Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - Why Can't I Have it All?
There you are a bright, talented individual and an excellent clinician. You have a good team - maybe not great - but certainly dedicated and hardworking. So why is it that some days, more than you care to admit, feel like the ultimate uphill battle? Sure, there are times when you sit back and are simply relieved because you've managed to enjoy an extended period with no major crises, no major calamities - and then it all breaks loose. Seriously? Why can't you and your team settle into smooth sailing? Because you're the one rocking the boat and you don't even realize it.
Let me explain. Human nature is such that we tend to blame others for our challenges. Many dentists reach a point in their careers where they think that accepting the frustrations is easier than changing behaviors or changing systems. The truth is it’s easier to settle in and tell yourself, “You can’t get good help.” “Employees really don’t care anymore.” “Some things will never change, so why should I bother trying to change them.” “This is just the way I am.”
That attitude, of course, translates into the reality that if you do things as you've always done them, you will continue to get the same results. And if you are content with that then fine, stop complaining about your team. Stop blaming them for the fact that you will not address the problems or the system shortfalls. Stop whining when employees leave your practice to work for another doctor. Stop wondering why you seem to have suffered more than other dentists during the economic challenges of the last few years.
You are the captain of your ship, doctor, and although there are days when you would happily turnover the rudder to someone else, your team looks to you to lead, to set the standard, to create an environment that fosters productivity and teamwork. In the coming weeks, rather than complaining about others or lamenting your circumstances, pay attention to your behaviors. If you find yourself engaging in the following destructive/counter-productive actions, take responsibility for them and commit to change.
You micromanage - stop swooping in and taking over. Stop leaving post-it notes around the office with your so-called “instructions.” If you don’t like the way “Jane” is setting up the tray or you are trotting up to the front desk to tell “Betsy” how you want Mrs. Smith scheduled, you need to take a close look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’ve given “Jane” and “Betsy” the necessary direction, training, and tools to effectively perform their duties in the manner that you want. It is demoralizing when bosses micromanage. It’s also unproductive and extremely expensive because if you are too busy being the assistant and the scheduler and the hygienist, who, doctor, is going to be the doctor?
You are cagey - stop keeping secrets. When you are guarded and evasive, staff do not trust you. You are the leader of a small team of people. Each relies on the other to be forthcoming and honest. If you repeatedly say that the practice is not doing as well financially as it should be but fail to provide specifics or fail to pursue avenues to change the course or fail to get outside assistance when you need it, look in the mirror. You have only yourself to blame. You are creating an atmosphere of anxiety and trepidation among the team. They can’t address the problems because they don’t know what they are. All they know is that “things are not good.” And please do not say that you don’t want to “burden” your team or “reveal too much.” That is the coward’s way of avoiding the real world difficulties that sometimes even you, doctor, don’t have the answers to. Communication among the team is critical to discovering and addressing problems long before they become full-blown crises.
Next week, If only they would do this … and other excuses that are holding you back.
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Is Your Team Happy?
Here it is - another year passed. Is your team fired up about starting the New Year with a bang or a thump?
If you feel that it's more of a thump, have you asked yourself why? Have you given your team the speech on how last year was not a good year so there will be no raises for this year? If so, how would you feel if your employer said to you that no matter how hard you worked next year, your effort won't be rewarded? My guess is…not good.
Share Your Practice Stats
Help your team to understand how you made your decision. Conduct a “lunch and learn” and order in pizza. Put together a bar graph illustration of the practice production and collections for the past few years to help them see that the practice did not grow last year. Ask questions about what the practice or you can do in order to increase revenue for this year. Involve them in the state of the practice. They will understand. It doesn’t mean that they will be happy with the news, but it is the truth.
No Whining by the Doctor
They whine, whine, and whine about their financial state right before they take a week's vacation in Tahiti. And on top of that, they bring back iPhone photos and tell everyone how much the room was a night, how much the fishing excursion cost and how beautiful the ring was that they bought for their spouse since it was their 20th wedding anniversary. I am not finished. It won't be more than a few months later when the same doctor drives to the office in his brand new candy red BWM convertible.
