It all started in 1991 when Dan Gookin wrote and published “DOS For Dummies”. This started an empire of “Dummies” books. “Windows for Dummies” sold 15 million copies. Thousands of other topics followed and they are still coming out with more. They basically are the “Cliff Notes” for an endless list of topics. Kind of a beginner-friendly shortcut for everything. Bold icons, simple and direct prose, while the media franchise consistently sports a yellow and black cover with a triangular-headed cartoon figure known as the “Dummies Man”, and an informal, blackboard-style logo. My favorite was “Juggling for Dummies”.
I find that most practices miss the fundamental aspects of assembling a strong team. Since most of us are “dummies”, I would like to highlight a “Staffing for Dummies” approach: Short, fast, basic steps for assembling your ideal team.
- Make sure you actually need that next staff member: You should be averaging $20,000-$25,000 of production per employee per month. If you have 4 staff members, then you have the potential to produce in the range of $80K a month. If you are not in the general area of this figure, you don’t need more staff. You need better systems and increased production.
- If you really do need another employee: Make sure that within 30-60 days the new hire has increased your collections by 4 times what you are paying them. Overhead is important and compensation for staff should be in the 25% range. If you spend $4,000 on a new employee (make sure you include taxes, benefits, etc.) then I expect that in just a month or two you should experience an increase to your collections of about $16,000. If this seems impossible, look at your current numbers and make sure that your production per employee is at least $17K-$20K and trending even better.
- Never ever hire out of desperation: This never ends well. You should constantly look to improve (upgrade) your staff. You are creating a team that is committed to your vision of a great practice. Most doctors spend their entire career reacting to situations rather than controlling them. You need to become a thermostat rather than a thermometer. Anticipate your growth needs, hire the right person, onboard them well, train them, and measure their performance.
- Never hire someone you cannot fire: This is a statement to live by. I would move away from hiring your best friend or family members. This can make holidays and reunions pretty tough when you realize that you needed to free up their future. I would never hire a relative, or even a best friend or relative of an existing employee. Do this and then fire one and you will almost certainly lose the other. Even worse, the person will stay and be a huge negative force within the practice.
- Never work with someone that makes your life miserable: This can overlap with all the others. You hire a friend, they don’t work out or they just push your buttons and before you know it, you are avoiding them but you just can’t bring yourself to let them go. Are you starting to understand that I have done each and every one of these “never do” actions in my own practices? There is no teacher like experience.
- Hire slowly and fire quickly: Take the time to interview, check references, and conduct working interviews before you even consider bringing someone on. When you find that you made a mistake, put on your big girl panties and free up their future. I have seen doctors put this off to the point of barely just survival. Keeping the wrong person tells all of your staff you are not a leader and encourages them to act the way the poor staff member acts. As I’ve said many times before: What you allow, you encourage.
- Look in the right places: While headhunters and classifieds will get some applicants, I find there are better ways to get a higher quality staff member. I first look to my best employees for their suggestions. They know the culture and understand what type of person we need for the position we are trying to fill. Secondly, I look to my patients. You never know who might be the next super star employee that is already a patient in your practice. Finally, I would go online to your State Board web sites and look up the dentists, hygienists, or assistants licensed by your state. Because it is organized by name, address, and the number of years their license has been held you can send a letter to everyone in specific area zip codes and entice them to look at the opportunity. We need to look for great team members who have jobs and are looking to move up to a better office with a strong culture of serving our patients.
- Involve your staff in any hiring decisions: My staff had final hiring authority on every member of my staff including the associate doctors who would eventually become my partners. This creates a bond and culture where your staff is committed to having the best practice around. It is that “ownership mentality” that seals the bond between you, the leader, and the staff. After the staff decide that this is the person we should bring on, they will be committed to the new person succeeding.
- Once hired the real work begins: Making the selection for your next team member is important but falls far short of “on boarding” that person once they show up. The systems, policy manuals, training regime, one-on-one contact with feed back and follow up, along with turning over the actual training to your best staff member is key. Because you hired out of desperation, didn’t have the time to train them well, failed to create the materials and manuals to insure that you had strong systems for them to follow, and not getting the staff to make the final choice insures that you will never have the kind of person that will be committed to and live by the culture you created. Any one of these creates a perpetual revolving door of staff members.
There you go. Short and sweet. Don’t skip over any step and remember that you need to become the leader that people want to follow. Leaders create the circumstances and environment where staff will want to take action. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. Once you assemble the team, you need to constantly look for ways to upgrade your results and the members of the team. You will never arrive at a point of having the perfect mix of people, but you will arrive at a system of constantly adapting to changes in the market place. Don’t coast; constantly strive.