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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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3 Surefire Ways to Lose Good Employees

3 Surefire Ways to Lose Good Employees

Your team plays a critical role in the success of your practice. They help you get you through the tough days and prevent the tough days from turning into something much worse. Yet, many dentists have trouble keeping quality team members.

Sure, people will move or change careers. But many good employees leave because they were driven away by a boss’ bad behavior. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, about half of workers left their job because of their supervisor.

It’s getting harder to find good team members. Once you develop someone, you don’t want to lose them due to bad habits or bad leadership.

Here are 3 ways to NOT to retain a good staff member:

1. Play Favorites

People don’t want to work in a practice where they’re treated like a second-class citizen just because they’re not Brenda or Bobby or whoever is the doctor’s best buddy. When one employee gets special privileges, it creates unnecessary tension and resentment.

Solution: Strive to treat everyone fairly and equally.

2. Don’t Recognize Good Effort

Many dentists don’t compliment their team because they believe that “doing a good job is what I pay them for.” If you rarely praise your team, it might be time to rethink that behavior. Everybody needs encouragement, acknowledgement and positive feedback. When staff members are never praised, they tend to become complacent and go through the motions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying applaud poor work or underachievement. But the vast majority of dental team members do a good job. Letting your staff know that is a good thing. People want to be compensated well, but they also want to work in an environment where they’re appreciated.

Solution: Make appreciation a daily activity.

3. Fail to Keep Your Promises

Practice leaders can quickly demoralize their team by making promises they don’t keep. Your word should be your bond. If you’re viewed as untrustworthy, your team will doubt nearly everything you say.

Solution: If you make a promise to your team, do everything in your power to keep it.

Conclusion

If you have good staff members, you want to retain them. You don’t want to be the kind of boss that drives people away. Avoid these three costly errors and continue to strengthen your team by giving them the training they need.


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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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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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