Excellence Is A Choice



As we all have the freedom to make positive choices in our personal lives, dentists can also choose greatness, superbness, distinction, and excellence in their dental practices, too. One of my favorite quotes is by Will Rogers. “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Obviously, it is not enough to be educated, licensed, and then simply open the doors of your practice. There are some definite choices and decisions that you need to make and act on in order to go from being a good dentist to an excellent one.

In a seminar I teach for The Dr. Dick Barnes Group, titled “Total Team Training,” I spend two days going over all of the specific techniques that dentists can implement in order to improve their practices. In this article, I will touch on four crucial points which will give you a taste as to what you will learn in the full course.

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1. Surround Yourself with a Great Team
There is absolutely no way that a dentist can run a practice all by himself or herself. Every dentist needs a team. But what separates good dentists from great ones is the ability to put together a great team. So how does a dentist do that?

There are a number of guidelines. First, conduct your interviews with a specific skill set in mind. For example, assistants should have good hand-eye coordination and have the proper training to help the dentist in various procedures. Office staff must have the ability to multitask, work well with patients, and put together a winning schedule. Make sure that the person really is a team player and is motivated to do things for the benefit of the patients, the other employees, and the practice in general. Remember, there is no “I” in “teamwork.” If someone is a self serving individual who is only concerned with bonuses, vacation days, and other added perks of employment, that person may not be the best contributor for your practice, regardless of how brilliant his or her skill set is.

It’s hard to know after just a brief in-person interview if someone will be able to really do well in your particular office. Personalities just simply don’t blend together sometimes. So what I recommend to everyone I train is to do working interviews. This is where you have the prospective employee come and work in your office for a day or two. See how this person performs on the job and communicates and coordinates with the other members of your staff. If after this working interview, you feel like this person may be a good fit, the “interview” process isn’t over. Once you decide to hire the person, do so on a probationary basis. A 60- to 90-day period allows both the employee and the dentist to try out the arrangement and if it doesn’t work for either party, then everyone can part ways with no strings attached.

2. Know Where You Are Going and Set Realistic Goals
In life, we will never arrive at a destination if we have no idea where we are going. The same is true for a dental practice. Where do you want your dental practice to be headed? Do you have a specific dollar amount in mind in terms of productivity? If not, you should. And it can’t just be any random amount of money, either. It has to be a realistic goal You can’t say that you want to

make millions this year if your practice has never even made a million or even a couple hundred thousand, for that matter. That would be like saying you want to go to Bali for vacation when you don’t even have the resources to get yourself to the local amusement park.

So how does one set realistic production goals? The first key is to remember that busy does not mean good business. Just because your office is constantly seeing patients and everyone in the staff is running around like crazy day after day doesn’t mean that your practice is successful. In order to have good business instead of busy-ness, you need to make sure the appointments and procedures in your practice are scheduled in such a way as to best maximize the time of the staff. Just doing fillings or adjustment procedures all day every day is not the best way to boost the income of your practice. You also need to be setting aside time in your schedule for more high-end procedures like root canals, crowns, veneers, and implants.

In addition, you also need to have a good balance between new patients and your recall system. At any given point, I could ask a room full of dentists if they know how many new patients they see on a monthly basis and rarely will one have an answer for me. This is unacceptable for someone who wants to have a great dental practice. If you want to get somewhere, you not only have to know where you’re going, but you also have to know where you have been and where you are! Make sure your office staff monitors the business. There’s plenty of software out there to keep track of your statistics. This will help you know where to start from. If you are only getting five new patients a month but your goal is for 25, then you’re going to need to better target your market. However, you won’t know to do this if you don’t have the specific data to work from.

3. Be a Good Leader and Lead By Example
There are many good attributes of a good leader. For one thing, a good leader is a good listener and is teachable. No one can possibly know everything, even the boss! So be willing to seek out ways to learn and grow as the leader of your practice. Also, give opportunities for your staff to learn as well. Provide training for them. You hired them and made them part of your team, now give them the tools to be the best members of the team possible.

Recently, I read Insights by Bruce Brown and Bob Miller. For over three decades, they have interviewed great college athletes. They discovered what made a nightmare sports parent and what made a great sports parent. Their number one question to athletes was, “What made you feel great?” The overwhelming answer was when their parents said something like, “I love to watch you play.” That was it … just SIX WORDS! Never could the words be misinterpreted as the athletes’ performance wasn’t good enough. The pressure was off.

When I see a dental team that is downtrodden, I suggest to dentists that they look at how they are treating their staff. After all, another quality of a good leader is someone who is able to inspire others. Do you want your staff to feel that nothing is ever good enough? Of course you don’t. That’s not a healthy environment for the office and certainly not a way to keep employees working for you. Spend time each day finding ways to compliment
your staff. Tell your office manager, “I really like how you talk to our patients on the telephone.” Tell your assistant, “I really appreciate the way you are so kind to our fearful patients.” Tell your hygienist, “I am so impressed with the good advice you gave our new patient the other day.” By doing so, you will lead by example and create a positive, happy, and successful work environment in your practice. This positive environment will not just be felt by your staff, but by every patient who walks through the door. Because you treat your staff in this fashion, chances are good that your staff will treat the patients this way too.

4. Attitude and Teamwork Make the Good-to-Excellent Transition Possible
I was asked a question recently: “Which is most important, attitude or aptitude?”After all my years of working as a dental practice office manager and as a consultant, I can tell you the answer unequivocally: attitude is definitely more important than aptitude. It doesn’t matter how talented or gifted people are, if they don’t have a good attitude, they won’t get very far in this

business. Many times, I have heard from dentists how frustrated they are with certain members of their staff who are brilliant in their job but have such a terrible attitude and bring everyone else down. The same can be true with dentists. If they don’t adhere to the principles of good leadership, their practice won’t be able to transition from good to great.

A good attitude can be cultivated. Seek out ways to build the morale of your staff. Celebrate what they bring to the practice. Have clear expectations for them and make sure they’re held accountable. Be fair with everyone.

Working together as a team is crucial to a successful dental practice. One person certainly can’t do it all. And the only way to truly make successful changes and improvements in a dental practice is to have every staff member “on board.” Have a morning huddle with your staff. Discuss the day’s schedule and get everyone excited about the patients who they will be working on that day. Help everyone feel that their contribution is valued and necessary.

Excellence in Action
Over the years, I have consulted with dental practices in 47 of the 50 states, Canada, and several locations in Europe. I’ve had the opportunity of witnessing many incredible transformations as people apply these techniques as well as the other ones I teach in my seminar. Recently, I worked with an office of a new start up practice. Like many start ups, the staff was busy, busy, busy! They were very blessed with so many new patients; however, they were running themselves ragged. They knew there had to be a better way. The dentist and the office manager, Kattie, decided to implement the strategies they learned in the seminar. Every week, Kattie reported to me certain practice monitors that revealed the good balance of new patients and recall patients. She also monitored the collections portion of the business and implemented a better structure for their daily schedules. I am proud to say that in just four and half months, their business has improved drastically. They have better financial numbers to show for their efforts and they aren’t nearly as tired as they used to be. They learned by experience. They made good choices. Excellence has become theirs and the best for them is really yet to come.

You can experience this excellence, too. Are you willing to follow these techniques and make the necessary changes to improve your practice from a good one to an excellent one? The choice really is yours.


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