Too Stressed for Success? Do This.
What does it mean to be “successful”? Are you successful when you graduate from dental school? Certainly, that is a significant achievement. How about when you open your own practice? That too is no easy undertaking. Is your definition of success making it through an entire 12 months without staff turnover or a full day without a cancellation or no-show? Are you successful when you have a fully funded retirement account? Obviously, your own sense of “success” may take many forms, depending on your individual circumstances and the desired outcomes.
Every achievement - be it completing dental school, opening a new practice, or choosing to pursue a higher level of success - requires tremendous work and dedication. It doesn’t just happen, as you well know. Consider the question I posed in the first sentence. What does it mean to be “successful”? For some, it’s reducing stress, for others it’s having more free time, and for many, it’s those as well as improving their financial standing.
When we sit down with doctors who are frustrated and believe their practices could be and should be more successful, there are several common factors that we find. Although these doctors are very good dentists, they do not have adequate knowledge of the business side of their profession. They tend to be stressed and generally unhappy with their teams, their practices, and, in some cases, even their patients. The rigors of running a small business have become all consuming. Often they are overextended and don’t have the time to educate themselves. They hire employees with “previous dental experience” because they hope that the employees will know what to do, will instinctively know what the doctor wants, and will solve the business problems facing the practice. Yet the practice continues to spin its wheels.
It is also common to find struggling practices led by dentists who have a very strong need to be intimately involved in the minute details. They struggle to let staff take ownership of practice systems that could reduce stress and improve productivity. These doctors have difficulty trusting others. They believe “success” lies in control, but this control often exacerbates their frustrations because they cannot focus on leading their teams to achieve larger practice goals.
As any practice owner knows all too well, being solely responsible for ensuring that every aspect of the business is running as it should be is a job of Herculean proportions. Moreover, dentists who are not achieving the level of success that they desire are oftentimes routinely placing want ads because “good help is hard to find.” These doctors struggle with determining what they expect of their employees. They just want them to “do their job” but they can’t articulate specifically what that job is. They dislike the human resources aspects of running the practice. Consequently, those systems are weak and cost the practice tens of thousands of dollars in inefficiency and lost productivity. These are among the major factors that interfere with a dentist’s ability to achieve the level of success that s/he desires.
Conversely, those that are the most successful make specific choices. They surround themselves with a team of trusted advisors to help them shore up the areas in which the practice struggles. They are open to creating specific systems of checks and balances where responsibilities are delegated to well-trained employees and practice owners are informed to the degree they desire to be and need to be. When a client tells us, “My employees now think like CEOs” it represents a significant step for the practice because it demonstrates that employees have taken ownership for their individual practice systems.
Additionally, the most successful practices with the most satisfied doctors and staff also have stable teams. The employees are well trained, happy, and productive. They perform at a much higher level, delivering an infinitely better quality product - be it customer service, hygiene, collections, treatment presentation, etc.
When employees are engaged, they are excited and energized. That alone pays huge dividends in productivity. But when they are actively problem solving and looking for better and more efficient ways to carry out their responsibilities, you are on your way to building a truly “successful practice.”
Next week – 7 Strategies for a Successful Practice.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Hygienists Speak Up for Change in the Dental Office
In the April 23rd issue of RDH eVillage a question was asked of its readers: “What is the one thing you would change in your dental office today if you had the wherewithal to accomplish it?” The responses came from all over the country and are too numerous to address in this limited space, but you can read some of the comments HERE.
In a recent meeting with “Mattie” and “Justi”, two hygienists that I have known for many years, I asked them to choose a couple responses from the survey that they felt were important and comment on them. The following is the response from the survey and the comments voiced by these hygienists.
Response to survey: The office politics is a problem, as is the cattiness of other female coworkers. For as many years as I have been in dentistry, this seems to be in every office the No. 1 reason why good employees leave and bad ones always stay. Dentists just don't get it.
