This is one of those topics that I have written about many times but is still one area that doctors seem to struggle implementing successfully. It seems that most doctors consider a “bonus” system as a need to have, check the box, I haven’t arrived, must do system to feel that they are successful. In their haste to have it, they forget that timing and benchmarks are controlling factors affecting their decision. Is a “bonus” strategy right for every office? Of course not. You need to have the business acumen to really understand the when and how of a bonus system. Just for the record, I have a problem with calling this strategy a “bonus” system. In reality it is a “profit sharing strategy” that will pay a huge return on your investment. If you want consistent double-digit growth year after year, you need to share the wealth.
Benchmarks, in a practice management sense, are paramount to this timing concern to make a bonus system work. In the book, The Super General Dental Practice, you can find a chapter dedicated to benchmarks and overhead, so we will not repeat them here. To get your free digital version, just click here and download your copy today. You should consider benchmarks as a cautionary prerequisite for a successful bonus plan. I don’t expect for you to hit every one, but you should be able to check a majority of the boxes prior to implementing a bonus system. While having these benchmarks all in place would be nice, but difficult, there is a way to create a modified monetary bonus until your benchmarks show improvement. In other words, each and every benchmark or overhead item need not be perfect, but you should share these with the staff and establish a plan to add each one to your goal list. I say this so that you understand that a bonus or profit sharing scheme must be a strategic step that insures a decrease in overhead, while inspiring your staff to raise productivity. Without most of the benchmarks referred to in The Super General Dental Practice in place, you will struggle and probably fail to make this a successful strategy. With that being said, let me add one warning: Be sure that whatever system of bonus or profit sharing you choose to implement is actually less than you are willing to give. What I mean is that this money must be an amount that will not need to be modified or taken away from your staff in the future. It is far easier to give something away than it is to stop it at a later date. You can always increase the amount if it proves successful, but it is devastating to the morale of your staff if you are forced to revoke it due to poor planning. The same applies if, for for any reason at all, you decrease the amount or change the conditions to be met for obtaining the bonus. Another thing for you to keep in mind is that a bonus system is an addition to an already well-run practice. It is not a substitute for the areas that you fall short in. Consider a bonus system to be a multiplier to an already successful practice that wants to take it to the next level.
We will give you a step-by-step approach. I assure you that each step is important. Get it right the first time, and this will be a cornerstone to taking your practice to the next level. Stumble, and you enter the ranks of most offices that have failed in an attempt to inspire their team by sharing from the increases in production and profitability. It is very difficult to recover from mistakes in a strategic plan like this. Fail and you will see an increase in stress, staff turnover, overhead, and a general loss of esprit-de-corp. Great profit sharing strategies are key to a viable culture.
Before we start to explore what a successful bonus system looks like, let me refer you to one more place in The Super General Dental Practice. It deals with staff. It deals with what we call the Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, Staff Owned dental practice mindset. This chapter explores the foundational principle of ownership by your employees in a dental setting. It was the number one essential ingredient in my success for our offices. So take the time to read and internalize its strategies and culture. You must start with the right staff: They have incredible people skills and walk through the door already motivated to be the best. Never make the mistake of hiring on a resume or experience. Without motivation and people skills you will have a mediocre staff member that you will never be able to elevate to ownership mentality.
We are going to break down the next areas of successful bonus principles over several weeks in order for you to go back a read a couple of chapters about benchmarks and staff ownership. Don’t try to shortcut this. You are robbing yourself of experiencing a quantum leap in productivity by not implementing these two areas prior to adding a bonus system.
Successful Bonus Principles
• Money is a reward, not an incentive. For someone to own this process, and they must own it to make it work, they must understand the “business of Dentistry”. Your Cash Flow Statement and Profit and Loss Statement should be shared with the staff each month. They need to start to develop an “ownership” mentality: A way to make them feel that this is their practice and a career, not just a job. They decide when people are hired or have their future freed up. You consult with them on overhead and profitability. You constantly revisit the reason for the “bonus”, and why and how it is paid. They are your partners in this business, and as a partner they should share in the spoils. The bonus is their monetary reward for going the extra mile (not just what they have always done). Money is not an incentive. Your mission and purpose as a team is the incentive. Money is just a way of measuring the amount of service you deliver to your clients. Don’t be misled into thinking that you can “motivate” your staff with just money. You have to become a great leader and a better manager. Like it or not, if a practice is floundering, it is always the doctors fault. Forget the economy, demographics, staff, patients, dental IQ, etc. It is always the doctor who is at the center of any challenge in any practice. By commission or omission, the doctor has created the situation he or she finds himself or herself in. It is my job to put a mirror in front of each doctor and, for many of you, for the first time help you see the real reasons and solutions to your practice challenges.
Every successful practice we have worked with over the past 27 years has mastered the bonus strategy. This is how you Summit: Practice Management Done Right. Next week we will continue to explore the success principles of an awesome bonus system.
Michael Abernathy, DDS