The Family Practice: Plunder or Profit?
“The family” has a profound impact in shaping our decisions, our values, and our culture. As we know from personal experience, families are comprised of varying personalities, opinions, styles, problems, and issues, all of which can wreak havoc on efforts to simply get along, let alone work together. There’s no question that dentistry is commonly a “family” business.Family businesses are widespread, and so too are the issues and challenges they must deal with. According to the Small Business Administration, family businesses make up 90% of all business enterprises in North America, and 62% of all US employment. And as prolific as their numbers are, so too are their problems.
A 2012 survey of family-owned businesses found that nearly 50% did not use any other outside sources to determine appropriate salaries for staff. In other words, when it comes to deciding how much to pay staff, many are simply guessing. Similarly, nearly half lacked procedures for performance reviews or written job descriptions that outline responsibilities, minimum qualifications, and reporting structure for the positions in their businesses. Translation: No job descriptions or performance reviews means little to no staff accountability, which most assuredly means lower revenues and reduced profits.
Nearly 70% had no system for determining salary increases. The result: Employees corner the business owner and assert they deserve a raise, and the business owner buckles hoping that a “little raise” won’t have much of an impact. Any of this sound familiar?Countless dentists or their spouses are running dental offices but don’t understand what it takes to manage the business side of a practice. They are incapable of reading and understanding practice reports and business statements. They don’t comprehend the impact of overhead or how something as seemingly innocuous as a little pay raise can cause salaries to spiral off the charts. Yet because they “own the business” they make decisions based on what they feel is right. These decisions affect their long-term financial health as well as the fiscal health of the practice.
For the lucky ones, the family members settle into their roles and are able to understand and compensate for each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If the individuals take responsibility for their roles and the rest of the family can let them do their jobs, these informal arrangements become formal without the practice ever having to spell them out. What typically makes these situations work is that the family members all have the same philosophy of care and business. However, the success of such informal arrangements is rare.
In other cases, family members are in the wrong jobs and would be much more effective in another position. It’s often necessary to bring in outside help to navigate the players through the process of developing job descriptions and identifying who will work best in which positions. The fact is that family members are simply too close to the issue…literally. Most successful business arrangements require a more formal organization. Dental practices are no different. There needs to be a clear designation of exactly who is responsible for what and what the family wants to get out of the practice.
Do you want it to grow? Do you want to keep it where it is? What’s more important to you, giving up some control and growing, or keeping control and staying where you are? What’s your vision of the practice? What if it’s different than your spouse’s or your brother’s or your dad’s? Whose vision gets priority? What steps will the practice take to achieve that vision and those goals? Who will be responsible for which areas? How will the practice measure its success? It’s those issues – where you want to take the practice – that require open and honest communication but can cause significant friction. Yet all the players in the family practice must be on the same page.
Before you decide to partner with a family member, evaluate the decision carefully. We all have relatives whose company we enjoy, but we wouldn’t want to spend 40 hours a week with them. Certainly, for some, working with your spouse, Mom, Dad, brother, sister, etc. can feel more like a life sentence than the opportunity of a lifetime. However, for many who choose this road it can and does work - if the systems are in place, the roles are clearly defined, and communication is open. And, most importantly, everyone understands that when it comes to the family practice, it’s business first and family second.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Golf and Leadership
The challenges dental leaders face bear many similarities to competing in a game of golf. In both cases, the goal is to operate at maximum efficiency in an intensely dynamic, competitive environment while performing a technically demanding, precise skill. To succeed, dentists and golfers must think ahead, contemplate multiple scenarios and consider the downside of every decision. They must make use of every personal and organizational resource possible. Small margins in performance are frequently the key differentiators. As such, golf is an ideal metaphor to draw out leadership lessons.
Drive for Show but Putt for Dough
Ups and Downs Are a Given
Recovery is a Big Part of Success
Maintain a Light Grip
Bunkers and Hazards
The Bag of Clubs
As the dental leader, you need a variety of skills too. Different personalities require different styles. However, many dentists habitually rely on a single go-to club. They don’t match the most appropriate tool to the situation. The importance of having the right club in your bag also parallels having the right team. Jim Collins’ reference of “getting the right people on the bus and sitting in the right seats” is an accurate analogy to proper club selection.
One of the great promises of golf is that you can always get better. So too with leadership. If you’d like to take your ‘game’ to the next level, call me. I would be honored to serve as your ‘caddy’.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at (877) 777-6151 or email email@example.comInterested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
Helpful or Not?!
Today I called several hotels looking for information for a trip that I want to take during the month of September. I dislike calling “800” numbers for general reservations, and prefer calling the sites directly. General reservation phone services are often handling hundreds of hotels around the country and do not know answers to my specific questions. I like to talk with someone who works at the front desk, and I can typically get a good feel for the general atmosphere of a place from the way my call is handled. This usually applies through the entire gambit of accommodations, from a five star resort to a mom and pop motel.
My calls today were informative. The person at the first hotel answered the phone professionally with the location name, but it stopped there. I like to know who I am talking with, so I asked for her name. She told me but said it so quickly I had to ask her to repeat it. With some exasperation, she did so. I asked if a room was available on my specific date and after a brief wait on my part she said, “No, we are sold out that day.” Period. End of conversation.
She might have said, “I’m sorry but we are completely full that day for the room type you requested, however I do have an upgrade room available. Would you like to hear about that room and rate?” Or, “I’m sorry we are full that day, but I can recommend such-and-such hotel two blocks away. They take reservations for us when we are booked. Would you like to hear about their rooms and rates?”After she told me that the hotel was full, I said thank you and hung up. I crossed their name off my list, and I won’t be calling them again. My assumption is they are so busy they don’t care about potential customers. At least I can extrapolate that they don’t care how potential customers are treated on the phone. It is true the dates I was calling about are typically very busy for hotels everywhere, but because of the way I was treated today, I won’t call them back on a less busy occasion. There are lots of hotels after all.
Our patients often make the same discovery. If they don’t like the way their phone call is answered, they may just hang up and call the next dentist on their list. Why would a new patient want to come to an office with an unhelpful front desk coordinator? After all, there are plenty of other dental offices.
As a hygienist, phone answering is seldom on my list of duties, but I help out if the occasion arises. I take pains to be as helpful as I can. Often I don’t know the answer to what the patient is asking, but I do my best to find out. If I can’t, I take their number and make sure they are called back. I know that our patients need quick and correct answers, provided with a courteous attitude. The lovely front desk professionals at my office are adept at this and much more. All of us in the office take to heart that old adage, “patients make paydays possible.”
I also know that most patients have no problem letting me know if they do not like the attitude of someone dealing with the “front office” side of things. I worked as a hygiene temp for awhile during my career, and had many patients tell me, “I really like Dr. Dentist! But I just can’t stand that Ms. Front Desk. She is so unpleasant and rude!” It is a testament to the dentist that the patient likes him and continues to return despite the rude behavior at the front, but do we really want our patients to have to run a gauntlet of unpleasantness when visiting the office?
So, what can we do to make sure patients are being treated politely and helpfully?
We know our patients are being treated as less-than-important in many aspects of their lives. Endless phone menus when calling customer service, being made to repeat over and over names and account numbers each time a call is transferred, being cut off after holding for a “customer service representative” and being told by the recording that their call “is very important” while they wait and wait. Making sure that our patients are treated with courtesy is a great practice builder and should not be ignored. It costs nothing, but has the potential for a substantial pay-off.Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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