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08.05.05 Issue #178
She's the Perfect Employee Thief

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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She is your most trusted employee. She's been with your practice for years. She comes in early, stays late, and absolutely refuses to take time off. Because she wants things to be just right, she never delegates tasks just tries to manage it all herself. Whatah Woman!

Some staff members think she's controlling, but you see her as a perfectionist and true professional. You would trust her with your life. In fact, you have. She manages all the financial transactions from start to finish. You know it's a big job, but even though she's at work all the time she doesn't seem to mind. That's because your trusted, hard-working employee may well be a thief who's busy embezzling from your practice.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimated that in 2003 alone, embezzlement cost American businesses $660 billion , or 6 percent of total revenues, and while big companies get the big headlines it's the small businesses that take the big losses.

Unfortunately, there are many "trusted" employees pilfering from small businesses like yours. Practice/business owners believe their employees, particularly long-term employees, are inherently honest and can be trusted. Consequently, there are few if any checks and balances . Sadly, research has shown that a surprising number of employees are not honest. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce found that about one-third of all employees steal from their employers.

In security, the common guideline is that 40% of the workforce is inherently honest, 30% are looking for the opportunity to steal, and the other 30% will steal given the right circumstances. And while all eyes are on the new hire, it is the long-term employee who is the embezzler. She is the one who has learned the practice's systems and procedures and is able to devise the scheme to skim. What is perhaps most troubling is the embezzler is the one you would never suspect. Embezzlers are more likely to be married women, and they typically work for the business for four to eight years before they begin to steal. However, employees on the job for little more than a year have been caught embezzling from dental practices. And often they are your "perfect" employee - dedicated, loyal, hard working, and secretly dishonest.

So how do you know if that trusted team member is robbing you blind? Watch for a few indicators:

  • No cash is being deposited or only even dollar numbers, such as $40, $60, $80, etc.
  • "Write offs" or other adjustments to the patients' accounts can't be explained when the employee is asked about them.
  • Fees are arbitrarily reduced or increased with no accountability.
  • Certain accounts are not receiving statements but there is no reasonable explanation.
  • Petty cash is littered with IOUs.

Pay attention to certain behaviors exhibited by the individual handling your accounts.

  • Is the employee always the first to arrive at work, the last to leave?
  • Does the employee never take vacation unless the entire office is closed or will only take a couple of days?
  • Does the employee rarely if ever take sick days or personal days?
  • Does the employee refuse to teach other employees her job? She claims that they will mess up her "system," or that she does things just so, etc.
  • Does the employee adamantly oppose any changes to the accounting system?
  • Does the employee have an unusually high standard of living considering her salary, such as new cars, new homes, extravagant jewelry, etc.
  • Does the employee provide unreasonable explanations in response to questions?
  • Does the employee become annoyed by reasonable questions?
  • Is the employee highly critical of others?

Next week, what to do if you suspect sticky fingers are sticking it to you.

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

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Good Things Take Time, and Hard Work

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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It's summer. For a reality T.V. fan like me, it's a quiet season. I understand that the inaugural 'Survivor' series will be shown again on some cable network. Fortunately, I am not addicted enough to watch it a second time. So television viewing is limited to re-runs and obscure movies.and infomercials. Plenty of infomercials.

As I was flipping channels recently I became aware of just how many promises are made in the name of sales. This was particularly true for exercise equipment and merchandise. Imagine, a machine that can get you flat abs in less than two weeks! A video that gives 'buns of steel' in a month!!

We live in an age of speed. From drive-through food establishments to internet connectivity, we have come to expect everything to be fast, fast, faster.

I experience this with clients, especially those who are eager to engage in coaching because there's a crisis in their practice.

Hello, this is Dr. Haller. How can I help you?

Dr. Smith: I have a dental assistant who's driving me crazy. She's nuts, really! And now the front office person has quit and I know it's because of Susie. She thinks she's being friendly and helping the practice but it's just that she needs to be liked the best. Today she interrupted me three times when I was talking to a patient.

NH: How long has this been going on?

Dr. Smith: At least five years. I can't stand it anymore.

NH: Wow.five years is a long time. What's stopped you from letting her go up until now?

Dr. Smith: When I bought this practice five years ago, she was part of the deal. I'm afraid that I'll lose patients if she leaves.

NH: Sounds like you're being held hostage in your own office.

Dr. Smith: You nailed that one. I need some pointers on how to straighten her out or get rid of her. I can only put up with this for another month. Can you help me?

