Archive for Dental Business Operations


Top 10 Insights to Open Book Management: Part 2

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Last time, I gave you five methods of introducing Open-Book Management into your practice. What is Open-Book Management?

Setting Dental Staff AccountabilityIt’s a system of educating your employees on the basics of business income and expenses, like how to read a financial statement, and then applying that knowledge to your practice. That means as the leader of the practice, you must understand these numbers so you can educate your team. It means teaching your employees to think like business owners and giving them a personal financial stake in the profitability of your practice. The results? A more motivated staff, better profitability, happier patients, and less stress.

Take the time to read the rest of these tips and implement these ideas, and you WILL see results.


Read The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack or Open-Book Management: The Coming Business Revolution, by John Case.


Give them the WHY as well as the HOW, then follow up with feedback. Be sure they understand all of the why’s: why the practice is in its current position; why they need to know how the business runs; why you are sharing this information. Then show them how this new Open-Book Management will work for and benefit them. Make sure you provide regular, ongoing coaching and feedback – real-time learning.


Every industry (including dentistry) has benchmarks against which companies measure their performance; production, collections, remakes, and patient complaints are among the key statistics we track in dentistry. What gets measured, gets done. When employees begin tracking these critical benchmarks, they begin to see opportunities for improvement. They start to provide solutions and feel ownership over the results.

Your stress is lowered, because you are no longer required to have all the answers.

Share financial information with employees. Teach them how to read the numbers…they send a powerful message.


Inc. Magazine suggests that Americans know very little about business. Many believe the word “business” equals success and money. They have little or no idea about routine business expenses, what percentage of profit is healthy, or the distinction between profit and income. Develop a program in-house that teaches business basics, like how to read a financial statement, or even how to balance a checkbook.

Start with employees’ personal finances and apply their new understanding to your business.

Compare personal income statements and balance sheets with those of the business to get them to start speaking the language of business and deepen their understanding of business basics.


Profit and loss are strong motivators. Make sure every employee shares directly in the business success and in the risk of failure. When employees trust and understand management, profit and loss will motivate employees to get clear on what they are working for each year. When they have the opportunity to be rewarded like an owner, the will think like owners.

Open-Book Management, according to Mark Miller of Chick-fil-A’s, is a system to create a business of business people. By teaching the business of business, providing tools to measure performance and supporting employee growth, Open Book Management has the potential to reduce employee discontent, improve decisions and increase profits. Business can be fun if everyone understands the game!

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Have you ever played Whack-a-Mole at your office?

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You’ve planned and are looking forward to having a remarkably productive first month of the year to set the stage for an amazing 2015 and…

contingency planning for dental ceo

  1. Monday morning your Chairside Assistant calls in sick 20 minutes before your first patient who is scheduled with you for a three-hour appointment!
  2. You have your most productive and interesting day of the month going smoothly until 10:45 a.m. when your air compressor craps out! The repairman can’t get to you until tomorrow.
  3. You have Mrs. Smith sitting in the chair at 8:00 am to seat six anterior veneers, and two minutes into your welcoming conversation with her, you’re informed that the veneers are not here!
  4. You’ve seated the denture yesterday and Mr. Brown was delighted with the fit, feel and appearance. You patted yourself on the back because it was a challenging case. It’s now 4:50 p.m. and your Appointment Coordinator advises you that Mr. Brown is coming in right now because his wife hates the color of his teeth and the dentures makes him look hideous!

If you have never experienced any or all or some permutation of these, you obviously have just graduated from dental school and have not had the opportunity to experience “life”.

It happens to all of us…that Whack-a-Mole process where by we think we have taken care of that ornery mole and then he pops his head up again in some other place. Just when we think we have everything under control, he pops his head up again! Uggggh!

Click here to read more about Whack-a-Mole Dentistry.


Core Values and Vision: Business Jargon or Real Direction? (Part 1)

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The best and most essential way to create a positive, interactive dental workplace is by creating two critically important documents. The first is a value-centered set of guiding principles and the second is a clear vision statement.

