Sally McKenzies e-Management newsletter
Consulting Products Past Issues Library Seminars Training
1.23.09 Issue #359 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Hiring “Experienced” Employees
Consultant Case Study
Reducing Stress

Can She Really Hit the Ground Running?
Not Likely.

by Sally McKenzie CEO
Printer Friendly Version

Problems, problems, problems. At times, it can feel as if the problems are going to take over your existence.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a reasonably well-adjusted attitude about life and work, however, you’ve probably come to realize that problems are a fact of life, and not all problems are bad. In fact, in dentistry, you make your living identifying and solving oral health problems for your patients.

2008 is Over

True, some problems can be far more draining than others—namely dealing with the dreaded problem employee. Take this scenario: The doctor has a vacancy to fill. She needs to hire a Scheduling Coordinator immediately. She wants someone with plenty of experience because there will be little time for training in this busy place. A pleasant personality and nice demeanor are good qualities to have if they are part of the package, but the driving factor on the winning applicant’s scoring sheet will be experience.

The resumes come in and in a matter of weeks the doctor finds Cassandra. She definitely brings experience; she has worked in three dental offices and a medical office in the past 10 years. Cassandra is THE ONE, and doctor can’t wait to get her in the door and at the desk so that she can scratch this vacancy problem off the list. Slam, bang, another hire done, back to the important stuff—dentistry.

Eight weeks down the road more serious problems have taken over. The schedule is a disaster. No-shows have skyrocketed. On some days, production comes to a screeching halt; other days the team is running from dawn ’til dusk. And at least once a week the dentist or the hygienist is double-booked, which sends everyone scrambling. The doctor is about to have a meltdown and Cassandra is about to have a breakdown. That list of problems has grown tenfold. So what went wrong? This doctor was drawn in by the illusion of experience.

Stopping System Collapse

When hiring a new employee, how many times have you said, “I want to get someone in here who can hit the ground running”?  Dentists often think that just because employees have experience they will know exactly how to perform the jobs they are hired for according to the doctor’s preferred standards. It doesn’t occur to the hiring dentist that a new employee cannot “hit the ground running” without some training, without a job description or without daily feedback and periodic performance reviews. Certainly, a more experienced new hire may pick up systems more quickly, but it doesn’t mean you can just point out the desk, the computer, the phone and the bathroom and expect the kind of performance you’d get from an employee who has worked in your office for years.

That “experienced” new employee brings the last office’s system protocols into your practice, unless trained otherwise. Cassandra had come from a practice in which the doctors wanted to be very busy, so patients were booked in any and every available slot. She was unfamiliar with the new practice’s recall system because her former employer used automatic text messages and email to confirm appointments. Yes, she had experience managing a recall system, but she wasn’t responsible for making several daily calls. Consequently, she didn’t recognize the importance of that function. Plus she was never given a job description, which should have spelled out her duties exactly. To make matters worse, the scheduling program in the new office was totally different from what she had used in the past.

When new employees are hired, they must be given clear job descriptions that detail their responsibilities. They need to be told exactly what they will be held accountable for and how their performance will be measured. Next, there simply has to be a protocol for training new employees and orienting them into the practice. Create a list of areas that a new employee must be trained on immediately as well as a list of those areas she/he should be exposed to over the coming months.

At a minimum, provide job-specific instruction to ensure that new employees are prepared to carry out their duties according to your specific expectations. In today’s dental marketplace, a wide variety of affordable educational options are available. Taking these steps will save you from a whole host of major practice problems down the road and ensure that neither you nor your employee is ready to “hit the ground running” … right out the back door. Next week: Does your team make you want to scream?

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

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

Forward this article to a friend.

Shes Great with Patience, but do you know how she's "running" your front desk?

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
Printer Friendly Version

Are You Exhausted? Then Empower Your Team To Perform

Dr. Jim Beavers—Case Study #411

"I am so tired of thinking. I wish I could get my team to take control of their responsibilities so I don't have to think for them!" Dr. Beavers made this statement as he reminded one of his business employees to change the message on the answer machine. "If I don't remind them, they will forget!"

