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Do More With What You Have… Or Lose More of What You Got

Do More With What You Have… Or Lose More of What You Got

Every business has assets and liabilities.

But if you’re not maximizing your assets, that’s a liability.

And in today’s competitive market, you can’t afford to turn strength into weakness. But that’s what many practices are unintentionally doing.

The #1 mismanaged asset in a dental practice is the patient base. Time and time again, when we analyze practices, we find that they have…

  • Hundreds of inactive patients due to lack of follow-up
  • Scores of overdue patients who haven’t been scheduled
  • Dozens of patients with unfinished treatment
  • Countless one-and-done patients who were never contacted after their initial appointment

Not Enough Patients… or Not Reaching Out Enough?

Practices typically spend thousands of dollars trying to attract new patients, yet most offices devote little time to rescheduling overdue and inactive patients. Just as your financial coordinator should regularly contact patients who owe the practice money, the scheduling coordinator should designate at least one hour a week to bringing unscheduled and inactive patients back into the practice. If you have a backlog of “idle” patients, then you’ll need to devote significant resources to play catch-up.

Many of these patients will come back… if you contact them and use influential scripting to remind them that regular appointments are critical for maintaining optimal oral health and identifying minor issues before they become major problems.

Conclusion

New patients matter, but so do the patients already “on the books.”  Put procedures in place to reschedule patients who cancel and to reactivate patients who haven’t been in the office in 12–18 months. By bringing these patients back, you’ll have a fuller hygiene schedule and an infusion of new revenue.


Additional Resource

Need a systems checkup? Find out how a Practice Performance Analysis can pinpoint whatever’s limiting your growth. To learn more, click here.

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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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Are You Working One Day A Week for Nothing?

Are You Working One Day A Week for Nothing?

Many dentists are, but they don’t know it. Why? Because their practice has a sense of “busy-ness” to it. But here’s the thing… “busy-ness” doesn’t necessarily translate to productivity or profitability.

An outdated scheduling system runs slow. It makes you believe that you’re busier than you are. As your schedule ages, the more bottlenecks it accumulates, slowing things down even more.

Stress increases, while productivity decreases. If nothing is done, employees eventually leave, creating even more stress.

Are you one of those doctors working an extra day a week? Answer these five questions:

1. Is the current scheduling system three years or older?

If yes, that’s a big red flag. You might be saying, “Roger, my schedule is five years old and works perfectly fine. Why should I change it?” Your practice is constantly changing (and so is dentistry), even though it may seem the same as it ever was. In the span of 3–5 years, practices add services, update software, purchase new equipment, switch materials and experience turnover. All these changes impact the schedule and its efficiency.

2. Do you feel like your practice should be more financially successful than it is?

Over the past few years, I’ve met many dentists who ask me, “I’m busting my tail day-in day-out, yet why do I have so little to show for it at the end of the year?” An inefficient schedule is like a mirage… it tricks you into seeing things that aren’t there. It’s disconcerting when you realize all your hard work isn’t paying off like it should.

3. Does your practice consistently run behind two or more days a week?

If so, your old schedule is also killing your customer service and case acceptance. When patients are forced to wait 10–15 minutes or more, they will complain about your practice to their friends, cancel their next appointment, post a bad review on social media and turn down recommended treatment.

4. Has it been longer than a year since you performed procedural time studies?

If it’s been longer than a year, that’s another good indication that your schedule isn’t as accurate as it should be. When the appointment time is out of sync with scheduled procedure, you’re either running behind or have unnecessary gaps in your schedule. Neither situation is a good one.

5. Would you say your stress is higher than it used to be?

Outdated systems are the #1 cause of stress, and an outdated scheduling system is often the main culprit. The schedule affects everything you do. If it runs sluggishly, then you have unhappy patients in the reception area… frantic clinical staff trying to play catch-up… and an overwhelmed front desk team dealing with the fallout.

Conclusion

Who wants to work harder for less? That’s what old systems will do to you and your practice, especially an outdated schedule. If you answered “yes” to at least two of the above questions, it’s time for a new schedule. The sooner you replace it, the sooner you can reap the rewards!


