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Archive for category: Leadership

Get Ready for the Second Half of the Year

Get Ready for the Second Half of the Year

This is a dangerous time for many practices. As we enter the second half of the year, there can be a tendency to relax a little, especially if your practice is ahead of last year’s pace. You want to keep any momentum you’ve built up going for the entire year. If your practice’s off to a slow start, now’s the time to make positive changes that will pay dividends later on.

Here are three strategies for ramping up growth in the next six months:

1. Make Referrals Rewarding for Patients, Too

Patients may know someone who needs a dentist, but making a referral isn’t on the top of their to-do list. But if you can make the referral process a little more fun for them, you’ll be surprised at the results. How do you do that? By incentivizing the process.

Here’s a quick rundown on how to set up a refer-a-friend program…

  • Any patient who makes a successful referral will be entered into a drawing to win a prize. Make it something worthwhile like a gift card for dinner at a nice restaurant.
  • If patients make more than one referral, then their name goes into “the hat” that many times, increasing their chances of winning.
  • Each month give away a different prize.
  • Place signs in high-traffic areas touting the program. Train your team to promote it during interactions with patients.
  • Take photos of all the winners and place those pictures in the reception area. Also, use social media to create awareness about the program.

2. Don’t Let Money Walk Out the Door

Practices are only collecting 91% of their production, according to the latest survey by the Levin Group Data Center. If you’re below 95%, making a few adjustments can lead to a big improvement in your bottom line. Train your team to ask for payment at the time of service, including co-payments. If this is the policy, verify that it’s being followed. If members of your front desk team are uncomfortable asking for payment, give them the training they need to perform at a higher level. In addition, the financial coordinator should contact all patients who owe the practice money. Levin Group recommends a 3–3–3 system of 3 phone calls, 3 emails and 3 letters over 9 weeks. Using this system, our clients have recouped significant amounts of revenue they once thought uncollectible.

3. Give Your Patients One More Thing to Smile About

People at any age want to look their best. Most practices aren’t doing enough to create awareness about their cosmetic services. Have you ever had regular patients come in with a brand-new cosmetically enhanced smile… that they got from another dentist? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve heard similar stories from many other dentists. If you’re not actively letting patients know about what cosmetic treatments you offer, you’re basically telling them to go elsewhere.

Conclusion

Owning a practice is like running a marathon, not a sprint. There are plenty of mile markers along the way, but you don’t cross the finish line until the end of the year. Use these three strategies to build on your success and to grow your practice even more in the next six months.


Additional Resource

Need more patients? Learn more about our marketing consulting program by clicking here.

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Put the Fun Back in Your Practice

Put the Fun Back in Your Practice

Running a dental practice is more complex than ever before. As a practice owner, you have a lot on your plate––caring for patients, leading the team, managing the practice, updating your clinical skills and knowledge, working with other doctors, etc.

The business side of dentistry has grown more competitive and more complex. As a result, 27% of dentists are experiencing high or extremely stress, according to the latest Dental Economics / Levin Group Annual Survey.

There should be an element of fun to what you do. After all, this is your chosen profession. Here are 4 things to add more fun to your practice:

1. Celebrate summer

Host a backyard BBQ or picnic for your team. Camaraderie is extremely important, especially when you work in a small business. It’s good to get together with co-workers and put the job aside for a few hours.

2. Let’s do lunch

Grab a quick bite with a team member once a week. We can spend years working with people and know very little about them. Over the summer, try to have lunch with everybody on your team. View it as an opportunity for you to learn a little more about your staff and for them to do the same.

3. Shut it down early

Close early one Friday a month. Your team works hard all year long. Summer can be especially hectic at times. Closing early one Friday a month gives everyone on the team a chance to start the weekend early. Shaving a few hours off the day puts everybody in a good mood.

4. Take a vacation

I’ve met too many dentists who haven’t taken a vacation in years. This is absolutely crazy to me. You need time away from your practice, so you can renew and re-energize. When you don’t take a vacation for years, every day becomes a grind. To enjoy what you do, you have to step away from it occasionally.

Conclusion

These are just four suggestions off the top of my head. I’m sure you and your team can brainstorm a dozen more easily. As Mark Twain once said, “The secret of success is making your vocation a vacation.” Adding a little more fun to your practice is a good way to start.


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular book, Get a Life and Keep It, by clicking here. Look for the “Read an Excerpt” button.

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What’s the Quickest Way to Lose Patients?

