ATTITUDE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES
Every doctor, team, or practice is searching for a breakthrough. Motivation to take them to their next level. The 180 Degree Dental Journey is intended to be just that. I want to rekindle a new vision, supply the knowledge, communicate through example, and provide the all-important trajectory and momentum for this change. If you are not sharing this information along with your office KPI’s and the Super General Dental Practice book with your team, you are missing an incredible opportunity to short-cut the process. A quantum leap can occur when your employees catch the vision and have the tools and support they need. I look at the right trajectory plus momentum to have a definition of: Enthusiastic persistence coupled with vision to carry you through to the finish. Bottom line is getting your actions to match your vision. There should never be a “rhetoric-reality gap”. This occurs when your actions do not match what you say.
In the previous segment (Part 6) for this journey, we delved into vision and goal setting. As you begin to incorporate these tools and develop the ability to embrace change, there will be a tendency to fall back into old, familiar, comfortable habits. I define a habit as just a grave with the ends kicked out. When you are done with change, you are done. If you have not already begun using the goal sheet you may already be “done”. Best intentions, but no follow through. The doctor and practice that fails to launch. Don’t worry, this is common. But allow me to remind you of several points that will make you a more coachable leader and successful dental owner.
I got stumped on a telephone call. I was blindsided with a question I could not answer. A new client asked me: “What makes the difference between a great client and a doctor who doesn’t really perform?” He had already signed up for coaching, but I still would have liked to have said: “Every doctor does well when they hire Summit”. He just wanted to be one of our best clients and wanted a list of things to benchmark against. I would have to say that there are differences in the results each office attains. Every doctor gets customized coaching based on a consistent formula of systems, information, one-on-one training done in their office, 24/7 access to Max, me, and their individual consultant. Bbut we do see different levels of success with each practice. So why do consulting companies get different results with each client? We came up with these top 10 reasons where your results may vary depending on the client or reader. It even applies to you as you begin this 180 Degree Dental Journey.
- The Doctor (and Staff) fail to own the process of learning and apply what the doctor and the office is taught. When asked, most doctors would say that they don’t want to manage the office, deal with the staff, or worry about financial strategies. All they want to do is just do the dentistry and not have to deal with the staff or patients. I wish we could cull this type of applicant from our services, but sometimes they slip through. If you feel this way, don’t even start down the road to improve your practice and bottom line. It will never work. You must lose your excuses and embrace an attitude of change. I hate to say it, but every problem in your practice is your fault. Either by omission or commission, you created the problems that exist in your practice. You hired the staff, determined and set the hours, bought the location, marketed (or failed to market), fell short inspiring your patients, you were responsible for everything. The opposite is also true: If you want a different result, you must make the decisions, set the course, and start the process. You are the valve that every action goes through prior to application. As your guide on this journey, we need your attention and participation. The responsibility of leadership cannot be delegated or ignored. Leadership can be taught, and we can help, but you must consistently act to implement. It’s time to step past just reading this or planning to do something “someday”.
- Poor Demographics. Believe it or not, there are many areas in the country that make growth almost impossible. We have already discussed this and how you go about assessing where you are and whether this location is part of the solution, or a continual problem. Once you drop below the doctor to population ratio of 1:2000, you have entered an area of diminishing returns. You have gone over to the “dark side”. Marketing is more difficult because every doctor is doing it, and every person is exposed to it. Fees are more competitive. Patients have more choices in the dentist they go to. Everything must be at the top of your game to even be just average. There is very little wiggle room. You must have the location, hours, take their insurance, and offer services at a price they can afford six days a week. Differentiating your practice from everyone else is difficult if not impossible. If this is the case, your expectations on growth, new patients, production, and overhead need to be realistic. Without an out right move, you will struggle for the remainder of your career. This is a difficult fact to accept. Make sure you can handle the truth. The truth may be that you need to move to be able to grow.
