Archive for Dental Practice Management Tips


Make Time to Reward Team Members

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Dental CEO’s, how can YOU take the time to care for your team members?

What are you willing to do to acknowledge others? For many years, bosses thought that cash bonuses, higher salaries, or an expanding menu of benefits was all it took to motivate workers. Research over the past two decades, however, confirms something else.

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.

Here is a Coaching suggestion – Establish Guidelines For Rewarding Team Members

ideas for dental team recognition1. Match the reward to the person. We are all different, so notice that what serves as a reward for one person may not work for another. Get to know your people so you know what turns them on. Pay attention to non-verbal reactions when you reward people. Ask team members what they think would make great rewards.

2. Match the reward to the event. Give small rewards for small actions; larger rewards for more important achievements. Remember the power of a simple “Thank You” to acknowledge a team member.

3. Be specific. When you witness a behavior that you want to reinforce, describe exactly what you noticed. For example, “Pat, I noticed that you were able to calm Mr. Rocker’s nerves about the new root canal procedure. The procedure went much smoother because you took the time to soothe his fears. Thanks.”

4. When you see it, say it. Don’t wait. The time is right when you notice the action or event that helpedGift the team or a patient. Waiting dulls memories and expectations.

5. Build in flexibility. Develop a fixed reward system that allows everyone to participate in receiving recognition. Then, introduce a second system that allows for “on the spot” rewards. This can be something as simple as a certificate for lunch at a local fast-food eatery or a silver dollar. Fixed rewards inspire team members to set individual goals, while a flexible reward system allows for “creative actions” – yours and theirs.

6. Package rewards like gifts. A box with fancy wrapping is more exciting than a ho-hum plain brown envelope. Create a “pretty package” around your words when recognizing an achievement.

7. Allow for spontaneity. Add some zest to your reward system. Single out individuals for a special reward one time; at another time, reward the entire team. Keep it fresh by doing something different each time. Team members will be challenged to stay on their toes, and will be excited when they are rewarded.

Recognizing and rewarding team members for a job well done, or for meeting a performance goal is not a luxury. It is a basic requirement for strong teams, higher productivity, and a more effective practice.

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Dental CEO’s How Different are You? (Part 2)

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While the analogy is not as stark as the one I described last week, it seems to me that in the “sea-of-sameness” and mediocrity, we must be strategizing our business model in ways that allow us to distinguish ourselves from others.

how to make your dental practice stand outSo how are you different from “the other doctor’s offices” in your community?

Below are some suggested questions to either ask yourself and/or your entire team at a monthly meeting. I believe you will discover the answers are more challenging to come by than you might think.

  • What do you do or how do you behave that sets you apart from the others?
  • How do your patients/guests make the distinction between you and the others?
  • What in your 15-second elevator speech attracts a prospect to you?
  • Describe what is uniquely YOU in your marketing materials and marketing initiatives?
  • Where do you educate your team to be “different?”
  • When will you devote at least 50% of your CE budget to “soft skill” training?

How Different Are You?

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Top 5 Tips to Avoiding Employee Churn

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Dental CEO’s, if you want to avoid employee churn, stop rushing the hiring process.

An ongoing challenge for many dentists is staffing. How to find them; what to do to retain them; how to make them an integral part of the practice? There is a long-term labor crisis brewing. The Kiplinger Letter reports that over this decade, the labor force will increase by about 12 % while the number of jobs, including seasonal, part-time, and second jobs, will grow 15%. Likely to be in short supply: dental employees of all types.

Dental office receptionist new patientsMy dental clients all over the country are frustrated by a double threat:

  1. A lack of employees. It is getting harder and harder to find applicants for many of their open positions.
  2. There is a skilled-worker shortage. Dentists are even more challenged to find candidates with acceptable qualifications.

Therefore, it is even more critical to create a hiring plan that will increase your chances of hiring the “right” people and then retain them.

The following 5 Tips will help you inspire employees who must work harder to woo new business to your practice plus do the work once handled by larger staffs.

1. Embrace the philosophy: “If I take care of my employees, they will take care of my patients.” This doesn’t mean you have to go overboard or be some snively, touchy-type person that you aren’t. You simply need to take care of them so that they feel valued and appreciated. When they feel special, they will treat your customer in the same way. Read the book The Customer Comes Second by Hal Rosenbluth to learn this technique. He grosses over 2 billion taking care of his people.

2. View your employees as an asset and not a liability as they appear on your Income Statement. Successful businesses behave in a way that demonstrates that they believe their people are their most important asset. Remember they represent you in all facets of the business. They are the ones your patients will be dealing with, both when you are present and not. How do you treat your other investments? With care, skill, and judgment? Do the same with and for your team.