To some this task may seem foolish, a waste of time, and just more ridiculous business jargon. To others this challenge may seem daunting. And to other dentists, they have discovered that to have a truly remarkable, life-balanced, and solution-oriented practice, the undertaking has been essential.

growth strategy for dentistsThe first of the two documents, Core Values, is the most critical. It is the responsibility of the doctor to establish a set of values that all team members will respect and adhere to on a daily basis. This is not an exercise where the team gathers in a quiet, dark room, sit on the floor, hold hands, hum while we light incense and then collectively share our deepest and innermost thoughts on what our morals for the practice need to be. This is the sole responsibility of the doctor…the CEO of the firm to author this slate of guiding principles.

So what are these Core Values, how do I identify them, and how do they impact my team and my office?

Core Values are the doctor’s equivalent to The Ten Commandments. They are the Guiding Principles around which the doctor will make ALL business (and personal) decisions. It is what he or she will view as “right” and “true.” These values are non-negotiable. They originate from the heart and soul of the doctor. They are the foundation and the backbone of the practice.

Any time there is a question about what to do in typical and unusual circumstances, when there are upsets about staffing issues, how to best to communicate with patients, how to behave individually and collectively, what choice is the most appropriate for the practice, everything……..the Core Values serves as the “Ultimate” guide. It is the “source of center” for behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes for everyone (including the doctor) in the office.

Identifying Core Values can be simple or challenging, depending on how you choose to attack this mission.

What most people have discovered is that their value system is “there”, they’re “inside them”, and however, they just have never taken the time or the effort to “get them out.”

When I ask my clients to identify their values they readily admit they know what they are in general terms yet they have never put them in writing. To help them and you, below are some simple ideas to improve your ability to identify your Core Values.

Find a quiet place and begin to write out what you value. Recognize that…..

  1. A core value is something I have chosen freely and with consideration for the consequences of my choice.
  2. A core value is something I prize greatly and has a positive influence on my life.
  3. A core value is something I want to publicly affirm.
  4. A core value is something I am willing to act on.
  5. A core value is something I would repeat……if given the circumstances, I would respond in the same way.

People expect to achieve certain ideals from their jobs, employers, and careers. These workplace values have a direct impact on your satisfaction with your job, with your career, and even with your life.

Since you are the business owner, your values affect how you run your business. What are your core values?

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The Top 10 Ways to Empower Your Employees

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The word empower is often over-used. Many employers talk about empowering their employees but often employees feel dis-empowered.

Here’s a list of the top 10 things you can do that will really empower your employees, according to employees, not employers!

dental staff accountability

1. Allow employees to actively participate in team and company goals. Look for every opportunity to include employees at every level of the organization, in being active participants. Employees often report getting one-way directives instead.

2. Allow employees to suggest better ways of getting their jobs done. Ask for employee suggestions for other ways of getting the task or project accomplished. Listen and be willing to really hear the employees’ comments. Employees often report that they have no input and are told exactly how to perform their jobs, leaving no creativity.

3. Provide positive reinforcement. Always listen and acknowledge your employees. Employees often report that their decisions and actions are second-guessed and that most, if not all, feedback given is negative.

4. Clearly delegate responsibility and give the employees authority along with the responsibility. Do you give inconsistent messages? Do you ask the employee to handle a problem or project and then give them negative feedback or give them an assignment and then say “never-mind?” Employees often report that they are given tasks and then told they did it wrong.

5. Be clear in your communication. When you express goals or explain projects, be sure the employees really understand what you are asking for. Employees often report that the goals are unclear and that they are not sure what they are being asked to do.

6. Show you have trust in your employees. Allow them to make mistakes as a form of learning. Show that it is really ok to make mistakes. Let them know you really support their decisions. Employees often report that someone is always looking over their shoulder to make sure they do things right.

7. Listen. Listen. Listen. Do you do most of the talking? Employees often report that conversations are one way, comprised mostly of their ideas being criticized. They don’t feel they are heard.

8. Be interested in the employees’ career development. Meet with employees and discover their goals and their wants. Employees often report that their goals are not viewed as important in the organization.

9. Let the employees help you achieve success. Are you doing it all yourself? Employees often report that their managers do all the tasks and that they have no way to make contributions outside their job descriptions. Look for opportunities to delegate and enhance the employees’ career development at the same time.

