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Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems

Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems

Systems, systems, systems! Either you got good ones or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re asking for trouble!

Here’s the problem: most dentists think they have good systems when, in fact, they don’t. Sure, at one time, the systems were effective and efficient, but that was years ago. Management and marketing systems have a shelf life of about three years when they’re operating at peak efficiency.

After that, things slow down. As the practice continues to evolve, the old systems can’t keep up and they begin breaking down more and more frequently.

Doctors and team members will get out “the duct tape” to keep the systems running, but bottlenecks continue to multiply, forcing the staff to improvise work-a-rounds and other fixes that, of course, create additional problems. Before long, those once sleek, simple, super-efficient systems have transmogrified into a Rube Goldbergian nightmare. It takes more and more effort to get less and less done. Not a good situation for you, your team or your patients.

Yet dentists insist on holding onto outdated, production-killing, morale-destroying systems. Why? Here are the top four excuses dentists make for keeping bad systems:

1. It’s going to take too much time to replace the systems

You can’t expect to snap your fingers and have new systems like that. A better way to look at it is that new systems are an investment in your practice… in your sanity… and your financial well-being.

If your outdated systems aren’t working well now, what will they be like a year from now? How high will he stress be in your practice? How long will your team agree to keep working under such conditions… before they start looking for opportunities elsewhere?

2. It won’t be worth it

Can you remember what was it like when your current systems were new? How the days seemed to fly by with few problems? Patients weren’t backed up in the reception area. Stress was low or nearly nonexistent. And you weren’t putting in extra time in the office and at home, thinking about the practice 24/7.

You can’t go back to those easier, stress-free days with your current systems. But if you could get a better practice and a better life with new systems, would it be worth it?

3. We fixed systems before and nothing happened

Fixing systems isn’t replacing them. And that’s what you’ve got to do when systems become outdated. Your practice is continually evolving, and new systems can absorb only so many changes before they start to flounder. Think of all the changes that have occurred in your practice in the past three years regarding technology, supplies, personnel, protocols, equipment, etc.

I bet it’s a pretty substantial list, yet you’re operating with basically the same systems before any of those changes happened. It’s like running new software on an old computer. It either won’t work or it runs so slowly that you finally throw your hands up in frustration.

4. My team doesn’t want to change

It happens. Teams get comfortable with the status quo. But if your practice isn’t performing to your satisfaction, then it’s up to you to change it.

After all, you want to get the most out of your career. You don’t want to settle for lower income and lower profitability… just because your team is happy with the way things are.

Sure, you want your team’s input on how to improve the practice, but keeping everything the same shouldn’t be an option.

Conclusion

Your practice is a Ferrari. You can’t expect it to operate at peak performance if there’s a lawnmower engine under the hood. That’s what happens with old systems––they prevent you from reaching your practice’s full potential. Who wants to be puttering down the road when you could be flying full speed ahead into a much brighter future?


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Surprising Advice for Dentists from Sgt. Pepper

Surprising Advice for Dentists from Sgt. Pepper

It was 50 years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. What can the Beatles’ classic album released five decades ago teach us about practice management? You’re probably thinking not much. After all, there are no songs about dentists on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But as with every Beatles album, there’s a lot of great music and plenty of good advice. And some of it applies to dentistry. Let’s take a look…

With a Little Help from My Friends

It can be lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be. Even with the growth of DSOs, the majority of dentists still operate solo practices. That means you wear a lot of hats… you’re the main producer, the team leader, the CEO, the CFO and the CMO. Some days, it can seem overwhelming.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Study clubs represents one of the greatest resources for practice owners. You can learn a lot from your colleagues, many of whom have experienced similar issues and challenges. You’ll get pertinent advice, learn about new clinical procedures and develop a support network that can get you through the tough times.

Good Morning, Good Morning

Morning meetings matter. Never underestimate the power of this brief gathering. Sharing information about the day’s schedule, patients, treatments, and emergences keeps everybody on the same page. Start your day the right way with a morning meeting!

Getting Better

That should be the goal of every practice. How can we improve? What’s not working and what could be working better? What are the solutions? What are the costs? What can we accomplish with the budget and manpower we have? As the practice leader, you don’t want to settle for the status quo. Because when you stop improving, you eventually start declining.

Fixing a Hole

A full schedule drives practice growth. Gaps in the schedule are missed opportunities. To combat last-minute cancellations, keep a list of patients who are looking to move up their appointments. Contact them as soon as you have an opening. Also, use social media to get the word out. If patients have a break in their schedule, they often come in to catch up on their dental care.

When I’m Sixty Four

Are you saving enough for retirement? When was the last time you looked at your retirement plan? Are you currently working with a dental-knowledgeable advisor? Even if you’re a younger dentist and believe retirement is decades away, you need to start planning for it now.

A Day in the Life

Like any job, dentistry can become a grind… if you let it. As the practice owner, you have the power to create a fun, productive work environment. Don’t just put in your time. Create the practice you want. Sure, it takes time and effort. But the sooner you start working on it, the sooner it will happen.

