Sure, it's all fun and games while you're picking things out on paper, looking at floor plans and dental chairs and debating their various merits and deficiencies. It's a blast discussing the value of investing in an intraoral scanner and speculating about your tolerance for certain limitations of the web design or software companies you're evaluating. It's fun because you aren't parting ways with your money yet, and you haven't had to make a commitment to anything! You just figure you'll eventually have enough information and knowledge that you'll confidently make a great choice.
Then the time comes when you DO have to make a commitment. I can only compare it to the old cliche about buying a wedding dress. They say that once you've picked out your dress, you have to STOP SHOPPING! That's because there are countless options out there, and you're bound to find something eventually that will make you doubt your own choice. And the last thing you need is doubt about your wedding dress (or practice management software). A healthy evaluation is important, but ain't nobody got time for looking backwards. Once you've made a commitment, you gotta run with it and keep moving forward. (Spoiler alert - in the case of most of our purchases, I wish I would have followed this advice myself, but next time I'll do it differently... )
Thus, with our lease signed, we were off to the races to begin spending some of that loan money burning holes in our pockets! Oh, but wait. Here's another fun part. We hadn't actually signed for our loan yet. We were waiting as long as possible to avoid accruing interest, which meant that every down-payment we made for the next 2-3 months was going to come directly out of our own personal savings accounts with only the anticipation of a payback from that loan. (It was hard to watch that money flutter away, but that's a different story for a different day and involves a hefty education in Quickbooks.)
We started our shopping with perfect timing, a little less than a month after our lease was signed at the AAO meeting in San Diego. We planned a fun trip in a cute Airbnb house with our husbands and another couple. We were going to get some education, see the city a little bit, and have a good time picking out a few new things to add to our office. And yes, we did do all those things, but wow, did we underestimate the amount of time our shopping would take. On day one, we began with great intentions, heading into the lecture halls to get some CE with plans to hit the expo during some breaks. By the middle of the second 30 minute lecture, we had already gotten distracted from taking notes and had refocused our energy on reviewing the vendor list to come up with a game plan. After our first break walking the expo, we were even MORE distracted. We came back to the lectures, but we were completely preoccupied with the number of booths we had vowed to visit and trying to figure out how we were going to fit in time to cross everything off our list.
One thing easily led to another, and by day two, we realized the expo was going to be our top priority. Each product evaluation required more time and more conversation than we anticipated. And, of course, making the decision to actually spend some of our budget was a lot harder than having a hypothetical conversation about it. We laid in dental chairs, we practiced using scanners, we played with software. How much research can you do??
We knew we'd have to get things like a digital pan/ceph machine, and when we found one we thought we liked, we turned to each other with blank stares wondering, "So... do we buy this one?" And there was no one there to answer the question for us. No one could tell us if we were "right" or "wrong" to get the machine we chose. For the first time, we were on our own making big decisions with no experience making these decisions. And we realized... this is how we learn. There were bound to be mistakes, but we had no choice but to make the decisions anyways.
By the end of the conference, we had learned very little about clinical orthodontics, but we had learned a lot about product financing, differences between web design companies, and options in technology. We had committed ourselves to purchasing a pan/ceph machine, an intraoral scanner, a practice management software, a set of loupes/headlights, and a website and SEO package. (I'm happy to discuss which ones we chose and why via message!)
We were shocked to see that we spent our entire days in gorgeous San Diego wandering around a windowless convention center while our husbands enjoyed sight-seeing and fried fish from food trucks. Where did the time go?? We still fit in some pleasant evenings out, and at the end of the week, we gathered before dinner for a few drinks and to laugh away the anxiety over the amount of money we had just promised away! It is often in moments like these when having a partner in this adventure is most valuable. Whatever we'd gotten ourselves into, we had gotten there together, and we were forging ahead. Now we were ready to head back home and start tackling the beginning of a nerve-wracking year of new beginnings!