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Do You Know Your Five Numbers?

Do You Know Your Five Numbers?

Last week I lectured in three cities across the United States. Each of my seminars started with an assessment of what doctors and office managers really know about their practices. It was not surprising to find out that most offices have very little information about their practice performance from a statistical standpoint. The truth is that most doctors and office managers know more stats about their favorite sports team than they do about the practice itself.

Data, metrics and statistics are critical. If you don’t have these you may well find that your practice is wandering in the wrong direction.  Strategy, tactics and decisions for the practice should all be driven based on real data so that the decisions are in the best interest of the practice. All too often we are making decisions based on gut feeling which is increasingly wrong in a highly competitive environment.

There are five key performance indicators that are critical. They are production, collections, profit, overhead and new patients. These five statistics should be measured daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. Not only is each one a critical success factor, but they also correlate together. For example, if the number of new patients begins to decline, production and profit will decline next even if overhead is stable. Or if overhead can be reduced profit will increase even if production does not change. Understanding these five statistics is one of the most important aspects of the job of a dentist or office manager overseeing the practice and making decisions.

Every week we receive phone calls from doctors who are seeking consulting services because their practices are flat or declining. A flat practice now is simply one step before decline. In these conversations we usually find, just like the seminar audiences did last week, that doctors and office managers do not really have a handle on their key performance indicators and that is a contributing factor to their slide into plateau or decline.

Start analyzing these five statistics on a regular basis. They will gradually come together to tell a story or help a practice understand the level of performance it currently has and where it is headed. In many cases plateaus and declines are highly predictable and actions can be taken to prevent this occurrence.

What is One Habit You Need to Change?

What is One Habit You Need to Change?

There’s endless commentary on how to develop habits. Everyone from PhD’s to kids blogging from their bedrooms has an opinion on this topic, and most of them have no research to back them up.

For example, you probably have heard that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Try to find any real research on that. We did and we found that it came from a 1960 book called Psycho-Cybernetics written by Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon. Maltz stated that he found that it took patients who lost limbs 21 days to adjust their self-image, so he proposed that it took 21 days to ingrain a new habit. Not only was this not research it is not necessarily accurate.

No one knows how long it takes to start and implement a new habit. But I do know that if you don’t identify the one habit you want to change nothing will happen. So I challenge you to answer the question – regardless of how long it takes, what is the one habit you want to change?  Here’s a list of ideas to think about:

  • Establishing your attitude and behavior when you arrive at the office each morning to inspire other people
  • Giving one complement to everyone you meet every day
  • Getting in better physical condition so you’re not exhausted at the end of the day
  • Taking 1 hour three times a week to read and get updated on dentistry, practice management or personal development
  • Getting up every morning and getting yourself into a positive mode by repeating a certain sentence (mantra) out loud to remind and reinforce a certain attitude or mindset
  • Calling patients at night to see how they’re feeling
  • Reviewing key performance indicators that represent the level of practice performance each day, week and month.
  • Designing an annual budget and checking progress against that budget monthly

The list is endless. You need to decide which habit you want to create and begin to work on it now. It may take 21 days, 42 days or two hours. I have no idea. But I do know that it is more important to figure out what it is, than how long it will take.

Oh, and by the way, once you figure out the first one – go find another one.

The Technique of 10

The Technique of 10

Is there anything that you’d like to change about your life? Of course there is. None of us are perfect. Now…how long have you wanted to change it? Six months? A year? Five years? Don’t beat yourself up too much. Many people express interest in self-improvement, but very few of us actually do anything about it. Without external reinforcement from a life coach or mentor, we can easily lose focus and get distracted or discouraged.

If you’re looking for something to help you get started, try a simple technique called The Technique of 10. Here’s how it works:

  • Buy a small spiral notebook.
  • On the first page, list 10 aspects of your life that you want to improve. For example…
  1. Sleep
  2. Exercise
  3. Nutrition
  4. Attitude
  5. Lifelong Learning
  6. Practice Leadership
  7. Home Life
  8. Interpersonal Relations
  9. Stress
  10. Mastering a New Technique

Note the mix of personal and professional, broad and specific (#10).

  • Every day, use the notebook to score… on a 0–10 basis… how you did in each of your 10 target areas.
  • At least once a week, check your progress and commit to doing better where needed.
  • Modify the list periodically, removing areas where you’ve reached your goals and adding new ones.

The Technique of 10 can be a great jumpstart to making the life changes you’ve been wanting to make for years.

