Last week, we kicked off a five-part series on the most popular myths surrounding practice management consulting with one of my favorites: “You will fire my staff.” I hope we’ve put that one to rest for the time being. If you missed it, click here. This week, we’re on to #2 on the “myth list”: “I don’t need a consultant. I can get self-help.”
Now, as we know, dentists are very bright people. They are capable of achieving an extremely high level of perfection and excellence in their chosen field. However, the self-help approach to practice management is typically rife with pitfalls, pain and plenty of suffering. It is also extremely expensive.
Nonetheless, before many practice owners will take the bold step to seek outside assistance, they—understandably—want to try to do it themselves first. After all, it’s their practice.
Here’s how the self-help approach typically plays out: The doctor goes to a major dental meeting. He returns bubbling over with great ideas. The doctor is utterly convinced that what he learned last weekend will work perfectly. It is the answer to what ails his practice. “Everything is going to go much better if we just start blocking the schedule,” he assures his business staff. They play along. “Really? How so?” Doctor proceeds to tell them that from now on he’s going to do as many crowns and/or bridges and implant cases as his schedule will allow. That’s his goal. No system, no strategy, no way is this going to work. But the team doesn’t realize that just yet.
Four weeks later, the doctor has more down time than he can afford. The business team has to come up with one excuse after another for patients who need routine dentistry but the schedule is booked—or rather, blocked. The doctor is frustrated because yet another great idea didn’t work in his practice. He’s convinced that his team just doesn’t get it. The business team is wondering what they’re doing wrong and why this scheduling approach isn’t working even though the doctor was sure that it would. The patients are frustrated. And everyone on staff is ready to lock the doctor in the closet the next time he says he’s going to a dental meeting.
Now don’t get me wrong—I am a strong advocate of dental meetings and ongoing education for doctors and their teams. However, too often dentists come away from seminars with kernels of very good information that, if implemented correctly, would be tremendously beneficial to the practice. But the doctor cannot do it alone. He/she simply does not have the time or the expertise to examine the systems, determine the shortfalls, run reports, analyze results and address the current and potential problems associated with system changes. Moreover, if the doctor isn’t diagnosing and delivering dentistry, the practice isn’t making money.
Bottom line: Trying to do everything in your practice is costing you thousands over a year and millions over a career. Besides, didn’t you get into this profession to “do the dentistry”?
Making major shifts in protocols, such as scheduling, collections, treatment presentation, financial arrangements, marketing, etc., requires research, careful planning and implementation, and ongoing monitoring and adjustment. Most dental teams do not know how to conduct research within their own practices to determine how effective a blocked schedule would be or how well a new collections procedure would go over. They do not have the necessary demographic information at their fingertips to determine if a significant change in the practice will be accepted or rejected by patients.
Finally, it is incredibly difficult for doctors alone to create true change in their practices. Employees, naturally, are resistant to change. They must be educated, trained and coached to understand how the change benefits them, the doctor and the practice as a whole.
Doctor, as much as you may want to, you simply don’t have the time to be the CEO, the VP of Production, the Director of Human Resources, the accountant, the visionary and the practice management consultant, too. But you do have a choice. You can continue to limp along and try to figure out over the lifetime of your career how to make the most of this unwieldy thing that is your practice and do dentistry as time allows. Or, you can invest a little time and money to enjoy the practice you’ve always dreamed of within weeks. You decide. Then call me.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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