The harsh weather this winter created hardships for many dental practices in the Northeast. There were impassable roads, frozen sidewalks, frigid temperatures and this resulted in numerous falls and broken bones, burst pipes and roof and ceiling leaks. In my own office, there was a roof collapse from the snow that led to damaged equipment, flooded conditions and significant ceiling leaks that took rooms out of service, unless an umbrella was used during treatment. There have been many missed days and shortened days and office schedules have often resembled slices of Swiss cheese. Revenues have been down and many doctors have expressed concern about having had to dip into credit lines to meet expenses. What do you do when things go so bad?
I reside in the Town of North Hempstead on Long Island. For the last 10 years, our Town has sponsored a Polar Plunge into Hempstead Harbor for the benefit of Special Olympics. For the life of me, I could never dream of walking into frigid water in the middle of the winter, even there was a good “Reason for Freezin'”. There was once a Seinfeld episode that described a consequence of such an act and this was sufficient to keep me from ever engaging in this sort of activity. But for the benefit of the Special Olympics, it is kind and generous that these individuals do this. This year, however created a problem. This was the coldest winter on record here in the New York area, with temperatures averaging 11 degrees below normal. The average temperature for the entire month of February was 21 degrees and we had the most days, ever, of single digit temperatures. This created a problem for the North Hempstead “Polar Bears”. Hempstead Harbor was frozen solid and more suited to ice fishing than a Saturday morning swim. What were they to do?
Here is where a contingency plan prevented the event from being cancelled. On Saturday, March 7th, the Polar Bears assembled at the shoreline at Bar Beach, in Port Washington, and they were joined by the Port Washington Fire Department, who brought with them their most powerful “Pumper Truck” to hose, douse and spray the Polar Bears until they were sufficiently blue. Thus, the event was saved and the task was completed.
One situation that many practices face is the occasional, and hopefully its occasional, late lab case. The patient presents and the lab case is nowhere to be found. Most doctors and team members will blame the lab and display disappointment and frustration. How do you think this makes the patient feel? The fact is that the patient has no relationship with the lab and views it as an extension of the doctor. When the doctor complains about the lab, the patient wonders, “Why did the doctor choose that lab to work with?” A more constructive way to deal with this is to state, “After looking at the models from our last appointment, I questioned the accuracy of the bite. In the interest of making your crown (or bridge, or partial) perfect, and you know I am a perfectionist, I felt that it was important to recheck the bite and confirm its accuracy. This will be a very short and comfortable procedure and it will insure a better fit for your restoration.” This positive spin eliminates placing blame for a mistake and helps to build patient confidence instead of deteriorating it.
What happens when members of our teams are out for a day, or a week, or longer. One of the greatest contingencies that we can have is cross-training of our teams. In most practices, if the “front desk” person is out, the doctor will either try to work without the post filled for the day, or hire a “temp”. An administrative position has the most difficult systems to replace by a “temp”. Our recommendation is to have clinical assistants and hygienists trained on how to properly answer the phone, perform scheduling and collecting payments, and when faced with this challenge, move them up to the “front” and bring in a temporary hygienist or assistant for the day. If someone is not thoroughly trained on how to answer YOUR phone, they should not do so. This contingency is further enhanced with comprehensive job descriptions and written procedures and protocols.
When there is a cancellation or broken appointment, it is essential to have a current and functional “short call” list with patients who might have wanted the opportunity to have a sooner appointment, if it could be arranged. Many times these patients can be enticed to fill in to a short-notice broken appointment with a small courtesy offered. It is well worthwhile instead of losing out on the productive time all together.
When we are resourceful in our practices, it prevents disappointment for ourselves, our teams, and, most importantly, our patients. Are you and your team flexible, when necessary? Does every member of your team help you develop solutions, or do they wallow in disappointments and problems? When faced with challenges, team members should not only identify the problem, but they should offer a possible solution. If they are unwilling or unable to try to solve the problem, they are part of the problem. Resourcefulness and the ability to develop contingencies can very much prevent bad days from becoming disasters and disappointing months from becoming hardships.
This winter my 2012 Mercedes convertible decided it did not like the cold weather. Whenever it was below 20 degrees it would not start. Considering that this was the coldest winter in New York’s history it meant that my car was towed to the nearby Mercedes dealership on a weekly basis, sometimes more than once per week. (Something to note is that this is not the dealership that I purchased my car from.) Normally this would be a serious annoyance, to say the least. What made the experience tolerable was that a wonderful service representative at the Rallye Motors Dealership, Katie, was very responsive to my inconveniences and repeatedly provided me with immediate alternative transportation in the form of a loaner car, wherever I was stranded, in spite of the fact that I was not a customer of the dealership.