Additional Resource

Need help with your schedule? Check out our new training module called “Scheduling for Maximum Production and Minimum Stress” by clicking here.

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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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Case Presentation: 4 Easy Fixes

Case Presentation: 4 Easy Fixes

You’re the expert on oral health, yet you have trouble persuading patients to accept beneficial treatment. They feign interest in your recommendations, but most of the time they  don’t follow through, especially for larger cases and cosmetic treatment. It’s frustrating.

That lack of success can quickly turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t want to come into the presentation with a negative mindset that patients will automatically turn down your treatment. Break the cycle of rejection with these four simple but effective “powers of persuasion” to win over patients:

  1. Be Enthusiastic
    Enthusiasm engages patients. Many dentists are simply too professorial in their presentations. You’re not pontificating on a research paper at a symposium––you’re beautifying smiles, saving teeth and improving lives. All good things, right? Your attitude, demeanor and manner should reflect that critical mission.
  2. Stay Focused
    During the case presentation, there’s nothing more important than the patient in the chair.Don’t get distracted. Tell your team you’re not to be interrupted, except for a major emergency. Make eye contact, use the patient’s name, and periodically ask if there are any questions. Act as if the only thing you have to do that day is talk to that patient about treatment. Rushing, interruptions, and bad body language will guarantee that the answer is NO.
  3. Be Compelling
    We’ve all seen TV shows and movies where lawyers make a powerful case in court. The operatory is your courtroom and the patient is the judge and jury. If you think through every element of the case––the type of treatment, benefits, points to emphasize, financial issues, potential patient concerns, etc.––you can anticipate patient objections. Never react defensively when a patient asks a tough question. Treat it simply as a normal part of the discussion. Throughout the presentation, make sure patients know you have their best interests in mind.
  4. Ask For The Close
    In any type of sales situation, and case presentation is a professional level of sales, you have to ask for the close. If you simply present a case without asking for the close, you’ve made it easy for patients to say “no.” In fact, they don’t have to say anything. By asking for the close, patients are compelled to respond.  If you’ve done an excellent job at making the case treatment, more patients will say “yes.”An excellent script to ask for the close is “Mrs. Jones, would you like to have this treatment performed?” Give the patient time to think and respond and then be ready to answer questions or objections.

Conclusion

Everything matters during case presentation. Even the seemingly small stuff. Make these “little” adjustments to your case presentations and you’ll reap big rewards.


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from 43 Rules to Increase Practice Production 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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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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Are You Prepared for The Chaos Factor?

Are You Prepared for The Chaos Factor?

Dr. Z had a high-profit, low-stress practice, with a well-trained team. Everything was going great… then, two staff members left in quick succession, and the office went into a tailspin. He couldn’t understand why the practice was now in total chaos every day.

We were talking at lunch during one of my seminars. After asking Dr. Z a few questions, I knew exactly what had caused this problem. It wasn’t that two of his team members had left—it was that he didn’t have a plan for handling such a change. Every good business leader knows that there will be staff turnover and makes sure there are systems in place to deal with it quickly and effectively.

I explained to Dr. Z that, as a business, his practice would go through many cycles and he needed to be prepared for the resulting changes. For example, in this case, he had no team training plan in place. When two experienced staff members were replaced with two new employees, the practice suffered a huge skills and knowledge gap overnight. Rather than immediately going through intense training to get them up to speed ASAP, the new team members had to muddle through—making mistakes, taking too long to perform tasks, and sometimes stepping on others’ toes. The disruption was so great that the practice was still struggling two years later.

As one of our new clients, Dr. Z has already begun reshaping his practice to cope with future changes, which are inevitable. With more procedures, materials and technologies at the disposal of dentists today—not to mention insurance issues and other external financial factors that affect practice success—the ability to anticipate change and adapt to it has become more critical than ever.

No matter how smoothly your practice may be running, remember that chaos always lurks just below the surface. If you plan accordingly, you’ll stave off chaos no matter what changes come your way.


Additional Resource

Got chaos in your practice and not sure what to do? Learn more about our Practice Performance Analysis 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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