5 Tips for a Successful Family-Run Dental Practice
There’s no question you love your family, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should work with them 40 or more hours a week. You all have different personalities, styles and problems that make it difficult for you to get along during family dinners, let alone in a dental practice setting.
Still, many dentists choose to employ family members, which is a decision that, when made lightly, can lead to disaster. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no question working with family presents a unique set of challenges and complications, but if you go about it the right way, it can be a rewarding and profitable experience.
Not sure how? Here are a few tips to help ensure your family-run practice is a success.
1. Create detailed job descriptions. This is true for any team member, but it’s especially true when talking about family. All too often dentists hire family members and then give them little or no direction about what their position entails. This not only means they have no idea what systems they’re accountable for, they also don’t know how their performance will be measured. And because they’re family, they often think they can get away with doing as they please – which is easier when they don’t really know what they’re supposed to do in the first place.
2. Develop a system for determining raises. Make it clear how performance will be measured and under what circumstances raises will be given. This will help you avoid that awkward situation when your sister corners you insisting she deserves a raise. While you might be thinking a little raise can’t hurt, trust me, it can. A few dollars here and there will quickly throw salaries over the 20-22% of revenue benchmark, sending your overhead costs soaring.
3. Make sure it’s a good fit. Just because you’re close with your brother doesn’t mean he’s capable of being your practice’s Business Manager. Before asking any family members to become part of your team, really evaluate the decision. Can you work together? Do you share the same work ethic and business philosophy? Don’t just hire people because they’re family. Make sure they have the skills and attitude necessary to help the practice grow.
4. Think about bringing in outside help. All too often, when dentists hire family members to help run their practice, they hire them for the wrong position. For example, Dr. Mike just asked his sister, Jessica, to handle practice collections. She has a pleasant demeanor and is great on the phone, so Dr. Mike thinks this will be a great fit. The problem is, Jessica doesn’t like asking people for money and does whatever she can to avoid conflict. She says yes because she wants to help and could use the job, but she certainly isn’t effective in the role. This ultimately hurts the practice and strains Dr. Mike’s relationship with his sister.
Just like with any other employee, it’s important to put team members in positions that match their skill set and temperament. Because you’re family, it can be difficult for you to see exactly what your sister’s strengths are, or what tasks your brother struggles to complete. That’s why I suggest bringing in outside help to navigate you through developing job descriptions and determining who will work best at which positions.
5. Make sure everyone is on the same page. Not only do you need to develop a clear designation of who’s responsible for which systems, you should also determine what you and your family member employees want to get out of the practice. I suggest asking these key questions:
1. Do you want the practice to grow?
If you don’t ask these questions from the beginning, it can lead to friction down the road. Commit to open and honest communication and you’ll be much more likely to achieve success.
As a practice owner, you have a lot to think about, and part of that is making sure you have a strong team that is poised to help your practice reach true success and profitability. While it might be tempting to hire family members to help you get there, you have to make sure everyone is on the same page and has the training and skill set necessary to excel. To be successful, you must communicate, develop clearly defined systems and provide detailed job descriptions so there is no confusion about who’s responsible for what. All this will help ensure your family works in harmony toward one common goal: helping your practice thrive.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Strategic Planning for Your Dental Practice
Running a dental practice can be chaotic at times. It is easy to get sucked into the day-to-day operations required to keep things running smoothly and profitably. By taking the time to invest in a strategic planning process, you as the leader are saying, “I am ready to take this business to the next stage of success.”
The following list should help you see the benefits of creating a Strategic Plan, or updating yours if you have one but cannot remember what it says. Without vision, any business necessarily gravitates toward “firefighting.” Here is how you can lift yourself back up to the leadership level and set a clear and realizable direction.
1. Articulate Your Vision – Your Purpose, Mission & Core Values
Once you have clearly articulated why your business exists, it is time to identify the concrete “what” behind it; the 3-5 year Mission you are embarking on. Your Mission should be bold, inspirational and compelling. Status quo is not inspiring.