The fact that my car had to be towed to the dealership 5 times was frustrating but Katie managed to minimize the hardship with her great service. On Thursday, February 5th I picked up my car from the dealership after work, assured that it was “good to go” and I drove to a dinner meeting with one of our coaching clients in Poughkeepsie, NY, 128 miles from my office. It was a lengthy meeting and we were the last table to leave the restaurant. As we left the restaurant, the client drove off and I went to my car to drive to my nearby hotel. The problem is that my Mercedes convertible, in spite of multiple repairs, prefers warm weather and it was 9 degrees BELOW ZERO. It would not start, again. By the time I turned around the restaurant had been closed and locked up and I was the lone vehicle in the parking lot. I called Mercedes Benz roadside assistance and was told I would have to wait an hour for a technician.
For the next hour I assumed the fetal position in my frozen “dead” car with my sports jacket and an old blanket from my trunk. I have never experienced anything like this cold in my entire life. When the service technician arrived, at 11:30 pm, he determined that it was an electrical or computer issue and there was nothing he could do to help me. (If I had known it was an IT issue, I would have called Scott Sanford of Healthy IT who services many of the practices we work with.) The Mercedes technician called the local towing service that they contract with, to find out how long it would take to get me towed to the nearby Mercedes dealership. Due to the extreme severity of the weather, I was told it would be another hour. I asked if I waited for the tow, “would the tow truck driver drive me 3/4 mile to my hotel”. The towing dispatcher said that this request was against their policy because the hotel was in the opposite direction from the dealership. He told me it was only a short walk or he would drop me off at a 7-Eleven somewhere along the way…at 1:00 am. In light of the fact that it was 9 degrees BELOW ZERO, discretion does not allow me to publish the unkind words I used with the dispatcher. I decided to leave my car in the parking lot and deal with it the next day. The Mercedes technician who responded did drive me to my hotel.
The next morning I called the Rallye Mercedes dealership back on Long Island, which had been servicing my car. When I spoke to Katie she was exasperated by the story from the previous evening and immediately offered to send a loaner vehicle 128 miles upstate to me on a “flatbed” and retrieve my vehicle. This was service above and beyond my expectations.
Why do I tell this rather lengthy story? It is to point out, that in the minds of our patients, service beats product, as long as the product is satisfactory to them. Our patients expect each of us to be competent, or they wouldn’t come to us in the first place. And our patients really do not know the difference between a good crown and a bad one or a good resin restoration and a bad one, but they can easily identify the benefit of great service. At a time when we have all been conditioned to lousy service in so many of our daily dealings, it is outstanding service that differentiates those that will succeed from those that will struggle.
When I went to retrieve my car from the Rallye Motors Mercedes Benz dealership I was told that the General Manager, Mr. Ty Klipstein, wanted to meet with me. He apologized for the insensitivity of the Roadside Assistance program and wanted to hear about my level of satisfaction with the accommodations provided by his service department. He explained that his dealership does a great deal of “PR” in the course of providing service. He takes a great deal of PRide in the customer service performance of his representatives. He described that customer satisfaction is based on PRice, PRoduct, and PeRsonality. I responded that it was the service and personality that most impressed me. Price and product are considerations for a commodity. I expressed my appreciation for their great service and I ordered a new vehicle from his dealership. The service and personality had won me over.
The same scenario exists in our practices. Do not treat your care like a commodity and focus on price, or try to exaggerate the difference in product between your practice and others. It will be difficult to substantiate and it could be inflammatory. The area where you can undeniably differentiate yourself is in providing unprecedented service and simply overwhelming your patients with a culture of caring. Great service will create the highest degree of confidence and trust and it will create the greatest likelihood of increased referrals. Service beats product in creating great PR.
For more information about how coaching can help you provide great service, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to SmilePotential@aol.com.
Filed under: Blog
Comments: Comments Off on Service Beats Product in Creating Great PR
In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, earlier this month, there was a tremendous amount of speculation that the New England Patriots had won their 7th AFC Championship by cheating and playing with underinflated game balls. Regardless of the results of the Super Bowl, which was won by the Patriots, and my personal preference as the former Team Dentist for the Patriots’ rival New York Jets, the Patriots success has nothing to do with the pressurization of their game balls. Quite simply, the Patriots have a superior system to any other team in the NFL and this is punctuated by the fact that they have been the most successful team in the NFL for the past 15 years. Their player selection is based on superior criteria, that is the product of their system and they practice differently than every team that they face. They also have a brilliant coach and a great, experienced team leader in Tom Brady.
When Bill Bellichik, the stone-faced coach of the Patriots, conducts practices, he does so under adverse conditions that exceed what the team will face in their games. The Patriots practice in some of the worst weather conditions in the country. This gives them an advantage on their home turf and also an advantage when they compete in other teams’ stadiums under less adverse conditions. Patriots practices are conducted on slippery, flooded, muddy fields with wind machines and rain machines brought in to simulate monsoon conditions. Balls are coated with mud, Vaseline and who knows what else to help the players learn improved ball control and security. It helps the players develop superior coping skills to avoid disastrous turnovers.
