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8.29.08 Issue #338 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

You’re All Fired!
Consulting Myth #1
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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On the Discovery Chanel, the popular show MythBusters routinely debunks various myths and urban legends – everything from whether jawbreakers explode when heated to if it’s safe to answer your cell phone while filling up the gas tank. The hosts use modern science to separate reality from fiction. A myth is a belief that has little or no basis in fact.

In the dental practice dentists and their teams must deal with what I like to call “myth-information” from patients on a daily basis, such as concerns over fluoride, use of amalgam, the belief that if it doesn’t hurt there’s no need for dental care, etc. Overcoming misinformation and poor dental education among patients is no easy undertaking. But what is ironic is that when the tables are turned, dentists – champions of scientific data and fact – can be just as likely to fall prey to “myth-information,” particularly when it comes to seeking help from an outside consultant. So we at McKenzie Management decided that it was time for a little myth busting of our own. This week, we begin a series on the Top 5 Myths of Practice Management Consultants.

Many dentists hire consultants for a multitude of reasons, for start-up, mid-career practice tune-up, retirement preparedness, etc. They want us to get systems in order, increase profits, reduce stress, improve treatment acceptance, and the list goes on. However, some dentists would like to bring a consultant in but are stymied by practice management folklore. One of my favorites on the “Myth List” is, “You will fire all my staff.”

Now, mind you, dental employees are critical to the success or failure of a practice, but our objective is not team turnover, most dentist have more of that than they can handle. We’re more interested in firing up rather than firing the team and helping the dentists to make the most of the staff they have. Frequently, we find that many dental teams are brimming with hard-working individuals who genuinely want to perform well, but for a variety of reasons – most of which are system-related – they’re falling short.

For example, many staff members are working without clearly defined job descriptions. This is like walking into a retail store and expecting the sales clerk to just know what you want to purchase simply by virtue of the fact that you are a customer and they are a sales clerk. Absurd, I know, but similar situations happen regularly in dental practices. Employees are often left to simply guess what is expected of them. The scenario commonly goes something like this. “This is our computer scheduling system. As scheduling coordinator, you’re job is to keep it full.” The utter lack of direction and guidance leaves many employees poised for failure and tethers the practice to poor performance. If employees are not given the tools and training to succeed, neither will you, doctor, and neither will your practice.

However, nearly 30 years of working with dental practices has taught us that when employees understand specifically what their job duties are, what systems they are accountable for, and how their performance will be measured they are far more likely to step up to the plate and perform. They are genuinely enthusiastic and excited about the possibilities of their clearly defined job and newly established goals. It’s not legend. It’s not folklore, it’s real results backed up time and again with real data from real practices just like yours.

In some cases, dentists have bought into the myth that they have to do what the team wants or it will never succeed. We often hear dentists say, “The team won’t support bringing in a consultant.” I have two responses to this. First, the team feels threatened. They’ve bought into that juicy urban legend about every consultant’s first order of business being to clean house. Experience will likely prove otherwise. Second, there may, indeed, be a staff problem that must be addressed.

Oftentimes, in these cases, the doctor is literally afraid to take action. And he/ she is actually working for the staff. The doctor has forgotten that he/she is the one who has invested a fortune in dental education and is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the practice. And it is the doctor who must be there to the bitter end, not Mary the business manager or Joe the hygienist.

It’s your practice and perhaps today’s the day you put the myths aside and start enjoying the realities of practice success.

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