What’s the Quickest Way to Lose Patients?

That’s an easy one––don’t listen to them. People find it infuriating when they’re ignored especially by the person they’re talking to. In a dental practice, this happens when staff members fail to give patients their undivided attention by multi-tasking, answering phones, texting, talking to their colleagues, looking at their computers, etc.

Active listening is a physical activity. It takes focus and energy to listen to someone and not do anything else. Even routine requests require active listening. If patients feel that the practice doesn’t value their time, there’s a good chance they won’t be back.

The Impact of Not Listening

I recently spoke to a dentist who was upset because his front desk coordinator had cost the practice a patient and her family. The mother was trying to schedule her three children for appointments. She told the staff member that she needed to leave quickly to pick up one of her kids. The front desk coordinator kept stopping to answer the phone and talking with callers before returning to the waiting patient. After the third call, the mother canceled all of our appointments and stormed out of the office. It’s obvious that the mother felt that customer service was less than satisfactory, but she also felt she wasn’t being heard.

Scenarios like this happen every day in dental practices. During interactions with dentists and staff, patients want to feel they are your #1 priority. They don’t want to repeat things two or three times, be put on hold endlessly, or be left in the treatment room unattended for 10 minutes. All of these are great ways to lose patients quickly.

How do you actively listen? Here are a few key tips:

  1. Always look directly at patients when they are speaking. This will keep you from multi-tasking and reassure them that you are focused on them.
  2. Repeat and summarize what they said. For example start the sentence with “So what I hear you saying is ….”
  3. Ask questions if clarification is needed. For example, “So you would prefer a Tuesday afternoon over a Thursday morning?”
  4. Nod and smile at patients when they are speaking. Even leaning forward creates a positive energy and a sense of listening.

Additional Resource

Download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper Stage III Customer Service by clicking here.

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Why Does My Staff Hate Me?

Why Does My Staff Hate Me?

It ain’t easy being the boss. You’re going to be unpopular at times. You’re going to make difficult decisions that don’t please everybody. You’re going to assign employees tasks they don’t like. And when their performance is lagging, you’re going to be the one who holds them accountable.

Yet many practice owners engage in destructive behaviors that fuel employee resentment and undermine their own ability to lead. If you’re exhibiting any of the following negative qualities, it’s time to rethink your leadership approach.

  1. You’re Wildly Inconsistent One minute you want to be the world’s greatest cosmetic dentist, the next you think promoting whitening is a waste of time. As soon as the team jumps on board to support your latest passion project, you move on to the next shiny object. After this happens a few times, your team can no longer muster any excitement for your current infatuation. They feign enthusiasm until something else catches your fancy. They know it’s not worth their time and energy to become invested in any of your initiatives because you never follow anything through to completion.
  2. You Have a Bad Temper When staff members make mistakes, you yell at them… often in front of their colleagues. When something goes wrong, you’re quick to lash out and blame others. The team is afraid to tell you about problems… because they’re afraid you’ll go off. They’re afraid to solve issues on their own… because if they fail, you will only chastise them for their failure. And then you wonder why the practice has such high employee turnover?
  3. You Take People for Granted Your team is with you in the trenches, day-in day-out. Yet when they manage to win over an unhappy patient, your attitude is that’s what they’re supposed to do. When they persuade a patient to say “yes” to big case, your reaction is that’s I pay them for. When it comes to recognition and rewarding team members, your feeling is that they should be happy to have a job.

Conclusion

Nobody’s perfect. Even the best leader can get better. If you exhibit any of the above behaviors––even occasionally––think about ways you can improve. For example, if you have a temper, be aware of your “anger triggers.” Once you’re aware of them, then you can devise ways to think and act differently. Improving these and other bad behaviors will make it easier for you to lead and your staff to follow.


Additional Resource

Want to be a better leader? Check out Dr. Levin’s whitepaper “Level IV Leadership” by clicking here.

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Speeding to Your Destination or Dead in the Water?

Speeding to Your Destination or Dead in the Water?

“Why haven’t you reached the next level?” This is a question I ask doctors who attend my seminars.

And here are some of the more popular responses I get:

  • “Too busy treating patients.”
  • “Not enough patients.”
  • “Staff isn’t properly trained.”
  • “Can’t find excellent staff.”
  • “My area is in an economic slump.”

I’m sure these factors inhibit growth, but the biggest one––and the one that nobody mentions––is the lack of time most dentists spend on CEO-level activities, such as strategic planning.