What does all of this have to do with dentistry? As Kelly and I have visited hundreds of dental practices in the past few years, we have often heard all of the excuses for disappointing levels of success, “the economy”, “insurance companies”, “unmotivated staff”, “drama and gossip”, “location”, “lack of cash” and “unappreciative patients”. I’m surprised that no one has blamed, “Underinflated game balls”.
Not a single one of these factors should have the capability to bring a practice down. The lack of success in a dental practice is due to deflated motivation, deflated initiative, deflated morale, deflated culture, under-inflated systems, underinflated communication skills and inadequate preparation.
In order to have a successful “season” in your practice, you must first establish a vision of what you want to accomplish. The Patriots vision was that they “win the Super Bowl”. Your vision should include concepts such as providing the highest quality care, providing outstanding service, showing how much you care about every patient, differentiating yourself from other practices, improving communication skills with patients, inspiring patients to accept more comprehensive and cosmetic care and practicing in a way that is profitable for you and your team, both emotionally and financially.
The next step is surrounding yourself with a team totally in tune with your vision. They must leave their personal “baggage” outside the office, be eager to learn and grow, avoid gossip and drama, and be cognizant of expectations, both of themselves and the other members of their team. The Patriots expectations of one another is that they will all give more than 100%. When the brunt of the speculation for “Inflategate” fell on Tom Brady, no one threw him under the bus. They all declared incredible confidence in their field leader.
Everything that is done in your office must be systematized. Just as the system is the key to the success of the Patriots, it is also the key to the success of your dental practices. Each team members’ responsibilities must be listed and described in detail…in writing. This creates independence from individuals and personalities and insures predictability in everything that is done.
Each doctor, or a member of each team, must step up to become a leader. The responsibility of the leader is to believe in the vision and to exhibit confidence to the rest of the team. This individual must lead by example and look for every opportunity to give recognition and praise to the other members of the team. Equally important is to distribute credit for success, accept responsibility for shortcomings and to offer constant encouragement to the others to create a feeling of motivation.
Lastly, the Patriots have great players such as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. As professionals, they do not need someone to tell them how to throw a pass, how to run with the ball, how to catch the ball or how to block. They do need someone to help coordinate their efforts, to help them develop a strategy and to guide any necessary adjustments. They need someone to help them take advantage of opportunities that come up during the course of a game which are not seen during the heat of battle and advice on mid-course corrections as they are needed. This is the role of a coach. Every great team has a coach. This is a role that Kelly and I have embraced with much success in recent years with a multitude of practices in our area. It is a role we would welcome the opportunity to assume in any of your practices, where you might need help in patient motivation, organization, strategy, verbal skills, scripting, scheduling, case acceptance or team development. If necessary, we will also be glad to bring along a pump to alleviate any under-inflation issues, should they exist.
For more information about how coaching can help your practice, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to smile email@example.com.
Filed under: Blog
Comments: Comments Off on Deflated Balls
The alarm clock rings. It’s 6:00 am, time to start a new day. You shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and leave for a day of treating patients in your dental practice. What happens if you don’t make it there? Unfortunately, life is an obstacle course of motor vehicle accidents, health crises, slips, falls and other life challenges. There are no guarantees. Any one of these things has the potential to ruin a morning, a day, a week or a life. If something were to derail your life, are you ready? Are you prepared?
Of course, none of us ever think it will happen to us. I was an indestructible, weight lifting, athletic mesomorph until a freak accident removed me from my practice for two years, 15 years ago. A friend’s life has been turned upside down by a diagnosis of Lymphoma. A colleague’s ability to practice has been shattered by a devastating bicycle accident. A sensational, vibrant, personable Past-President was killed in a hit-and-run accident only one week ago. What would you do?
In the past, I was not fond of the “Study Club Scene”. Colleagues would join for a dinner, a lecture and a night of bragging about how well their practices were doing, whether it was true or not. More recently, Study Clubs have included more meaningful presentations with dental corporate sponsorship, but they have also become places to commiserate through difficult times. When bad things happen to your colleagues, you start to worry, yourself. I rarely arrive home after a study club meeting feeling energized and inspired.
A development of greater significance to me, and my life, occurred 25 years ago, when 5 colleagues and I (Drs. Steve Boral, Bob Berg, Barry Goodman, Fred Danziger, Jay Piskin and myself) separated from our Study Club and created, for lack of a better concept, a DDS (Dentists Desiring Success) Support Group. In the beginning, it was a night of honestly sharing the challenges that we were facing in our respective practices and, together, trying to sort out solutions. We discussed staff issues and difficult patient challenges. We complained about insurance companies, government regulations and our lack of training in the “business” of dentistry. They Didn’t Teach Us THAT In Dental School. (What a great title for a book!) What made it more meaningful than other groups was that we each started to become more invested in the success of our 5 friends/colleagues’ practices.
