Building a Team of CEO's
“My employees now think like CEO’s.” That is one of the highest compliments we can receive from our clients who participate in our consulting programs. It is a significant step for practices because it demonstrates that employees are taking ownership for their individual practice systems. What’s more, the employee is then tuned into problems that may occur in his/her specific systems. S/he is aware when breakdowns occur and can take prompt action to address the problem long before it becomes a crisis. This can be a huge benefit to the doctor and the practice.
As any practice owner knows all too well, being solely responsible for ensuring that every aspect of the business is running as it should be is a job of Herculean proportions. Even for the most detail oriented perfectionist, effectively diagnosing and delivering treatment as well as managing every other aspect of the practice from collections, to scheduling, to hygiene, to hiring, and the list goes on - is virtually impossible.
But if the employees are thinking like CEOs, if they are trained and understand how the systems are supposed to work, they are in a perfect place to spot problems before they become crises. Oftentimes, when given the opportunity, employees can be your best source for innovative solutions to increasing efficiency, improving customer service, and reducing costs.
We've found one of the fundamental steps practice owners can take to move the team toward thinking like CEOs is ensuring they understand that they truly do have a stake in the success of the business. Working in a dental office isn't the type of job in which you are just another cog in the wheel. Rather, this is one of the best places where employees can really shine, provided they are given and subsequently seize the opportunity.
Certainly, helping employees to achieve an ownership mentality doesn't mean abdicating your responsibilities as the leader. Rather, it begins with asking a few basic questions. Such as, what they would do if they were in your shoes? What would they change to help the practice provide better customer service? What processes would they adjust to help the practice save money? What steps would they take to help patients move forward with treatment?
While the current economic issues may have slowed the revolving door of employee turnover for some practices, for others it continues to spin out of control. One of the cornerstones of a profitable practice is a stable team. If you are routinely placing want ads because “good help is hard to find,” it’s time to ask a key question. Specifically, what would make the office a better place to work?
Practice owners are often afraid to ask this question. But if staff turnover is a problem in the practice, this is one of the first and most critical answers you need to pin down. Frustrated employees are spending more time finding their next job than they are finding solutions to your practice problems. They are busy updating their resumes rather than updating patient records. They are focused on where they are going next, not on what they should be doing now. Whereas employees that are happy are more productive and perform at a much higher level producing a much better quality product - be it customer service, hygiene, collections, treatment presentation, etcetera, etcetera.
When employees are engaged, they are excited and energized. That alone pays huge dividends in productivity, but when they are actively problem solving and looking for better and more efficient ways to carry out their responsibilities, you are on your way to building a truly effective team that is prepared to achieve real results, which leads me to the next question to ask your up and coming CEOs: How can we improve customer/patient service?
Doctors like to believe that they have a good sense of how well patients are treated. But let's be realistic, doctor. How many times have you heard both sides of the conversation when current or new patients call the office to schedule an appointment? Not nearly enough practice owners pay attention to what is happening on the front lines. It is not until a patient complains that they are jolted into facing the fact that this is an area too often left to operate on autopilot. Find out what patients are grumbling about. Far too many practices are losing patients not because the doctor's clinical skills are lacking, but because customer service is rarely, if ever, evaluated. Why not have me record and evaluate your calls for you and provide telephone training for your front office team? Call Dara at my office 877-777-6151 for more details.
Next week, more questions to ask your “CEO’s.”
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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The Tipping Point
“The word "Tipping Point" comes from the world of epidemiology. It's the name given to that moment in an epidemic when a virus reaches critical mass. It's the boiling point. It's the moment on the graph when the line starts to shoot straight upwards.” - Malcolm Gladwell.
With the New Year comes the opportunity to start fresh, to do the things we said we would do last year. It can be a motivator to change or it can just be another empty year of unresolved resolutions. What will it be for you? Malcolm Gladwell writes that for every change to occur, there has to be a “tipping point” or an accelerator to bring about a change in behavior. It is like a virus in the fact that once started, it can spread rapidly.
Kevin Myers - in his eBook “How to Lose 20 lbs in 30 Days” - defines the tipping point as “an emotional event (typically painful) that you feel in your heart that provides stimulus to get you to at least seriously consider changing your habits and losing weight. A bolt of lightning that really gets your emotions boiling. “It needs to be a major emotional event that causes you to rally those negative emotions to channel them into an unstoppable positive force. Without this you will remain enslaved by old habits and excuse yourself into the comfort zone of complacency.
Malcolm Gladwell’s goal is to show people that they can start a “positive epidemic” on their own in any setting - whether it is personal, business or global. Behavior change can start a “contagion” of positive energy that can infect people involved in a business, a neighborhood or a country.
Research and on the job experience in hundreds of dental offices has shown me that change is often seen as frightening and may make things worse. Many offices operate well below their potential because the motivation to change is not to the boiling point. Or it may be at a boiling point for the doctor, but the staff or a staff member puts out the flame or vice versa.
Have you reached your “tipping point”? If so, where do you look for what to change? Who will be on board for change in your practice?
The first thing to do is define your goals. What does your dream practice look like, and are you doing the dentistry you want to do? What is your production/collection goal? Put it out in front of you so that you see it every day. When you don’t make it, how do you feel? Is the emotion enough to make you change some behaviors? Recently a Business Coordinator in a small solo practice contacted me with an issue that is her “tipping point.”
I have been working towards Nordstrom-like customer service in our practice and the reviews online are fantastic. Yesterday a patient with a history of being late or just not showing up came in 40 minutes late. I had to move our very good patient down an hour to accommodate this person. I wanted to reschedule this patient but the doctor said she could make it work. The doctor had problems with the first patient and ran over a half hour. She was visibly angry and took it out on our very nice patient who has spent thousands of dollars in this office and is never late. She threw instruments on the tray and was short with the dental assistant and avoided her normal friendly exchange with the patient. Doesn't she understand that to lose a good patient and the family of this patient derails so much of my work to make this practice a success? This is not the first time that this has happened, but I am done and am looking for a practice that shares my values.
This employee was a catalyst for positive growth in this practice and worked to provide positive connections with patients. She will take her skills elsewhere and surely make a difference there too.
Identify your tipping point that you will no longer accept the status quo, and now is the time for change. Look to the following areas to create a positive environment for change in your practice:
Employees Come and Go - Your Systems Stay
How many times have you asked yourself this question: “Why don’t we do it the way we used to do it a few years ago?” It could be related to something as simple as answering the telephone or entering clinical notes in the patient’s paper or digital record. And the answer is: “Your system has changed.”
I was speaking with a dentist recently about why systems are so important to a successful practice. One word comes to mind - CONSISTANCY. Other words would be Effectiveness, Profitability, Productivity, etc. You get the picture.
All of the above items should have a specific and written “system” that includes photos when applicable to explain how the system works. If the system is changed due to changes with products, techniques or a more efficient way of doing something, the written “system” should be edited.
Written systems are very helpful when training a new clinical team member or working with a temporary employee.
Let’s review a few of the basic business “systems” of a dental practice and discuss why it is so important to have a system that works.
Each one of these items should have a specific protocol on how it should be handled and it should be in writing. Should the protocol change, it should also be changed in writing. Do you have a “manual” that was written 10 years ago and nothing in it is applicable anymore? There was no “system” in place to keep it updated!
Accounts Receivable System
Why Are They Important?
The most important statement I can make in this article is this: YOU must know your systems and YOU should know the answers to all the questions listed above. If YOU don't know, then how can you hold someone else accountable? After all - it is your practice and no one will take as much interest in it as you do.
To establish systems in your practice, contact McKenzie Management today at 877-777-6151.
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