When you meet fellow orthodontists or dentists, it’s pretty safe to accept what they tell you about their credentials. If they tell you where they went to school and when they graduated then odds are very high that they are telling the truth. Why? Lots of reasons! Some would say it’s because we healthcare professionals are held to a higher standard and others would say that it’s our nature. Either may be true but I suspect it has a great deal more to do with the fact that our community is so small and interconnected. Bluntly, the chances of getting away with spreading misinformation about one’s credentials to other doctors are so low that it dissuades most from doing so. Don’t believe me? Think we dentists are just innately that honorable? Then how do you explain non-specialist dentists regularly making wild claims to patients and the public when it comes to their credentials? This happens because there is a total lack of enforcement by dental boards when it comes to PCDs and thus the “fear of the sword” is removed, paving the way for human nature to take over. I often wonder what would happen if orthodontists and other dental specialists weren’t watched so closely by our PCD brethren…

What’s my point? Simple. Human beings will generally act out of self interest just about as often as they think they can get away with it! If you want to avoid being taken for a ride, you must be very careful when interviewing, hiring, partnering with or trusting others. It’s terribly frustrating but it is the way of the world and the nature of our species. You MUST verify what you’re told when it comes to your business no matter what you feel or think you know.

Every time. All the time.

I am not good at this and my trusting nature is probably my greatest weakness and my greatest strength. How can that be? Well I am quick to trust and share information and this practice opens lots of doors for me. Because of this, I get access to new and different mindsets, alternative ways of doing things, unexplored business models and other exciting avenues! This open architecture mindset is very conducive to innovation and growth and is probably the main reason I’m where I am today. Of course the flip side of that coin is that those with a certain “moral flexibility” take me for a ride more often because I give them the opportunity to get close and have influence before being discovered. Being quick to share and quick to trust and quick to action definitely has its drawbacks but it is part and parcel with who I am and what I do. To do what I do I must to accept the bad with the good, the failure with the success and I must realize that it’s all my fault! Feel free to do the same in your life but know that the high highs are accompanied by some pretty darn low lows. Being wrong over and over and over sucks and getting taken advantage of by people I thought were my partners and friends really sucks! The good news is that the more I fail, the easier it gets and the more failures  I have to share with all of you.

What does this have to do with you? Nothing! Other than to set the context for suggesting that you (and I) take the time to do a few simple things before getting tied to anyone, even when the opportunity is incredibly appealing and even if you are a quick to action person like me:

  1. Ask for a job history and call all references for anyone and everyone you hire or partner with, no matter what you think you know about them. As Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
  2. Verify all achievements, degrees and credentials.
  3. Ask for and verify a work history. Pay attention to start and end dates, differences between what the references and the candidate say and any gaps in employment history.
  4. Consult an HR attorney in your state to ask them if it’s a good idea to Google the person to see what comes up. There is a wealth of knowledge for sure but there are varying opinions as to this practice. Same goes for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
  5. When the applicant is so experienced, appealing, confident, knowledgable, likeable and trustworthy that you believe that you don’t need to perform steps 1-4, do steps 1-4 twice! Effective thieves and con artists are almost always very personable, likable and have the appearance of being trustworthy. How else would they get close enough to rip you off? Read the multitude of stories online about dentists who are stolen from and you’ll see the pattern. It’s always a the person they trust the most who takes advantage. It’s that trust that allowed them to do so. Don’t take my word for it, ask David Harris. He has tons of stories to share.
  6. If the applicant is a friend or a family member or someone you go to church or temple with, repeat step 5.

Look, failure is part of life and no one knows this better than I do. We all get taken from time to time and that is ok. We should not become jaded xenophobes who live in a closed network out of fear. However, these few, simple steps will help you avoid being wrong and getting taken advantage of as often as I have. Every time I get taken for a ride I redouble my efforts to protect myself. I’ll get there one day… maybe. Life is a work in progress. The good news is that when I fall, I almost always fall forward.