Do you feel that way, too? If you don't remind everyone how to perform their daily tasks, they will surely forget, or do it incorrectly. You must be exhausted having to remember everything that you need to do as well as what they need to do, too!

New Dentist Practice Enrichment

Dr. Beaver’s Practice Statistics:

  • 1 doctor, 1 full-time assistant and 1 part-time assistant, 1 part-time hygienist and 2 full-time business coordinators
  • Practice sees about 25 new patients a month and averages $83,000 a month in collections
  • 3 hygiene days per week
  • Overhead is 58%

Dr. Beavers has what he considers to be a "successful" practice, but he also feels that he is working himself into the ground. The reasons for his displeasure are explained with the following observations.


  • No systems—He feels that no one really knows what to do because there are no written protocols.
  • No accountability—He isn't really sure what his business team does all day long. He can "keep watch" over the clinical team but really has no idea what the "ladies at the front" are doing.
  • No confirmation from his team—He asks someone to call Mrs. Smith but he doesn't know if they did or not, so it stays in the back of his mind for several days until he finally asks.
  • No creative ideas from anyone—He claims that he seems to be the only one in the office that worries about how to market the practice, why there aren't more new patients, who didn't accept treatment and for what reasons, etc.
How to Hire the Best

Some dentists walk around all day with checklists in their heads of tasks that need to be completed. It is very tiring to carry this list around; especially when the list gets longer every day and nothing is getting checked off. The following recommendations were presented to Dr. Beavers and his team to assist in managing his checklist and to be able to complete the list.


No systems—Make a list of tasks that you feel must be performed by your team on a routine basis. Train them to perform these tasks the way that you want them done. Don't leave anything to the imagination if you want it done your way. Assign the tasks to specific team members and have them write down the protocols step by step. Confirm that they can perform the tasks to your satisfaction.

No accountability—As tasks are assigned, confirm that the people that you have assigned the tasks to understand that they are responsible for the tasks being completed correctly. They are allowed to delegate the assignment if they choose but it is their responsibility to make sure that any person they delegate the task to can perform it correctly, and that they are the ones that you will be turning to if a task is not performed or performed incorrectly. This eliminates the "I don't know. I didn't do it!"

Job descriptions are vital in the area of accountability. You can't expect something to get done if the task is not assigned to a specific person. Everyone assumes that someone else is going to do it and no one does! Create a way of following up systematically for quality control.

No confirmation of tasks—Develop a system in which every team member understands the importance of completing a task in a timely manner. It is your responsibility to provide a time frame, such as "before the end of the day," "the end of the week," etc. What is urgent to you may not be urgent to them, so communicate! You also want to receive confirmation when tasks are completed so you can check them off your lists. Here are some ideas on how to receive confirmations:

  • Everyone makes notes in the same place in the computer (contacts, journal, clinical notes, etc.) Look to see if the follow-up was completed within the time frame. If not, go to the person that it was assigned to.
  • A sticky note on your desk in a certain place with all the pertinent information that you asked for, confirming that the task was completed, when it was completed and the outcome
  • An email confirming the same
  • Announcement at the morning/monthly meeting
  • A note in the physical patient record, with the record is placed on your desk for review

Creativity within the team—This is a tough one because it starts with employing the right team members for specific job descriptions. Temperament types can give you some guidance as to who would be the best fit for certain duties. Empowering your team to "think outside the box" is the most important step that you can take but is also the most difficult. This means that you have to learn to place some trust in their decision-making abilities. You also must be willing to LISTEN to what they have to say and give feedback that is not judgmental.

Your team must feel "safe" for them to express their thoughts and feelings to you. Learn to embrace what they have to say and reply in a positive manner. This doesn't mean that you must agree with what they say, but at least acknowledge and thank them for their comments. If you continue to squelch what they have to say or make them feel stupid, they will stop communicating. At that point, you are on your own!

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email

Forward this article to a friend.

Recorded Telephone Evaluations

Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Printer Friendly Version

Reducing Stress—A Business And Personal Goal For 2009

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old one leaves. —Bill Vaughan

We are all hoping that 2009 will be a better year with changes in the government, bailouts to help the economy and help for struggling homeowners. A pessimistic attitude about everything that happened last year must not undermine efforts to put our best effort forward to develop a great dental team and to serve our patients in new and better ways. Balancing a busy life in the dental practice with a fulfilling personal life is a priority, but sometimes it is not easy to do without direction and help.