3. Don’t wait until it’s a CRISIS. Like my brother, Dr. Scott says, “I never think about this hiring stuff until someone quits or I have to fire them. Then it’s a crisis because I don’t know where to begin.” Stop taking the hiring process lightly. Put a simple plan in place in advance. At least have ads for each position pre-written; keep your compensation package updated; have a list of general open-ended questions written up in advance; and be prepared to screen applicants initially by phone. If you wait until you are desperate for help, you will lower your hiring standards and subsequently the quality of your team.

4. Know what you’re looking for. Create an “Ideal Employee Profile.” Not a physical description…rather a list of the qualities, characteristics, and traits you are looking for in your employees. Some examples might include: communicates well; detail oriented; prompt; collaborates; willing to go the extra mile; or positive in time of crisis. By compiling this list it will help you know if and when this person is sitting in front of you. Create your profile and share with your current team and your patients asking them to help you find this person.

5. Share your values. Let all new prospects know what your Core Values are and how you apply them to your practice and the treatment of your team. These governing principals provide the direction to all the members of your team, including you, on how to behave and interact in your practice. People are looking for direction, safety, and a sense of what’s right in the workplace. Your values provide this beacon and you need to look for people who have the same sense of values.

How you treat employees, your best and most expensive asset, will set the tone for their satisfaction and the success of your business.

Take the steps listed above to create your plan and mindset for that time when you least expect it…when you need to hire a new member of your dental family. Set a time line of 30 days, involve your current team, and finalize at one of your monthly staff meetings. You will then have a much better chance of hiring RIGHT.

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Expanding Your Dental Practice Through Referrals

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Where does most of your business come from? Most dentists will answer with “by word-of-mouth.” However, very few dentists have a strategy for increasing word-of-mouth business.

Many simply “pray” for referrals. Unfortunately, that’s not enough.

growth strategy for dentists

Referrals are to the dental practice are what base hits are to baseball players.

What’s your batting average? Are you getting your share of hits?

How good are you and your team at generating new patient referrals?

Take this free assessment, and come back here to rate yourself at how well you do.

How well did you do? Successful doctors find that the higher they rate as a referral collector, the higher their production and subsequently the higher their practice income.

Scoring: Add up the number of YES answers that you checked off above. A score of:
• 12 to 13 is off the chart fantastic—your practice is likely generating plenty of New Patients. You and your team have a strategy in place. Take a bow.
• 10 to 11 is very good—not bad. You’re doing better than most dentists in generating New Patients through your referral efforts.
• 9 is good—just a little more effort and you have the potential to elevate your practice to levels of profitability and satisfaction.
• 8 is average—how important is it to be mediocre?
• Below 8 is a red flag. To continue growing your practice and your income you may want to take steps immediately to improve your referral strategies.

Never confuse motion with action. Frequently, many of us have wonderful intentions to move forward on a project or an idea and then get “bogged down” in a lot of activity without making progress towards the completion of our goal.

Set aside time with your team to create the strategies, to develop the scripts and the communication skills that will increase your practice referrals. Following this approach will assure you that the actions you take will produce the results you want…more new patients, a happier office, and increased income.

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Your customer EXPERIENCE is your “Competitive Advantage”!

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Buying a bunch of “technology” for your practice, while important for the delivery of your care, has much less impact on your patient’s desire to continue care with you and your team. It’s the “experience” your patients experience.

Bonuses will never get the wrong person to do the right things. It’s the “experience” your team members get to feel. The easiest way to create a memorable event…provide lousy service. When you customize a service delivery you automatically create an “experience” (Hazelnut coffee with the patients favorite flavored creamer prepared for them). Teach the team to “stage” the “experience” like it is theatre (singing Happy Birthday while delivering a card or balloons at the end of their appointment).

grow dental practiceIf your business disappeared tomorrow, would anyone notice?

World-class is expecting the unexpected. Consider creating the position of Vice President of Memory Making; offer your team a Secret Service Allowance from $25-$100 per month per team member to be used at their discretion (consistent with your practice Core Values) and to be fully spent every month. The design of these ideas is to encourage your team to create “experiences” that your guests will never forget.

Coaching Action: devote a section of your monthly team meeting to “turning ordinary into extraordinary”. Come up with ways to make your guests visits a true “experience”.

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Top 10 Insights to Open Book Management: Part 1

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Open Book Management is an approach to operating a business (and dentistry is a business) that helps everyone focus on making the business profitable. By promoting a better understanding of the financial side of your practice, you give your employees the tools they need to make more well-rounded, business-savvy decisions during their day-to-day routines.

Dental office receptionist new patientsHow well do your employees know your dental business? I mean, really KNOW your business?

Are they educated on the basics of how to make money for the business? Do they know the reasons they are being asked to reduce costs, increase productivity, and serve the customer with excellence?

