Dental Practice Embezzlement

Ryan Millar Practice Management 2 Comments

Embezzlement is a real concern among dental practice owners, as it should be. The statistics and reports vary, but it’s safe to assume that if you don’t take precautions, then you have at least a 50/50 chance that an employee steals from you during your career. All cases of embezzlement are sad, but some are tragic, with the doctor losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Through our research and experience, we’ve learned that there are countless ways to embezzle from a dental practice. Because of this, we agree with dental fraud expert, David Harris from Prosperident, who contends that it is virtually impossible to guarantee against embezzlement in your practice. Instead, the goal is to reduce the risk of occurrence and to minimize the magnitude of loss.

In effort to simplify a complex topic, I have organized this issue into three lists: 1) some basic principles and practices you should follow; 2) a list of what PFG does to guard against embezzlement; and 3) a checklist of things you should be doing to address this issue. This third list – the things you should do – isn’t exhaustive. We may decide in a future blog post to give you the several page list of what you could be doing. For now, we’ll start with the most important activities first.

Basic Embezzlement Principles:

  1. Segregation of Duties.
    If you have one person who does everything relating to money (paying bills, keeping the books, collecting money) that’s a problem. Ideally, the people who have access to cash will not have access to the accounting records, for example.
  2. Hire Good People.
    Typically, someone who embezzles was dishonest before you hired them. Check references!
  3. Limit Access to the Spending and Collecting of Money.
    One office we recently worked with had 8 people with company credit cards.
  4. Keep a Healthy Professional Skepticism.
    An embezzler is commonly the doctor’s most trusted employee and thus has the most access to money and records.
  5. Implement Internal Controls and Don’t Cut Corners.
    Internal Controls—procedures designed to reduce the risk of fraud and error—can often be annoying to work with. For example, requiring the doctor to sign every check is much more cumbersome than using a signature stamp. But don’t cut corners.

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Ryan MillarDental Practice Embezzlement

Merry Christmas. Lessons Learned by Mr. Potter

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When I was young my family would often watch Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Christmas time. Many years have passed since the last time I saw the movie. But this year, with it showing free on Amazon Prime, I let the kids stay up late one night and we watched this Christmas classic, popcorn and all.

As the story unfolded, I found myself seeing George Bailey differently than I ever have. In many ways I saw myself in him, and I saw many of you. Trying to do the right thing. Trying to meet the demands and expectations of life. Trying to run a small business. Trying to raise a family. Trying to balance the expectations and dreams of a life of adventure and charm with the realities and humdrum of the daily grind. As the pressures mount, George breaks down and loses it. With this viewing, instead of being amused by George, I felt compassion for him.

I love this story for the rich messages of love, kindness, hope and forgiveness. And I love it for how this movie beautifully teaches the value of a human life, even the “worth of a soul.”

Clearly George is the star of the show. But there is another lesson to be learned that is applicable today by Mr. Henry F. Potter, the old miser and George’s arch enemy. Mr. Potter is mean, heartless and sour. He is the embodiment of greed and the antithesis of the Christmas spirit. He gives a great example of how to end up unhappy and alone.Read More

Nate WilliamsMerry Christmas. Lessons Learned by Mr. Potter

Repost: Investing Strategically, Not Emotionally

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This article is featured in the fall edition of our 360 Insights Quarterly Client Newsletter.

By J. William G. Chettle

While many of us understand that our emotions can compromise our long-term financial goals, it isn’t always easy to ignore media hype. But letting emotions guide our investment decisions can have a real impact on our portfolios.

Sometimes what seems like a reasonable investment strategy is actually emotions in disguise. We believe these emotional strategies can be particularly harmful, because at first glance they may seem like good, even rational, ideas.Read More

Nate WilliamsRepost: Investing Strategically, Not Emotionally

A Summary and Commentary of Warren Buffett’s “2018 Letter to the Shareholders”

Nate Williams Financial Planning, Investments 2 Comments

Each year Warren Buffett, the greatest investor the world has ever known, writes a letter to the shareholders of his company, Berkshire Hathaway.

This letter has become somewhat of a “secret scroll” for investors and business geeks alike, with Mr. Buffett pouring out wisdom and wit in his typical style of brutal honesty. I have been reading this annual letter for years and recommend it to you if we share this interest.

(Last year, I summarized Buffett’s 2017 letter on this blog, which you can read here:

For those of you who want the summarized version of this year’s letter applied to doctors, keep reading….Read More

Nate WilliamsA Summary and Commentary of Warren Buffett’s “2018 Letter to the Shareholders”

The Looming Market Downturn

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As the second longest bull market in U.S. history continues, many investors are worried about when the inevitable downturn will occur. While few investors enjoy market “corrections,” long-term investors understand they are inevitable, can be expected every couple of years, and are part of the necessary tuition to participate in the stock market.

We hear concerns about the market often and its inevitable future downturns. One specific worry we hear is that “the market is at an all-time high.” This is concerning to some because they fear that if the market is at an all-time high, then it must be at its tipping point, ready to turn at any moment; what goes up, must come down, right? Not always. The price of the “market” is a representation of the health of the current (and expectation of the future) overall economy; the reason the market goes up over time is that the economy grows and improves. For example, compare the iPhone X to the very first iPhone. To say that Apple has improved is an understatement. The reason the market is at an all-time high today is because the average standard of living is also at an all-time high and most likely always will be. To argue that the market will fall and stay down is akin to arguing that the iPhone XX will be an inferior product to the iPhone X. Possible, but not likely.

So, what do you believe about the future? Do you think humankind will be better off 20, 50, or 100 years from now? Will technologies continue to improve? Will our ability to provide healthcare improve? Will our ability to grow food and feed people improve? Or will we as a population decline? If you believe that the future will be better than the past, then, apart from the latest zig or zag, you can expect that the market will always be at an “all-time high.”