With your Purpose and Mission in place, the last piece you need is Core Values. This is the “how” of your business. Core Values should articulate what is already true about your business and culture; not how you want it to be:
• How do you go about your work?
These are your Core Values.
Once you have your Purpose, Mission and Core Values in place, it is your job, or your Office Manager’s, to hire, train and also fire employees who do not align.
2. Understand How Strategy Drives the Plan
Think of strategy as an exercise in saying “no.” Focus is an incredible thing. Think about the power that is achieved when you focus a magnifying glass on a very small area. By focusing your resources on a few core areas, you maximize your chances of success.
Remember: Identify 3-5 strategies that are borne out of your greatest strengths, all highly focused on achieving your Mission.
3. Link Your Vision to the Annual and Quarterly Priorities
4. Establish a Rhythm for Success
Thinking of staff performance, consider the impact of knowing your Vision and having processes and procedures in place for getting you there: Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is reported, performance improves dramatically.
At the end of every quarter, run through a SWOT exercise with your staff, looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, to update and fine-tune your Strategic Plan. You could also take it a step further and evaluate the accomplishments, lessons learned and strategic issues from the quarter.
Effective strategic planning is the linchpin for your long-term business success. Grounded in your Purpose, Mission and Core Values, a solid strategy can help you develop a plan of action and maximize the likelihood of success in achieving your vision.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at email@example.com
The Most Important System
It is very rare for a practice to be working their recall system as much as they should be. Some practices only work on recall when there are openings in the hygiene schedule. Other practices work on recall when they see a lot of holes in the schedule, and they just start filling holes instead of scheduling patients based on goals and the “perfect day” for the clinician. There are also practices that only work recall when there is nothing else to do – which is usually never.
It is unfortunate that the majority of dental practices are not more actively working their recall system and scheduling appropriately based on goals. All major practice functions revolve around the recall system; this is what creates the money to pay the bills, provide paychecks, and put patients in the chair so insurance can be billed for the services provided.
It all starts after the patient is seen by the hygiene department. The bulk of the hygiene schedule is filled by existing patients in the recall system, and a very large portion of the doctor’s schedule is filled by patients who were either seen in hygiene or are existing patients with problems. This shows the importance of the recall system. Without returning patients, you don’t need a team to do follow-up.
So why is recall the most neglected system in most offices? Because many people do not like working recall, or they do not understand how important it is. Many offices wait until there is a problem with open time in the schedule before they even start paying attention. Even then, many times it is the hygienist (who should be busy at the chair seeing patients) who is working the system, when there should be a person whose number one priority and responsibility is focusing on recall.
We work in a health care profession that is preventive-based. We want to help our patients by diagnosing and treating disease before it becomes a big problem. It is recommended that you treat your practice the same way – particularly your recall system. When you book every single patient six months out, you may get a false sense of security that your schedule is full, only to find that it falls apart days or even minutes before. The recall system should be worked on a regular basis, even when it appears that you have a full schedule.
It is also recommended that you have a team member whose job description is focused on working and being accountable for the recall system. This does not mean the entire team cannot help with recall, because the entire team should be helping, but having one designated recall person will ensure you are reactivating old patients and keeping current patients coming back.
When there is a change in the schedule, the recall person is the team member who immediately stops what they are doing to start “dialing for dollars” – by getting on the phone and talking to patients who are overdue for their hygiene appointments or have treatment pending with the doctor to come in for their appointments. This person is also responsible for making sure postcards are sent out, letters are sent, and an ASAP list is created to call from.
It is especially effective if the recall person is proactive about working recall. Once postcards are sent out for the current month or week, the recall person should be on the phone making contact with patients who have not already called and made their appointment for the upcoming weeks. Why wait until they are overdue? If the patient is on a three-month recall, this may have an effect on their health. You don’t want to have more patients walking out the back door than you have coming in the front door. The sooner you contact a patient who is overdue, the more likely it is that the practice will maintain that patient.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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