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Archive for category: Management

How to Create a Happier Team in 4 Easy Steps

How to Create a Happier Team in 4 Easy Steps

Team dynamics have a profound impact on practice success. If your team is miserable, you’re probably going to be miserable, too.

Over the years, I’ve met more than a few dentists who had an adversarial relationship with their staff. Some doctors resent the whole idea of having a team, and that resentment shines through in their interactions with staff members, many of whom eventually leave. Those who stay are disgruntled, which makes the dentist resent them even more. Eventually, everyone in the practice gets pulled into an endless vortex of negativity.

Fortunately, most dental practices don’t suffer from that kind of toxic culture. But, on the other hand, many dental teams aren’t operating at optimal levels either.

There are always opportunities to improve the environment in your practice. What can you do as the practice leader to build a better team and a better workplace? Here are some suggestions:

1) Listen More

Your team is largely running the practice. They see what’s working and what can be improved upon. Their ideas can be the catalysts for positive change. Not every suggestion is going to be a home run, but listening to their input shows that you value their opinions. People are more engaged in their jobs when they believe they can make a difference.

2) Empower Your Team

If a team member has a suggestion for improving the practice and it’s a project that you agree with, give the employee the authority to make it happen. Saying “yes” is a powerful tool for gaining “buy-in” from staff members. Obviously, you can’t say “yes” to every idea, but when you can, you should.

3) Share the Vision

Do you have a practice vision? It’s a written document that is your projection of where the practice will be in 3–5 years. If you have one, share it with the team. This will inspire them to move the practice forward and achieve challenging goals. It also helps turn a group of individuals into a cohesive team. If you don’t have a practice vision, it’s time to create one.

4) Surprise Them

Predictability can be good. Everybody knows what to expect and things run smoothly. Yet if the days are too similar, people can become bored. Lead the fight against complacency by surprising your team every now and then. Once a quarter, take your team out to lunch… throw a party… hand out gift cards to a local eatery. Do something out of the ordinary that makes working in your practice a little more fun.

Conclusion

Building a good team is difficult, but keeping them together is even harder. Use these four steps to engage, empower, inspire and surprise your staff!

 


Additional Resources

Read “3 Strategies for Hiring the Right People. 

New Seminar: Learn more team-building strategies at Dr. Levin’s upcoming seminar “The Mid-Career Plateau: How to Avoid It, Overcome It, Get Out of It” on Oct. 6 in Indianapolis.

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The CEO Mindset – Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

The CEO Mindset – Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

CEOs in real-world businesses manage and lead by taking risks. You always have to be looking for ways to innovate. What can be improved? What new service or product can be introduced that will generate new revenue?

Dentists should be thinking along these same lines. How can I make the practice better? What services will patients want in the next year or five years? How can I ensure my practice will continue to grow?

As in business, creating a growing practice also requires a certain willingness to take risks. You can’t just sit back and expect your practice to grow simply because it has in the past.

Many dentists are micromanagers who fear making any mistakes. Due in large part to your clinical training, you may find the idea of making mistakes seems nothing short of terrible. However, the pathway to increased success is often built by appropriate risk-taking.

No CEOs have grown and developed in their roles without making mistakes. Many dentists struggle with this concept because they can’t make a conscious distinction between clinical mistakes and practice management mistakes. As much as the former are to be avoided, the latter must be accepted as part of the job.

Smart dentists look at mistakes as learning opportunities. They recognize that errors are part of owning and operating a dental business. Nobody gets everything right the first time. Those who are willing to innovate, take risks and learn from their mistakes have the potential for tremendous growth and development.


Additional Resources

If you liked this rule from Dr. Levin’s e-book, 43 Rules to Increase Practice Production, read another excerpt here. 

Read “3 Habits of Happy Dentists.

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6 Steps for Overhauling Your Schedule

6 Steps for Overhauling Your Schedule

Your scheduling system is the core of your practice. It drives production. If you create an excellent schedule, you’ll be able to focus your resources more effectively… and grow practice income.

