Issue # 228 - 07.21.06

Who is Steering Your Ship?
A McKenzie Management Case Study

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Dr. James Laramy’s Story:

Dr. Laramy had invited me to work with his practice to help him establish business systems in order to hold his business staff accountable.  We were talking over dinner on the first evening of my 4-day visit to his office.

“I have hired a really bright woman to take the most important position at my front desk!” he proudly announced.

“Excellent” I responded.  “And what position is that?”

“Managing the collections and billing, of course.” he answeredAt this point he is glaring at me as if to ask….”You don’t know that?  What planet are you from?”

Office Facts:

  1. 18-year old practice
  2. Turnover in the business area during the past few years
  3. 2 positions – “billing person” and the “receptionist”
  4. No job descriptions for either position

The next morning I arrive at the “scene of the crime” and meet the staff.  As usual, everyone is on their best behavior, including the doctor.  I always find it fascinating to hear the staff tell me at lunch (without the doctor) that they wish that I were always in the office because the doctor is so nice today!

Anyway, as I sit in the business area to start my analysis I am observing the activities of these two wonderful employees.  This is what I see:

The “billing person” is obviously extroverted and very comfortable communicating with me – a stranger.  She is smiling a lot and I immediately like her.

The “receptionist” is reserved but very efficient.  She knows the patients by name when they arrive and manages the telephones very professionally but somewhat “robotic”.

Now – before any of my readers take issues with what I just said, allow me to present you with some concepts to consider:

  • Dentistry is no different than any other place of business.  We sell a product and service!  Oh my gosh…I said it….the “S” word!  The products that we sell are fillings, crowns, root canals, whitening, and so on.  Patients do have a choice NOT to purchase our products.  They can purchase these same products in another dental “store”.
  • Who “sells” your services?  You may say that you do, your well-trained chairside assistant, your highly experienced hygienist or your “financial coordinator.”
  • Who answers your telephone?  Is everyone cross-trained to “grab the phone” to keep it from ringing?

There is a saying that goes something like this: 

Nothing Happens Until Something is Sold!

Think about this for a moment.  According to Dr. Laramy, the most important position in his office is his “billing person”.  She is the one that sends statements, posts the checks that come in the mail, calls insurance companies about the claims that are unpaid, yada yada yada.  I propose to you that she doesn’t have a job until something is sold!

Do you realize that when you arrive at work every morning, you work according to whatever is on your schedule.  You didn’t create that schedule – your hygienist didn’t create her schedule.  The person(s) at the front desk created your schedule and directly influenced the amount of money that you made that day.  You dance to her tune!

Guess what?  The person scheduling the appointments for your patients can’t schedule appointments until you have a patient to schedule!!!  Isn’t that a concept?


The #1 most important employee in your office is the person that answers your telephone!  You can call her a “receptionist”, a “schedule coordinator” or “the front desk person”.  The title is not important.  What IS important is for you to understand this:

The team member that answers your phone must be capable of projecting her smile and warmth over the telephone to the potential “buyer”.  She literally invites them into your “store” to buy your products by her mannerisms on the telephone.  The caller wants to visit your store.  They have already bought what she is selling before they even make an appointment. 

This person is directly responsible for each and every new patient that walks into your practice.

So I ask you now…

  • Who drives your car?
  • Who pays your bills?
  • Who steers your ship?
  • Who controls your purse strings?

NOTHING happens until something is sold…and the person in your office that is responsible for answering your telephone…your “receptionist” is in the #1 most important position in your office.  Do you have the right person controlling your financial future?

If you would like more information on how McKenzie’s Practice Enrichment Programs can help steer your ship in the right direction….. email

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McKenzie Management
A Division of the McKenzie Company, Inc.
3252 Holiday Court Suite 110
La Jolla, CA 92037
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