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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.]

7 Things I Learned from Sir Richard Branson

Richard, book and me

If you don’t know who Richard Branson is, I’ll explain that he is the creator of the Virgin brand, which started as a record company, then an airline, and now has over 400 different companies under that banner.  He’s a multi-billionaire who is now also pioneering commercial space travel with Virgin Galactic.  In other words, he’s a wild and fearless pioneer and entrepreneur.  And he’s a knight.

I had the occasion to spend five days on a business retreat at his island in the British Virgin Islands.  It was a spectacular experience, both from a business and a personal perspective.  I admire Sir Richard as much for the way he lives his life as I do for his achievements in business and philanthropy, and here are seven things I’ve learned from him that I think are very relevant to dental practices and to business in general, and I wish I learned them a lot sooner.

1. Offer an exceptional product with exceptional service. This is the only way to defend yourself long term against the competition.  He told us that the times he failed to do this were the times the endeavor failed.  If you can’t do that, in your own way, in your own neighborhood, to some group of patients, then you will be at risk.

2. Sweat the small stuff.  It’s all about the details. This is what people notice, and what people remember, and what makes you distinct as a person, a business and a brand. And in this world where your reputation is being created in the digital world every day, whether you like it or not, your brand is everything.  You will distinguish yourself by the smallest of details, and by not neglecting anything that the patient experiences.

3. Infuse playfulness into your business and your workday.  You may say that you are in health care, and there is no place for that.  I totally disagree. Even at its best, dental care is an anxiety-inducing experience.  Lighten up the atmosphere in your practice, and encourage your team to do the same, and you’ll see patients respond positively.

Why lets kids have all the fun? Play!

Why lets kids have all the fun? Play!

Remember, it’s about the experience of being a patient, not your clinical skills, that make the biggest impression on your patients.  Bring fun into your practice. For me, I realized how much I had let that slip away in my personal life as well.

4. You can’t change the world until you get your own business right.  All of us would like, I think, to have some positive impact on the world around us, and perhaps create a legacy.  But your first legacy is to have a solid, sustainable business, providing good, secure jobs, or as a team member contributing your best so that the business thrives. Then you can go out and change the world.

5. Take care of your body and your health.  You cannot be a good leader or good team member in the long term if you let your health fail.  And it won’t matter what level of success you achieve if you can’t enjoy it because you’ve let your body go.  Dentistry is a very physical profession, but when you maintain yourself you can do it comfortably into your 70’s and even 80’s (if you choose to!)

6. Turn your disadvantages into advantages.  Sir Richard is dyslexic.  Also a high-school dropout. This has allowed him to approach the world differently, to extraordinary success. Your disadvantages, either physical or mental, can serve as a motivator to you and also give you a different perspective on the world.  It’s a choice to let your disadvantages limit you, rather than discover the new pathways they provide.

7. To get great at something, get great coaching. He plays tennis almost every day with a tennis pro.  Whatever he undertakes, he finds the best coaches or advisors to help him.  I was not wise enough in my younger years to do this, but now I have remarkable people as resources, advisors and coaches in every area of my life.  It saves me money and time in reaching my goals.

I’ve learned a whole lot more from Sir Richard, much of it on a personal level.  I highly recommend reading his book, The Virgin Way, if you want more insight into how he has shaped his success.  He is also the keynote speaker at SiroWorld this summer, which is going to be an amazing and unprecedented event in August hosted by DentsplySirona. I wouldn’t miss it if I were you!

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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!

 

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!

SEO: Can You Ever Stay Ahead of It?

Every business dreams of coming up on the first page in an organic web search.  And every day I talk to dentists who want to improve the SEO of their website.  All while Google keeps changing how the results look and what satisfies their search algorithms.  They just did it again on August 6th in a fairly big way.

Let’s talk about that change first.  The big differences are:

1. The map results on computers now only show 3 practices. This now mirrors what happens on mobile phones.

2. The full address of the practice is gone.

3. Everything “above the fold”–what is immediately viewable on a computer screen–is now essentially paid for.

SEO search resultsThere are still listings of organic results on the first page, meaning if you scroll down you will see them, and not have to click to see the next page of results, but in this particular search Yelp had the first three “organic” positions.  This is because they know how to maximize SEO, and can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making sure they are doing everything that Google wants. You can’t do that.

Also, notice that on the right the paid ads do get their address to show up.  And they can even offer specials or a have a specific message.  But clearly Google makes it easy to get to the paid advertisers’ websites.  And you can be sure that the bidding for those places is escalating all the time.

This is all happening because Google is in the ad sales business, and they want you to pay to appear.  The results are even more narrowed toward paying advertisers when you search on a mobile device (which is where more than 60% of searches begin, by the way.)

Face it, when you have 80% of dentists who now have a website, they’re not all going to show up on the first page organically. It’s not physically possible, and clearly getting more challenging all the time.

So what should your strategy be?

You still need to find as many ways to create good SEO as possible. But don’t fall for some company guaranteeing that they can get you on the first page. There are too many factors out of anyone’s control. Read my previous blog on this for more insight on that.  It’s more true now that ever.

Here’s what you need:

1. A dynamic website that allows you to change content easily yourself and have constant new content feeding to it automatically.  It should be simple, modern-looking, and easy to navigate.

2. Reviews are powerful content, and if you are surveying your patients using PatientActivator or some other application, then you can have those appear automatically.

3. Embed Yelp reviews in your site.  It will only show three, but it will keep people from leaving your website and going to Yelp to see reviews.

4. Add new patient testimonial videos every week.

5. Write a blog, and link it to your website. It should have your town included in most posts, as well as some key dental phrases. Your blog is for Google to read. Most humans won’t. So being local and with relevant words is what matters most.

6. Make sure all the directories across the web have the exact same information about your practice. ReputationMonitor, which is included with PatientActivator, makes it much easier to do this.

7. Have a form where patients can request an appointment.

8. Make sure your website is responsive, meaning it plays properly on every device–particularly mobile phones–and in every browser.  The first test is to look at your website on your own phone.  Easy to read? Pretty? Better be!

But overall, concentrate on giving a great patient experience, because your website is only one part of your promotion and practice awareness. Social media and review sites will play a larger and larger part of that with every passing month.  It all has to work together, with your website as the hub.  And what patients post out there matters more than ever.

We build websites with our WebDirector product, but there are other reputable companies out there as well.  You can tell who they are because they don’t promise magical results.  We will also help you integrate all the social media aspects that you need to make everything look consistent and connect to each other.

It’s a daunting, moving target, I know. But it’s the way of the world, and ignoring it or thinking it doesn’t relate to your neighborhood is going to prove to be failed strategy.  So stay on it!