10. Be a coach. The best way to empower employees is not to manage them. Coach them to success. This is a process of developing their skills and providing them specific feedback to meet high standards. Employees often report feeling like children rather than being on the same team with their bosses.

Be their coach and lead the team to success!

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The Hazards of Postponing

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Procrastination is the line that divides the 4% from the 96% of the health care professionals that reach Economic Freedom by the age of 65.

Economic Freedom is the day you have a safe and reliable portfolio that produces your desired standard of living for the rest of your life. This is the day you go to work because you want to, not because you have to.

growth strategy for dentists

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m going to get to that next week,” but next week comes and goes. The reality for many of us is that we are inclined to “put-off” those activities that we believe will require a lot of our energy, take a lot of our time or cost us money.

Many times we will postpone an activity because we imagine it might be uncomfortable. What I have discovered is that we avoid moving forward in many cases due to fear. Fear and misperception is an anchor to success. Even when we know the consequences of avoiding this behavior may not be in our best interest, many of us still hesitate.

We have discovered throughout our lives that there are consequences for our every behavior and action. Some consequences are incidental while others have the ability to impact our lives forever. I have learned that when we confront our fears, commit to an objective and then manage the perceived discomfort, we then have the capacity to prescribe the consequences.

Procrastination is a decision. It’s a decision to do nothing. It’s immobilizing. To allow our future to unfold with no direction often comes with painful consequences. In both my personal and professional life I learned that when I took the attitude of “I’ll get to that next week, next month or when I can make the time”, the consequences were generally costly. I have seen many examples in dental offices. The doctor who had every intention to implement the most current OSHA regulations but never quite got around to it. The office was inspected and the fines were consequential. The dentist who had intended to develop a regular policy of employee performance reviews but failed to get around to it. The repercussion resulted in undirected, unmotivated and unproductive employees. “My monthly collections have been fluctuating around 91%”, proclaimed one of our clients. “One of these days I’m going to have to set up a firm financial program for the office”. Her consequences were expensive. . . poor cash flow, inability to grow the practice and an under-compensated doctor.

I see dentists and other health care professionals who practice this same “some day I’ll get to it” philosophy when it applies to their economics. They fail to develop a context or a game plan around their money. They neglect to factor in the painless and insidious affects of inflation on their purchasing dollars. The consequences effect them the rest of their lives. They discover, in many cases when it’s too late, that they cannot live their retirement years out of choice. For many they will live their lives out of desperation.

It is because of this lack of planning that only 3% of the American population and 4% of the dental community is able to retire at the same level they had become accustomed to prior to retirement. They must continue to work because they must not because they want to.

We know that when couples and individuals develop a framework and a discipline around their economics and then commit to a game plan that’s coordinated with an investment strategy that the consequences are Economic Freedom. It’s a lifelong ability to live our lives out of choice, exactly the way we want, free of the constraints of money. That’s what creates economic peace of mind and the results are enduring. Positive consequences are the results when we eliminate the “some day I’ll” baggage and educate ourselves to the unfamiliar. When we begin to manage our anxiety is when we become free to make choices. Procrastination is not a harbor of comfort, it’s our nemesis.

When we elevate economic freedom to a must priority, it comes with no conditions. The results are predictable. Positive outcomes. Peace of mind to live our lives and operate our practices exactly the way we want them, free of the constraints of money. We can procrastinate or we can plan. We can “get to it someday” or we can begin today. It’s your call. Plan your plan.

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Number One Way to Grow Your Practice in 2015 and Beyond

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Make Recognizing Your Team Members a Daily Habit

The number one challenge facing my clients is staff! Every day, I am coaching them around ideas to get them to show up on time, to contribute to the expansion of the practice, how to motivate, terminate, and generally be more productive to the practice. For many years, dentists thought that cash bonuses, higher salaries, or an expanding menu of benefits was all it took to motivate workers. Research over the past decade, however, confirms something else.

Dental practice work life balance

The two motivational factors most mentioned by employees were not salary and benefits, but rather an interesting job and recognition for doing that job well.