Just showing up every day and doing dentistry isn’t a plan. Yes, it’s part of your job, and a critical function at that, but as the practice owner, you also need to spend time plotting your course, so you can reach your destination. Sticking with my boating analogy, you can’t spend all of your time in the boiler room, feeding the furnace… because, if you do, then who’s steering the ship?

The Big Picture

As a dentist, you spend most of your day, treating patients. You’re always in motion, going from patient to patient, procedure to procedure, treatment room to treatment room. It takes a lot of energy and focus just to make it through the day.

Yet, if you always got your head down, how do you know if you’re headed in the right direction?

That’s why one of the first things we teach our new clients to do is create a practice vision. Many practices don’t have a vision or at least an updated one. A vision is where you want your practice to be in three years. You may want to increase production to $1.5 million, open a satellite office, take on an associate, or start a small group practice. There are a lot of possibilities. It’s about what you want to achieve in the next three years.

For the vision to become a real thing, it should be written down. Typically, a vision statement is 2–3 paragraphs at the most. Here’s an example:

Our practice will generate $1.4 million in production. We will be recognized as a leading cosmetic practice in the area, with elective treatment accounting for 25% of total doctor production. We will upgrade our facility and create a spa-like atmosphere.

We will invest in new practice management software and equipment, enabling our team to improve efficiency and customer service. Our practice will be known for providing outstanding customer service, which will lead to a 20% increase in word-of-mouth referrals.

Creating a vision statement doesn’t mean the vision will automatically happen. But it’s the crucial first step that triggers a whole series of initiatives and improvements.

For example, if the goal is to reach is $1.4 million in production and the practice is currently at $1 million, what are you willing to do to make the vision a reality? What changes need to happen in Year 1? Year 2? Year 3?

By mapping out each stage of your journey, you can arrive at your destination on time––just like you planned.

Conclusion

For practice owners, dentistry is only one part of the job. The other part––being the CEO––nearly always gets short-changed. After all, dentists have a DDS, not an MBA, so it seems only right that they spend most of their time focused on their patients. Yet, if little or no time is devoted to being the CEO, production will eventually stagnate or, worse, decline. Then, what?

That’s a situation you don’t want to be in. Playing catch-up isn’t any fun, especially in the current business environment. Avoid that scenario by doing everything you can to be the best CEO right now.


Additional Resource

Practice not performing at maximum level? Learn more about our management consulting program by clicking here.  

 

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Dentistry According to the Rolling Stones

Dentistry According to the Rolling Stones

What do Mick, Keith and the boys know about running a dental practice? Actually, more than you might think, judging from some of the songs in their catalogue. Let’s dust off a few classics as well as a few deep cuts and see what practice management lessons can be gleaned from the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band…

Start Me Up (from Tattoo You)

Kick off your day with a brief morning meeting. This keeps your entire team on the same page about what will be occurring in terms of new patients, patients with unaccepted treatment, patients who owe money, openings in the schedule, etc. The meeting should last 10 minutes or so. If you’re experiencing some customer service issues, the morning meeting is a good forum for reviewing practice policies, creating new scripts if necessary and role-playing different scenarios.

Miss You (from Some Girls)

Patients aren’t as loyal as they once were. They’ll jump to another practice if they see a coupon for a new patient exam or they’ll stop coming in for regular care for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s economic. They changed jobs and they no longer have dental insurance. Sometimes, it’s something you or your staff did. Your front desk coordinator was curt or you had an emergency and couldn’t spend much time, catching up with them.

Treat your patients like VIPs. Pretend your patients are actually the Rolling Stones or whoever your favorite musical artist is. Make every patient visit to your practice a special one.

Stop Breaking Down (from Exile on Main Street)

When systems are old, they constantly break down. When systems aren’t documented, team members don’t know what to do. When team members aren’t trained on the systems, things don’t get done the right way.

Practicing with outdated systems is like trying to run a marathon with 20-pound weights tied to your ankles. You’re going to expend a lot of energy trying to accomplish the simplest tasks. As those systems continue to age, those weights get heavier and heavier.

So, you have choice… tolerate old, inefficient systems or replace them.

Gimme Shelter (from Let It Bleed)

Some days, it’s hard being the boss. There are times when you’ve got to interact with unhappy patients, upset team members and difficult colleagues. As the practice owner, the buck stops with you. Of course, you should delegate all the small, non-clinical stuff to your team. But the big stuff still falls on your shoulders. And that makes it incredibly challenging to leave the job behind when you go home for the day.