Over time, it became a much more intimate experience which included discussions of life challenges, marriage, children, family, finances, health and emotional well-being. Some meetings occurred during Monday Night Football, at baseball games, amusement parks or spas. We traveled to Dental Meetings together and a couple of times each year, played hooky from our practices together in what we called “mental health days”, which consisted of massages, and then dinner.
The most definitive expression of how this group evolved occurred after my 2-year period of disability when we realized the ultimate power of being committed to one another. We developed an informal agreement that, should anything ever again happen to one of us that would prevent one of us from practicing dentistry, the others would make sure that their practice would make it through the challenge. My two years of absence devastated my practice and we wanted to make sure that it would never happen again to any one of us. The commitment was that if something happened such as a disability, or even death, the other five would rotate a day per week into the affected members practice to keep it running until the affected member could return. In the event of the unspeakable, the commitment would keep the deceased’s practice running to insure that the surviving spouse would receive the greatest value for the transfer of the practice to a new owner. This gave all of us the safety of knowing that our friends would insure that our practice remained viable for our return or for the welfare of our family.
These five gentlemen have become very important to me in my life. We have shared each other’s life challenges and successes, celebrations and disappointments. We have attended family triumphs and comforted each other through tragedies. But above all, we have been there for each other. Fred has retired and moved to a milder climate and the rest of us now bring “to the table” more discussion of visits to our physicians for various ailments. But what has flourished, is our mutual affection, respect, and commitment to being there for one another come “hell or high water”.
Preparedness does not have to entail such “global” challenges of disability or death. There are many areas where we can perform like Boy Scouts, and better prepare for the unexpected. I often tell the story of how five years ago, between the months of March and June, six members of my team (out of 10) told me that they were going to be unable to work, beginning in September (Five pregnancies and one team member beginning Hygiene School). Stunned with the coincidence of five simultaneous pregnancies I did some calculations and computed that 40 weeks prior to the similar due dates was the night of the previous year’s holiday party. I deny any responsibility for any of those children, but I do take pride in the fact that our practice’s parties put team members in a very good mood.
Mercedes, our Office Manager (and presently, the Administrator and third Coach in Smile Potential) developed a Practice Systems and Procedure Manual that described, in detail, how to perform every task done by every member of our team. The book is almost 1,000 pages and lists clinical tasks and administrative responsibilities. Computer tasks are described with highlighted printed screens of every mouse click to show the flow of every operation. Systems run a practice. People run systems. When your systems are documented to this extent, it ensures the success of your practice regardless of the “players”. You remain prepared to succeed through almost any challenge. By the way, the last quarter of that year, with five new team members was our most productive period of the year.
One last area that must be discussed in being prepared is being up-to-date in CPR and Medical Emergencies. In dentistry we expose patients to many things that can have significant effects on their well-being. We administer medications that can cause systemic reactions (epinephrine and sedatives). We use things that can cause allergic reactions (latex and medications). We are operating in a wet, slippery environment where small objects can be lost “down the hatch”. (Please don’t ever attempt endodontics without using a rubber dam). Each of these events can cause significant emergent medical challenges. Please maintain current CPR and AED certification for you and all the members of your team. In addition, please establish emergency protocols for your practice. Each member of the team should know their responsibilities should any type of emergency occur anywhere in the office. Document responsibilities and conduct periodic mock emergencies to keep your team prepared.
Life is full of surprises. You never know. Always be prepared and implement strategies to get you through whatever your practice and life can throw your way. Are you prepared?
For more information about being prepared, please call 516-599-0214
or send an email to SmilePotential@aol.com.
Filed under: Blog
Comments: Comments Off on Are You Ready?
Life is a series of challenges to connect with people and engage them in various capacities in, both, business and social situations. One of the best selling self-help books of all time is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The ability to accomplish this is totally dependent on our ability to communicate effectively. No skill has a greater impact on our success than mastering our verbal skills. Incredible good looks and compelling animal magnetism only takes you so far. (Not that I would know).
On the popular television show “Shark Tank”, hopeful entrepreneurs meet incredibly successful millionaire tycoons to try to influence them to invest in their idea or product. In just a few short minutes they must connect with the millionaires, convince them that they understand their dominant buying motivation, impress them with the benefits of making an investment, assure them that they have the ability to make good on their promise, eliminate any fears about their lack of experience and convince them that the “time is now” to pull the trigger on coming up with the investment funds.
It is no different than our challenge to connect with a patient and have them accept treatment from dentists and their teams. Mastering the same skills that guide the success of contestants on “Shark Tank” can create a significantly higher rate of success in inspiring patients to accept and proceed with treatment. In a case presentation we must connect with a patient on many levels. We need to understand the basis of their complaint and, even more importantly, how that condition affects them in their everyday life. Then we must know how it makes them feel, on an emotional level. When we connect with a patient with this level of understanding it aligns us with their dominant buying motivation, it allows us to impress them with the benefits of proceeding with treatment, it alleviates their concerns over trust and it helps to develop a sense of urgency to proceed with treatment at that time.