Recognizing and rewarding team members for a job well done or for meeting performance goals are no longer a luxury. It is a basic requirement for strong teams, higher productivity, and a more effective practice.

Consider the following Top 5 Tips to make the process of recognizing your employees a regular and daily habit

1. Four-Quarter Technique: at the beginning of the day put four quarters in your right pocket. During the course of the day “look for” team members doing something “right.” At that moment, stop, acknowledge them with praise and then you can transfer one quarter to your other pocket. Foolish you might think? It’s a simple, yet effective way to create a positive habit guaranteed to earn the respect and praise from your team.
2. Create Awards: Use awards to make people feel special. Awards are symbols that outwardly demonstrate recognition for a positive attitude. The more you reward a positive attitude, the more the practice attracts in happy patients and co-workers. Example: Energizer Bunny Award. Use a pink bunny to recognize the achievement of specific goals that required someone to keep going, and going….
3. Hand Write Notes: write a note at the end of the day to an employee who has done something remarkable, or saved you time or embarrassment, or went the extra mile. A simple “thank you” or “I appreciate you” is powerful to the soul. You may even send this note of acknowledgement to the spouse, parent, or significant other for added emphasis and encouragement.
4. Tell team members why they are important. People who understand that their efforts make a difference to the success of the team want to make sure their team “wins”. Let everyone know how important they are – everyday! Make this simple daily task one of your daily and weekly “to do” list.
5. Leave a Message: when a team member does something remarkable of note worthy call their voice mail at home or their cell phone and leave a message of praise and acknowledge them for a job well done. If you’re to busy during the day, do it on the way home from your cellular phone. Don’t be surprised if they don’t save the message and replay for their friends and family…or perhaps to hear again and again.

The attraction and retention of dental auxiliaries are increasing concerns for my clients and many dental business owners—and the situation is only expected to get worse as baby boomers grow older and retire from the workforce. Retaining workers in a competitive market requires an office environment that is supportive, caring and stands out from the rest. This will require an attitude of gratitude. The doctor will need to become more “consciously grateful” for the contribution of employees.

How can you show your employees you care and, in the process, develop a loyal workforce? Recognition and rewards come in all shapes and sizes. They can be formal (part of a planed program) or informal (given spontaneously). They can be free (a warm smile and a sincere “thank you”), simple (a single red rose in a bud vase for each staff member at the end of a productive week), or elaborate (a team one-day trip to Atlantic city).

Suggestion: Celebrate what you want to see more of. Determine what you want to see more of, less of, expanded, improved, eliminated, or modified. Then acknowledge that behavior. So what two things will you celebrate today? Take the next step and implement a simple system of recognition and acknowledgement in your office.

If you simply use the five ideas listed above you will be well on your way to creating a more appreciative atmosphere in your office. Do one of them today and observe the positive results.

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It’s All About Questions

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What questions do you have related to your business that you would really like to get some feedback on?

Your list of questions might include
dental patient customer care

  • How am I doing as your boss?
  • What kind of a leader am I?
  • What can we do better to make your visit with us special and different?
  • What is the customer service level you perceive in our practice?
  • Who treated you exceptionally well during your last visit?
  • Where can we improve our service?
  • When and how would you like to be reminded of your next appointment?

If you REALLY want to know, take the time and ask the questions! Be prepared to learn a lot; share your survey results; articulate what ACTIONS you intend to take as a result of what you learned.

Use this surveying of your customers as a way to train your team and grow your profits.

If you would like a copy of my simple survey, “How Am I Doing As Your Boss” click on the link below, take it yourself then make copies and invite your team to take it anonymously, then compare the results. I suspect you might be surprised and you will have some concrete action steps for improvement in your team relationships.

Click here for the How Am I Doing as Your Boss survey.

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Dental CEO’s: Predict your Business Future

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You CAN predict your business future with a greater sense of certainty!

business strategy for dentistsYou now have a tool where you can craft a simplified business plan and then, unlike a typical critiquing session in which you have to determine what might go wrong, using the premortem exercise operates on the assumption that the “patient” has died, and so you get to ask what did go wrong. 

Now you can generate plausible reasons for the failure of your business plan and increase your future success by as much as 30%. You’ll identify your risks at the onset.

