The biggest problem solo Dental Practice owners have is running their businesses while at the same time needing to have to be producing the dentistry.
Whenever a Dentist/Owner is treating patients he’s working “in his business”.
Only when he’s not with patients does he have the opportunity to work “on his business”, to manage and direct his business and those employed by the business in the direction he wants the business to go.
And the two are really mutually exclusive.
Because to do both jobs well, there has to be distinct delineation in times allocated to each of these two roles.
An owner Dentist cannot be barking out orders and instructions to staff members and the like while at the same time be providing an Ultimate Patient Experience for the paying customer he is treating.
Because it just wouldn’t be an *Experience* at all for the customer.
Or it would be an Experience that the Customer would want to forget in a hurry…
In traditional business, the owner has a more managerial role, walking the floor of the business ensuring all his employees are carrying on their daily duties and tasks without any snags or difficulties.
It’s a very supervisory role.
In Dentistry, as an owner and a Dentist, the dentist must not only supervise and manage the activities of his team, he is also required to perform the dentistry and the treatments.
Because when the dentistry is not being performed, in a one Dentist Office the wheels stop spinning.
Collections, and income come to a grinding halt.
It’s with this thought in mind that Dentists need to be sure that they have the best and most proficient people working on their teams for them.
It’s important that the Dental Office employs people who know their roles and what’s expected of them at times when they are working on their own.
Employees who know that while and whenever the Dentist is treating patients, that their job and their duties need to be performed in as diligent and proficient manner as if the Dentist had been standing there beside them.
Sadly, because of the very nature of dentistry, it’s difficult for some to comprehend the appropriate mindset required at times when the Dentist is not treating patients, both during the day as well as at times when the Dentist is absent from the practice.
And sometimes the Dentist is guilty of setting this sort of tone themselves.
Sometimes the Dentist goes “looking for a chat” with team members at times when he has no patients to see.
And so the distraction of relaxation, of this moment of Down Time, can be taken as a sign that it’s OK to do less than best at times.
“After all, the Doc has down time?”
“Why can’t we have it to?”
As an owner, it’s difficult to know where the line needs to be drawn between being the boss and being a distraction in this situation.
The one thing that is most important is that customers of the Dental Practice deserve the Finest of Attention at all times.
When they walk in to make an appointment, they need to be made to feel that the practice is operating at its best.
At it’s optimal.
And not having to wind itself up just because a patient has come through the door.
The same goes for when the phone rings.
Patients must never be allowed to feel like they are an unpleasant interruption to someone else’s day.
However, with all the distractions of cell phones and social media that are around these days, it’s very hard for everybody to always maintain a productivity focus on the goals and mission of the business for every moment that they are being paid to work.
A good employer, a good workplace, will have clear and distinct guidelines and policies that create and reinforce the expectations of the organisation during both busy and less busy times.
As a solo Dentist Owner, you can’t be making things up along the way.
Nor can you be seen to be reversing behaviours and inventing policies after the fact.
Being a Dentist Owner is a tough task.
Most dentists just want to go in and drill teeth and go home.
And not have to deal with the businessy stuff.
The best Dental Offices I know are run well because there are firm policies, there are clear expectations and there is exemplary leadership.
Those that I see that are not being run well are deficient in at least one of these areas.
When I speak about the topic of “The Business Of Dentistry” I’m often questioned as to whether putting those two words, “Business” and “Dentistry” together in one sentence, is in fact correct.
Because Dentists and the Public often see Dentistry as being a profession rather than a business.
I think that in life, nearly everything is business, of sorts, when it comes to dealing with people.
There’s the business of meeting people.
I believe that the way we groom ourselves, the way we present ourselves, the way we speak to each other, be it in a social sense or not, is business.
Your demeanour, your attire, the way you comb your hair, all relate to the business of presenting yourself.
This week, I was flattered and honoured to be the first recipient of a new category of membership of the Australian Dental Buying Group Dental Innovations.
Dental Innovations is Australia’s largest commercial network of dentists. As an organisation, Dental Innovations provides commercial support to dentists Australia-wide though a subscription based suite of services.
I joined, I have to say, so long ago that I can hardly remember the year.
But I know that I was, one of the Foundation Members.
One of the first.
Because I saw the merits of collective bargaining for a start.
I saw that immediately.
Through the bargaining power of its collective base, member dentists enjoy the benefits of significantly discounted products and consumables, both dental and non-dental, as well as access to a wide range of clinical and business services.
There’s also a sense of “community” established because of an active support created by being amongst a collective network of industry peers.
The membership of Dental Innovations is larger than any corporate Ownership of Dental Services.
As such, collectively, the members enjoy significant savings on a wide variety of dental consumables as well as Insurance products and Banking and Merchant Services.
Anyway, this week, as I said, I was honoured to be the first recipient of a new category of membership of Dental Innovations.
Dental Innovations recognised that although I was now no longer an owner of a Dental Surgery, nor a Dentist Practice Principal, they recognised that I still had a lot to contribute for other members of the group.
I was heartened by the warm acceptance of the members when this announcement was made in their private chat forum.
I know that now I’m spending less time at the coalface, I’ll be doing my best to add value to those dentists’ memberships with my contributions to their forums.
Many years ago I had the pleasure of playing a reasonable amount of golf with Dr George Gow-Gates, during his retirement.
George’s contribution to Dentistry is well documented.
