The Three R’s of Building an Invincible Team

Over the past 35 of my business life, I’ve seen many different approaches to team-building. In our own business we refined the process to a very simple philosophy, which I call the Three R’s, which are Retrain, Repurpose or Replace.

We have over 250 team members at 1-800-DENTIST, and many different skill sets and levels of income, but this approach works throughout the company.  I’ll explain them each in detail.

RETRAIN

The first step for us when hiring someone is to make sure that they are a cultural fit for the company.  Once we determine that, and believe that they can do the job, then they are hired. We then monitor them throughout their career, coaching them, evaluating them and giving them feedback.  Sometimes you get an employee that is a terrific cultural fit, but they are missing some key skills, or they have let some bad habits slip into their workday.  That’s where retraining comes in.

A typical example would be an operator in the call center, who is a great employee, liked by everyone, and has been doing a great job for years.  And then suddenly his productivity falls off.  Since we record all their calls, we can listen to see where that team member might have drifted from his training.  This is when you put them through retraining, refreshing their skills and reminding them of the fundamentals of their job.  And usually within a week that team member is right back to her old level of productivity.

The same thing can happen with a salesperson, or a customer service team member. Over time it’s easy to drift from the essential behaviors, skills and verbiage that work best, and eventually it shows up in productivity. The manager’s responsibility is to observe this and put the person through retraining as quickly as possible.

Also, to really grow employees, you and the individual team members need to be willing to look at their gaps in skills, and offer them the opportunity to close those gaps with education. Retraining then means “more training,” to broaden their skill set and make it possible for them to keep up with the changes in the marketplace as well as develop the skills to advance.

In a dental practice, this could mean regular seminars to maintain peak team performance,  reminding your team members of the importance of fundamental skills and introducing them to new ones.  Or it could mean that the practice has added CEREC, and the assistant needs to learn how to do as much as possible with the new technology, and how to talk about it to the patients.

REPURPOSE

Sometimes you find a team member that is an excellent cultural fit for the business, and is a diligent worker with a positive attitude, but they are just not thriving in the position they were hired for.  No matter how much retraining or coaching you do, they remain a “B” player, so to speak.  What we do then is try to determine if they would fit better somewhere else in the organization.

Why do we do this? Because great people are hard to find. And experience has taught us that most people want to do a great job, but are just better at some activities than others.  We have repurposed employees hundreds of times over 30 years. Let’s say someone on the sales team really believes in the product, but just can’t seem to consistently sell month after month.  We’ll might then try them out in the customer service department, and suddenly they excel at their new job.

We’ve also graduated many people to higher positions.  This is another part of repurposing.  Some team members may be slipping into lower performance because the job is not challenging enough, and they are not working to their full potential. At that point, their manager could realize their capabilities, and promote them, or another manager could “steal” an employee for her department, when he believes the person is a great fit and would excel in the new role.

Now you may be saying, “Fred, this doesn’t work in a dental practice.  You can’t repurpose a hygienist, for example.”  Really?  Maybe she would be a much better treatment coordinator. Or maybe she’s just bored, and if you assigned her the social media responsibility as part of her job she would get jazzed about coming to work every day, and take on an important role.  You can even repurpose the dentist.  Maybe he or she is not great at case presentation, and is never going to be, despite retraining.  Time for that treatment coordinator role again. Do you start to see the possibilities?

REPLACE

It’s expensive to find new employees, and it’s expensive to train those employees until they get up to speed in their position. But sometimes that person has got to go.  Short of some sort of misconduct, this is our last resort.  But we’re not afraid to pull the trigger. If they can’t be retrained and there isn’t a better position in the company for them, or they’ve not succeeded after being repurposed, it’s time for them to work someplace else.

As a side note, the hardest team member to let go is a B player who, no matter how you try, is not getting better and will never become an A player.  Letting go of C players (and F players!) is easy by comparison.  But if you want everyone functioning at an A level, you have to be strong enough to eventually face the fact that this person is never going to give you all that you need.  And also–and this is critical to understand–it is not fair to all the other A players to keep that person around.

And of course, an invincible team is all A players.

For more thoughts on why it’s important to be comfortable letting an employee go, check out my previous blog, “Why Firing Someone is an Act of Kindness.”

I know that employee management is even more challenging in a dental practice, where there is a fairly small number of team members.  This is why I recommend two key resources: Dental Post.net and HRforHealth.

HRforHealth is a program that, at its most basic level, does all the things that keep you fully compliant with regard to employee laws in your state.  But beyond that, it systematizes the review process for your employees, so that if you need to retrain or repurpose them, you’ve already made it clear what your expectations are of them in the position and the practice. And if you do need to terminate someone you can do it without being at risk of litigation, because you’ve laid the legal foundation properly.  With HRforHealth, you can easily take advantage of all the human resources tools that large business use, at a very low cost.

