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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.

Are You Having FUN Yet???

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
The McKenzie Company

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A ‘fun workplace’ may sound like an oxymoron. Traditionally, work is not supposed to be fun. After all, work is a four-letter word.

Yet research on motivation leaves little doubt that your most productive employees are the ones who enjoy being at work. The benefits of office fun are plentiful - improved patient care and service, increased job satisfaction and employee loyalty, stimulated creativity and profitability! Happy employees are more likely to accept ownership of their responsibilities, and much more inclined to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes. Attracting patients is easier in an environment of hospitality.

Now ask yourself: Is working at your office about as exciting as watching paint dry? Are you often serious and stern? Do you deal with people as if there is a state of mourning inside your office? If so, it’s time to adjust your fun quotient. You CAN create a more jovial office environment and still mean business in real terms. Here are some ways.

 • Take yourself lightly.

Remember, as a leader, people look to you to set the tone for the office. You have the power to decide whether you're going to be a roadblock on the inspiration highway or a catalyst for positive energy.

Too many leaders fall victim to "professionalism". The symptoms include a furrowed brow, high levels of stress, and blocked creativity. Learn to take yourself lightly, while still taking your job seriously. By laughing at yourself, you demonstrate your humanity and openness, and you encourage others to do the same. As an added bonus, you take away others’ ability to laugh at you.

 • Appreciate good humor when it happens.

Funny things occur all the time, but if you are obsessed with left-brain analytical thought, you might find it hard to stop and respond. Laughter increases oxygen, endorphins, and blood flow to the brain. Employees who are in good spirits think more clearly and make better decisions. They are more accepting of others. Laughter creates a bond that brings people together. 

 • Plan a fun office activity at least once a month.

There’s no substitute for spending time together. Schedule affordable social events. Go to a bowling alley during lunch. See a movie. Organize pot-luck meals, arcade outings or rousing paintball skirmishes (preferably not in the office). Camaraderie generated will spill over into the job. If possible, include family members in some of these types of activities.

 • Look for tools to circulate fun and funny things daily.

Collect and share your favorite cartoons and jokes. Create a Joke Board or a Humor Newsletter. Put fun things and activities in the staff room. This allows people to take their mind off of the seriousness of the job for a short period, so they come back to work with a more positive and balanced perspective. Stock the staff room with “fun” toys such as Silly Putty, building blocks, Slinky, Nerf balls, foam darts, a basketball hoop, butcher paper and crayons or markers.

 • Let patients know you are a fun dental office.

Organize fun events, dress for fun, share funny things with patients. Give employees tools to create a fun relationship with patients – stickers for children, dog biscuits for their pets, humorous buttons with your practice logo. This makes work more fun plus it strengthens patient loyalty. Print fun greeting cards for employees to give to patients and vendors.

 • Gather your staff for the “Joy of Work” meeting.

Everyone must talk about something good at work. Take turns telling stories about the things that make work a joy. Each person should contribute ideas on how to make work more fun.

 • Have a fun recognition program.

Fun is not a reward for performance, but it can be a way to encourage employees to perform. For example, you could create “games” out of productive activity…who can influence the most patients to smile and say something funny. Playful and goal-oriented fun is best.

Even bad news can be delivered in a more fun way to lessen the negativity of the information. If you need to remind staff or patients with signs, then word them in a fun and humorous way. For example, instead of posting a negative sign such as, “If you don’t fill out your time sheets you don’t get paid,” try wording it in a humorous way. “If you love your job so much you don’t want us to pay you, then don’t fill out your timesheet.”

 • Be sincere.

If you show up Monday morning with a transplanted Robin Williams persona, staff will be cynical about your newfound attempts to lighten the office mood. Be yourself. Practice your own brand of humor. Start slowly with a few activities and communicate your desire to create a more relaxed workplace. Don’t expect things to turn around over night. 

Still, beware: As silly as it sounds, on-the-job fun needs to be taken seriously. It's good only in moderation and in appropriate form (non-sexist, non-racist, non-religious humor). Taken to extremes, it can hinder productivity. But if you put fun into your practice wisely, you’ll be laughing...all the way to the bank.

