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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Yet dentists insist on holding onto outdated, production-killing, morale-destroying systems.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If your outdated systems aren’t working well now, what will they be like a year from now?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 And that’s what you’ve got to do when systems become outdated.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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Where Are You Going? And How Will You Get There?

Where Are You Going? And How Will You Get There?

If you could just focus on the dentistry, life would be great, wouldn’t it?

But you have a business to run, specifically a healthcare business, which has its own special rules and considerations. And it’s not easy being both a dentist and a practice owner. You went to school for dentistry and have taken tons of clinical CE courses, so that part of the job is generally a piece of cake. It’s the business side where things get a little hairy. All things considered, you’ve done a pretty good job, but you don’t have an MBA. In fact, you’re mostly winging it. Sure, you talk to your colleagues, read blogs and articles, and try your best to keep up, but it just keeps getting more complex. And, face it, you don’t have time to play catch-up.

Yet, you know something’s got to change. You’re looking at your numbers for referrals, overhead, case acceptance and production, and while they’re not terrible, you know they could and should be a whole lot better.

You don’t want to end up like one of those first-round draft picks who had an amazing college career but flamed out once they joined pros.

So, what’s your next move?

1. Keep On Doing What You’ve Been Doing

It’s safe and easy but you’ve been on this road awhile and you know where it leads––the same just-OK results. But you can feel a storm coming on the horizon. You may not be exactly sure what it will be or when it will happen, but you know it’s only a matter of time before it hits… it might be a team member (or two) leaving… a DSO moving down the street… a couple of patients raging on social media about wait times… or maybe all of the above. You know if you don’t make a change sometime soon that things could get a lot worse in a hurry!

2. Make Some DIY Repairs and Hope for the Best

You’ve tried some do-it-yourself solutions in the past with little luck. You’ve come back from the latest practice management seminar or watched a couple of webinars all ready to revamp your systems. You hurry up and make a couple of changes, but as the weeks go by, you lose that initial motivation. Quicker than you can say “amalgam,” you’re back to the same basic systems you had before with a new tweak or two. You know you need to make positive changes especially changes that have staying power

3. Get Help

That’s never been your style, yet many dentists have success working with consultants. In fact, more than a third of practice owners (34%) used a practice management consultant in 2016, according to the latest Dental Economics – Levin Group Annual Survey.

Think of it this way… do people who work with a personal trainer improve their conditioning, strength and cardio? The answer is yes, if they stick with it. The trainer guides, encourages, teaches and holds the client accountable. That’s what we do for dentists and specialists. We make you better as a businessperson, leader and practice owner. We show you how to increase your practice’s performance by implementing high-powered systems that enable you to move closer to your full potential.

Is it easy? Of course not. It takes work to make significant positive changes, but we’re with you every step of the way.

Conclusion

Every dentist comes to a fork in the road. Which direction gives you the best chance of getting better and getting the most out of your skills and education? You can continue down the familiar path getting the same ol’ results… or you could choose a different path. It’s up to you.


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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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Success Story: Dr. Cynthia Banderet

Success Story: Dr. Cynthia Banderet

Dr. Cynthia Banderet wanted to break through to the next level. She owned and operated a successful general practice in Belleville, Illinois, for more than 10 years, but she knew she could be doing better. After much deliberation, she chose Levin Group as her management and marketing consultant.

Six months into her consulting engagement, Dr. Banderet saw a dramatic difference in her practice’s performance. “Our gross production has increased by 20% over six months,” she said. “We have fewer cancellations, a higher percent of our patient base is scheduled and case acceptance has increased. I’m thankful to be in Levin Group’s care.”

At the end of her 12-month management and marketing programs, Dr. Banderet and her team achieved outstanding results, including in these key categories:

  • Production – up 34%
  • Production Per Hour – up 38%
  • Collections – up 19%

Summing up her experience, she said, “I love working with Levin Group. Everyone is very professional, friendly and caring, always going over the top! They gave us the tools and guidance to create an office environment for success.”


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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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3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Team

3 Things You Should Never Say to Your Team

Words matter. What you say to your team can inspire them or demoralize them… encourage them or infuriate them… empower them or repulse them.

Of course, no one’s perfect. You may occasionally miscommunicate. If you say the wrong thing, find a way to correct the situation as soon as you can.

However, there are some phrases no dentist should ever utter. Here are three of them:

1. We don’t need to double-check Thelma. I trust her with our finances.

Embezzlement can happen to any practice… even your practice. No matter how trustworthy your financial coordinator is, you never want to give one employee sole control over all the money matters in your practice. It’s always better to have several staff members handling practice finances. In addition, use an outside accounting firm to conduct unscheduled audits. A series of checks and balances––with the appropriate in-house and outside oversight––can help prevent any financial impropriety.

2. Just shut up and do your job.

It’s not easy being the boss some days. You and your staff members aren’t always going to see eye to eye, but you never want to lose your temper and utter such a comment. It’s verbal abuse, pure and simple.

If you and a staff member are having a disagreement, ask to see that person in private. Listen to her concerns objectively. If you disagree, state your points dispassionately. Focus on the higher goal, such as what’s in the best interest of patients or the entire team. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.

3. Let’s go on a date.

Big mistake. You’re asking for a whole lot of trouble, especially if one or both of you are already in a relationship. Even if you’re both single, your language could be perceived as coercive or harassing, which opens the practice to legal action. No matter how friendly you are with your team, do not cross this line.

I’ve met too many dentists who destroyed their marriages, damaged their practices and wreaked havoc on their finances by engaging in a romantic relationship with a staff member. It’s not worth it. End of story.