As you know by now, I am very supportive of dentists as business owners and I understand the trials and tribulations of providing great dentistry to your patients and still maintaining a profitable practice. But when dentists whine about their financial situation and then turn around and make extravagant purchases or go on expensive vacations, I have to say something! This will cause a dentist to lose the respect and support of his/her team quicker than anything.
Okay. Since you aren't one of these dentists, let's talk about what you can offer your team for the next 12 months until the practice gets back on its feet and starts increasing revenues again.
Ask and You Shall Receive
In other words, do something different this year than you did last year, unless you are willing to settle for the same result. Get your team involved - and McKenzie, too!
The Business Coordinator for 2012
Much of the front office duties in a dental practice are administrative tasks. In the past, they represented the bulk of the work day, as insurance claims were typed, printed, x-rays were attached, and they were sent by mail. Statements were printed in the office and also stuffed and stamped to be mailed. Recall cards were printed, stamped and sent. The only way to reach patients for confirmation was the phone. Posting of payments was to a ledger system and was manually balanced by calculator at the end of the day. Today, computer software does this all faster and far more accurately. Patients can now be confirmed via email or text, thus eliminating tying up the phone lines and taking up valuable time. Insurance payments and patient payments can be automatically deposited to your account. Recall reminders can be sent digitally to those patients that want to receive email only. The administrative tasks are the same but the time to do them is far less - and the time to redefine the position of the business coordinator for 2012 is now.
Going digital has changed the scope of the front office. With the advent of the digital age it is now possible to create an insurance claim, attach documents and send in a couple of minutes without using an envelope, duplicator, or a couple dollars worth of postage. The same goes for patient statements and recall notices. Tasks that took hours have been reduced to minutes. With the saving of so much time, the business coordinator's role has changed and now s/he has time to do other things. We are able to give patients more of the time and attention they want and need to educate and motivate to buy treatment. The role of the business coordinator in the digital age is now that of a practice builder, and not of a task doer.
Instead of spending so much time confirming appointments, more time can be spent on tracking referrals and creating ways to make the practice more visible and marketable. Updating the website with new information and photos can be done with the time that was used in the past to create and send statements. Creating an educational newsletter via your software program that does your confirmations can be done with the time saved from no longer having to send insurance claims by snail mail. Focusing on creating an internal marketing program to keep patients in your practice instead of balancing the day sheet from the night before is a way to build the practice.
The business coordinator will need to develop new skills that were not as necessary in the past to fulfill his/her job requirements. Customer service skills beyond just saying “hello” and “please fill out the forms” are necessary today. We now have the time to engage in active listening to really know what our patients want from dentistry. Understanding current marketing trends and how the demographics and psychographics of the neighborhood affect practice change is important. Learning how to build rapport and a connection with the patients so that trust is built is desirable in the new digital age where the personal face to face has been replaced by email and online communications. People crave attention from their healthcare providers because so little attention is given elsewhere.
The new business coordinator has time now to help the practice develop a niche. If the dentist wants to promote his/her talent with the result of veneer cases, the business coordinator can contact patients for testimonials and arrange for photo shoots to place the results on the website and to create a book to visually display to patients. The business coordinator can arrange for “lunch and learns” with local plastic surgeons and other professionals that deal with beauty enhancement to teach their staff about the benefits of cosmetic dentistry.
Yes, this is a new world for the business coordinator - but also an exciting and challenging world. It requires wanting to learn and grow just like you would want the practice to grow. Dentistry has always been a people business and a very personal business. The business coordinator must love people and want to interface more than ever to create a practice that exceeds patient expectations. Many business coordinators need to reevaluate their position in the practices that are chartless and digital and take the initiative to grow and change to be a more valuable asset than they were in the past.
McKenzie Management can offer training and skills to the new business coordinator. Call us today and enroll in one of our dental office training programs.
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