DentalPost.net is a job search site specifically for the dental industry.  It doesn’t cost anything for a potential employee to list him or herself there, and for a reasonable fee the dentist or office manager can search for the best fit for the practice.  I recommend it because practices can be very clear about the type of practice they operate, from culture to philosophy to clinical approach, and this makes for a much better hire. The site also does personality testing, so that you can see what type of individual you’re bringing into your team mix, and where they are most likely to thrive and contribute to your invincible team.

I hope you find the Three R strategy useful as a guiding principle in building your stellar team. We’ve found one of the biggest benefits is it makes your business a great place to work, which means it is a whole lot easier to attract the best people. That’s a big bonus!

[Full disclosure: I’m on the advisory board of both these companies, which I only do when I believe a company is exceptional and I can contribute to their serving the industry better.]

Fred Gets Around! (on one leg)

As some of you might know, I tore my Achilles’ tendon last month, and it has been quite the inconvenience.  But it did force me to slow down from my breakneck-paced life, and reflect on where I want to be in the next five years and the next ten.  I found myself re-prioritizing, and getting very clear on what needed to be done on a daily basis in order to achieve my goals.  So that’s my simple advice: be clear on where you want to go, and do something every day towards it.

It has also given me time to enhance my lectures for the next year with some juicy new content about the social media world and techniques for building an invincible dental practice.  It starts with a webinar next week:

Based on a survey we did, it compiles the frank opinions of over 1,100 office managers nationwide about the hot-button topics in their day-to-day lives, and my recommendations  on how to conquer those challenges.

Highlights include:

• Zeroing-in on “Too Little Time Spent” Syndrome
• Identifying Roadblocks in Optimal Staff Training
• Staying Out of “The New Patient Neglect Zone”
• Mining The Lost World of Dormant Patients

All attendees will receive a complimentary copy of the exclusive national report, “The Changing Role of the Dental Office Manager.”

It’s free, of course, and just click here to register.

Then, in February I hit the road again (I should be out of my boot by then!)

First up is ScaleUp, a seminar on February 9-11, on how to go from a solo practice to a business enterprise.  It’s being held in Dana Point, California and promises to be a unique and enlightening event.  I’ll be presenting “5 Strategies for Optimizing Patient Growth.” Along with me, the esteemed Dr. Gordon Christensen, the famous business coach John Maxwell, and group practice wizard Steve Bilt will also be on the docket.  Learn more about it by clicking here.

Then I’m doing a study club in San Diego on March 3rd for one of my favorite organizations, the American Association of Dental Office Managers. This is open to everyone, with a little fee involved, and Patterson Dental is a key sponsor. The emphasis will be on team building and capitalizing on the digital tools and strategies available to practices now, but I’ll be running all the marketing bases.  Register here.

After that, my company is hosting its third DSO Summit here in Los Angeles on April 4-5.  This is a very exclusive meeting and has sold out both times already. We keep it small, because we want attendees to get to know each other, and it also allows us to do it in our office, where they can see how we operate our call center for 1-800-DENTIST.  It’s a deep dive into all the tools your group practice needs to attract and retain patients, from the technology side to the management and marketing arenas.  There will be a special guest speaker whom I will not yet reveal to you, but you will not be disappointed. (It’s not me, but I will be speaking!)  Register here.

There will be more to come, but that’s where I’ll be once I’m back on both feet. Have a great 2017, and I hope to see a lot of you in the coming year!

Perfecting Your Dental Practice YouTube Channel

In my previous post, I explained how to make patient testimonial videos.  One of the most important Internet locations to post those videos is on your own practice’s YouTube channel.  Yep, just like ABC, CBS and Fox, you can have your very own channel for people to watch.

Why do it?  Because YouTube is the second most active site on the Internet, second only to Google itself, (which owns YouTube.)  And people love watching videos.  More than 50% of the time on smartphones is spent watching videos.

It’s so pervasive that there’s a battle going on between YouTube and Facebook for video dominance. The good thing about this competition is you can play on both sides and come out winning either way.  And beyond that, there is the Google Juice (SEO) that videos generate.

So how do you make your own channel, and how do you make it interesting?

First, you must have a Google+ account. I know, I’ve told you not to bother with regular posting on Google+ anymore, but that refers to social media activity. You still need to have a practice profile there, so that when people search for you on Google all your information comes up.  If you haven’t done that yet, go to Google Accounts and do that first, before I get angry.  (You don’t need a Google+/Google Place account to have a YouTube channel; you just need to have one if you’re a dental practice in the 21st century.)

I’m not going to give you a frame-by-frame explanation on how to do create your channel, because you need to learn to do this stuff by reading what’s on the site itself and finding what you need. But I’ll tell you what you should be doing, step by step.

