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  11.19.04 Issue #141

From Productivity to Perception - What the ‘Place’ Says About the Practice

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
McKenzie Management

       The eyes may be the mirror of the soul but the workspace is the ultimate reflection of your skills as a dentist and the professionalism of your team. Take a look around your office. What does it say about you, your practice, and your team? Is the reception area a welcome oasis for busy patients or the loading dock for your day? Do the hallways provide easy access to and from treatment rooms or are they a pinball alley in which you are bouncing off walls to dodge oncoming patients and staff? Do the treatment rooms lend themselves to efficient scheduling or do they lock you into performing specific procedures in particular areas?

The design and flow of the physical infrastructure have a profound effect on the human infrastructure – from stress to productivity to patient perception. Yet many dentists give relatively small consideration to the impact their workspace has on their own success, that of their team, and the practice as a whole.

For those dentists that do seek to improve their workspaces and build new office buildings, many find they are unprepared for the magnitude of the project they’ve committed themselves and their checkbooks to. It is not uncommon for a dentist to envision a new practice as a virtual carbon copy of the existing facility only larger. This transfer of problem areas does nothing to address the key stressors and function flaws that are tripping up the team in the existing space.

If you’re planning to build a new office, chances are pretty good you will do so only once. Make sure you avoid building the same traps you are struggling to escape. As my friend, dentist/architect Dr. Michael Unthank of Unthank Design Group, likes to say, “It costs just as much to build it wrong as it does to build it right.”

Before you undertake the most expensive investment you will ever make in your business take two critical steps in planning and save dozens of missteps in design:

  1. Remind yourself daily that you are a dentist, not an architect. Choose a team of qualified professionals – preferably not your old college roommate or your brother in-law. You want experts who have built dental offices and are intimately familiar with the challenges of running a dental practice. Although yours is the final word when it comes to decisions, a qualified design team will save you from making a string of bank-busting mistakes.
  2. Develop the Design Program. This is the “treatment plan” of sorts for your ideal office. The Design Program identifies what you do and do not want in your new facility. It is an exhaustive list of practice needs, desires, and goals for the new building. This is the written foundation upon which all of the design plans stem.

The Design Program spells out clearly the functions that will be performed in the office and what essential elements are necessary to ensure those functions are carried out effectively - from diagnosing and delivering treatment, to treatment planning and presentations, to financial arrangements and collections, to greeting patients and managing the schedule. The design program is not just a reflection of where the practice is today, but also a blueprint for where the doctor wants to take the practice in the future.

Next week, key recommendations to keep in mind when building the new practice.

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

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Make Your Office a Place of Appreciation

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

        It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving to tell your co-workers, staff and patients that you appreciate them. The word ‘appreciation’ generally means gratitude, thankfulness, admiration, and approval. From a financial perspective, something that ‘appreciates’ grows in value. Therefore, by being appreciative, you get the benefit of both perspectives: as you learn to be consistently thankful and approving, your practice and your life will grow in value.

But with the demands and pressures associated with running a dental practice these days, you might be thinking, who has time for such quaint customs? Make no mistake about my intention. Extending courtesies to others - staff and patients alike - is not just about having manners...although we all could use more. According to a Lenox etiquette poll, nearly 50% of the population do NOT always say thank you. That being the case, remembering to express appreciation is a sales point…one that will increase patient satisfaction and revenue, AND increase employee retention.

Bottom line…thanking others gives you a competitive advantage.

So give thanksgiving, not just on the fourth Thursday of November, but every day. Here are some suggested ways to express your appreciation.

  • Compliment an employee for a job well done. Identify the specific actions that you found admirable. Thank a reticent patient for flossing because it makes your job easier.
  • In addition to saying "thank you", remember to say, "please". Social niceties DO belong at work. Patients want to be in gracious, polite environments. Employees are more productive.
  • Show interest in others. Ask employees about their family, their hobby, their weekend or a special event they attended. Your staff will feel more valued. Do the same with patients. Put post-it notes in their chart to remind you to follow-up during their next appointment. Patients will feel special because you remembered.
  • Write personal thank you cards. The sentiments can be brief and scripted for efficiency. Handwritten notes make you stand out among the competition. Send them to new patients. Give them to employees for exceptional service. For a fun touch, add a Starbucks gift card with a “Thanks a latte” note.
  • Share the wealth. If a patient or employee refers someone new, give a discount or small bonus. Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising.
  • If possible, allow staff to have flexible scheduling. Employees work harder when they have some decision-making authority for their hours.
  • Surprise your staff with food…bagels, fruit, pizza. Take employees to lunch for a birthday, a special occasion or for no reason at all. Let them pick the restaurant.
  • Create a fun tradition for high production days. One dentist told me that he uses a ‘grab bag’, a Tupperware container filled with tickets. When the office revenue reaches the target goal, each employee picks a ticket with pay-off amounts ranging from $5.00 to $100.00.
  • Thank complaining patients. Research indicates that customers who voice their complaints still want to do business with you. So thank and assure them that you will do everything you can to correct the problem.
  • Last, but not least, provide opportunity. People want to learn and grow. Offer them training and cross-training. Notice their talents. Consider having them attend a professional association meeting or representing your practice at civic and philanthropic events.