- Location. Even if the demographics seem alright in your town or zip code, they tend to degrade and change over time. If you have been practicing in the same spot for more than 10 years, you may now be in the wrong location in your city or county. Every neighborhood degrades; it changes demographics, race, and income levels. As it does, you will often find that your practice does not reflect these changes. You will have lost touch with your audience. The patients today are looking for something altogether different than what you have to offer. Your practice, staff, and overall systems must reflect the community you practice in. The statistical fact that few dentists understand is that 90% of the people in your location are not looking for a new dentist. This should give you pause as the reality of where you are defines where you can go.
- The wrong practice strategy. There are all types of successful practices: Boutique, general, family, managed care, fee for service, Medicare, etc. Any strategy can work somewhere. Many strategies are doomed to fail where you are. The problem is that many strategies are fraught with challenges. While the idea of a cosmetic or boutique practice appeals to most doctors, your practice location, your personality, charisma, and clinical skills may not be able to support it. Each form of practice is dictated by the demographics of the area you serve. Don’t be fooled by some slick speaker or “institute of higher dental learning” into thinking that a boutique practice is the only stress free, high profit, low overhead, and higher quality, higher calling type of practice. Often times it is the most stressful, least profitable practice that you could own. It is certainly the least valuable when it comes time to sell and retire. All this to say, make sure your choice of practice styles is supported by your circumstances. Deciding to try and give patients what they do not want is a sure-fire way to financial and practice failure. Look at what your patients want and give it to them.
- Not being poised for growth. This is a very broad topic. Many practices seeking source of information or mentoring are plagued with burned out doctors, marginal staff, and have entered the practice mode of coasting till retirement or have a “barely survive strategy”. If you are about to invest your hard-earned dollars in a full court assault on practice growth, you need to be poised for growth: Right staff, great location, healthy benchmarked numbers, good overhead, growing practice, and fully engaged doctor who is looking to make things happen. The entire office needs to be wearing T-shirts saying, “Whatever It Takes” or as we like to say in the South: “Git ‘er done”. It is an overwhelming commitment to growth, excellence, time, money, and energy to make this happen. No practice management company can motivate you, it can only train and guide you.
- Paralysis by analysis. Our best clients operate on the premise of “ready, fire, aim”. They are not frozen by fear of failure. They realize that if everything must be perfect before they act, nothing will ever get done. Part of a healthy practice/coach relationship hinges on trust in what is brought to the table is a tried-and-true strategy that will work with their situation. We have seen thousands of practices, and believe me, yours is not the worst situation we have seen. The worst thing a doctor and staff could do is agree on a strategy, have an assigned job for each staff member and doctor, and then fail to follow thru. We refer to this as “Idea Overload with Execution Failure”. Failure to act has doomed many practices. Procrastination is overrated. Plan, then execute the plan.
- Thinking your job is doing Dentistry. Successful practices realize that crowns, cleaning teeth, sucking spit, making phone calls, dealing with insurance companies, etc., are just things that you do while you are doing your real job. The key to a successful practice is and always will be your ability to “inspire” your patients. It is counter intuitive, but the best practices, most productive practices, practices with the lowest overhead, and greatest number of new patients hire for people skills and motivation and train them to do everything else. People skills come with the person chosen for the job. It cannot be taught or trained. You either have it or you don’t. Bonus systems will not motivate your staff. You need to hire motivated staff. Keep in mind that Job #1 is INSPIRING your patients and staff.
- Failure to incorporate “Consumerism” in all you do. Dentistry is a small consumer driven business. It is not just a science, a calling, or art form. It is foremost a business driven by the whims of a fickle public. Today there is a dentist on every corner. Patients vote with their feet, and if you are not getting your share, it is the consumer telling you that you cannot compete in dentistry. You are not viable with the business model you are currently using. You either change or struggle. Capitalism at its essence is the ability for anyone to sell anything anytime. The fittest will survive. The noncompetitive practices that have no relevance with their clients will fail to exist. Not coming to accept the truth of consumerism will hold you back and drag you down. If there is one thing that has been a constant in dentistry it is change. To do well in making this 180 Degree Dental Journey, as well as in life, you must embrace it. If you are struggling in dentistry the one undeniable fact is that you are trying to give people something they do not want. Your struggle is caused by potential clients deciding they would rather buy goods and services from some other dentist that is giving them exactly what they want and need. Consumers speak, and you are either growing or shrinking based on how the market views what you do.