To be an effective CEO, you need time away from the practice and you need to protect that time or else you end up working 12–14 hours every day, which isn’t good for you or your family.

What’s the point of owning a practice that produces $2 million a year if you have no time to enjoy your success and no one to enjoy it with?

Every dentist needs a life outside your practice. That means spending time with family and friends. That means pursuing hobbies and taking vacations. That means having down time, where you do absolutely nothing. Owning a dental practice can be all-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.

Time Waits for No One (from It’s Only Rock’n’Roll)

Your practice may have been doing great five years ago. But not so much right now. Dentistry is in a constant state of flux, and you have to keep up. Your once-new systems five years ago are now outdated. They don’t perform like they used to. Your practice has changed in terms of services, technology, software, goals and personnel, yet you’re still trying to force those old systems to do things they’re no longer capable of doing.

Change is a constant in business and life. If you do nothing to keep up, you will eventually be passed by. Your practice is the best investment you ever made, but it’s an ongoing investment. You can’t expect a plant to grow if you never water it. The same is true for your practice. To grow your practice, you need to invest in it… that means new technology, equipment, software, training, systems, décor, etc. Maybe not every year, but not once every 10 years either. You don’t want to be the owner of a fixer-upper practice. That’s a hard way to practice, and in the future that will be a hard practice to sell.

Satisfaction (from Hot Rocks)

Are you happy with your practice and your career? While a certain amount of dissatisfaction acts as fuel for making positive changes, you don’t want to dread waking up and going to the practice every day. That’s no way to have a career and, most important, that’s no way to live.

If you are unhappy about how your practice is performing, make a list of everything you’re dissatisfied with. Examine the list. What do you have in your power to fix? Go for the low-hanging fruit first. Don’t like how the doctor’s office is set up? Stay late and rearrange it. Once you get the easy stuff done, move to the more challenging fixes.

If you don’t have the skills or the know-how to improve the situation, get help. Have a tax issue? Call an accountant. Want a new business structure? Seek the advice of a dental-knowledgeable attorney. Need help with your management and marketing systems? Get the assistance of an expert consultant.

Aftermath

Taking advice from the Rolling Stones may seem a little far-fetched, but how many musical acts have been as successful as the bad boys of rock’n’roll? The next time your practice is giving you the blues, crank up your favorite Stones album… you’ll not only get to enjoy some in-your-face rock’n’roll, but perhaps also some relevant practice management advice as well.


Additional Resource

Need an Emotional Rescue? Read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular book, Get a Life and Keep It, by clicking here.
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Let Your Team Do What You Hired Them to Do

Let Your Team Do What You Hired Them to Do

Dentists are often perfectionists. That’s a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have high standards, but many dentists feel compelled to perform non-clinical tasks because they like things done a certain way. Unfortunately, putting too much on your plate is a sure recipe for high stress and endless frustration.

If you feel overworked and overstressed, try this… As you go through your day doing what you what you normally do, ask yourself, “Who else could be doing this task?”

It’s amazing how many non-clinical and administrative duties dentists take on. Maybe when first entering practice, dentists had to pitch in here and there because their team was small and overworked.

But there comes a point when you have to give away all those non-clinical activities that are eating up your time. That’s what your team is for, and that’s why you rely on experts, whether they are accountants, payroll companies, consultants, etc.

You went to dental school to be a dentist, not a phone operator, scheduler or cashier. Don’t get caught up doing your staff’s jobs. Your time in the office is better spent taking care of patients and running the practice as a CEO. Anything else is just a distraction.


Additional Resource

Ready to Manage like a CEO? Learn more about our management consulting program by clicking here.
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Service with a Shrug?

Service with a Shrug?

I had dinner the other night in a restaurant that came highly recommended. Although the food was excellent, service was very slow. We rarely saw our server, and when we needed anything, I actually had to get up to ask someone to help us. We were told they were having a slight problem in the kitchen.

Under normal circumstances, the slow service might have ruined the evening for me. As it happened, I wasn’t in a hurry and didn’t let it bother me, until…

At the end of the meal, the maître d’ stopped by our table to ask how the evening had been. I said, “Well, since you asked…” and proceeded to calmly explain the problems we had experienced with slow service. His only reply was, “I’m sorry to hear that.” As he walked away, I realized his question was nothing more than a “courtesy.” He had no intention of doing anything about the problem—not even bothering to explain why it happened.