I encourage you to stretch your imagination. These are just a few of the things you can do to show appreciation. Make thanksgiving a part of every day – it will build a positive and productive workplace. It will bring you success in patient satisfaction and referrals. Your employees will be more motivated and loyal. You will be rewarded financially and personally. Then you will have a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Call or email Dr. Haller. She will help you to improve your effectiveness and build a stronger practice.

Dr. Haller is available to speak to your dental society or study club on subjects such as interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at or 1-877-777-6151 Ext. 33

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The Office Policy Manual

Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA, Director
The Center for
Dental Career Development

          Have you ever embarked upon a road trip without a map? Would you go to sea without a chartered course? Would you go into business without a business plan and written policies? If you answered “no” to these questions then you are ahead in the game of life and business. As the instructor for Dental Business Training for dentists and their staff, I am amazed at the number of offices that come in for training that do not have an Office Policy Manual. Here at The Center for Dental Career Development, it is my mission to give offices tools to increase

production, collections, teamwork, and also provide tools to lessen the stress of office politics.

An Office Policy Manual provides a consistent set of rules and regulations for governing the working condition, behavior and compensation of dental office personnel. In other words, it tells employees how they should work, when they should work and what happens if there work is excellent, average or poor. When workplace standards are clearly communicated to employees, many benefits come to the dental practice. Staff tends to:


The first step in compiling the policy manual is to write a mission statement. This is a statement of the purpose and vision of the practice. Many dental teams write this mission statement together. It is important that all team members be on the same page to achieve success. The famous comedian, Woody Allen, once said, “The world is run by people who show up.” I would like to take that a step further and say, “The world is run by people who show up with a purpose.” If you are hired without a clear job description as to what is expected of you or where you fit into the fiber of the business you will seek your own path of least resistance. This is office politics in action.
One of the weakest areas I have seen in many offices is the lack of job descriptions, areas of accountability and performance measurements. These systems can be defined in an Office Policy Manual and the materials are provided during the training here at THE CENTER.

During the hiring process, without written policies about vacation time, sick leave, military leave, jury duty etc., the possibility for misunderstandings and hard feelings can surface.
Do you pay for vacations after one year? Do you pay for sick days? Is there reimbursement for continuing education courses? Without a plan for these employee issues there is chaos. Don’t rely on your memory about benefits you have promised to employees. If it isn’t written it will become a dispute of “I said” “She said.” Make sure that any policies concerning employment meet with federal and state guidelines.

An Office Policy Manual is not a contract of employment. It is a guide to how you, as an employer, want to conduct your business. Remember, without policies in place you are like a ship at sea without a compass and there could be rough water ahead.

For more information about Business Training for dentist and staff please contact The Center for Dental Career Development.

Belle M. DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA, Director


I just can¹t say enough wonderful things about McKenzie Management and their help in making my practice a ³business² not just a ³place of dentistry². I learned so much from McKenzie Management that I can¹t begin to tell you how it's impacted my life. If I hadn¹t contacted McKenzie Management, I would
still be in the same unorganized, ³flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants² routine that I had been in since I started my practice. I now know with the business principles that McKenzie Management has taught me and of course my
willingness to learn and perfect new techniques, that my dream of having a million dollar practice is very attainable and will be here sooner than I
had originally thought.



Lorin Berland, D.D.S.

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Dear Sally,
I am interested in obtaining some information about scripts we can use in our office. Can you tell me where and how I can get this type of information?
Dr. New York

Hi Dr.,
McKenzie Management just completed our NEW AND IMPROVED WEBSITE which I invite you to explore. One feature of the site I most excited about is our Practice Management Library. I have taken all of our past e-Management newsletters and identified by practice management subject
matter a search capability for you to find information on topics ranging from cash flow to scheduling to computers and beyond. You weren't specific regarding what subject matter of scripts you were looking for so I know our Practice Management Library will direct you to a specific topic. On the home page you will find a button titled Practice Management Library that will take you to the search page.

Hope this helps. Let me know if I can be of any further help.


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