CAUTION: This takes effort, time and work! Success IS connected with ACTION. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, yet they don’t quit. So, what action will you take to assure your success?

Here are the essential steps to completing your premortem:

  1. Write a simple business plan. Engage a coach or business planner to help you with this process. No, it does not need to be an MBA project.
  2. building strong dental teams

  3. Share this plan with your team and your advisors (CPA, Coach, attorney, banker, etc.).
  4. “Mentalize” your plan. Close your eyes and visualize your plan happening. Think about and feel what success looks like.
  5. Close your eyes, be at peace and fast-forward three years. Regardless of all your hard work and efforts, your plan FAILED!
  6. Write down every reason you can think of for the failure of your plan.
  7. Share in a meeting with your team and/or your advisors and give them the opportunity to have them help you identify possible solutions (steps, processes or alternatives) that could be implemented in advance to prevent this failure. In other words, what would be a plan “B” or even “C”? Remember, “no one is as smart as all of us” ~ a Coach Ronism.

I am eager to hear from any of my readers who might be intrigued by this business plan/premortem concept.

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You CAN predict your future!

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Have you ever participated in a gathering, an event or had a “connection” that was so magnanimous that the likelihood of ever repeating or recreating it seems impossible. Well, that’s what happened last weekend at my annual client gathering in Cincinnati, Ohio.

grow a dental practice

Eagles, as you know, are powerful, visionary and solitary birds. However, they rarely congregate. Yet, when they do it’s called Convocation.

Accordingly we had a remarkable 2-day Eagle’s Convocation that was powerful in so many ways. In addition to creating a “safe place” to share challenges both personally and professionally; we laughed, supported one another, offered up collective solutions and developed a deeper appreciation for our commitment to care for the overall health of the patients we serve.

An additional focus of our Eagles Convocation was for me to coach my clients through a process where we did a “premortem” of their individual business plans that each had crafted and presented to our Mastermind group over the past 9 months. Not only have most dentists never written a Simplified Business plan in their entire career, most have never applied a strategic planning process to help them dramatically increase the success of meeting or exceeding their plan.

In our “premortem” exercise, they were charged with thinking about what they wanted to happen in their professional life…and then imagine their efforts FAILED! We then tapped into “group-think” to figure out what each doctor should have done differently to achieve his or her intended outcomes. Since a premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem and it comes at the beginning of a project rather than at the end, each doctor was able to determine how his or her plan could be improved rather than autopsied.

The results of this exercise, in addition to being incredibly powerful, opened business owners to blind spots, possibilities, solutions, and a greater sense of what their individual futures could look like.

growing a dental practice

I have reminded my clients that if you are constantly looking back (postmortem), chances are pretty good you’ll fall into a hole ahead.


Dr. Ron’s Real-Life Service Blog: Self Appraise Your Dental Practice

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So you think you are sooooo good? How do you know? Read how this creative young man determined his value.

A little boy went to a drug store, reached for a soda carton and pulled it over to the telephone. He climbed onto the carton so he could reach the buttons on the phone and proceeded to punch in seven digits (phone numbers).

real life stories of outstanding customer serviceThe interested store owner observed and listened to the conversation:

BOY: “Lady, can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?”
WOMAN (at the other end of the phone line): “I already have someone to cut my lawn.”
BOY: “Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price of the person who cuts your lawn now.”
WOMAN: “I’m very satisfied with the person who is presently cutting my lawn.”
BOY (with more perseverance): “Lady, I’ll even sweep your curb and your sidewalk, so on Sunday, you will have the prettiest lawn in all of Palm Beach, Florida.”
WOMAN: “No, thank you.”

With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver. The store owner, who was listening to all of this, walked over to the boy.
dental practice customer service

STORE OWNER: “Son…I like your attitude. I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job.”
BOY: “No thanks.”
STORE OWNER: “But I just listened to you. You were really pleading for a job.”
BOY: “No Sir, I was just checking my performance at the job I already have. I am the one who is working for the lady I was talking to!”

This is what Coach Ron calls, “Self Appraisal.”

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Why not autograph your work with excellence?”

What can you do in your work this week that will make your signature stand out?

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