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10.31.08 Issue #347 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Scott McDonald
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The Doubt Machine

When I train my demographic analysts (Community Overview Report), I tell them that we are not in the business of hope. We deal in numbers and their interpretations. It is never a good idea for us to get too much into the process of encouraging or discouraging our clients about their decisions. Does an area look promising for practice or not, based upon the numbers? That is our business.

So, what do the numbers say that dentists should do given the current markets in real estate and finance?

You should do what the smart money on Wall Street is planning to do: buy, build and develop. That is what the numbers are telling us. Granted, we are not high finance analysts. We deal with putting practices in places where there is need. Here is the basis for our recommendation to continue to develop practices:

1. Real estate is significantly undervalued in many markets. Specifically, those locations near where people live (such as suburbs) are in limbo because lending institutions are nervous about lending to developers and private individuals. Borrowers are even MORE nervous about borrowing for fear that everything will tank. The truth is, we see that the hard values (ultimate value or worth) of properties are ripe for a smart professional. Real estate does not evaporate and its value tends to remain as long as there is a use for it (such as a practice or office building).

2. Putting money into yourself and your practice will be money well spent. We can think of no investment that will have a better return than an investment in your profession. All other investments are dependent upon the wisdom and experience of someone else. In dentistry, YOU are the expert. That is why we have told our clients that NOW is the time to consider an external marketing program, a practice expansion or new skills. When other people are scared to walk out of their doors, NOW is the time to step up.

3. No one wants to risk anything. But if you are willing to get good research done and if you have a little self-confidence, you are not risking foolishly. You are risking wisely. This is how the great fortunes were made during the Great Depression (and in every other down-market).

At this current moment, the stock market is as low as it has been for a decade. Every smart trader knows that this won’t last. The companies that produce goods and services will CONTINUE to produce goods and services if they are in demand. Will people change their spending habits due to fear of the future? Certainly! But Christmas is still going to come and the little ones will still want something under the tree. (Actually, so will the big ones.)

I am so lucky to have lived through the Jimmy Carter years, when I graduated with my undergraduate degree and had to start looking for work. It provided me with some terrific perspective on how bad things can be. Yes, I remember the fear of running out of gas and the frustration of having to drive between Western States at 55 miles per hour. Sure, I remember people being absolutely convinced that there was no work out there. With unemployment at 8% and home interest rates hovering near 15%, I thought I would never own a home or a car.

The numbers say that unemployment is still near 6%, but interest rates are close to 5.5% and are likely to be cut by the Federal Reserve shortly. We have still had several quarters of growth in the Gross National Product. Home prices in the counties in the U.S. that were most hurt by the sub-prime mortgage mess have seen RECORD sales. This includes Riverside, Clark and Maricopa Counties. The dollar has held its value relative to the other currencies (including the euro) very well during this mess and, if anything, the U.S. position continues to be relatively strong compared to every other world economy. That is not hope. That is fact.

But even if everything in the economy goes south and we enter a “Mad Max” world of bartering, I would certainly want to be in a position where I owned my own chair and equipment to treat people who will always need my services, even if it is not in the short term.

There is a force at work out there that I have dubbed the Doubt Machine. It actually makes its living by selling fear. “We need a good assassination; we need an earthquake or a war!” That was the cry of those who sold newspapers in the movie, Newsies. Doubt sells. Fear sells.

I think I’ll stick to the numbers.

Scott McDonald is the largest provider of dental marketing research to dental practices. For more information, email

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