His technique for Inferior Alveolar Nerve Anaesthesia is recognised and taught more widely in North America than here in his Australian homeland.
I got on well with George.
I think I’d been a Dentist for maybe just over ten years when we met.
And although I thought I knew a lot, I knew there was a lot about Dentistry and the Business of Dentistry that I did not know.
And fortunately for me, George was a wealth of knowledge, and information, and opinion.
I learned a lot about the business of Dentistry from those times we spent chasing our Titleists.
There’s a lot to be learned from talking to those retired from business.
Be they Dentists or not.
I’ve always considered myself a businessman firstly.
And I’m a student of the business of business.
I’ll continue to provide the profession with insights and observations and things I’ve learned from both outside of Dentistry, and within.
I share this knowledge freely on Facebook and LinkedIn, on my personal profile pages as well as in Groups that I am a member and Groups that I administer.
Feel free to contact me about these groups via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or email.
A Dentist I know well was looking at his appointment book for the upcoming week.
He noted an appointment scheduled for a New Patient for a Checkup and Clean.
Here’s where it gets interesting…
He asked the appointment coordinator for some details about the new patient, and what the new patient wanted for that appointment.
“He was a walk–in” was the only thing my Dentist friend was told.
So let’s look at this scenario and see how it could have been improved…
What’s happened here is that the Office has only *scheduled* this chap an appointment.
They have not *made* him an appointment.
They have in no way at all done any more than put a name into a slot on the appointment book.
We know the chap came into the Dental Office to book a time.
“Do you live nearby, Mr. Jones?”
“Have you lived there long?”
These would have been great icebreakers.
The appointment was scheduled during the middle of a week day.
“Will you be coming from work?”
“Do you have the day off work?”
“Are you on leave?”
“Do you work nearby?”
“What do you do?”
More great icebreakers.
Icebreakers are questions we can use to open up conversations so that we can find out more information about our New Patient that will help us, and others on our team, to get to know the client better before he arrives for his scheduled New Patient appointment.
Did Mr. Jones complete a “Welcome to Our Practice” form and medical history form?
Or was he going to arrive on the day and have to go through the paperwork then?
It would have been so much better for the Dental Office and for the New Patient if the paperwork was completed ahead of time.
Because, having it ahead of time allows the Office to get to know his details so that we can be much more familiar with Mr. Jones before he arrives.
If we had have gotten the paperwork ahead of time, we’d know Mr. Jones’s age, where he lived [exactly], and other relevant information, that our team could use to provide Secret Service for Mr. Jones.
We’d have been able to send him a welcome letter, or email, or package ahead of time.
With information that would be relevant for that first visit.
A map of parking nearby.
A photo of the Dental Team, with a short bio on each team member.
A welcome oral care package…
Imagine Mr. Jones’s surprise at receiving something, anything in the mail before his first visit?
“Will you be driving or walking to your appointment on Thursday, Mr. Jones?”
“Do you know the best place to park?”
“Which direction will you be coming from?”
“Mr. Jones, let me show you how to access our private parking…”
Our Front Office team can use and ask any of these questions to not only break the ice, but to also start establishing The Law Of Reciprocity with Mr. Jones.
The Law Of Reciprocity states that if I do something unexpectedly for you, then now, subliminally, there is a debt from you to do be ingratiated to me.
And of course, if we do nothing, then there’s no perceived favour expectation established.
If we don’t engage, or attempt to engage with our New Patients *BEFORE* their first appointment, then we certainly miss out on an opportunity to create a huge differential for our Dental Office.
We miss out on the chance to make our Office appear different from any other Dentist they’ve been to before.
Because no other Dental Offices are doing this!!
They’re all just putting names in slots!
“So you’d like a checkup?”
“How long since your last checkup?”
“You’ll be seeing Dr. Brown himself on Thursday. Is there anything in particular that you’d like the Dr. Brown to look at for you?”
“Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort or twinges in your mouth, or in your teeth?”
Any of these simple, unobtrusive questions asked before the patient’s appointment would be more than handy for the Dental Team to prepare for Mr. Jones’s upcoming appointment.
Dr. Brown could then say, “Jacqui tells me you’re having a small issue on the top left back teeth when you chew…”
How good would that be??
What if Jacqui had asked Mr. Jones:
“How long has it been since you last had your teeth cleaned Mr. Jones?”
Just having the answer to this question will allow the team to be prepared as to what sort of cleaning they may have to provide for Mr. Jones.
“Is there a special occasion coming up, Mr. Jones?”
You see, Mr. Jones may be celebrating an important event and might want his teeth to be sparkling for any photos being taken?
Or Mr. Jones may be going for a job interview, or promotion, and felt that a radiant smile would improve his chances?
Or he might have been going on a date?
Any of this information would have been handy….
But not many Dental Offices are gathering or offering this sort of information prior to the New Patient’s first visits.
Imagine what Mr. Jones would have told his friends and work colleagues?
“You won’t believe this Dental Office I just booked in for. They were so friendly. And helpful. I’ve never had *THAT* before. And I haven’t even been there yet! I’m really looking forward to going there next week. I’ve got a good feeling about them…”
It really is so simple to gather more information about the New Patient at the time of booking. And when we do, it allows our Dental Office to stand out as being different from any other Dentist around.
Because other Dental Offices *ARE NOT* doing this!!
It’s easy to do…
But it’s also very easy to be just like everybody else. Like every other dentist.