Is Debt Holding Your Practice Back?
When I start talking about debt, most dentists shut down. They’ll try to change the subject to just about anything else, whether it’s all the broken appointments wreaking havoc on their schedule or the weak case acceptance they’ve experienced over the last few years. Talking about debt simply makes most dentists uncomfortable, but I’m here to tell you that ignoring it certainly won’t make it go away. In fact, it likely will only make the situation worse.
The sad truth is, most doctors are between $300,000 and $500,000 in debt. It’s no wonder they don’t want to talk about it, that’s a lot of money! Where does all this debt come from? Business credit cards, equipment leases, lines of credit, loans, mortgages, the list goes on and on. In some cases, debt comes from the cost of doing business, but in others it’s simply poor financial management.
If debt is holding your practice back from meeting its full potential, it’s time to make some changes and start reducing your monthly financial obligations. This might seem daunting, but it is possible. And I’m here to help.
First, you have to understand why debt has become such a problem in your practice. You may not want to admit it, but a large part of the problem is likely weaknesses in your business operational systems. If you’re like most dentists, you got locked into a pattern of running your practice management systems early in your career, and haven’t looked back. The problem is, if you never update or improve your systems, they’re likely producing lackluster results at best, and are only contributing to your growing debt and overwhelming overhead. Essentially, these shortfalls are keeping you from creating the successful, thriving practice you’ve always dreamed of owning.
You can’t do things the way you’ve always done them and expect different results. If your systems are underperforming, that isn’t going to change just because you want it to. Remember you have 20 practice management systems, and you need to know all of them inside and out. These systems directly affect your practice’s success and profitability, and contribute to your debt when they’re mismanaged.
When you have efficient systems, your profits will rise. In fact, when practice management systems are running at maximum efficiency, the typical practice can expect to increase revenues significantly within 60 days. Just imagine what a jump in revenue could do for your practice.
The hardest part about reducing debt is realizing you need to make real change in your practice to make it happen. Most dentists want to get their financial obligations under control, yet they can’t wrap their heads around all the changes they need to make to be successful. You have to dig into your practice management systems to determine what needs to be fixed, and then make changes that will improve your daily operations and ensure you don’t find yourself drowning in red ink again. It may not be easy, but it’s certainly worth it.
Let me leave you with a little inspiration. I recently worked with a doctor, let’s call him Dr. Pete, who was struggling to get his debt under control. Dr. Pete had been practicing for more than 20 years, but instead of enjoying success and profitability, he was writing checks totaling $8,000 each month, with all that money going toward practice debts. Overhead was pulling him under, and he was frustrated.
He knew he needed to make significant changes to his practice if he was ever going to be free of his debt obligations. With help from McKenzie Management, Dr. Pete has reduced his debt to $5,000 a month, and has begun the process of overhauling his practice management systems. Once he’s done, his profits will grow considerably, and he’ll finally have the successful, profitable practice he’s always envisioned.
Dr. Pete is proof that you can reduce your debt and grow your practice revenues. If you’re struggling with debt, now is the time to take a look at why, and determine what you can do to reduce those monthly financial obligations and start growing your bottom line.
It will take a real commitment to fix what isn’t working in your practice, and you have to be honest with yourself about your system shortfalls. Yes, that can seem intimidating, but remember you don’t have to do it alone. Contact McKenzie Management and we’ll help you break free of your debt so you can finally enjoy practice success and profitability.
Next week: Reduce your debt with these three tips.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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How to Motivate Your Staff in 2015
The one question I can count on after establishing job descriptions for positions in a dental office is: “Now how do I motivate my staff to do their jobs?” When we are thinking of a timeline of completion of tasks envisioned by management (the dentist), it is pictured as a productivity system with a measurable result. For instance, the manager or dentist wants the lab cleaned and reorganized and all the storage containers relabeled. The assignment is given to the lead dental assistant, Kate, because she is great at her job and reliable. The direction is to do this task when she is not needed for patient care. Simple right? If we were robots we would act without question.
Productivity or “keeping busy” in a dental office rarely takes emotion into account. Feelings are fundamental to why we do things. Let’s look at where emotion from your staff may enter this scenario.
Kate prides herself on patient interaction and believes this to be the most important part of her day. She rarely has time to devote to anything other than what the patient needs for proper care. She also doesn’t like to start a project if she can’t finish it quickly. Tearing the lab apart to reorganize is causing her anxiety. Where is the reward in this task? For her, there is no reward, so it won’t get done.
How would you motivate Kate? How would you help Kate to motivate herself? In the book Drive by Daniel H. Pink, he explores a newer theory on motivational drive, a “third” drive. “The performance of the task,” he says, “provided intrinsic reward.” The job of completing the task has its own reward. “Scientists then knew that two main drives powered behavior. The first was a biological drive, to eat, drink and reproduce. The second to be rewarded for completing the task with money or gifts or threatened to be punished if the task wasn’t completed.” A positive or negative outcome both drive behavior.