Conclusion

It’s been called everything from the greatest album ever made to the most overrated record in the history of popular music. Wherever your opinion falls on that spectrum, there are still some surprising lessons Sgt. Pepper can teach us 50 years after its release.


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4 Lies That Hold Dentists Back

4 Lies That Hold Dentists Back

Dear Struggling Dentist,

Here’s some advice––stop being your own worst enemy!

Yes, I know, the dental economy isn’t the greatest and competition is heating up as DSOs continue to grow. And I realize that patients are less loyal than they used to be and even the loyal ones don’t come in for their twice-yearly hygiene appointments. On top of all that, the insurance companies keep chopping reimbursements and so on and so on.

Yes, these things are all true and they make it much more challenging to run a successful practice.

But I’ve met too many dentists who are struggling and yet continue to believe in dangerous, performance-depleting myths. Let me be clear, these internalized myths are far more dangerous than all the external threats combined.

Here are four of the most pernicious lies dentists tell themselves:

1. “Something Will Rescue Me”

Nobody’s coming. This isn’t a superhero movie where Batman shows up at your office, grabs a canister of “New Patient Attractor” from his trusty bat belt, douses your reception area with this magical elixir, and then suddenly your practice is overrun with new patients. Ain’t gonna happen. No way, no how!

You’ve got to be your own superhero. That means putting together a plan, brainstorming strategies and implementing them, tracking performance, making adjustments, and getting expert help when needed. No cape or Batmobile required.

2. “It’s Just a Phase”

I’ve heard this over and over from dentists whose production has been down three or four years. That’s not a phase, it’s a permanent condition! Well, that is, unless you decide to do something about it.

I get it. You want to be positive. You want to believe the practice will turn around. But belief alone isn’t enough. For things to improve, you have to marry belief to action.

It’s like losing weight. You may want to drop 20 pounds, but if you don’t change your diet or your exercise habits, you won’t shed any weight.

3. “But It Worked Before”

That doesn’t mean it will work now or ever again. And if it’s not working now, that’s your sign to change what you’re doing. The “it” can be a marketing strategy, campaign or ad. Just because something was successful in the past, there’s no guarantee it will succeed in the present.

 4. “The Economy Will Pick Up”

It’s already picked up. So if you’re expecting some turbocharged, super-heated, macro-economic miracle to lift the dental economy out of the doldrums, you’re bound to be disappointed.

But all is not lost. The business of dentistry is evolving and will continue to evolve. So, forget the economy and concentrate on something you can control, like the activities within your practice. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do right now to make sure your practice is successful, such as:

  • Scheduling 98% of hygiene patients
  • Reactivating inactive patients
  • Collecting 98% of fees
  • Persuading at least half of your patients to make a referral every year
  • Delegating all administrative tasks to your team, so you can focus on patient care

None of these activities has anything to do with the overall economy. These are things you and your team can make happen on your own. So, what are you waiting for? Pick one and get started!

Conclusion

What we believe can either help us or hurt us. Too often dentists cling to false beliefs that limit their performance and their potential. Take a hard look at what’s holding you back. If it’s one of these lies, toss it aside and move on.


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Break the Overhead Stranglehold

Break the Overhead Stranglehold

High overhead is choking off profitability in many practices. Let’s start with the numbers. Levin Group recommends the following overhead percentage targets for general and specialty practices:

  • General Practice – 59%
  • Orthodontics – 49%
  • Pediatric Dentistry – 49%
  • OMS – 50%
  • Periodontics – 51%
  • Endodontics – 49%
  • Prosthodontics – 64%

Most practices run 8-15% too high and don’t fully understand what that means to their bottom line. Look at these examples.

  1. If a practice has overhead that’s 1% too high, it’s losing $1,000 of annual profit (take-home income) for every $100,000 of production.
  2. If a practice is 1% too high and has $800,000 annual revenue, it’s losing $8,000.
  3. If the practice is 4% too high, which is quite common, with $800,000 in revenue, it’s losing $32,000.

Imagine what you could do with that extra income each year! How about going on a dream vacation or maxing out your retirement accounts?

Overhead control alone can contribute heavily to a doctor’s financial independence.

So how do you get overhead under control? Here are three tips that will make a difference:

  1. Measure every category of office expense against comparative information. The ADA and other associations publish relevant statistics to measure against your performance.
  2. Analyze the largest expense, which is usually staff labor. For example, if it’s over 25% in a general practice, the office isn’t getting the proper return on investment. This could be either due to waste or under-producing, but either way it’s costing the practice.
  3. Identify opportunities to reduce costs. Most practices fall into spending habits for supplies. Examine all costs and question sales representatives about how to lower your costs. These conversations often lead to cost reductions. If a sales rep is unhelpful, look at other manufacturers and suppliers.

Additional Resource

Want to get your financial house in order? Check out the Finance Reference Set by clicking here.

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Three Things About Financial Management

Three Things About Financial Management

Financial management is a critical aspect of running your dental practice.

The first thing to focus on is cash flow. Too many dentists simply go to the office, treat patients, pay the bills and see what’s left. Instead, you should give serious thought to cash flow factors, such as when patients pay, how they pay and whether they pay at all.