The most important skill in accomplishing this is the ability to speak confidently and authoritatively in front of others. It is imperative to develop public speaking skills, but the ability to speak in front of others is one of the most feared situations in most people’s lives. Glossophobia is the technical term given to a severe fear of public speaking. As many as 75% of people have glossophobia and many consider it the greatest fear a person can have, even greater than fear of death. Jerry Seinfeld used to joke that at a funeral, most people would rather be lying in the casket than delivering the eulogy. Some say there are two types of people, those who describe a fear of speaking and those who lie about it.
The inability to speak in public may create lost opportunities in business and in life. Of course it would be great to have the ability to inspire a patient to accept treatment, or to motivate a dental team at a team meeting or huddle, or to deliver an informational program at the local Rotary meeting. But it also has a huge impact on other aspects of our lives. It might affect the ability to convince a bank underwriter to extend financing for the purchase of a home or second business, or to get up and influence neighbors about an important issue at a school PTA meeting, or to comfortably express emotions when toasting a son or daughter at their wedding, or remembering a loved one in a heartfelt eulogy at a funeral. Whatever the circumstance, the ability to express yourself in front of others has the ability to change emotions, perceptions and opinions. Doesn’t it make sense that it could affect the level of success in your dental practices?
There are many things that you can do to improve your public speaking skills. Of course there are numerous books and self-help materials and there is a wonderful organization, Toastmasters International, with local chapters that help to develop speaking skills for local businessmen and women (yes, dentists are in business). I like the idea of similar minded dental professionals teaching and mentoring this skill set. Drs. Rich and Dave Madow, the Madow Brothers, conduct a 2-day program called “So You Want To Be A Dental Speaker” that I attended in November. It is geared to dental professionals wanting to add speaking to their professional resumes. But, as I sat in the November edition of this program I thought it could be extremely helpful to any member of the dental team in developing leadership and the ability to inspire patients to seek and want treatment in a practice. I encourage you contact them at 888-88-MADOW or firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about the January edition of this course.
Once you have mastered your speaking skills you will possess a much better ability to influence your colleagues, your teams and, especially. your patients to want to take advantage of the care you can provide for them. You may not be able to convince Mark Cuban to invest in that “remote control flosser” that you invented, but your patients will eagerly invest in more quadrant, comprehensive and elective treatment, inspired by your improved communication.
For more information about developing your speaking skills, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to SmilePotential@aol.com.
Filed under: Blog
Comments: Comments Off on Life Is A Shark Tank
In ancient Greece, Socrates was highly respected for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said, “Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students…?”
“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me I’d like you to take a little test, the Test of Three. Before you talk to me about my student, I’d like you to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.”
“All right, said Socrates, “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”
“No, on the contrary…”
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even though you are not certain it’s true?”
The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.
Socrates continued, “You may still pass because there is a third test, the test of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really…”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither True, nor Good, nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”
The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more. This is one of the reasons that Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem. Some may argue that it also explains why Socrates never found out that Plato was having an affair with his wife, but that is not our concern.
What is our concern is that gossip, useless, negative, and often, untrue conversation is one of the most destructive forces in many dental practices today. It destroys the culture of a practice and divides the team. When interviewing prospective team members for practices it is often discussed how caddy, gossipy behavior is frequently a reason for good team members wanting to find alternative employment. Desirable team members crave mutual respect from doctors and team members, alike. Tolerating gossip sends a message to team members that personal agendas are acceptable and that it’s every man (or woman) for themself. Doesn’t this seem contrary to the goal of attaining superior teamwork?
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
When we detect gossip in a practice we recommend a strategy of “Zero Tolerance”. In last month’s newsletter, we discussed the concept of motivation being dependent on the premise that we increase desirable conditions and decrease undesirable conditions for a team member. Eliminating gossip accomplishes both. When we forbid gossip we tell our team that they will not be disrespected. We also let them know that since conversations about them will not be permitted, we will also not allow them to speak negatively about others. This creates an environment of safety and positivity.
Here is the policy that we have adopted in many practices, including our own:
“THERE IS NO ACTIVITY THAT DIVIDES A DENTAL TEAM AND DESTROYS THE CULTURE OF A PRACTICE MORE THAN GOSSIP. NO QUALITY TEAM MEMBER LIKES TO WORK IN AN ENVIRONMENT WITH GOSSIP. GOSSIPING WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED IN OUR PRACTICE. FOR THIS REASON WE ARE ADOPTING THE FOLLOWING POLICY:
It is against the policy of this dental practice to speak negatively about any other member of the team unless that person is present and participating in the conversation. Communication between team members is encouraged when there is a difference of opinion. If a resolution cannot be achieved between differing parties, then the office manager or the dentist / or one of the dentists, may be enlisted to facilitate a discussion. Under no circumstance will one individual be able to complain about another to another team member, including the office manager or dentist(s), unless they are present. If this behavior is detected there will be 4 possible consequences.