Kate was not offered a reward for doing the task, nor was she threatened with punishment for not completing the task. She envisioned a torn up lab and patients being ignored while she tried to juggle both in her already busy day. She was motivated to deprioritize the task. Consider the following when motivating staff:
1. What drives your staff as individuals? McKenzie Management’s book How to Reward Your Dental Team teaches you when to use non-financial rewards versus financial rewards and also when to use group rewards versus individual rewards.
2. What personalities are best suited for positions in your practice? Choosing the right person for the task can determine whether the task is done correctly or not. Also from McKenzie Managements products, the book How Personality Types Affect Practice Success will help to illustrate how breakdown in communication can be due to personality styles.
3. Perform a time and motion study on the task to determine how much time and how much manpower will be needed to complete the job. Overwhelming your best performers with more work because you know they are reliable is not the best management tactic. They will have to sacrifice their work on the primary focus to do more.
4. Bring importance to the task by sitting down and discussing the reason you want it completed and the benefits to the practice, staff and patients.
Kate called a meeting with the manager and together they worked out the following:
Make your practice the best it can be for 2015. Enroll today in our customized Office Manager Training or Dentist CEO Training. McKenzie Management can provide the tools that your practice needs for success.
Treatment Presentation Tips for 85% Acceptance
Do you have any idea what your treatment acceptance is? Do you monitor it and know what percentage of patients who are presented productive doctor appointments (not including deliveries, exams, etc.) are actually scheduled when they are presented by your Schedule Coordinator? My guess is no.
Maybe you generate a report from your practice management software that provides this information. My experience is that this report is not really accurate, as it assumes that “accepted” treatment is treatment marked as “accepted” – and how do you determine that it is accepted? Does it automatically include the entire treatment plan and not just the next visit? The best approach is to monitor what is scheduled when presented to the Schedule Coordinator. Did the patient schedule or did they not, and why? For those that do not schedule, this list can be used for follow-up, along with the Outstanding Treatment Plan Report or the Tickler File if you place treatment plans there.
Let’s assume that you ARE monitoring the percentage of patients that say “yes” to the Schedule Coordinator. What tools do you have in your toolbox to encourage your patients to say “yes” to their next visit? Here are some options:
1. Using your intraoral camera is the #1 technological tool you have, and it is often not used as much as it should be. Many times it’s because there is only one in the office and the hygienists and assistants don’t want to take the time to track it down and plug it in. Talk with your team and see if this is the case. Consider purchasing additional cameras and implement an office protocol: “I will not walk into your operatory unless you have an image on the monitor of something that has been treatment planned, something that you suspect needs to be treatment planned or if periodontal disease is being addressed, the periodontal chart. Give me something to work with!”
2. Laser-detecting cavity technology, especially if your practice is treating younger adults or children.
3. Using a digital camera to incorporate photos of your patients’ teeth. I am finding that many dentists prefer this opposed to intraoral photos, or at least a combination of both using the intraoral camera for more specific teeth. If you are using an older generation intraoral camera, your images will be sharper with a digital camera.
4. Animated dental related “apps” that are only seconds long and easy to understand. Imagine how impressed your patients will be when you, your assistant or your hygienist sit down chairside with a digital tablet and share a 15-second animated video on what is a crown, root canal, implant or periodontal disease, and then have a printed copy to give them so they can share it with someone at home. Draw on it to personalize it specifically for your patient.
5. Professional pamphlets that address specific treatment needs, and again, personalized by reviewing them with your patient.
6. Laser therapy for soft/hard tissue treatment of gums or teeth.
8. Movie glasses that allow patients to choose which movie they would like to watch during long procedures.
9. Financial options and/or use of CareCredit financing for interest-free payments that will encourage your patients to say “yes”.
10. Dental chair cushions with memory foam to make long procedures comfortable.
11. A “Before and After” smile photo of one of your patients in each operatory so patients can see your beautiful artistry. Remember to get signed permission before using any photos.
12. Always seating the patient on time!
Many of these items you already offer to your patients, but do they know about them? Just as importantly, do you use these items to market your practice? An example would be having practice brochures professionally printed that clearly list the “perks” of your office. Everyone knows your office provides services such as professional cleanings, fillings, crowns, root canals, etc. Include these more “marketable” services or technology that may set you apart from other dentists in your area. Maybe you also offer oral conscious sedation, nitrous oxide, mercury removal, digital technology, etc. What about a refreshment area with coffee, tea and healthy snacks? In addition to a brochure, an updated website listing these details and incorporating them into your “key words” so your website is listed when a patient specifically searches for these items is a great marketing tool. Your Facebook page and other social media pages can also promote these services and comforts.
At your next team meeting, brainstorm with your team and make a list of all the “perks” of your office. Make sure all of your current patients are aware of what you have to offer, and get the word out to potential new patients that appreciate these services. Look for ways that you and your team can assist your patients in saying “yes” to their next appointment by confirming that they are aware of these services for their convenience, comfort and education. Patients purchase what they understand and feel they “want”, not necessarily what they always “need”. If that were the case, you would have no unscheduled treatment reports to generate!
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