5.21.10 Issue #428 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Too Much Work, Too Little Return
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials for the in-home lap pools. The idea is that you either swim against a continuous current or are tethered to the wall. Regardless of the design, the idea is that you are swimming, swimming, swimming and getting nowhere. Yet you are expending an enormous amount of energy in your efforts. It reminds me a lot of the state of many dental practices these days. They are burning up a great deal of energy and getting virtually nowhere. They’ve been treading water for so long and just trying to stay afloat that they think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

I can assure you it’s not. And as we close in on the half-way point of the year,  there is no better time than now to cut the tether that has you and your team working, working, working and getting nowhere. Too many practice owners wait until the end of the year to take a close look at practice performance and systems. Only then does the picture become clear: they’ve been expending an enormous amount of energy on broken and outdated systems that have held them back the entire year… or longer.

Those that review their numbers every month can see the tide shifting and make adjustments. But if you don’t know what you are looking for, if you don’t understand what needs to be adjusted or how, you’ll keep swimming upstream, using time, money, and resources only to stay exactly where you don’t want to be. I recommend a different and much more rewarding course that will keep you not only swimming in the right direction but your head well above water as well.

The first step, consider the depth of your situation. When production, profits, and progress seem to have stopped or slowed, there are likely more than a few issues pulling you under, such as: 

  • Business staff turnover is common in the practice.
  • There are no established training protocols when business staff are hired.
  • Production goals, collections goals, and scheduling goals have not been established, or they are unclear at best.
  • The practice does not use system performance measurements or it measures some systems but not all.
  • The team does not know how to measure specific systems or how to evaluate success or failure of them.
  • Job descriptions, if they exist, are unclear. Multiple staff are “responsible” for multiple systems, so instead of accountability, there is finger pointing when things go wrong.
  • Holes in the schedule and no shows are common.
  • No one follows-up with patients who have unscheduled treatment.
  • Unscheduled treatment is not tracked.
  • The clinical team has never evaluated its clinical efficiency and does not know how to do so.
  • Fees are seldom reviewed or compared to similar practices in the area.
  • Services have not been expanded in some time.
  • The practice has no established vision or goals.
  • Practice profits are suffering and the doctor is stressed.

Each of the points above is interdependent on the next. For example, staff turnover may be a major problem because there are no clear job descriptions. Or the employee is trying desperately to figure things out as s/he goes along because there are no training protocols in place. Practice profits are suffering because there are no clear goals established for production, collections, or scheduling - merely vague directives from the doctor.

Specificity is essential to success in every dental practice. The old “everyone does everything” doesn’t work in today’s demanding workplace. Certainly, you need backup systems and protocols so that other staff can step in when necessary. But individual employees need to know what is expected of them individually.

If you do not have specific expectations of a particular system, you cannot communicate those expectations to your employees. It should come as no surprise, then, that the employee doesn’t quite know what to deliver. Once an employee has been given the necessary training and understands how the expectation for a particular system fits into the practice goals, and if they’ve been given the necessary training and tools, they can be expected to deliver accordingly on your expectations.

Next week, find out which key systems directly impact whether your practice will sink or swim this year. 

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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