1. Go to YouTube.  Sign in with your Gmail address.  If you haven’t created a YouTube account yet, you can do that as you sign in.  Make sure it is the same Gmail as for your Google+ account. If you have a Google+ page, YouTube is going to drag in the images from that. You’ll notice that it looks a lot like a Facebook page, only with a wider, narrower image.  So don’t be afraid to be consistent in your look and use the same panoramic photo, and put your practice logo in the thumbnail.  You can always adjust or replace them in your Google+ page and it will automatically adapt.

2. Name Your Channel. You can name your channel whatever you want, but generally it’s your practice name.

Add a description of your channel, which is simply a quick description of your practice and it’s location and contact information. Mine looks like this:

Fred YouTube Home Page
3. Upload Videos.  Anything you have already done:
  • Patient testimonials
  • Practice tour
  • Practice parties, holiday events, etc.
  • Dentist’s statement of purpose
  • Treatment explanations

Entitle and describe your videos individually. Your settings should include making the video public and allowing comments.

4. Tag your Videos.  This is perhaps the most important part of the video, maybe even more than the title. Click the on the pencil icon and you will get to “Information and Settings,” and then there is a box to add tags, where the red arrow is pointing.

Fred YouTube Channel tags

Click to enter the “tags” box and then just start typing relevant words. You can add as many tags as you want. You can’t do too many. They should include your practice name, your dentist’s name, and words like: dentistry; teeth; smiles; dental health; and anything that relates to the video, like braces or implants. Two or three words in a single tag is not a problem. These are critical because this is how Google finds your video if someone is searching a specific topic. (You don’t think Google is watching your videos and determining what’s in them, do you?  They won’t be able to do that until next year!)

5. Create a Playlist. On the left side of your Channel Page, click on “Library” and then on the button that says, “New Playlist.” What this allows you to do is suggest what video the viewer should watch next, in what sequence. Otherwise Google will do that for you, and that’s not necessarily what you want to happen, because it won’t be one of your videos.  Click on “Playlist Settings” and make the playlist “public,” and I also suggest in the “Ordering” that you show them by “most popular.”  Then click “add videos” and all the videos will appear.  Highlight them all and then add them into the playlist.  Eventually you will make multiple playlists, like when you have a lot of patient testimonials, but for now let’s just one done.

6.  Add Relevant Outside Videos to Your Playlist.  You can add other videos that you like to your playlist. They don’t have to be all yours.  Essentially, you are creating “programming” because you want them to stay on your channel, even if the video is made by someone else.  This is what the playlist allows you to do.  Make your playlist more interesting by suggesting other videos that relate to dentistry in some way.

7. Shoot more videos.  Add them to your playlist. You should be shooting more testimonials all the time.  But also, do videos explaining your technology and procedures or treatments if you think you might be any good at it.  That way you own them, and don’t have to borrow someone else’s.

Some other notes:

Facebook prefers it if you upload a video directly to them, not embed a YouTube video into your post.  So why make them unhappy?  Just upload it two times: once to Facebook, and once to YouTube.

You can embed your YouTube videos into your website, if you have a dynamic one.  If you don’t. Shame on you. Check out WebDirector.

Still can’t figure it out?  Then search YouTube for a video on “How to Set Up a YouTube Channel.”  There’s a YouTube how-to video for everything!

 

Mythbusting Dentistry

I often say that dentistry is the most resilient business model in the country. This is true because of the basic necessity of tooth care, and the unique economic model of a dental practice. If you don’t know what I mean by the last part, read my recent blog entitled “Escaping Gravity.”  But I’ve found that there are some huge misconceptions about the industry by those who practice it.

MYTH #1: You don’t have to become more affordable.  You absolutely do.  Have you not seen billboards for implants at $399 a tooth?  You need to become more efficient in your delivery of dentistry and the use of your facility, precisely because you need to become more affordable.  And the right technology and systems can make you faster, delivering better quality dentistry in less time, which means you can provide more affordable dentistry and still be as profitable as you are now, and maybe even more so.

MYTH #2  Everyone eventually will need a dentist.  Think about this: in 2013, 59.2% of Americans supported a family on less than $50,000 a year of household income. That’s households, not individuals. Where is the disposable income for dental care? If it’s not provided by their individual states or counties, it doesn’t exist.  So everyone may need an extraction, but not everyone is going to be getting dental implants.  What dental audience you aiming for, and are you affordable to that segment of society, and are there enough of them in your area?  This goes back to the first Myth, because I believe when dentistry becomes more affordable and more convenient, it will broaden the entire category of dentistry. (My next blog will be about that subject, so stay tuned.)

MYTH #3  All you need are great clinical skills to attract patients. Absolutely not true.  The average person has no way of assessing a dentist’s clinical skills, and a tiny percentage of the population has the desire and the capability to find a highly trained dentist.  If you think CE alone will fill your chairs, you will eventually starve.  This may have been true 30 years ago, but it has grown less and less true for decades, and will not be true at all in the near future.  A great patient experience attracts patients, and creates word of mouth.  Clinical skills are only a fraction of that.