Opinion of Mattie: Some offices have their cliques of “mean girls” or there is the entitled “queen bee” who has been there for many years. It is the reason why I do not make suggestions that I feel would improve patient acceptance of periodontal care and restorative treatment. If I were treated like the professional provider that I am, I could make a difference there. I would like to be involved in identifying the concerns and be able to offer a game plan as to how to solve the issue with the genuine input from the rest of the team. I feel like an outsider.
Opinion of Justi: I try to be friendly to everyone and not take sides. It is a stress that I don’t need and I want to be able to focus on the patient’s needs. When two of the female staff ask for my opinion of why the doctor always runs over on patients, I suggest that they ask the doctor for a meeting to discuss the issue. No one wants to make waves for fear of losing their jobs or being labeled a trouble maker, so the complaining never stops.
Response to survey: I would change my employers view on spending money! The equipment needs to be updated or at least make needed repairs. This would include purchasing needed supplies on a timely basis so we don’t run out. The office looks dilapidated. It gives a look that the office is not doing well financially.
Opinion of Mattie: The instruments provided by the doctor are old and sharpened beyond acceptable, but I keep using them until I cannot any longer and then I get replacements. There is always the “you want what?” and the conversation will turn to “are you selling scaling and root planing?”
Opinion of Justi: The frustration with equipment failures during the procedure is hard on the hygienist and the patient. Time wrestling with the ultra-sonic unit or the handpiece that won’t turn or a leaking hose takes time away from the patient and makes the practice look ill-prepared and unprofessional. Many patients today want digital x-rays, and if the office does not offer this service, patients question over-exposure to radiation. In one office the décor is from the late 1980s and the furniture is frayed and faded. The staff there and the doctor don’t notice it, but because I am in other offices that have style and new creative colors and design, their office looks very old and outdated. It is hard to sell high end services there, as the atmosphere is mediocre at best.
Dental hygienists are not only producers for the practice, they are critical to positive growth through patient education and vital to the success of the dental team. A subject of team meetings could be an educational segment provided by the dental hygienist or hygienists so that other members of the team can come to an understanding of the value they bring to the patients in the practice.
If asked to respond to the same question, it is likely that other team members would have many ideas as to how they would bring change for the better to their dental practices.
For professional business training in communication to create team harmony and understanding, call McKenzie Management today at (877) 777-6151.
4 Steps to Focus
As a dentist, you simply have to do it all - the marketing, the managing, the hiring, the firing. Oh, and don’t forget to provide excellent dentistry too. Is it any wonder that you are overwhelmed and just might lose your focus? Like the effects of stress on the body, the effects of stress on the business affect the overall health and well-being of the practice - resulting in lower production, staff headaches, and high overhead.
What causes those distractions that lead to losing focus? Maybe it’s an inefficient schedule, an unproductive patient routine, or an inability to delegate. All of them contribute to side-effects such as lost cases, missed opportunities, and decreased productivity. When your barometer for success is simply “busy” then you merely see the dots on the page, but not the complete picture. Your objective becomes survival rather than success, and broader practice goals are a vague and distant dream.
So exactly how do you exit this hamster wheel of perpetual motion? It requires commitment. Too often it’s easier to simply do what you’ve always done, and continue to get the same lackluster results. Instead, take a step back and ask yourself: Am I actively setting and achieving goals that enable me to move my practice forward? When was the last time I felt focused? Next, take a few key steps to establish a clear focus and specific direction in your practice.
#1 Spell Out Your Priorities
#2 Establish Overall Practice Goals
Goals create a tangible measure of progress within your practice and make opportunities to celebrate a job well done with your team. It’s important to be realistic with what you’d like to achieve, but challenge yourself and your staff to reach for something attainable. It can be something concrete such as instituting a well-defined system to all but eliminate cancellations and no-shows, or something more abstract, like improving overall customer service, measured by a quick patient survey.
#3 Create Well-Defined Roles
#4 The Big Picture
Finally, keep your goals in sight. Losing focus is one of the easiest ways to fall into the downward spiral of missed opportunities, lost patients, and an overall unhappy working environment. Never forget that your team looks to you for vision, goals, and a clear focus.
If you would like to evaluate your practice to see if you are on focus and view an industry comparison, call (877) 777-6151 and mention this article. It is a complementary gift.
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