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You will notice that we started pointing the finger at the owner doctor last week and we continue that line in the next principles for a successful bonus system. Once again you can find foundational information in the free book, The Super General Dental Practice, in the chapter dealing with Doctor Leadership. ( for your free copy)

Successful Bonus Principles continued:

Doctor places the bonus ahead of his/her income. Remember the overhead chart in the chapter on Benchmarks and Overhead in The Super General Dental Practice? If not, go back and memorize it. You get everything below the line. Our bonus check was always paid on the 10th of every month. Their normal checks were cut on the 1st and 15th of every month. That bonus check was paid separately so that the staff would understand that it represented the effort and skill that went beyond their salaries. That bonus check should be something you look forward to writing. We had a doctor from Chicago a few years back who went from $30,000/month, to giving a bonus and producing over $100,000/month. I got a call about 9 months into this super successful strategy from her: “This bonus thing is just not working at all. I had to pay $7,000 in bonuses last month. I’m paying way too much money to my staff”, she said. I asked her if she was following our bonus strategy exactly. I reminded her that while the dollar amount she spent on her staff was increasing, the percentage of the collections dedicated to staff compensation was actually going down and lowering her total overhead. She said: “Yes, but that is just way too much to pay a staff. They do not deserve it. No other dental staff I know make that much”. I asked if she was just paying 15% to the staff above their base or BAM number (Bare Ass Minimum). She said: “Yes”. I reminded her that while she was giving them 15%, she was adding 85% to her take home pay. Even though I tried to show her the insanity of removing the very strategy that tripled her production, stopped staff turnover, and dropped her overhead by 17%, she did away with the bonus. It only took 45 days for her production to drop back to about $40,000/month. The money you spend on a successful bonus system will deliver the best return on investment (ROI) you have ever seen. Make sure there is no way you can mess this up.

Doctor has the goal of having the highest paid staff in town. I modified it so that my staff was one of the highest paid staff the United States. I was proud that my staff helped me maintain a low 50% overhead while allowing them to make more than any staff I had ever seen. They were averaging $3,000/month/employee in addition to an incredible base salary, 401K, health insurance, and 2 weeks paid vacation, uniform allowance, continuing education, and a 1 week cruise every year. The average staff person was with us about 14.5 years. Most were with us for 20 plus years. That is a commitment and a sign of a healthy practice. Even considering all of what they earned, my overhead for anything pertaining to staff was 25% or less.

Doctor is committed to all changes necessary to facilitate the bonus. This could include changing the hours, incorporating new systems, hiring a consultant, making a new level of commitment personally, freeing up someone’s future, or spending money on the facility. Get you a T-shirt made that says: “Whatever it takes!”. That is your new commitment. To reach the next level in practice productivity and profit, you must make a new, higher level of commitment. Both you and your staff. You are exactly where you want to be right now. If not, you would change. Take responsibility and make it happen. Excuses are overrated. My concern here is that you will just read this and fail to hear and understand the level of commitment that a successful bonus system requires. A half-a__ attitude will get you what you are already getting. I even thought about retitling this section and put the same thing in the article just below this one. This is the tipping point for any change in your practice. It begins with you, and without your commitment, there will be no commitment from any of the staff.

Next week we tackle the most difficult areas of successful bonuses and successful dental practices. Don’t miss this and don’t fall behind on reading the chapters for The Super General Dental Practice. They will turn your practice around.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
972-523-4660 cell
[email protected]