ONE MONTH!?! The situation has been brewing for FIVE YEARS!

Make no mistake about it, inheriting a staff is imbedded with unique challenges. However, the real problem here is the expectation that there's a quick fix . I am not an attorney but I am familiar with employment law. And at least in California , giving a pink slip to an employee without options for performance improvement opens you up to a potential lawsuit.

For Dr. Smith, the underlying need is not to fix Susie but to enhance his leadership. The job of being the 'boss' is more than giving orders. For many dentists, the process of going from expert professional to novice leader is a stretch outside their range of experience.

The good news is that effective leaders are made, not born . Just like the training you would pursue to learn a new dental procedure or the use of a new product, leadership skills can be acquired with information and rehearsal. That takes time . The implant course at NYU is a 9 month hands-on program. Doesn't it make sense that learning to be a more effective leader should take at least as long?

The potential to become a good or better leader is well within your capability. Leadership is about improving yourself and in that process you also strengthen your business. It may require you to modify some of your behaviors, or learn new ways of responding to staff. It is likely to be uncomfortable at times.

Everyone can learn to just takes dedication, practice AND TIME.

Improve your bottom-line with patience, commitment and coaching. Contact Dr. Haller at .

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Patient Compliance: A Key To Treatment Acceptance

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

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"If you want to persuade people, show the immediate value and relevance of what you're saying in terms of meeting their needs and desires." Herb Cohen

" Mr. Brown's pocket depths have not improved and I found a 6mm at the distal of 31. I want to try an antimicrobial but he does not want to spend the money. He refuses to be referred to the periodontist at this time. What is wrong with this guy? Why doesn't he see the need to keep his teeth?" Jane Hygienist

Patient non-compliance to home care is nothing new in the field of dentistry. The approach to each patient has to be customized to our perception of the values, needs and desires of each patient. Compliance to oral hygiene instruction is an indicator that the patient wants to keep his teeth and values the practice's information as a means of accomplishing this goal. If a patient is not compliant to good oral home care, this is an indicator that he probably won't spend anymore than necessary to repair or restore his teeth should the necessity arise. No, we cannot force our patients to take care of their teeth anymore than we can force them to accept a treatment plan. We can keep searching for answers to get our patients to say, "yes" to treatment that we as dental health care providers deem necessary.

According to an article entitled TIPS TO IMPROVE PATIENT COMPLIANCE from NADA, The Explorer, July 2005, the following are some suggestions to get patients to accept treatment recommendations.

  • Listen to patients about their wants and needs. Determine first what is on the patient's mind.
  • When a patient questions treatment compliance or seems resistant, present evidence based research information using an approach such as "We know that__".
  • Use before and after photos as case presentations.
  • When in doubt, simplify instructions. Steps to care that seem overly complicated overwhelm some patients.
  • Be upbeat, energized and enthusiastic about the proposed care. It rubs off.
  • Always show respect. Don't talk down or patronize . Educate at the individuals level of understanding.
  • Provide plenty of printed material to support your findings and be generous with the tools to get the job done such as toothbrushes, floss holders, proxy brushes, electric brushes, fluoride rinses, and instructional sheets.
  • Be empathetic toward your patient. There may be something going on in their life that they feel gives them a reason to neglect their own health. Be sensitive to personal information communicated during dental visits. Write notes on a separate sheet of paper so that you can ask them how things are at the next visit.
  • Always allow time to answer questions . Encourage questions. I sometimes say, "There are no dumb questions."

Communication skills are the key. For more information about how to improve your interaction skills with patients and fellow team members, contact me at The Center for Dental Career Development for customized training to meet your individual practice needs.

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This issue is sponsored
in part by:
McKenzie Management's Seminar Schedule
2005 Location Sponsor Information Topic Speaker
August 13 Topeka, KS Delta Dental Plan of Kansas 800-733-5823 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Sept. 9-11 San Francisco, CA California Dental Association 916-443-0505 Successes Sally McKenzie
Sept. 22 El Paso, TX El Paso Dental Society 877-777-6151 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Oct. 14 Riverside, CA Riverside Implant Study Group 951-279-7847 Top Issues Sally McKenzie
Nov. 18-19 Griffin, GA Endo Magic Root Camp 877-478-9748 Top Issues Sally McKenzie
Dec. 1 Cincinnati, OH Cincinnati Dental Society 513-984-3443 Breakdown Sally McKenzie

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