Front Office Training

Have you thought about personal or business resolutions for the New Year? Are they in writing? Writing them down and then asking for support from family and friends can certainly help get you going in the right direction and stay on track. Give a copy of your resolutions to people that agree to support you so that they can check on your progress at a given time during the year.

Here are some steps to help you reduce stress in the dental business arena and help direct you toward a better new year.

Set realistic production goals for the practice. Exceeding last year’s production goal may be more of a challenge in this economy. With the downturn of the economy hitting many areas of the country, it is unlikely that you will not be affected to some degree. In the best of times our goal is 15% growth each year. Make a goal to at least equal last year’s total for production by each provider’s statistics. (This does not include a yearly fee raise, which is recommended because costs of doing business rise accordingly.) During the first team meeting of 2009, set the goal and together decide how each person will contribute to make it happen. This would include examining the performance of each system in the dental practice, such as Recall, Scheduling, Treatment Presentations, Insurance/Financing and Hygiene.

Telephone Skill Training

Update job descriptions for the entire team with areas of accountability, feedback and performance measurements in place. The days of “we all do what needs to be done” are over because a lack of systems causes a tremendous amount of practice stress and just doesn’t work. Without well-defined job descriptions, there is no accountability and no way to measure whether tasks are being performed to goal. Without formal job descriptions, one person can easily blame another if things are not getting done because it is everyone’s job and yet no one’s responsibility.

Surround yourself with positive people and teammates who are motivated and value the practice ideals and goals. Slackers and negative people should not be tolerated in your dental practice. In most communities, there are many well-qualified people looking for work so job competition is at a record high. No longer do you have to grab any warm body to fill a position because of the lack of applicants.

Become active in social/business networking groups. Networking is not just good for the practice but also good for the participant. Getting out and socializing helps to decrease stress. Encourage the doctor to join the local Chamber of Commerce or other community groups. The doctor can attend the meetings or send the Business Coordinator/Manager as a business representative. Communicating the values and services of the practice with these groups can be very beneficial. Become an active member in your local dental society and support your dental community through fundraisers or educational programs.

Stay physically active and introduce an exercise plan for the team. The best stress buster is exercise. Start a lunch time walking group or get a treadmill or exercise bike for the staff lounge. Find a series of exercises that can be done at the desk or in the break room that are low-impact and involve stretching and toning. Encourage a stress-reducing break every couple of hours and support each team member in the process.

Make a list of your personal and professional accomplishments. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back. Building self-esteem is ongoing and important to decreasing personal stress.

Post a picture of a place or thing that makes you feel good. It could be something you already have or something that you have always wanted. Perhaps you’ve always wanted a red convertible or maybe a vacation to an exotic port like Tahiti. Cut a picture out of a magazine or travel brochure and put it up where you can see it every day. Not only is it a stress buster because it reminds you that there is more to life than work, but it also helps you focus on tasks at hand because you will visualize a future goal that is exciting.

Sign up for some continuing education or other training classes to improve your job skills or to learn new skills that will benefit you and the practice. Set a goal to get updated on the latest in your computer software and teach the other members of the team.

Write a personal/business plan for meeting your goals within a time schedule. You cannot reach a goal without a plan and a timeline. Stay focused. If something happens to throw off your schedule, don’t get derailed or give up. Never give up.

Want help with business goals and training that will get you results? Sign up today for Advanced Business Training at McKenzie Management and start the New Year right.

For more information about McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training courses, email, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our website at

Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

Forward this article to a friend.
McKenzie Newsletter Information:
To unsubscribe:
To discontinue receiving the Sally McKenzie management newsletter,
click on the link at the very bottom of this page for instant removal,
To report technical problems with this newsletter or to request technical help,
please send a descriptive email to:
To request services, products or general inquires about The McKenzie Company activities
please send a descriptive email to:
If you would like to have any of your dental practice concerns answered personally by Sally McKenzie,
please send a descriptive email to her at:
Copyrights 1980-Present The McKenzie Company - All Rights Reserved.