MYTH #4  Dentists are entrepreneurs.  They’re not. They are small business owners, and there’s an enormous difference.  You didn’t invent the dental business model.  Or the group practice model. Which is good, because it means you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Just look at what already works and do it, and adapt as times change to the new technologies and systems that are improve what you do. That’s challenging enough, don’t you think?

MYTH #5  Selling Dentistry Cheapens the Profession. The simple truth is we all need to be sold on things that are important to us, things that we neglect to focus on the true value of, whether it’s saving for retirement, or buying life insurance, or proper diet and exercise.  Dentistry is probably the most undervalued service in the country.  Very few people accurately assess the value and importance of their oral health, so it’s our professional responsibility to persuade them to do what is best for them. Which is what selling is: effective communication with a purpose.  If that purpose is to the patient’s benefit–and they don’t understand or are in denial about that benefit–you are duty-bound to help them understand the value and importance your recommended treatment.

MYTH #6  Group Practices Are Evil and Will Destroy Dentistry.  The reality is that there are good group practices, highly ethical and dedicated to treating patients well and providing a supportive environment for dentists to simply be dental professionals and not businesspeople, and there are some that are less so.  I had a dental student ask me recently about this, suggesting that some groups have a reputation for over-diagnosing and just being about making money.  My response was that there are some individual dentists who behave exactly the same way.  Don’t paint every dentist or every group with the same brush.  The real truth is that group practices are here to stay, and often serve populations that individual dentists don’t want to treat or can’t afford to.

MYTH #7  New Technology is an Expensive Luxury.  The corollary of this is that you can keep doing dentistry the way you’ve always done it.  The truth is that new technology, properly integrated into a practice, will make you more efficient, and allow you to do higher quality dentistry, and more than pay for itself.  For example, the cost of CAD/CAM technology like CEREC should be totally offset by the savings on your lab bill.  And CBCT technology like Galileos makes it possible to do implants faster and with significantly higher accuracy. And that is just considering the basic advantages of these two technologies. And let’s talk about the standard of care that technology can elevate.  Is there any clinical advantage to putting on a temporary?  Is there any clinical advantage to doing implants with two-dimensional imagery?  I’m no dentist, but I do know that patients are very interested in knowing the advantages to them of these technologies.

I often hear dentists complain that they don’t adopt new technologies because it slows them down.  Well, are they really considering the patient when they use this as the deciding factor?  And the truth is, very often to get better at something by learning a new technique or technology, or changing a system in the office, it requires slowing down before you can get faster and better.  But it’s generally worth it.  (Check out this blog on that topic.)

I’m sure some or perhaps many of you will disagree with me on these various points.  I’m hoping to give you a broader perspective, and also inviting you to inform and enlighten me.  My personal goal is for dentistry to reach more people while making dentists more successful.  And that’s no myth!

My New Book Is Out!

After a year of writing and editing, my second book has finally been published. It’s called Becoming Remarkable: Creating a Dental Practice Everyone Talks About.  It takes the ideas in my first book to the next level.  It’s called “Becoming Remarkable” because that’s what you literally have to be.  Your practice experience has to be so amazing and unique that people can’t resist talking about you.

That has become more important than ever because when people talk now, they do it with their thumbs.  They post it somewhere, whether it’s on Facebook, or Yelp, or as a Google review.  They are adding it to your online identity and reputation, and it’s searchable, likable, sharable, and perhaps most importantly, undeletable.

I love signing books. It's very flattering to an author when people ask.

I love signing books. It’s very flattering to an author when people ask.

Some of the things that I cover in the book are:

  • The impact of corporate dentistry on private practice, and why you either need to join them or compete effectively with them;
  • How the dental patient has changed in the past 8 years, from their attitude about insurance to their expectation of convenience;
  • Where to put your time, energy and money online for the best results;
  • The impact of technology on your practice and on patients’ perception of value;
  • Why your trustworthiness is the most important element in your practice, and what increases or decreases it;
  • And much more.

Some of you may find my various suggestions and predictions controversial.  But I’ve never been one to shy away from the debates about the industry’s direction.  I’m passionate about the future of dentistry, and the urgency to evolve and grow.

I also feature six remarkable dentists and their unique stories and approaches.  What I found striking was how differently they all approached their practices, except for one thing: the patient always came first.  I hope to discover many more remarkable dentists in the coming months, and will feature their stories in this blog.

Meanwhile, I hope you take the time to read my new book, and that it gives you insights and practical tools to build and maintain a remarkable practice over the coming decades.  You can order it here, or buy the Kindle version on Amazon.

I’m recording the audio version next week, so it won’t be available for about a month. Hey, I’ve been busy!