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Nate WilliamsThe Looming Market Downturn

4 Charts Every Investor Should Know

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(This blog post, 4 Charts Every Investor Should Know, was compiled and revised from a newsletter sent out by Loring Ward, our investing partner).

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. In this post, I’ll share four charts that I believe every investor should understand. These charts focus on some of the basics of investing, like focusing on the long term, diversification, and not letting emotions drive your portfolio.

#1: Let Markets Work for You

Good things come to those who wait—and to those who don’t let short-term news events scare them out of staying invested for the long-term. Every generation of investors has had its reasons to worry and pull out of the market from the Great Depression, World War II, and Vietnam of earlier generations, to the more recent Black Monday, dot com bubble, and Great Recession. But if you had invested $100 in the U.S. stock market back in 1972 and left it alone all those years, that $100 would have grown to $11,086 by the end of 2017. Decade after decade, markets around the world have been significant generators of long-term wealth for patient, diversified investors.

(see footnote #1)

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Nate Williams4 Charts Every Investor Should Know

How to Become a Decamillionaire Doctor, Part II

Nate Williams Financial Planning, Personal Management Leave a Comment

In last week’s blog post, I discussed the first two essential phases of becoming a decamillionaire doctor, which are:

  1. Become a clinical expert
  2. Learn to make money with your clinical expertise by:
    1. Learning to lead
    2. Establishing systems in your business
    3. Learning to sell
    4. Doing your work fast

This week I’d like to discuss the third phase of this process:

3. Learn to manage your money like a decamillionaire

One of the key takeaways with phases 1 and 2 is that you will be far more successful with good help. The most successful practice owners get professional help from consultants to learn how to run their practices in addition to the daily help they get from their staff.

In our complicated world, it is virtually impossible to know everything you need to know about every area of life for the decisions you need to make. For example, in your practice do you know how to run payroll? Are you also an expert on search engine optimization? Do you also know all the employment laws in your state and are you 100% in compliance with those? If your goal is to succeed in your practice (and in life), you need help from those more skilled than you in that area of expertise. To do this, you’ll need to find good, trustworthy help.

Likewise, when it comes to managing your money, you need help. Can you increase your financial intelligence by reading books on the topic? Absolutely, and you should. I will never say that someone will fail if they DIY their finances; but I do say – and will say again – that you will have a much greater probability of success with good help.

Year after year, I am surprised at how few doctors are good at this critical part of the process. Why is this? How can people who are so good at making money (I’ll assume that you’ve mastered steps 1 and 2 if you’re still reading), be so bad at keeping it? There are a lot of reasons for this answer. I’m going to highlight three main problems you face as to why it will be difficult to hang onto your money and get it working for you.

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Nate WilliamsHow to Become a Decamillionaire Doctor, Part II

How to Become a Decamillionaire Doctor, Part I

Nate Williams Leadership, Practice Management 1 Comment

Who Wants to Be a Decamillionaire?

For over a century in the United States, “millionaire” has been the ultimate standard for financial accomplishment. Unfortunately, millionaire doesn’t carry the same “ring” to it as in decades past. Although it is always fun to see our clients’ net worth pass the 7-digit mark, to sustain a lifestyle that most doctors become accustomed to, they will now have to far surpass the millionaire mark.

At Practice Financial Group, we have been preaching for years now that the ideal financial status is to be debt free with a $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 in retirement investments. This number excludes your practice, your building (if you own it), and your house.

Does this sound lofty? Although we are optimistic by nature, we only set achievable goals. This goal of being debt free and having $5-10 million in the bank is quite achievable, but most doctors will not reach this mark.

To become a decamillionaire doctor, there are at least three aspects to this process in which you must succeed. If you fall short in any of these areas, you’ll fall far short of your financial potential, guaranteed.

  1. Become a clinical expert
  2. Learn to make money with your clinical expertise (i.e. run a profitable business)
  3. Learn to manage your money like a decamillionaire (i.e. get out of your own way!)

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Nate WilliamsHow to Become a Decamillionaire Doctor, Part I

Article Share: “What if Rip Van Winkle Invested in the U.S. Stock Market?”

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The following article was written by a friend and colleague of mine, Sheldon McFarland, from Loring Ward. I thought the article was well-written and useful on a very important topic – to help us maintain a long-term investment perspective. I hope you too find the information relevant.



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Nate WilliamsArticle Share: “What if Rip Van Winkle Invested in the U.S. Stock Market?”

Success in Practice Podcast Event Invitation

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Hi Everyone,

I wanted to invite you to join an exciting and informative podcast event I’m participating in beginning Monday, July 17th.

My friend Jill Parker, Practice Advisor, is the creator and host of this Success in Practice Event which brings to your inbox 19 dentistry experts over 19 days. Jill’s goal in creating this content is to provide valuable, free education to dental practice owners.

Some of the experts and topics covered during the event include:

  • Nate Williams, CPA, CFP® (The Future is Yours! Build It Now.)
  • Dr. Howard Farran (Build Your Legacy!)
  • Dr. Chris Salierno (Gross Profit Margin)
  • Gary Takacs (Embrace 3 Easy Systems to Produce More!)
  • Dr. Bruce Baird (Get Off the Dental Rollercoaster)
  • Dr. Doug Carlsen  (Get Out of Debt & Plan Your Future)
  • Adam Zilko (The How to for Internet Marketing)
  • Laura Hatch (Front Office Rocks!)

If you’re interested, click to learn more and register.


Nate Williams, CPA, CFP®

Nate WilliamsSuccess in Practice Podcast Event Invitation