I can feel some of you cringing, but don’t worry – increasing your focus on the profitibaility of your practice does NOT mean neglecting your patients or exposing your entire financial picture.

On the contrary, it means taking an even closer look at what your patients really want and delivering it in a consistent, efficient, cost-effective manner. You do this by demonstrating to your team the economics of delivering quality care.

1. Be Open To New Ways of Solving Old Problems

If you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always gotten! If your business simply manages to “scrape” by, if your overhead continues to consume a higher and higher percentage of gross income, or if patient satisfaction is declining, you need to rethink your approach to solving these problems. Open-Book Management provides an avenue to better manage costs, which ripples out to many other areas of your practice.

2. There Is No One “Right” Way

Just as there are several solutions to every problem, there are different ways to implement Open-Book Management. The key word however, is open. The attitude of leadership, the characteristics of the employees, and the current practice profitability will help form your open-book style.

3. Let Go

One of our greatest fears is losing control. Another is that once our employees see the financial statements, they will use them against us. They may even figure out how much money we make. You may even fear that your patients or your competition will about your practice operation. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. Risk-takers earn their rewards. There is no reason to operate in the dark any longer. Your employees and those you serve WANT you to be successful. Your competitors are too worried about themselves to worry about you.

4. Quit Solving People’s Problems For Them

When an employee approaches you with a complaint about your lousy pay program, you probably either become defensive or set out to solve the problem. Instead, give your employee the information she needs to develop alternatives that serve her interests AND those of the practice. Once she sees the whole financial picture, she will have a better perspective on her salary and more information on which to develop an alternative pay program.

5. Show Employees That They Have A Direct Stake In The Business’s Success

The objective of the business is to make a profit. All employees need to be a part of that process. Teach employees that they are business-people and not just workers. If the practice is profitable, they get a piece of the action. If there is no profit, they don’t.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series, and five more tips on implementing Open-Book Management, but don’t wait until then to get started! Use what you’ve learned in this article to start making changes now.

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Core Values and Vision: Business Jargon or Real Direction? (Part 2)

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As we talked about last month, 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.

Dental Business VisionCore Values Guide Your Actions.

• What you will or will you not do?
• What is a right or wrong action?
• What are the rules you live by?
• What are your principles or boundaries?
• What will you take a stand for? (If nothing, are all actions acceptable?)
• What do you ask of others?

It is important to work with a team of people whose core values reflect your own. Your business philosophy comes from a basic respect for each employee’s unique needs and talents…including your own.

Once your Core Values are in writing the next step is articulating your Vision Statement. Again, the doctor must be the one to identify the vision for the practice. This is not a group effort. While some “guru’s” would have you believe that the team needs to be involved, to participate, to get many perspectives, to be one with the universe. However, the reality is, over many years the doctor is often the only sustaining team member.

Staff members come and go but the doctor is often the only remaining constant. This vision is the real direction of the practice. Now that doesn’t mean that others may have an input, it simply means that the final direction is the responsibility of the CEO.

“Vision, like self-confidence, isn’t achieved by taking a pill or reading a book. A sense of vision
grows out of a set of values, experiences, individual reflections, and organizational wisdom and direction. If we see how our work supports and contributes to the larger vision, our work will seem more meaningful and can be more directed. ~ Jerry Moskus

Similar question: what is a Vision, how do I identify it, how do I make it compelling, and how does it impact my team and my office?

Your Vision is a colorful description of how the future of your business will be. It must capture the imagination so that your employees are prepared to devote themselves to transforming that vision into a reality. A compelling vision enables employees to feel that the end results are worthwhile; it gives a sense of direction; and it provides criteria so that employees can judge what is important or irrelevant.

Your task: to write, in not more than fifty words, a compelling vision for your business. Imagine this will be presented to every employee at a special team meeting.

Use these questions to give you focus as you write your Vision:

1. What is your practice especially good at doing?
2. How are you doing competitively?
3. What changes do you expect to see in the demand for your services over the next 3-5 years?
4. What other organizations do you consider ahead of you?
5. What do these more successful businesses have that you do not have?
6. What do you use to judge success and how well are you satisfied that you are measuring important criteria?
7. What books or resources can I “tap” to galvanize my thoughts?

In addition, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself to help you to clarify, articulate, and “see” your Vision.

1. What do I want my life to be like?
2. What do I want my practice to be like?
3. What type of patients do I want?
4. What behaviors from staff and patients do I want?
5. What kind of dental care do my patients require and expect?
6. What kind of facility do I want?
7. What impact will my team have on my success?
8. How can I identify and support all my stakeholders?
9. What are my feelings about profitability and financial success?
10. How would I want to interact with my team and our patients?
11. What would my patients tell me and others about my practice?
12. What would I say about my Dream Practice every morning when I walk in the office?
13. How would my patients feel about coming to my practice?
14. What else do I need to address or include that will inspire my team?