First offense – a warning will be given
Second offense – individual will be sent home for the remainder of the day, without pay.
Third offense – individual will be sent home and instructed not to return for a period of one week with no pay for that period of time.
Fourth offense – individuals employment may be terminated”
Some may say that this policy is extreme, but I will argue that not having a policy is obscene. Don’t get caught up on the specific consequences. Modify it and develop your own. But, without a doubt, if there is even a minutia of destructive conversation going on in your hallways, in sterilization or behind closed doors in your “staff” rooms, this policy, in some form, is a necessity for your practice, immediately. And don’t worry about losing an entire team. When the policy is followed, it rarely has to be enforced more than once because everyone “feels” the benefit and those in need of gossiping will either, “get on the bus” or buy a ticket to an alternative practice where destructive gossip is tolerated. When it comes to gossip, “You don’t say!”
For more information about this “No Gossip Policy” or for a copy of a Policy Form that can be adopted for your own practice, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to SmilePotential@aol.com.
Filed under: Blog
Comments: Comments Off on You Don’t Say!
“People often tell me that motivation doesn’t last, and I tell them that bathing doesn’t either. That’s why I recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar
This month begins the last quarter of the year, when we can “drive it home” to finish off a great year in our practices. The essential ingredient of achieving this is the teamwork of a cooperative and motivated team. At virtually every program we present, doctors ask us, “How do I motivate my team?” or “What can I do to get them to do what I need them to?…I don’t understand why they just don’t get it!
The problem is that it is the doctors who do not “get it”. The question that they should be asking is, “What can I do to help my team become motivated?”. The difference may sound semantic, but it is significant. Motivation cannot be instilled in others. For someone to be motivated, it must come from them…it’s an internal phenomenon. It is an internal process that makes a person move towards a goal. It is an inner power that pushes them toward taking action and toward achievement.
If we want a dog to do a trick or behave in a certain way we can either seduce the dog with a treat, “throw the dog a bone”, or we can abuse the dog with a kick in the butt or a shouted command. Whichever end of the dog we are working from, the fact remains that if we remove our “stimulus”, the dog will stop doing what we wanted it to do.
With our dental teams the way that we help them become motivated is to increase the aspects of their position that they find satisfying and decrease the aspects that they find dissatisfying. Remembering that it is our team who are truly the most important people in our practices, more so than the patients, we must create systems that utilize their talents, create policies that show them we care about them and be generous with praise and appreciation. If we have policies that are unfair (ie. not caring about their family obligations), conditions that are unsafe (ie. poorly lighted parking lot at night), and little or no expressions of gratitude, then it is unrealistic that these team members will be motivated to want to help our practices succeed. The leadership challenge is to formulate a vision for the practice, engage the team in the vision and then create motivation for execution of the vision with generous displays of appreciation and gratitude.
Engagement seems to be a great challenge at this time in many areas of the business world. I recently attended a Leadership Development Workshop where engagement was reinforced with a concept called “Head, Heart and Hands”. Let’s take a look at how this relates to our practices.
When we engage the “Head” of our team members it is usually done through some sort of training or continuing education. If we can reinforce the understanding of new or updated knowledge with follow-up conversations and processing there is a far greater intellectual engagement. Don’t just tell your clinical assistant the sequence that you want restorative instruments handed to you, make sure that they understand your criteria for wanting it done that way. Don’t just tell your hygienist to do root planing on one to three teeth when limited pocketing is detected, but rather tell them how, when you “go subgingival” during a prophy, you are really doing your patient a disservice by failing to have them take ownership of a disease process.
When our team members have this level of understanding in their head, then they are able to become committed to the process of change and improvement and this, further, allows them to put their “Heart” into their work on behalf of the practice. When our team members have this increased sense of purpose it also gives them a much higher level of fulfillment. You may begin to hear your team members speaking about how they are proud to be a part of this process and of what is being accomplished each and every day.
The enthusiasm that ensues is what enables them to engage their “Hands” in doing what is necessary to see that their tasks are done in the most efficient and productive way possible. When the “hands” are symbolicly engaged in this way you see higher levels of initiative and resourcefulness. Team members who are engaged in this way do not just bring you problems. They are constantly focused on team improvement and when they detect something not working as well as it could be done, they are more likely to go out on a limb and present a possible solution, as well.