- Financial Captivity. I would have to say that putting off a change or seeking help until the last minute is a common situation. By waiting, many doctors approach us in financial captivity. In other words, the margins are so close that there is little or no money to invest in coaching, marketing, or capital expenditures to correct blockages. Profit, and a lot of it, allows you more choices in executing a strategy. Lack of it often limits the options, the scale of change, and the speed at which it can take place. Learning to handle money is an essential skill that we try to teach each of our clients. One of the most common causes for financial captivity is “The Shiny Object Syndrome”. This is where the doctor believes that buying every piece of new technology is the path to practice success. Nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing will sink you financially as fast as overspending. This could be true of “seminar addiction” where doctors attend every new clinical course only to bring the information back home and never use it. It is not unusual to see these same doctors spending $30,000 in a year for clinical courses but fail to produce $60,000/month. If you find that you are in this category, I want to encourage you to create a 100% moratorium on going to courses and buying toys. Let us show you how a profitable practice invests their profits. Take the next few months and concentrate on change.
- Holding a Limiting Belief. I could spend 50 pages discussing this. I see it in myself and especially with doctors who find that they are struggling with the many facets of practice and life. A limiting belief is a thought or process that you have held or performed so long that it has become truth to you. Most often the belief is patently untrue, but because it is the only thing you have experienced, you hold it as truth. It creates a filter through which you view and take action on all things. Consider this: If you are given false information, how can you possibly make the correct change or take the right action? This begins when you are young, and it builds a stronger hold on you as you age. This is the hardest bond to break. A consultant, course, or seminar cannot usually correct this problem. This is why I am spending this time creating strategic decisions with you and offer you correction in your course of action until you lose the limiting effect of this belief.
Imagine the effect of believing that: I’m terrible with finances, I can’t be a good leader, patients just can’t afford my dentistry, there are no good staff around here, I have never been able to save, Dentistry is stressful, I’m not lovable, etc. It can go on and on. None of these are truths. If you hold any limiting belief long enough to make it truth for you, your ability to be coachable, implement new ideas, and embrace change will fall by the wayside and limit your practice success.
This 180 Degree Dental Journey “relationship” is a partnership. It requires effort, understanding, action, and knowledge to get a superior result. Regardless of the level of success you have in coaching, you will always be better off than the practice that has failed to try. If you have any questions or would just like to discuss an area of your practice that you are currently struggling with, give me a call on my cell at 972-523-4660.
Homework: Run off a few copies of the Goal Planner we sent you. Set aside 30 minutes and fill in one goal for you or your practice as soon as possible. It might be a new patient goal, or new patient goal from existing patient referrals, moving your production per employee to $20,000-$25,000 per month per employee, whatever. Find a black and white goal for your practice and write it down. Next share it with the staff and ask for input on how to make it happen. Decide and delegate some of the tasks for its completion to a team member. Figure out a way to measure your progress. Finally, place it where your team and you can read it at least daily. It needs to become a “top-of-mind” priority for the entire team. Finally, DO IT AGAIN FOR ANOTHER GOAL. You are developing the skill set to create a vision, design an action plan, and implement the actions that will make it happen. Set a due date and enjoy your success. This is a habit that should become second nature. An action that occurs in all that you can create a vision for. Goal attainment is the most common trait of the successful.
Having questions and asking about them is how each of us Summit. Write me, call, or email me with your individual challenges.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. Back about 8 weeks ago (Nov. 4) when this series was introduced, Mike indicated that the material was originally created for a “live” presentation in Portland, OR, a few years ago. Well, that presentation was later repeated and filmed and is available in a seven (7) volume DVD set. BUT – there are only five (5) copies remaining. If you would like to own one of these remaining sets, you can purchase by clicking this link. I believe you will find these extremely helpful and could very easily be used for a series of staff meetings to educate and inspire your team. (MG)