Revamping your scheduling system takes quite a bit of planning. Following are several basic guidelines that will ensure the best results:

  1. Conduct procedural time studies. Conditions in any dental practice change over time, such as the experience levels of you and your clinical staff, new technologies, new governmental regulations, etc. For this reason, you should measure how long it takes to perform various procedures and tasks. The timing process is relatively simple, and it can make a huge difference in how patients are scheduled.
  2. Use 10-minute increments. Most practices have already shifted from 15-minute units to the more precise 10-minute increments for planning appointments. If you haven’t done so yet, you can easily make the switch when you have the results of the time studies in hand.
  3. Structure an “ideal day” template. What’s your idea of a perfect daily schedule? The only way to make it happen is to define it, explain it to your team and train your scheduling coordinator with scripts that guide patients into the ideal schedule openings.
  4. Use scripting to control all aspects of scheduling. You can’t put together an efficient daily schedule without patient compliance. Write scripts to ensure that most practice-patient interactions about scheduling achieve the desired results.
  5. Schedule new patients within 7–10 days. In today’s more competitive dental market, you can’t afford to keep patients waiting for their first visit to your practice… because they might change their minds.
  6. Update your confirmation process. Modern communications technologies offer better ways to confirm appointments than the old postcards-and-phone-calls approach. Review the various techniques and services now available to dental offices and put together a more effective methodology.

Conclusion

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to creating a scheduling system that will decrease stress, reduce rushing and downtime, and enable you to increase production without working longer hours.


Additional Resources

For a more in-depth discussion of revamping your schedule, check out Dr. Levin’s popular how-to book, Power Cell Scheduling.

Learn more about our training course on Scheduling by going here.

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4 Lessons from Star Wars

4 Lessons from Star Wars

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first Stars Wars film, A New Hope, and life hasn’t been the same since. That one movie kick-started a billion-dollar industry of movies, merchandise, books, comic books and games. It’s estimated that Star Wars has generated $42 billion and counting in revenue.

I don’t consider myself a Star Wars geek, but even after four decades, that first movie still resonates. Populated with such iconic characters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, A New Hope was not only a thrilling sci-fi adventure story, but it was also the best film ever made about dentistry. Just kidding. As you know, there’s not a dental mention in the entire movie, though Jabba the Hutt could definitely benefit from a couple of implant-retained dentures.

Still, there’s plenty of wisdom in A New Hope for dentists. Here are four Star Wars quotes to guide your practice by:

1) “Your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them.´– Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi

Your practice can seem to be doing well. There can be a general sense of busyness, which gives the impression that your office is growing. But you can’t gauge performance by appearances alone.

Look at your practice’s key performance indicators (KPIs). Your office could be super-busy, but if you’re not collecting enough, then you got a problem. Your schedule could be poorly constructed, making it seem that you’re busier than you are, even though production is declining.

As a practice owner, you need to use a variety of tools to monitor performance––not just your eyes and your gut, but also the numbers.

2) “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy!” – Han Solo

With Imperial warships bearing down on the Millennium Falcon, Han is trying to set the coordinates for the jump to hyperspace while dodging enemy fire. The inexperienced Luke offers some unsolicited advice when Han snaps back with this salty retort.

The point here is that there’s experience and then there’s experience. All the dental school training in the world can’t prepare you for everything you will face as a practice owner. It helps a lot, but there are some things that you won’t find in any textbook. Fortunately, other resources are available, including study clubs, seminars, books and articles, training courses and consulting programs.

3) “Stay on target.” – Gold Five

A squadron of rebel X-wing Starfighters attacks the Death Star. Their mission is to blow up this powerful enemy ship. Their goal… an exhaust vent that leads to the ship’s reactor core. If they hit this target just right with a torpedo, the massive Death Star will implode.

Hopefully, nothing that dramatic is going on in your practice. But staying on target is critical as we enter the last four months of the year. Stay focused on hitting your annual targets. Watch out for the obstacles and the distractions. If you run into performance issues, make adjustments to get back on track.

4) “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Empire Strikes Back

I cheated a little on this one. The first three quotes are from the original movie. But how can you talk about Star Wars quotes without referencing Yoda, the master of twisted grammar and the wizard of nonsensical wisdom, who doesn’t appear until the second film?

Over the years, I’ve met too many dentists who said they were in the process of doing something––renovating their office, implementing new systems, adding new services, etc.––but little, if any, work had been done on these projects. If you’re gonna do something, you eventually have to get to it. But I understand, too. Big projects take time, planning, and resources, including money. Still, if you’re not happy with how things are, find a way to make changes––even incremental ones––can have a huge impact over time.