Design a system to have patients make their payments as early as possible relative to the time of treatment. Then use a Levin Group consulting innovation known as a one day rule to collect 99% of all money due to the practice. The one day rule states that patients will be called the day they are overdue. This is followed by a nine-week follow-up process. Together, these two methodologies enable Levin Group clients to collect 99% of all the money they’ve earned.

Another critical component of managing practice finances is budgeting. Very few dental practices have a budget, and many of those that do pay little attention to it. This is how practices get into financial trouble and doctors end up with lower income.

Most doctors have no idea where their revenues stand for the year and whether they’re on budget. With today’s profit margins being squeezed, we see many new management consulting clients whose income is flat or declining.  The solution is to establish a budget, track each line item continually, and make adjustments as needed throughout the year to hit your financial targets.

Additional Resource

Interested in improving your financial management skills? Read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s essential book, Practice Finance, by clicking here.

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3 Things about Collections

3 Things about Collections

Collections continue to be a problem for many dental practices.

Too many front desk team members don’t feel comfortable asking for payment from patients. That reticence can cost your practice thousands of dollars every year.

Here are three things you can do to improve collections:

1. Collect at the Time of Service

Make that your standard policy. Your practice should function like other retail businesses, which all collect at the time of purchase. By doing so, you will receive a higher percentage of your fees sooner and reduce the potential for overdue receivables.

2. Train Your Front Desk Team to Ask for Payment

Your practice is a business, and collecting fees in a timely manner is part of running a financially successful business. Fixing your collections system can yield an immediate and profound boost to your bottom line. Train your team using scripting, which will enable them to be comfortable at asking patients for payment.

3. Make Collections Easier by Offering Patient Financing

With dental insurance covering less, patients today have more out-of-pocket costs than ever before. Giving patients the option of financing through a reputable third-party provider can make treatment––elective services and larger cases––more affordable. You also eliminate any potential collections issues by receiving your fee upfront (minus a small financing charge).


Additional Resource

Download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper “The 9 Areas of Expertise: Collections” by clicking here.

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Today is Team Appreciation Day

Today is Team Appreciation Day

How do you get your practice team and others around you motivated? The answer is simple. Start appreciating them… and let them know it!

Most dentists would say they appreciate their teams. If you feel that way, answer these questions

  • Do you express your appreciation to every team member every day?
  • Do you notice the little things and try to see things from each individual’s point of view?
  • Do you find many ways to compliment team members… about what a good job they’re doing, how fast they’re learning, that they’re making a difference?

These are the techniques great leaders use to motivate their team. They know that when you show your appreciation, team members feel better about themselves and will be self-motivated to perform better.

Additional Resource

For more team-building advice, view Dr. Levin’s video, “Building the Best Possible Team.

Attitude is Everything

Attitude is Everything

In the introduction to my book, Get a Life and Keep It!, I discuss how important it is to have the right attitude. For those of you who haven’t yet read the book, here’s an excerpt:


Leaders lead by example, and a dental team is always watching the doctor. If your outlook is not positive, you will find it difficult to motivate others and many won’t find you believable or persuasive.

Enthusiasm and great attitudes equal credibility in the minds of others.

If you want people to trust you, you will need to display an astonishing level of enthusiasm through an extremely positive attitude.

Do you want to have a great attitude? If the answer is yes, and I certainly hope it is, then all you have to do is make up your mind that a great attitude is what you want.You decide that from now on complaining, excuses or whining will not characterize your life. You will not react to circumstances with a “why did this happen to me?” mentality.


I wrote this a number of years ago, but it resonates more now. There will always be setbacks, challenges, bad days and long nights, but overcoming these obstacles usually starts by having a positive attitude.

Additional Resource

Dr. Levin’s book Get a Life and Keep It!, which focuses on the Levin Group mission of “improving the lives of dentists,” is available here. Click the “Read an Excerpt” button to read a sample.

Worth Repeating

Worth Repeating

Everything seems to be getting more complicated these days. I’m reminded of some of the advice I gave dentists in my book, 43 New Rules for Increasing Practice Production. Here’s an excerpt:

Rule #32 – Simplicity is Key

One of the key principles taught by Chris Zook, author and leading business strategist, is that businesses get in trouble because they gradually become more complicated and bureaucratic. Zook talks extensively about the importance of simplicity and repeatability. I have observed thousands of dental practices that ran well when they were smaller but became chaotic and stressful as they grew.

One of the major reasons for this is that they did not have the right step-by-step systems in place. As I have often said, systems must be up-to-date and documented. In addition, systems must be simple, so they can easily be used correctly. Dentistry keeps getting more and more complicated, with new materials, procedures and technologies emerging continuously—all the more reason to implement systems that simplify practice management.

As you work to grow your practice in 2016, keep your systems in mind. Are they helping or hurting you? If they’re impeding rather than supporting growth, it’s time to replace them.

 

Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from the 43 Rules for Increasing Practice Production by going here and clicking on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

Go and get grab your copy now!