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  02.24.05 Issue #155


Salary Schooling Begins Long before the Hire is Made

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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Money makes the world go ‘round, indeed it does. It’s also making any number of heads spin in dental practices from one edge of this continent to the other, specifically when it comes to the topic of employee salary increases. Few issues generate the kind of emotional reaction that the subject of salaries does. Understandably, many of us attach a certain amount of self worth to our income levels. And loyal, hardworking dental employees are no different.

For many, they believe that if they show up for work every day and do their best to fulfill their responsibilities they should receive more money each year. They see the practice pulling in a million bucks and think that the doctor is lining his/her pockets with the takings. Too few dental team members have any real idea of the cost of running a dental practice. And doctor, who do you suppose is responsible for educating them on that issue? Yes, you are.

“Salary schooling” begins before you ever invite the individual to join your team. During the interview and offer for employment, you, the doctor, must make it clear what steps the prospective employee can take to increase their income. You must spell out when raises will be considered, and clearly explain what financial circumstances might prevent the practice from increasing compensation. In other words, if the practice is losing revenues an employee cannot expect to make more money. Plain and simple.

Grade levels - Don’t leave staff guessing about how much they can expect salary increases to be. I guarantee that no matter how generous you think you are, it will never be as much as the employee perceives she/he has coming. You must explain that increases are not based solely upon longevity; performance of the employee and performance of the business are critical factors. For example, if the employee meets job expectations she/he can expect a salary increase between 1%-3%. If the employee exceeds expectations she can expect an increase between 4%-5%. But one factor trumps everything – yes, you guessed it – if the practice is loosing money, salaries are not increased.

Monthly lesson plan - Unless the status of overhead and practice expenses is spelled out to employees during your regularly scheduled monthly meetings don’t be surprised if they corner you and expect you to hand over their “fair share” of your “millions.” They’re your team, treat them as such. They have to be in on the game. They need to know each month how the practice is doing.

No employee should learn at her/his annual salary review meeting that practice revenues are down 5%, 7%, or 10%, therefore the office cannot afford to give raises. If revenues are down it’s the responsibility of entire dental team to evaluate and actively address what is causing the decrease. And that should be on the agenda at every monthly meeting.

Design the monthly meetings to enable doctor and team to discuss all areas that impact the profitability/success of the practice. For example: numbers of new patients, recall patients, collections, treatment acceptance, production, accounts receivables, unscheduled time units for doctor and hygiene, uncollected insurance revenues over 60 days, overhead, etc.

And, if the team is as involved as they should be, each member is reporting on the area for which they are accountable. For example, the scheduling coordinator reports on the monthly production as compared to the goal, the number of unscheduled time units for the doctor, and the doctor’s daily average production.

The meetings also should be the opportunity to collectively address areas of concern. For instance, if the doctor has a higher number of unscheduled time units than desired the team can discuss contacting patients with unscheduled treatment, encouraging hygiene patients with unscheduled treatment to move forward on recommended care, identifying patients with unused insurance benefits, etc.

Salaries, including benefits, bonuses, special perks, account for the largest percentage of practice overhead. If the employees do not understand the total picture of practice revenues and expenses they will always be suspicious of your “millions.” And they will never feel you are paying them what they are truly worth.

Next week: Attention employees, the single, most important step you can take to increase your income.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

The McKenzie Company Upcoming Events
Date Location Sponsor Speaker
Feb. 24-27 Chicago, IL Chicago Mid-Winter Meeting Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Mar. 3 Rochester, NY Monroe County Dental Society Sally McKenzie
Mar. 10 La Jolla, CA Southern CA Orthodontic Symposium Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Mar. 14 Santa Rosa, CA Redwood Empire Dental Society Sally McKenzie
Mar. 17-19 Atlanta, GA Hinman Dental Society Sally McKenzie & Exhibit

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