Overcoming Mistakes

I wouldn’t have expected a discount or anything else from the restaurant. We’ve all experienced slow service from time to time. But the maître d’ obviously doesn’t understand one of the cardinal rules of customer service. When you make a mistake (and you will), what matters most is how you recover. Had he simply given me his card and suggested I call ahead next time so he could ensure I had a better experience, I would have walked out happy—and would definitely have taken him up on his offer. Instead, I won’t be returning to that establishment.

A dental practice is a service business, too. When there’s a problem, your response can either make—or break—the relationship. If you pretend nothing happened or give lip service to fixing the problem, there’s a good chance you’ll lose that patient.

If, however, you apologize for the problem and then find a way to make it right, you’ve strengthened the bond between the patient and practice. And that should always be the goal.


Additional Resource

For more on this subject, download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper, “Stage III Customer Service,” by clicking here.

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What You Can Learn From Steve Jobs

What You Can Learn From Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was a creative genius… and an amazingly successful businessman. An eccentric, enigmatic figure, he built one of the most valuable companies in the world by thinking differently than others.

One of Steve Jobs’ basic principles was that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. He could figure out what people wanted before they knew it themselves. That’s how he invented the Macintosh, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, etc. He was successful time and time again because he didn’t sit back waiting for market demand. He created demand.

As a dentist, you can learn a great deal from Steve Jobs. Following his example, you can put together an incredible patient experience. Like it or not, patients have negative feelings about going to the dentist. They’re afraid it will be uncomfortable, maybe even painful. And it can be expensive, too, especially for people who lack good dental insurance coverage. There are many things people would rather spend their time and money on besides dentistry. So where does that leave practices?

Adding the WOW Factor

At the American Dental Association Annual Meeting, I spoke about customer service. My thesis was that patients want to be delighted. You need to WOW each patient by creating an amazing experience. How? By thinking through every moment of a patient’s visit to your office, every aspect of the experience… and making everything delightful. You overcome those built-in negative feelings with a totally positive experience that’s planned, scripted and delivered enthusiastically by you and your team. That’s how to WOW.

As you can see, we capitalize WOW at Levin Group. We do that to show how powerful it is. Our consulting clients outperform their competition because we teach them to use the power of WOW every day, rising above mediocrity with an exceptional patient experience.

I can’t fit our entire customer service training program into this article, but I can tell you that our WOW-powered New Patient Experience consists of literally hundreds of simple, learnable steps any practice can master. With the right guidance, you can impress patients with everything you say and do. They’ll actually look forward to visiting your practice, knowing that they’ll be treated so well they’ll truly value the relationship with you and your team.

Do what Steve Jobs would do. WOW patients by creating an experience that will surprise and delight them. As he demonstrated again and again, it’s smart business.


Additional Resource

Download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper “Stage III Customer Service” by clicking here.

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Stop Kidding Yourself

Stop Kidding Yourself

At my seminars and other speaking engagements around the country, I talk with hundreds of dentists every year.  Knowing that I’m not only a fellow dentist but also the CEO of the top live training and consulting firm in dentistry, most of these doctors have questions for me. The most frequently asked is, “Dr. Levin, where do I find great staff?”

Sometimes, I feel like saying, “Are you kidding? You don’t find them… you create them!”

Dentists have a fantasy that, if only they could learn the secret to successful hiring, they could find people who would be perfect employees on the first day. But it doesn’t work that way. Like all other businesses, practices need to find people with great potential and then develop them.

The formula is simple:

  1. Implement excellent, documented, step-by-step systems. Without the right systems, no practice can get anywhere close to its true potential, no matter how good the team is. Production will actually decline, and doctors will end up working many more years than they planned.
  2. Hire people for personality and potential. Don’t settle for one interview with promising candidates. Get to know them through several meetings… looking for a great attitude, strong work ethic, desire to learn and excel, etc. Pay new team members well. Provide comprehensive training. Give them performance targets. They’ll take personal responsibility for achieving excellent results for your practice.
  3. Learn to be an excellent leader. At Levin Group, we include leadership training with every management consulting program because it’s absolutely essential. While systems and smart hiring will carry the practice a long way toward success, leadership will take it over the goal line. Leading a team may be hard, but learning how to do it is easy.

Many dentists say they love their team, and some even think of them as family. But if you don’t want it to be a dysfunctional family, you have to follow the three steps I just outlined. Otherwise, you’re just kidding yourself.


Additional Resource

For more on this subject, watch “Team Training – Another Thing to Consider” by clicking here.

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