In my own practice recently we were discussing how we engage our patients in referrals of “new patients” to the practice. Of course we recognize our patients for referring others with a “Care-to-share”-type of program, and multiple referrers receive additional recognition. What our Patient Coordinator, Debbie, suggested was that we engage our patients who have previously exhibited the confidence in our office to refer others with a more focused and targeted appeal because they have already shown this confidence and trust. Debbie showed that she was fully engaged by using her “Head” to think “outside the box” for a new way of doing something, by using her “Heart” to genuinely want to create change and by using her “Hands” to not only come up with the idea, but to have also created the list of patients who would receive this appeal and to have already written a draft of what would be sent out. I do not ever need to “motivate” Debbie. Her level of motivation is completely internal and for this I greatly appreciate everything that she contributes to our practice.
Let’s begin to create motivation in our teams and engage their “Heads”, “Hearts” and “Hands” in the development of all of our practices.
One of the best things about working with so many dentists is that we have the opportunity to learn as much from our clients as we teach. Recently, a
client was formulating the Vision Statement for their practice with their team and coined the term “Patient Centric”. Thank you Dr. David Diamond for this brilliant concept. I would like to devote this essay to expanding on this idea.
Of course our practices are dedicated to the needs of our patients, but frequently our verbal skills do not relay that sense of purpose. Too often the day-to-day responsibilities get in the way of communicating in the most constructive way. It is done so innocently, that we usually do not even realize the negative impact of our words. We must always be reminded that, in the interest of great service, everything should be in the interest and for the benefit of our patients. Remember that every one of our patients are tuned into radio station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) and their interest in our needs come a distant second to their own.
In a Patient Centric office all practice communication must be scripted in terms of benefit. An example of this would be in giving a tour to a new patient:
“For your safety we adhere to the highest standards in instrument sterilization and treatment room disinfection. For your enjoyment we have HD TVs and noise cancelling headphones. In the interest of providing you with the best care possible we have the absolute latest, state-of-the-art equipment.”
Our bios should not read like a resume, listing what you’ve done or how you do what you do. The Patient Centric bio should describe how the doctor “is excited to be providing care that changes people’s lives” and that “it is thrilling to replace pain with comfort, to eliminate infection and to make our wonderful patients look great, feel great and have the confidence that can be provided by a great smile”.
The discussion of treatment in a Patient Centric practice should not be educational in nature and use technical terms that normally excite us, as dentists. But rather, it should be geared to overcoming the effects of dental conditions. When patients describe perceived problems such as a toothache, a broken tooth or bleeding gums, we should question how these conditions makes them feel and then gear the discussion of solutions to those effects. “We will be eliminating the painful toothache which distracts you at work”. “We will help you regain your youthful smile by eliminating the discolored fillings you spoke about”. “We will, improve your ability to enjoy social situations and we will eliminate your embarrassment, by replacing your missing teeth”. Patient Centric means that we address the emotional aspects of our patient’s lives that are impacted by their dental conditions.
It is very common for administrative team members to offer appointments by saying “we have Tuesday at 2:00 available”. This is more about the practice’s need to fill a particular void in the schedule. In a Patient Centric practice the patient is made to feel that the scheduling efforts are geared to their needs instead of those of the practice. “Do you prefer mornings or afternoons? Do you prefer Monday or Wednesday? Do you prefer early or late?” By the time an appointment is “selected” the patient has the feeling that the appointment was made totally around their personal preference.
Kelly and I make frequent “secret shopper” calls to offices and we are concerned that many offices do not adequately portray their level of caring in that first phone contact. Those answering the phone must be properly trained regardless of their level of experience. They must give their name and, even more importantly, ask the name of the caller. The first phone call should be totally about the benefit of coming to the practice and, ultimately, the scheduling of the first appointment. Too many of the calls, however, begin with a question about insurance coverage. If the first call is to be Patient Centric, the focus should be about care. Prioritizing questions about insurance sends a message to the patient that the main concern of this practice is finances.
A common problem affecting many practices is broken or cancelled appointments. Most practices will counter a cancellation call with a reference to the fact that a certain amount of time was reserved for that appointment. That is totally about the practice’s schedule. In a Patient Centric practice, when the conversation is redirected to the needs of the patient that were going to be addressed at that appointment, there is a far greater chance that the attempt to cancel will be abandoned. “Mrs. Jones is there any way that you can still manage to make this appointment. Dr. Wonderful was going to do something that would prevent that troublesome tooth from fracturing when you are on vacation. You wouldn’t want a toothache to ruin that trip you’ve been planning for so many months.”
In order to become more Patient Centric in our practices we must determine what matters most to our patients. We must focus on improved communication, improved relationships with our patients and, certainly, more empathy. And we must eliminate all of the inadvertent, preconceived misconceptions that permeate the interactions in our practices. Our recommendation is to focus a Team Meeting on your practices becoming more Patient Centric. Evaluate all of the patient interactions over the course of a week and determine what changes each of you need to make in order to become Patient Centric.
For more information about making your practice Patient Centric, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to SmilePotential@aol.com.
