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12.19.08 Issue #354 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Solve The #1 Practice Puzzle In ’09
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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You have staff. You have patients. You have technology. Your schedule is reasonably full. By most standards, it would seem that you have all the components for practice success but it simply hasn’t materialized to the level you believe it could and should. And, naturally, you want to understand why.

In dental practices, multiple systems impact the office, but the common thread that is woven into the success or failure of your total practice is staff. How you shape your team is the single most critical element that determines whether you thrive or stagnate.
In the coming year, as turnover occurs in your office, promise yourself that you will never simply fill a vacancy. Instead, follow these steps to build a solid, high-performance team.

First, consider how the position you are filling (as well as the others in your office) fit into the overall practice picture. New and existing staff must understand their individual job responsibilities and how those responsibilities affect the team and the practice as a whole.

Next, develop a clear picture of the person you need. Remember, you’re never simply filling a vacancy; you are placing another critical cornerstone in the foundation of your practice. This person will either strengthen or weaken your team. Make sure it’s the former, not the latter. Consider four critical factors about the position you need filled and what you are looking for in the employee who will eventually step into it.

  1. Is dental experience necessary for the job or are other skills more important? Unless a license is required, don’t limit the applicant pool merely to those with dental office experience.
  2. What is the practice’s commitment to training this person? If the applicant is able and willing to be trained and a training plan is in place, you are far more likely to have a successful hire.
  3. What personality style will be effective in the position and complement the team as a whole? Pleasant? Caring? Assertive? Cheerful? Calm? Results-driven?
  4. What professional values do you want to see in the applicants? Are you looking for someone who wants a job or someone who wants to grow as a professional? Will this be merely a place-holder position until something better comes along or the type of position that an applicant would be willing to make a long-term commitment to?

Cast your net wide. Don’t stop with your newspaper’s classified section. Use the Internet. Contact your local dental society and other businesses to ask for referrals. When you’ve identified a couple of strong contenders for a position, test them with computerized testing tools to ensure they would be good fits for your practice.

Next, consider the bigger picture. If you take care of the staff you have today, you’ll be less likely to be filling vacancies tomorrow. First and foremost, don’t ignore problems. Take action and deal with practice problems as they arise. Looking the other way in hopes things will get better on their own is a bit like expecting decay to heal itself. Your team needs to know that you will address concerns. Best of all, they will respect you for doing so.

Speaking of addressing problems, make sure you are up front about compensation. Establish a salary system that makes sense. Team members want to understand when and how increases in compensation are achieved. Too many dentists give raises based on gut feelings or what they think they can afford. In other cases, doctors will arbitrarily increase salaries $1 an hour or offer to pay health care premiums or consent to whatever an employee requests because the dentist doesn’t have a clearly articulated compensation plan in place. Consequently, the doctor pays the price many times over. Employees must understand that salary increases are tied to both profitability and great performance.

Invest in your team and they are far more likely to maintain their investment in your practice. Staffs want to grow professionally through training. Whether it’s online training, local dental meetings, major dental meetings or the occasional lunch and learn in the office, provide ongoing educational opportunities for your team. It will fuel new ideas and creative problem-solving skills.

Think of the intricacy of a complex puzzle: All of the pieces may be available, but the beautiful picture doesn’t take shape without the investment of time and energy to assemble it. The same is true for your practice.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at
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