community. However, it mostly reminds me that when you do the right thing, despite your overhead, your monster loans, and your financial ambition, being a loser just feels good.
Nelson earned a BS at William Jewell College, with an emphasis in Leadership and Biology. After graduating, he served two years as a leadership trainer and capital campaign consultant for Sigma Nu fraternity. Although he enjoyed his mission-driven work in the non-profit sector, Nelson decided to pursue his original desire for a career as a dentist.
Dr. Kanning served on the AACD Charitable Foundation Board of Trustees from 2015 to 2017 and served as the chair from 2016-2017. His office has participated in the Whitening Challenge since 2013 and won the Bright White award in 2014 for donating the most whitening proceeds of all participating practices in that year. Since his office has started participating in the Whitening Challenge, they have donated nearly $25,000 in whitening proceeds.