Filed under: Blog
Comments: Comments Off on Patient Centric
It is disturbing when we meet Dental Team Members and they question their importance to the doctors or practices that they work for. Team members may not possess the confidence to assertively “Make A Difference” when they first come to our practices, but if we train them, encourage them and empower them, they may ultimately be the driving force in the success of our practices.
Denise has been the primary Clinical Assistant in my practice, Smiles On Broadway, for 18 years. She recently attended one of our seminars. Ironically, attending that seminar was the doctor that she worked for before she came to our practice. During the break in the presentation, that doctor came up to Kelly and I to let us know that his practice was struggling at the present time. He indicated that he had reduced some of his hours and had already let one employee go. He wanted to know if we could help him. We assured him that we would and we have engaged with his practice. At the conclusion of the seminar I was speaking with Denise and I told her that it was a good thing that she came to work in our practice because if she had still been working in the other practice she may not have had much security in her employment. Without hesitating, Denise turned to me and said, ” On the contrary, Steve. If I had still been working for that doctor it is likely that he would have been the one giving the lecture today instead of you.” Denise is confident, knowledgeable and empowered. More importantly she understands her importance to the success of our practice.
Several months ago I had the privilege to meet a woman who has taken it upon herself to advocate for the empowerment and importance of clinical assistants. Angela Guanzini founded the NINJA (No I’m Not Just Any Assistant) Movement in 2006. Angela teaches Clinical Assistants to professionally achieve more, improve the patient experience and increase the production of their practices. She teaches assistnts to turn “suction into production”. If you would like to find out more about NINJA Dentistry, check out her websitewww.ninjadentistry.com or write to her email@example.com.
Filed under: Blog
Comments: Comments Off on Empower Your Assistant To Become a NINJA (No I’m Not Just Any Assistant)
At a recent speaking engagement I invited attendees to come up to the podium at the conclusion of the program to ask questions and I pledged to stay as long as I had answered every last one. Whenever I do this I always begin my conversations with the question, “Can you tell me about your practice?” Two of the most common replies to this question are, “I have an average practice.” or, “I’m an average dentist.” To be completely honest, I have never known how to interpret these responses. This curiosity compelled me to find out what the “average” dentist is really like.
This is what I found. The average dentist is:
54 years old
Has been divorced at least once
Does not enjoy his career choice
Has had more than one dental lawsuit in his career
Sees 22 new patients per month
Works 225 days per year
Works 1,600 clinical hours and 200 administrative hours, for a total of 1,800 hours per year
Produces $325,000 per year
Collects 90-94% of fees generated
Has a 65-72% overhead
Nets $128,000 BEFORE taxes
Earns less than $60 per hour, BEFORE taxes; the same as a mechanic or plumber
Has $225,000 put away in retirement savings
Is this the dream you entertained when you graduated dental school. Each and every one of these facts is an example of lost opportunity. On some level, they are the result of some form of resignation. Some dentists think about their misfortune and get lost in their thoughts because it is unfamiliar territory. It is easy to blame underachievement on outside factors such as undercapitalization (most new dentists start with over $250,000 in debt), poor market conditions (the challenge of the economy over the last 5 years), difficulty in finding great team members or inadequate leadership from doctors (a hard pill to swallow). In spite of these factors, there are many practices achieving great things and sustaining steady growth, as we speak. We all do similar procedures, use similar materials and draw on similar clinical training. The single contributing factor in the success of these growing practices is that they made a decision, at some point, to be successful and to do the things that would insure success. Are you the practice waiting for the storm to pass or are you willing to learn to sing and dance in the rain? “The things that come to those who wait are usually the things left by those who got there first.”
The true facts that we should be hanging our hats on are that:
There are 250,000,000 prospective patients for dentists in this country.
125,000,000 of these prospects have no current dental provider.
80% of the population has a serious need for the services that we provide.
The potential revenue for an “average” practice, if managed properly, should be $600,000 – $1,000,000.
The profit margin of a properly managed practice should be 35-45%.
This can be achieved in a 3-4 day workweek.
There are significant educational and licensing barriers to entry into our field, which limits our competition.
One of the most popular television shows currently is “Shark Tank”, which features five high-profile entrepreneurs evaluating emerging businesses as investment opportunities. Individuals with dreams that their business idea can make it big “pitch” their products to these moguls in the hope that the millionaires will invest in their startups and propel them to great success. Few business ventures can boast the inherent prospects for success that our dental practices have.
We need to embrace the incredible opportunity that we have and appreciate the competitive advantage that we hold over so many other possible endeavors. If you consider yourself an “average” dentist, then reevaluate your sense of purpose and dedicate yourself to becoming extraordinary. If you are able to accomplish this you will not only survive the “Shark Tank” of professional life but you will eventually be able to soar with eagles.
For more information about making a commitment to change the potential of your practice, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to SmilePotential@aol.com.
Filed under: Blog
Comments: Comments Off on The Average Dentist Would Not Survive the Shark Tank