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular book Essential Scripts for Patients Communication by clicking here and then hitting the Read an Excerpt button.

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Huge Profit & You: Learn Dentistry’s Most Profitable Treatments and How to Do More of Them

Huge Profit & You: Learn Dentistry’s Most Profitable Treatments and How to Do More of Them

“Roger, I want to make more money.”

I hear that all the time from practice owners at my seminars. Then they usually follow up with something like: “Don’t get me wrong, I love taking care of my patients, but I went to dental school for four years, I own a practice, and I’m bustin’ my hump every day, yet I’m making less than my neighbor who sells hot dogs outside the Home Depot.”

OK, that last part might be a slight exaggeration.

But there are a lot of dentists out there who are unhappy with their income.

Many of them then proceed to ask me what to do. I look them square in the eye and tell them that the answer is staring them right in the face all day, every day…

The most profitable services in your practice are the ones you already offer.

While adding certain services, such as whitening or implants, can definitely increase production, the FASTEST way to do more profitable dentistry is to hyper-focus on fully maximizing the value of the treatment that shows up in your chair every day.

If you haven’t already taken steps to gain another 10–15% profit margin on the procedures you’re good at and perform frequently, what are you waiting for?

Every practice has specific services that are more profitable than others. For example, in general dentistry, it is typically crown and bridge. While it can be debated which procedures are the most lucrative in dentistry, there are other factors that impact practice production and profitability, including:

  1. The Schedule. Too many schedules choke off production because they’re inefficient, inaccurate or just plain outdated. They’re based on old habits rather than sound business principles. Just because the team is comfortable with the pace of the current schedule doesn’t mean it’s the most effective schedule for your practice. Time and again we have shown clients how to manage multiple chairs (and often multiple assistants) smoothly, which easily increases production, lowers overhead and decreases stress. Many dentists and teams hold onto the status quo, believing changing the schedule will lead to rushing and higher stress, which isn’t true.
  2. Speed. In an era when insurance reimbursements are declining, time really is money. The faster the procedure, the more profitable it is. We have clients who range from 30 minutes per crown prep to others who take two hours. While these may be the extremes, simply shaving 10 minutes from most appointments is a significant time savings.
  3. The Cost of Services. Lowering overhead increases profit, which is directly proportional to take-home income. One of the best examples for cost savings is laboratory services. Some offices work with labs that are far more expensive than necessary to provide excellent care. If crown and bridge is one of the most productive services in dentistry, then working with an excellent dental lab at a reasonable cost can make a significant difference. As the number of crowns, bridges and veneers increase, the savings (and profit) can add up quickly. There are excellent national dental laboratories, such as National Dentex, that provide every possible service at a reasonable cost.

Conclusion

If your practice isn’t as profitable as you you’d like, the solution for fixing that is easier than you think. The question isn’t “what procedure is the most profitable?” but rather “how much more profitable can I make the procedures I perform?” The answer is always – a lot!


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from Dr. Roger P. Levin’s popular book, 100 Ways to Increase Your Practice Profitability. Go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

 

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Thinking About Owning Multiple Practices?

Thinking About Owning Multiple Practices?

In our work with hundreds of dentists and specialists, Levin Group has noted a trend. Many of them are now upgrading the efficiency, productivity and profitability of their practice in preparation for launching a small group practice… consisting of five or more offices.

There are many doctors earning excellent incomes from small groups, and many others who are losing money. Obviously, there are pros and cons to this growth strategy. If you’re thinking about expanding your dental business, you need to understand what you’ll be getting into.

Doing well with one or two offices does not translate directly into operating five, six or 10 locations. Managing a business of this scale poses a whole new set of leadership, managerial, financial, marketing, legal, regulatory, human resources and other challenges. To succeed, you need to develop highly efficient systems and best models in your current situation, ready to roll out in a small group practice.

If your vision is to own multiple practices someday, prepare yourself well for meeting the challenges. And don’t try to go it alone. Line up outside experts to help guide the process and avoid pitfalls or significant mistakes.

Additional Resources

Free Whitepaper – For more advice about implementing this growth strategy, download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper, “Building a Sustainable Multi-Doctor Practice.” Click here.

ADA Seminar – Attend the ADA’s BIG Idea: Small Group Practicea special day-long conference on Oct. 19, preceding the annual meeting in Denver. Dr. Levin will be one of the speakers at this event. For details, click here.

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Three Secrets of a Happy Dentist

Three Secrets of a Happy Dentist

Dentists have an extraordinary opportunity to enjoy practicing dentistry. To be happy, follow these steps:

  1. Eliminate controllable stress factors from your practice. By implementing more efficient management systems and creating a smooth, consistent workflow throughout the day, you’ll see practice stressors decrease dramatically.
  2. Study leadership techniques and cultivate a positive attitude in all members of your team. We’re all dragged down by negative people, so learn how to create a positive environment where everyone has a great attitude.
  3. Avoid spending beyond your means. Whether it’s in the practice or in personal life, dentists facing heavy debt experience high stress and anxiety. You can live anyway you like, but if you go into debt trying to buy happiness, acquiring material things, the financial stress will probably make you un Want more stuff? Focus on improving practice performance… and then you’ll be able to pay cash.

Dentistry can make you incredibly happy… if you start with these three steps.

Additional Resource

Interested in gaining more satisfaction from dentistry—and your life? Read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s book, Get a Life and Keep It!. Go here and click the “Read an Excerpt” button.

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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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