How to Deal with Conflict in Your Family-Run Dental Practice
Unfortunately, there’s just no avoiding it. At some point, you will have to deal with conflict in your dental practice – especially if you work with family members.
When relatives are involved, it’s common for emotions and family “dynamics” to take over, which of course leads to a lot of stress and frustration that can damage your practice, as well as your relationships. For family-run practices to be successful, you have to know how to approach the arrangement from the start, and how to deal with problems as they arise.
Developing detailed job descriptions, creating clear boundaries and offering guidance will all help establish a solid foundation for a rewarding and profitable family business. But these arrangements are complex and more prone to conflict than others, so it’s important to have a plan in place that’s designed to squash conflict before it spirals out of control.
Not sure how to get started? Not to worry. I’m here to help, and have put together a few tips:
Encourage family members to express their concerns. Believe it or not, when family members work together in a dental practice, they often don’t feel comfortable questioning each other’s decisions or actions. They’re afraid they might start a family argument, so they opt to ignore any problems they see and hope they go away on their own. Typically, they don’t. They just get worse, leading to low team morale and negativity that impacts your patients’ experience and the quality of care they receive.
I suggest you create a culture where family members (and everyone else on your team) know they can come to you when they have concerns. Encourage team members to offer both positive and constructive feedback, and work together to reach solutions. This will show all of your employees that you value their opinion and see them as important members of the team, which will lead to happier, more productive employees and a more robust bottom line.
Have morning huddles every day. Morning huddles offer a good opportunity for team members to bring up any concerns they have. These meetings also help ensure everyone is on the same page before the first patient walks through the door. Communication will improve and so will efficiencies, reducing the risk of conflict.
Develop clear office policies. These policies should detail how you expect employees to behave. Make sure family members understand these policies apply to them, and that they shouldn’t expect any special treatment just because they’re your sister, your son or your wife.
Hold family members accountable. It can be tempting to let family members slide when they don’t follow established office policies or fail to meet your expectations, but trust me, this will only lead to trouble. Family members often think they can get away with more than other employees simply because they’re related to you; don’t prove them right.
If you notice family members coming in late for work each day or spending more time on social media than performing their duties, talk with them about it. If you ignore it, their productivity will suffer and so will your practice. Plus, other employees will notice, and if they think your family members are treated differently, it will lead to resentment and, you guessed it, conflict.
It’s also important to hold your relatives accountable for their systems just like you would any other employee. My advice? Meet with all team members once a month to get an update on their systems. Take the time to discuss what’s happening in every area, and then work as a team to find solutions to any problems that are identified.
Keep the emotion out of it. I know this is difficult when you’re talking about family, but remember you have a business to run. When problems come up, act strategically. Take the employees involved aside and work together to come up with a solution that benefits the practice.
Working with family members certainly can be a rewarding experience. No one knows you better or wants to see you succeed more. But the truth is, these arrangements can be complicated, and if they’re not handled correctly, you might find yourself in the middle of a nightmare scenario. Conflict is inevitable, but following these tips will help you avoid it as much as possible, and prepare you to handle it when it does come up.
Looking for more guidance to help you create a thriving family-run dental practice? Feel free to contact me and I’ll help you get started.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Ideas for Getting New Patients and Reactivating Former Patients
All practices need an influx of new patients to keep an office viable. Nothing beats word-of-mouth, but Facebook, Twitter, Google listings, positive online reviews and even postcards have their place. Patient recruiting efforts all have a cost; either time or money or both. Here are a few ideas that are inexpensive and not too time consuming that might result in more people becoming your patients.
Mouth-guards for student athletes. Returning middle school and high school athletes usually have a need for good quality mouth-guards. While there are do-it-yourself options available, many parents
would like their kids to have a professional guard but may think they are too expensive. Setting up an evening at the office for impressions and mouth-guard fabrication can go a long way in providing goodwill exposure for your office, and a great possible source for new patients.
Next, contact the middle and high schools near you and arrange to bring some flyers and a couple of posters advertising your Back to Sports Mouth-Guard Night. Use your office Facebook and Twitter accounts to get the word out as well. Put some flyers in your office reception area, along with a poster advertising the night or nights. If you know a teacher or counselor at a school, ask if they could make a couple announcements a week or two ahead. Better yet, if you know a coach, call him/her and see if they can arrange for their team to come over to the office together.
Be sure to stress that you will need to know how many kids will be coming so you can plan. If you get great feedback, you could add a night or two if necessary. Deliver the guards in inexpensive cases bearing your office name and phone number. Plain cases can be purchased with nice office stickers placed later to save money. Include an information sheet describing the care of a mouth-guard and also what to do if a tooth is chipped or knocked out during sports. Be sure your office name and number is prominently displayed.
This type of campaign for new patients is not an immediate money-maker of course. Some cost will be incurred to pay staff and supplies. However, the cost of this type of publicity is nominal compared with other types of advertising. Goodwill is created and people have a chance to meet you and the office team. The idea is that people who do not already have a dental home, or are not happy with their current dentist, will seek you out in the future. It’s a different approach and it works.
Back-to-School Home Tooth Bleaching Kits. All kids want to look their best when they go back to school. While many bleaching options are available over-the-counter, office bleaching is still preferred by most. Offering a low-cost bleaching kit is a great way to get new patients into the office.
Again, have a staff meeting to discuss which team members will be required to take impressions, cost of supplies needed, fabrication of home trays and appointment times. Decide what the fee for the kit with three tubes of bleach should be. Also decide if you will honor this offer for existing patients (probably a good idea to do so, it might reactivate some patients and families you haven’t seen for a while). Use your Facebook and Twitter accounts as mentioned before, and contact any teachers or coaches you have in the practice to help get the word out. Go to local hair and nail salons and ask if you can leave some flyers. Think about sending postcards to your local zip codes with a short message about your offer with the fee included. Again, the point is to attract new patients with a low-cost (but not free) offer, as free offers are often viewed with skepticism.
When the patients are in the chair, use that time to mention any decayed areas that are seen, ortho that might be needed, and wisdom teeth that might need to be extracted. Avoid any type of “hard-sell”. If cavities are observed you might say, “I am noticing a few teeth that need fillings. Let us know if you would like to get these fixed before they start hurting.”
Bringing in patients through some low-cost offers can generate interest and income for the office. New patients, and patients who have been somewhat inactive, can provide the boost you might be needing.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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