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Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems

Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems

Systems, systems, systems! Either you got good ones or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re asking for trouble!

Here’s the problem: most dentists think they have good systems when, in fact, they don’t. Sure, at one time, the systems were effective and efficient, but that was years ago. Management and marketing systems have a shelf life of about three years when they’re operating at peak efficiency.

After that, things slow down. As the practice continues to evolve, the old systems can’t keep up and they begin breaking down more and more frequently.

Doctors and team members will get out “the duct tape” to keep the systems running, but bottlenecks continue to multiply, forcing the staff to improvise work-a-rounds and other fixes that, of course, create additional problems. Before long, those once sleek, simple, super-efficient systems have transmogrified into a Rube Goldbergian nightmare. It takes more and more effort to get less and less done. Not a good situation for you, your team or your patients.

Yet dentists insist on holding onto outdated, production-killing, morale-destroying systems. Why? Here are the top four excuses dentists make for keeping bad systems:

1. It’s going to take too much time to replace the systems

You can’t expect to snap your fingers and have new systems like that. A better way to look at it is that new systems are an investment in your practice… in your sanity… and your financial well-being.

If your outdated systems aren’t working well now, what will they be like a year from now? How high will he stress be in your practice? How long will your team agree to keep working under such conditions… before they start looking for opportunities elsewhere?

2. It won’t be worth it

Can you remember what was it like when your current systems were new? How the days seemed to fly by with few problems? Patients weren’t backed up in the reception area. Stress was low or nearly nonexistent. And you weren’t putting in extra time in the office and at home, thinking about the practice 24/7.

You can’t go back to those easier, stress-free days with your current systems. But if you could get a better practice and a better life with new systems, would it be worth it?

3. We fixed systems before and nothing happened

Fixing systems isn’t replacing them. And that’s what you’ve got to do when systems become outdated. Your practice is continually evolving, and new systems can absorb only so many changes before they start to flounder. Think of all the changes that have occurred in your practice in the past three years regarding technology, supplies, personnel, protocols, equipment, etc.

I bet it’s a pretty substantial list, yet you’re operating with basically the same systems before any of those changes happened. It’s like running new software on an old computer. It either won’t work or it runs so slowly that you finally throw your hands up in frustration.

4. My team doesn’t want to change

It happens. Teams get comfortable with the status quo. But if your practice isn’t performing to your satisfaction, then it’s up to you to change it.

After all, you want to get the most out of your career. You don’t want to settle for lower income and lower profitability… just because your team is happy with the way things are.

Sure, you want your team’s input on how to improve the practice, but keeping everything the same shouldn’t be an option.

Conclusion

Your practice is a Ferrari. You can’t expect it to operate at peak performance if there’s a lawnmower engine under the hood. That’s what happens with old systems––they prevent you from reaching your practice’s full potential. Who wants to be puttering down the road when you could be flying full speed ahead into a much brighter future?


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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what’s your next move?

1. Keep On Doing What You’ve Been Doing

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

2. Make Some DIY Repairs and Hope for the Best

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

3. Get Help

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

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

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

Conclusion

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


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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.


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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.


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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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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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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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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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