What Monsters Lurk in Your Practice?

What Monsters Lurk in Your Practice?

What if Halloween happened every day? Ooh, that’s a scary thought. Can you imagine putting up with the crazy, over-the-top costumes, the ghouls and goblins, the gruesome humor and the candy giveaways year-round? Sounds like a dentist’s worst nightmare, especially that last part.

Unfortunately, for some practices, Halloween is a daily occurrence. Every day, the dentist and team grapple with monsters that threaten the sustainability of the practice.

Are you battling any of following creatures in your office1.

1. Frankenstein Systems

Cobbled together from putrid processes, moldering methods and rotting rituals, these cadaverous creations lumber through the practice, smashing morale, destroying momentum and undermining progress every step of the way. Their long-time presence will scare away even the most loyal team members and patients.

2. Inefficiency Vampires

They suck the energy right out of the practice, draining away precious resources that could be better spent growing production. They sneak into the practice almost invisibly and can exist for years before their presence is detected. Their persuasive powers are legendary. Many team members and doctors fall under their spell and defend their nefarious actions by saying, “But what we’ve always done it this way.” The longer they exist in a practice, the stronger their power grows!

3. Zombie Customer Service

Everybody is so well-rehearsed that they’re just going through the motions, mechanically mouthing memorized word-morsels. Plug Patient A into Script B and get Result C. Wash, rinse and repeat! Patients want to have genuine interactions––not simulated experiences––with their oral healthcare provider.

Conclusion

These monsters have plagued dental practices from time immemorial. Taking them on and rooting them out of your practice takes foresight, courage and persistence. But once you drive them out of your practice, you can’t imagine why you put up with them so long.

 


Additional Resources

Check out Dr. Levin’s popular e-book 31 Biggest Mistakes that Dentists Make. Save 25% with code TOD25.

Watch the video “Systems Implementation.

 

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What Are You Doing to WOW Your Staff Members?

What Are You Doing to WOW Your Staff Members?

It can be easy to take them for granted, especially if you’ve been working together for a while. But don’t make that mistake. Sure, there should be a comfort level, but you don’t want that to turn into complacency. Because if you as the practice owner are going through the motions, your team will likely do the same.

Staff members, no matter how long they’ve been with the practice, want to be inspired about what they do. Here are five ways to motivate your team and yourself

1. Be the Example

Your team is looking to you for cues on how to act while at work. If you talk badly about patients or display a negative attitude or regularly come in late, you’re telling your team by your actions they can do the same.

Being the example literally means being the example. Sit down and make a list of the five most important traits you would like to see in your team. Then display those traits every single day. Think of it as a self-improvement checklist. You may even want to rate yourself in each category at the end of the day. It’s a technique I’ve used to help myself improve in targeted areas.

2. Display a Positive Attitude at All Times

Admittedly, that’s not always easy. You could have a ton of stuff going on at home––a child having trouble at school, a parent in the hospital, marital issues, etc., but you’ve got to leave all that behind and put your best face forward.

Every morning find a way to get into a positive frame of mind––even if you have to fake it sometimes. A positive attitude is one of the most powerful ways to reach your own potential and motivate the people around you. People like consistent leaders and they love someone who displays positivity day in day out. They know they can count on it regardless of what’s happening in the rest of their lives.

3. Appreciate the Team for Doing Normal Things

In business and sports, people are often publicly rewarded for exceptional performance… the Most Valuable Player, Most Improved, Highest Scorer, etc.  In real life, leadership is about showing the team gratitude and appreciation for the things they routinely do every day. The more  recognition and compliments you give out, the more motivated people will be.

4. Demonstrate High Energy Every Day

Not everyone is a cheerleader or a rah-rah person. I’m not suggesting you should run around your practice like some over-caffeinated infomercial spokesperson, but I am suggesting that displaying energy is powerful. When you have high energy, it’s contagious. You can walk into most dental practices and feel the energy level––good or bad. People with high energy are more likable, more influential and more productive.

5. Have an Open Door Policy

Approachable leaders are powerful leaders. When team members feel they can talk to the doctor about anything, they are comfortable, looking to improve and often ask questions to enhance performance. When you are accessible to your team on a regular basis, they will appreciate it, admire you and want to perform better.

Conclusion

Even the best teams can underperform at times. Use these five techniques to keep your team focused and inspired!

 


Additional Resources

Read “3 Habits of Happy Dentists.

Check out Dr. Levin’s e-book “What Dentists Can Learn from Top CEOs.” Save 25% with code TOD25.