If you need a ‘fun injection’, contact me at

Looking Back To The Future of X-rays

Dr. Allan Monack
Hygiene Clinical Director
The McKenzie Company

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Sixty years ago dentists were holding x-ray film with their fingers in patients’ mouths while the exposure was taken. Explaining to the patient why the x-ray was needed was a challenge. Fifty years ago dentists were using arsenic on vital pulpal exposures to mummify the contents of the pulp chamber in lieu of traditional root canal therapy. Explaining how important it was to keep the tooth instead of extraction was a challenge. Forty years ago amalgam was prepared by combining mostly silver particles and mercury. This was triturated. The mixture was placed in a cloth circle. Then the amalgam was squeezed between the fingers to express the excess mercury. Getting the patient to understand that a gold restoration was better was a challenge. Thirty years ago composites were replacing silicates. They percolated and rapidly discolored. Telling the patient that deep silicate restorations caused irreversible pulpal inflammation was difficult. Twenty years ago baking soda and peroxide was going to be the treatment to arrest periodontal disease. Getting the patient to accept periodontal surgery after the conservative therapy failed was not easy. Microscopic examination of periodontal pocket contents was the rage. Where is your microscope today? Ten years ago radiographs, translumination, detecting dyes, and visual examination were the only way to detect caries. Having the patient realize that caries was an infection that can spread in the mouth to other teeth was a challenge.

Today, digital radiographs minimize radiation and eliminate the use of environmentally hazardous processing chemicals, excess mercury has been greatly reduced in amalgam restorations, composites are placed more than amalgam, conservative periodontal therapy with intra-pocket antibiotics have reliable results if used with the correct protocol, and caries can be detected with density diagnostics with Diagnodent® and lasers.. The dental profession has greatly improved the health outlook for the patient.

However, some things never change. The ability to communicate and motivate the patient to accept the necessary treatment is a constant challenge. The dental team needs to utilize every available tool to get the patient to accept the necessary treatment. Fortunately, aids to communication have improved. There are video informational tapes, brochures, intra-oral cameras, digital photos, and the newest modality, digital radiographs.

Digital radiographs not only improve the ability of the dentist to diagnose disease, but also enable the patient to identify with their problem. Certain digital x-ray systems, such as Dexis® have more options than others. More dentists are purchasing digital x-ray systems than any other major dental equipment at the present time. Digital x-rays are more cost effective than regular film. Take an average office taking 2 full sets a day, 6 sets of bitewings and 5 periapicals. The film costs at the end of the month are around $525. A digital system’s monthly investment would be around $325. Perhaps the greatest benefit is for the patient. There is greater intra-oral comfort, lower radiation exposure, shorter appointments and great visual display that improves the patient’s understanding of their treatment.

Digital x-rays systems are more efficient which is a key factor in today’s dental practices. You are able to have an instant image, quick retakes, no processing equipment to clean, no lost x-rays, and easy duplication. Digital x-rays also benefit the practice as it facilitates rapid diagnosis, improves case acceptance, and streamlines the work flow.

X-rays today remain a fundamental diagnostic tool of every dentist in America. How you choose to take those images can greatly impact your practice. Our recent e-Management newsletter survey stated that more dentists were choosing to implement digital radiography than any other technology available to them.

In the next article I will discuss the different equipment available and the protocol on how to use it to maximize the interaction between the dental team and the patient. In addition, understanding the ways the image can be displayed and enhanced and the advantages that the digital system has to offer in improving diagnosis will help to improve your practice.

Interested in having Dr. Allan Monack speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

Quick and Easy
Performance Evaluation

Employee Performance Appraisal

Areas evaluated include: Cooperation, Intiative, Comunication, Time Management, Quality, etc. Points are given based on Unsatisfactory, Needs Improvement, Good, Very Good and Outstanding. Areas for improvement and total point score is clear and understandable to the employee.


Missed Past Issues of Our e-Management Newsletter?

Sally's Mail Bag

Print this article

Dear Sally,

I don’t think my front office employee is as effective as she could be when speaking to patients on the phone. Can you offer any suggestions?

Dr. Texas

Dear Doctor,

It is important for her to choose her words wisely when speaking with patients. Patients buy the benefits of your services – not your services. They need to clearly understand how they will benefit from making and keeping their appointments. When contacting patients by phone she should provide immediate and clear identification of who is calling and why. I would try to consider including a reference to a recent contact that the office had with the patient. I would also choose words, phrases, and questions that encourage patients to take the desired action and use words that express conviction, such as:

  • Definitely – “We definitely need to reevauate that upper right side.”
  • Absolutely – “I absolutely agree with you.”
  • Let me recommend – “Let me recommend that Mary, our hygienist, provide you with information on the whitening techniqjes now available.”
  • Certainly –“Certainly, I will tell the doctor about your concern with that crown,”
  • I assure you – “I assure you that you will be out by 4 o’clock.”

Hope this helps! Let me know.


Want to Know More About The McKenzie Company?

This issue is sponsored
in part by:
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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or call 1-877-777-6151

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