Conclusion

That first Star Wars movie was about trying to make the universe a better place. That’s one of the reasons George Lucas titled the film, A New Hope. Use these four quotes as inspiration to do the same for your practice.


Additional Resources

Read “Where Are You Going? And How Will You Get There?” 

Need help with your epic practice journey? Check out consulting resources here.

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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?


Additional Resources

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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.


Additional Resources

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3 Strategies for Hiring the Right People

3 Strategies for Hiring the Right People

You can’t always get what you want, goes the classic Rolling Stones song. This is especially true when trying to hire quality employees. Many dentists make the mistake of only looking for a dental superstar to join their practices, while disregarding many other worthy applicants.

Think of pro sports… there are only so many superstars––whether it’s Serena Williams or Tom Brady––out there. And sometimes these high performers have their own issues, such as not “playing well” with other team members.

If you can find a superstar who’s a good fit for your practice, great. If you can’t, here are three qualities that you should look for in prospective employees:

1. Potential to Be Great

Everyone has to start somewhere. Maybe this candidate doesn’t have much experience, but has demonstrated through her education, non-dental employment and volunteer activities that she has the right stuff to be a key contributor to your practice’s success.

Early in their careers, even superstars weren’t truly superstars. If you can get someone who can become––with the right training and mentorship––a great employee, then you may end up having superstar in your practice for a long time.

2. Want to Grow, Learn, and Get Better

In your search, you will probably run across candidates who are switching careers or attempting to re-enter the work force after a hiatus as a stay-at-home parent. Many of these people possess the capabilities to become quality team members, especially on the administrative side of the practice. Look at their experience… do you see a commitment to learning, taking on new responsibilities and adding new skills?

Realize that there are far more people with non-dental work experience out there. Many of them can make excellent additions to your staff, if they have a track record that shows a demonstrated ability for achievement and growth.

3. Enthusiastic and Energetic

Personality matters. You need positive people in your practice. Expert clinical care goes hand in hand with excellent customer service. There may be times that a person with little experience but a lot of enthusiasm may be the best choice. Of course, you want to conduct at least two interviews to make sure that this person would be a good fit for the practice.

Conclusion

Will you be able to hire superstar team members every time? Probably not.

What you can do is look for people who have the potential to be superstars, who want to grow, and who are energized and enthusiastic. When people are willing to learn and improve, great things can happen.


Additional Resources

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3 Habits of Happy Dentists

3 Habits of Happy Dentists

Dentistry is a good gig, right? Better than most careers. US News & World Report regularly ranks dentistry as one of the best jobs in the country. Yet, I’ve met many dentists who are stressed out. In fact, 29% reported high or extremely high stress, according to the latest Dental Economics – Levin Group Practice Survey.

In recent years, the business of dentistry has become more complex, which has made owning and operating a successful practice more challenging. But, after all is said and done, dentistry is still an amazing profession.

Here are three habits that can help you enjoy what you do even more:

1. Communication

Share information with your team. If they know what the goals are, they can work toward achieving the objectives. If they don’t know, there’s not much they can do.

Hold morning meetings to preview the day’s coming attractions. These huddles give everyone a heads-up about what to expect for the next eight hours. Also, hold regular monthly meetings to work on larger issues, such as fixing customer service breakdowns, role-playing scripts, implementing new systems, etc.

2. Delegation

One reason some dentists are unhappy is because they’re trying to do too much. You shouldn’t be answering phones, dealing with billing issues, or scheduling patients. Those activities should all be performed by your team. In fact, you should delegate nearly all administrative activities to your staff, so you can focus on patient care.

Delegation not only benefits you but also your team. It shows that you trust them to do their jobs, make decisions and handle things without being directly supervised or told what to do. Of course, you will need to provide effective training, so your employees are fully capable of performing their duties.

3. Appreciation

Let your team know what kind of job they’re doing. Thank them when things are going well. Recognize their efforts when they go above and beyond. You want your staff to view their employment at your practice as more than just another job. You want them to see it as a calling where they have the opportunity to learn, grow and excel. Acknowledging quality performance is one way to ensure good employees stay with your practice for as long as possible.

Conclusion

There’s a lot in dentistry (and life) you can’t control. But two things you can control are your attitude and your actions. Use these three habits to increase your personal and professional satisfaction.


Additional Resources

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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.


Additional Resources

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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.


Additional Resources

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