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Brand It: Don’t Be “Just Another” Practice

Brand It: Don’t Be “Just Another” Practice

Every dental practice is unique and should be able to identify a number of distinctive selling points. The following list can help you get started:

  • Doctor and Staff (schools attended, family, interests, charitable activities, etc.)
  • Location (easy to reach, free parking, near major shopping areas, etc.)
  • Environment (furnishings, refreshments, wi-fi, reading materials, etc.)
  • Technology/Services (the best, the latest, the fastest, etc.)
  • Financial (insurance accepted, financing options, free services)
  • Praise from other patients (testimonials)
  • Educational (home care instructions, advice on dental issues, etc.)
  • Scheduling (special hours, staying on schedule, etc.)

It makes sense to involve the whole team in identifying possible differentiators and then selecting those which are likely to be most appealing.

Getting the Word Out

Once your practice has determined what sets it apart from others, come up with a marketing plan that will effectively communicate your differentiators. The strategies you choose will depend, in part, on your differentiators. For example, to promote your practice’s engagement in the community, attend local health fairs and other events, submit dental health articles to local papers and websites, etc.

Many differentiators relate to customer service. Patients who experience them first-hand can then be encouraged to refer family members, friends, neighbors, fellow workers and others to your practice. This kind of word-of-mouth advertising could prove to be the most effective element in your marketing plan.

 


Additional Resources

Read “Turn Your Facebook Page into a New Patient Generator.

Learn more about Levin Group’s marketing consulting program.

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Dental Practice Myth #4: Excellent Care = Automatic Success

Dental Practice Myth #4: Excellent Care = Automatic Success

If that were only true, but sad to say, it’s not. From dental school onward, dentists are taught that providing excellent dentistry––which is our obligation––will automatically lead to practice success. While this appeared to be true for many years, because most practices were successful, it had little to do with the excellence of the dentistry and more with simple supply and demand. There were fewer dental practices back then, combined with more patients seeking care. Neither one is true any longer.

Today, practice success depends on the ability to compete effectively in a crowded market. You need to implement the best systems, promote your office continuously and effectively, provide incredible customer service, and find new ways to grow your practice.

Moreover, most patients have absolutely no idea about how to measure the quality of clinical care they’re receiving. In fact, patients are judging your practice more by the level of customer service they experience than the actual dental treatment. People will remember the smile and kind words they received from the front desk more so than your skills at filling a cavity.

Don’t get me wrong. Excellent clinical skills still matter greatly, but they also need to be supported by excellent business skills. You can be the top clinician in the world, but it won’t matter if your schedule is half-empty every day.

Solution: Get the business and leadership skills you need to become an excellent CEO for your practice. When you supplement your clinical knowledge with business savvy, it’s a powerful combination!


Additional Resources

For more myths, check out Dr. Levin’s book, 81 Obstacles to Practice Growth. Save 25% with code TOD25.

Learn more about Levin Group’s management consulting program.

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Old Systems & High Stress – A Deadly Combination

Old Systems & High Stress – A Deadly Combination

When I ask dentists why they and their team are feeling stress, they usually attribute it to patients or staff problems. While it’s true that losing a dental assistant, for example, can elevate stress temporarily, our research shows that long-term stress actually comes directly from system inefficiencies.

Systems that no longer work properly frustrate the team members who use them. They make even simple, routine tasks troublesome, forcing everyone in the office to grapple with bottlenecks every day. The most capable and dedicated staff members usually suffer the most because, no matter how hard they strive to excel, poor systems undermine their efforts. Doctors also feel more stress because the practice—their practice—is falling short of its business potential.

All systems, no matter how good they are, have an expiration date. Systems that once facilitated practice growth inevitably become obsolete. When they do, they stop helping and start hurting, pushing practices toward financial decline and leaving potential income on the table every day.

The Obvious Solution

The good news is that replacing inadequate systems can solve both stress and production problems. If you have older systems, the schedule is often the best place to start. It affects nearly every operation in the practice. When the schedule continually breaks down, patients get upset causing team members to get stressed. A new, high-performance schedule can often trigger a practice turnaround, especially if a commitment is made to replace other outdated systems.

In the new dental economy, the practices that thrive will be those that transform themselves into real-world businesses by upgrading their management systems. Conversely, dentists who continue doing “business as usual” will continue to experience lower production and higher stress.


Additional Resources

Download Dr. Levin’s free whitepaper “Increasing Production with the Right Systems.

Read “Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems.

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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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