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Considering Self-Help to Fix Your Practice? Read This First
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Admitting you need help isn’t easy. Most people want to fix whatever problems they’re facing on their own rather than look for outside guidance. They convince themselves a little self-help will set them on the right path, and they vow to start making the necessary changes. Problem is, their self-help plan never really gets off the ground and the situation just gets worse.

Over the years, I’ve heard many dentists say they’ve decided to focus on self-help to fix their struggling practice instead of hiring a consultant. Eventually, whether it’s weeks, months or years later, these dentists find they simply can’t do it all on their own. They end up calling McKenzie Management, frustrated but ready to admit they could use some expert guidance.

The truth is, many dentists struggle with the business side of running a practice. It’s not something you learned much about in dental school, and it’s probably safe to say the thought of owning a small business likely isn’t what attracted you to the profession. If you’re already stressed out and worried about your practice, trying to figure out exactly what you’re doing wrong and then making changes on your own is only going to add to the pressure – and probably won’t get you where you want to be.

I recently read an article by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D., that outlines exactly why self-help often doesn’t work. His reasons make a lot of sense, and might even convince you that hiring a consultant is the best move after all.

It’s difficult to be objective. You spend hours in your practice every day, so of course you know what the problems are, right? Not necessarily. For example, you might know patient retention is down, but have no idea that the long wait time to get in to see you is what’s driving patients away. This stems from a scheduling problem.

The point is, to really understand what your main challenges are, you need objectivity. That’s the only way you can accurately assess your practice and determine what changes need to be implemented to increase productivity numbers and your bottom line. A consultant can give you that important outside perspective and point out issues you didn’t even know existed.

It’s also common for people to deny or distort the truth about the problems they’re dealing with. They create defense mechanisms, such as externalization. What does that mean? It means you know something’s wrong, but instead of taking accountability, you blame people around you for the problem. A dentist might blame low case acceptance numbers on the patients themselves, rather than admitting it could be because only 5-10 minutes are being used to go over treatment chairside, and no follow-up is being done when patients say they need to think about it.

Bottom line: If you don’t understand why you’re having certain problems, you won’t be able to take the necessary steps to fix them. You might even create more problems for yourself if you try.

You don’t really know how to fix the problems in your practice. To create a useful self-help plan, you need to know exactly what’s causing practice problems and how to fix those problems. That means you’ll need to spend a lot of time researching and studying to determine the changes you need to make. Busy dentists typically don’t have that kind of spare time, so while they intend to put in the work, it just doesn’t get done and the practice continues to suffer. On the other hand, dental consultants see these problems every day and know what it takes to put a hurting practice back on the right track.

You just don’t have the motivation. No matter how much research you do and what changes you intend to make, none of it will do your practice any good if you’re not able to execute. You need the motivation and willpower to actually make it happen, which can be difficult if you don’t have someone, like a consultant, monitoring your progress and rooting you on. Not everyone is disciplined enough to follow a self-help plan, no matter how much they want to fix their problems and achieve success.

The thought of relying on self-help to fix practice problems can be appealing, but it comes with many challenges that will likely keep you from meeting your goals. If you hire a knowledgeable dental consultant, you’ll have much better results. Consultants share their expertise and proven strategies for success. They offer support, guidance and feedback that will help your practice thrive.

If you’re ready to benefit from a dental consultant with more than 30 years of experience, feel free to give me a call. I’m happy to talk through your problems and create a plan that will help your practice meet its full potential.

Next week: 4 ways your practice can benefit from a dental consultant

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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Belle DuCharme, CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Regrets of the Less Than Perfect Practice
By Belle DuCharme, CDPMA

“The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.” - Theodore Roosevelt

CEO Training Course #CEO239

“There is so much I wish I had done” said Dr. Smilegood (names have been changed) during the first day of the Dentist CEO Business Training that he and his wife, Elle, attended together.

Dr. Smilegood explained, “Starting out, I was overly confident in my ability to manage my practice and I never sought help from outside management professionals. I made costly mistakes along the way but I thought I had time to correct the mistakes by learning from them. I am not prepared to retire and must practice another 10 years, and I want to do it the right way because I no longer have time for mistakes.”

McKenzie Management’s Dentist CEO Business Training Program provides dentist/owners with the tools necessary to manage a successful practice and the importance each business operational system plays in the overall growth and prosperity of the practice. Each dental business system creates a domino effect, in that if one fails it leads to the failure of all. Understanding how each system supports and compliments the next brings understanding of the mechanics of practice management.

In solo practice for the last 20 years, Dr. Smilegood never entertained the thought of hiring an associate. He was convinced he would not like someone else working on “his” patients. But now he wants more time to travel with his wife and time with his children and grandchildren. Hiring a well-vetted associate who is committed to the practice will allow the production to grow faster and higher than a single general dentist could ever accomplish. After examining the plan to hire an associate and where this person would practice within the office, it all seemed much simpler than he had imagined.

Discovering what Dr. Smilegood did during a typical business day at the office was an eye-opener to mismanagement of time and resources. Much of the “busy work” that took him away from patients and the team could have been delegated years ago to other team members. Such tasks as:

Writing letters to specialists or other providers regarding patients
Writing thank you notes to patients and others
Clinical note placement in patient’s computer records
Importing x-rays and reports into patient charts

“I just couldn’t trust my employees to do things the way I wanted it done.” He said.. In hindsight, Dr. Smilegood decided he did not know how to delegate or train the team to do things as he wished.

Over the years, he built a long-standing team – but he felt one of his biggest mistakes was allowing the practice to be “staff centered” versus “patient centered.” He was paying higher than average salaries and benefits, yet the team resisted the changes he wanted to make to help the practice grow, such as more patient-friendly hours, newer technology and equipment.

Dr. Smilegood remarked, “I feel I should have fired people sooner when I knew they weren’t a good fit for my practice. It got so bad that I didn’t want to practice anymore. I finally threw in the towel and realized if I want to practice the way I envision, I need people working with me who share that vision, not people fighting with me daily to get their way.”

The discussion lead to the importance of team meetings and investment in team trainings to improve the staff’s involvement in the success of the practice. The focus must be placed on the patient, not the team. Team training should be an ongoing system in the practice so the team feels like you are investing in their success also.

Dr. Smilegood was the first to admit he lacked basic leadership skills, but he was willing to learn to be a true CEO of his “new” practice. During our training, he wrote a new mission statement and we clarified his practice vision. Along with his wife as his support system, he was ready to get started on making the practice of his vision – this time with the tools needed to succeed.

Need help becoming a true CEO of your practice?  Reach out for help today and call McKenzie Management.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’sTraining Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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