So, your Vision, supported by your Core Values serves as a compass. It lets you know where you are and what direction to go in when faced with several options. It is generally a lofty, inspiring statement of the ultimate destination of your practice. Ultimately it will enable you to: 1) Identify the very best destination. Do not settle for the second best option. 2) Support the highest principles that will guide your actions. 3) Describe the “big picture.” And 4) Identify outcomes you hope/intend to achieve.

Then utilize those documents to reinforce the values and goals of the practice. It is important that all team members own the core values and vision of the practice.

Every communication in the practice (e.g. all documents and policies) should be crafted around and support the values and vision. After creating the values and vision, team meetings and workshops need to be held on a regular basis to discuss progress in applying the shared values.

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It’s Wonderful to be Noticed!

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Typically I avoid “tooting” my own horn, however something came up recently that I am proud to share. Last month I was awarded a surprise and first-of-its kind acknowledgement from The John DiJulius Group.

This group, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio is the country’s premier customer experience-consulting firm that uses the X-Commandment methodology to providing World-Class Customer experience training. I believe that the persistent and consistent delivery of exceptional, world-class customer experiences is THE key distinctive competencies that will separate you from the competition.

As a Certified Secret Service Agent, I have enthusiastically introduced this training into the dental profession. Additionally, in partnership with a fellow Certified Agent, Dr. Mario Pavicic, we presented patient experience training to faculty and preceptors at the Case School of Dental Medicine. It was met with enthusiastic reviews.

To my surprise, at the Secret Service Summit last month, Mr. Dave Murray, Senior Customer Service Consultant of The DiJulius Group announced my name and invited me up on stage in front of an audience of nearly 600 attendees to acknowledge my zeal for bringing Secret Service to the dental profession. In addition to his very kind and supportive comments, he presented me with my own “Bobble Head” replica of me! Take a look…which head looks better…the Bobble Head or my real mug? I’m taking votes.

Here is a video of the event:

I thank Mr. Murray and the entire DiJulius Team for their thoughtfulness. It has been and continues to be exciting to help my dental colleagues and their teams to implement ways to making their patients feel important, loved and well taken care of when visiting their dentist. And these service excellence techniques are LOW or NO COST to the practice, all while making price irrelevant!

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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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Creating a Dental Office Where People Want To Come To Work

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In their book, How Full Is Your Bucket?, Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton provide the student of practice management with a powerful lesson in understanding human potential and motivation. The metaphor in this book suggests that each person carries an invisible bucket of emotions, along with a dipper, which he or she can use to either add to other people’s buckets or to dip from them. In the end, research shows that filling someone else’s bucket benefits both parties — the person who gave the praise and the person who received it.

dental staff accountabilityThe Gallup Organization surveyed almost 4 million workers on the topics of recognition and praise. Some of the startling results:

• 65% of people reported receiving no recognition on the job last year,
• an estimated 22 million workers are “actively disengaged,” or extremely negative in their workplace.

Those practices smart enough to recognize the impact of employee satisfaction and have begun offering recognition and praise report see the following results:

• increased individual productivity—higher income to the practice and team
• better safety records/fewer accidents on the job—reduced costs to the practice
• employees stay with the practice longer—HUGE cost savings to the practice
• higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers—positively impacts the bottom line with increased revenues to the practice.

Consider the following strategies, adapted from the Gallup organization, that you can take now. The many small interactions or moments that make up your day — approximately 20,000 moments by one study’s count — weigh in on either the positive or negative side. These moments influence who we are, how we feel, and how we perform.

Here are five strategies for reducing the negativity in your culture:

1. Prevent “Bucket Dipping.” Increase your own awareness of how often your comments are negative. Work toward a ratio of five positive comments to every one negative.

2. Shine a Light on What Is Right. Try focusing on what employees or peers do right rather than where they need improvement, and discover the power of reinforcing good behaviors.

3. Make Good Friends. People with good friends at work have better safety records, receive higher customer satisfaction scores, and increase workplace productivity.

4. Give Unexpectedly. A recent poll showed that the vast majority of people prefer gifts that are unexpected.

5. Modify the Golden Rule to the Platinum Rule. Instead of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” you should “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Individualization is key when filling others’ buckets.

Talk to your team; rid yourself of “stinkin-thinkin”; and by all means put yourself in charge of your morale. If you allow attitudes in your office go sour, your employees will be mentally down and out. Create higher expectations; take charge of filling people’s buckets; Act upbeat, and you and your team will feel better, perform better, and……… will create a dental office where people will want to come to work.

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