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7.4.08 Issue #330 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Seven Strategies For Success - Part One
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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When was the last time you sat down and really thought about what you want out of your practice? Oftentimes, the further we move into our professional lives and daily routines, the further we move away from the dreams that once fueled us to push through challenges in pursuit of our goals.

Certainly, our dreams and definitions of success change throughout our lives. How do you define success? Is it a full schedule with zero cancellations and no-shows? Perhaps it’s working three days a week. Maybe your definition of success is breaking the million-dollar mark in practice revenues. Or maybe you would consider it a success to get through one day without a major team blow-up.

Whatever your idea of success is, to achieve it in the dental practice you will need a few key components. Many of these are tangible, such as a solid hiring procedures, clear job descriptions, effective practice systems, etc., but there are a few other areas that have a powerful impact on your success. I call them the “Seven Subtle Strategies for Success,” and they start with simply being curious.

#1 Ask and You Will ReceiveValuable Information
Quiz your team regularly about what they believe can be improved and pay close attention to what they tell you. What can the practice do better? What seems to irritate or frustrate patients? Where do bottlenecks occur and how can you fix them? Chances are very good that patients will make comments to staff that they wouldn’t make to the doctor. The team is your eyes and ears into what does and doesn’t work for the patients and the practice. While you’re at it, periodically ask patients directly what they think.

A straightforward patient questionnaire is the most cost-effective and efficient tool that practices can use to provide patients with an outlet to give feedback and raise concerns long before they become serious problems. Surveys are a means of gaining valuable feedback and insight from your “customers.” I recommend surveying staff routinely and conducting patient surveys once every 12 to 18 months.

#2 Just Say No to Status Quo
Take note: 80% of practices are losing more patients than are gaining new patients. Far too many of you assume that long-term patients will continue to return, will raise questions and will inquire about treatment options without your prompting. You fall into the “routine” trap and don’t take advantage of the fact that the routine appointment is one of only two contacts the patient will probably have with the practice during a 12-month period. Make the most of your routine.

Seize this opportunity to find out about what’s on patients’ minds from an oral health standpoint. Do they have questions about new treatments they’ve seen in the news media? Perhaps you and your team have recently participated in continuing education programs that will benefit your patients. Tell them! Educate them about services. Share your information, your time and your knowledge. You and your team are involved in a constant cycle of patient education. Talk to them and listen to them.

#3 Open Your Ears, Close Your Mouth
Listen, listen, listen. Everyone—patients and coworkers alike—wants a chance to be heard. Stop what you are doing, look at people when they are speaking and listen to what they tell you. If you’re too busy focusing on what you have to say to people, you will miss valuable opportunities to learn more about their needs, wants and expectations. While you’re listening attentively, pay attention to your body language; you don’t have to say a word to convey some very clear, if perhaps unintended, messages.

#4 Build Trust, Not Turmoil
Gossip is poison in any practice. In some, it runs rampant and leaves a wave of conflict and destruction. In others it’s a trickle that slowly and painfully wears away the infrastructure of the team. It is fuel for misunderstandings that quickly lead to anger and distrust. It can create such strain that some employees find it simply impossible to work together. And if you think patients don’t sense the tension or notice that every time they come into your office there is yet another new face, you’re kidding yourself. You cannot achieve success if you allow members of your team to continually undermine one another. Insist on a code of conduct based on communication, understanding and respect.

Next week, three little things that make a huge difference.

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