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Facing Headwinds

As I was taking my last bike ride of the year, riding along the beach, on the return leg I was facing a very strong headwind. And it made me think of how 2020 was for me because, on my personal road back to prosperity, I faced some pretty strong headwinds. 

It also reminded me that on the first leg of my ride, I had a strong tailwind. As riders, we usually don’t notice that until we look down at the speedometer. We just think we’re doing really well, feeling really strong that day.

And then I reflected on the fact that, economically, we have all enjoyed a strong tailwind for the past ten years.

The drawback with having a strong tailwind is you don’t get stronger. It’s not challenging. With a headwind, you’ve got to work harder, you’ve got to put your head down. You’ve got to pedal faster to go slower. You’ve got to shift gears. 

It’s the same with your practice and your life. 

Think about 2020. With the shut-down, patients reluctant to return, team members who wouldn’t come back to work because they didn’t feel safe, questionable support for the dental industry, and many other challenges, we faced some mighty headwinds.

Before that, we had a long run of people paying for their dentistry, taking care of their teeth, and practices growing at a nice steady pace. It allowed us to buy new equipment, do marketing and advertising and bonus our teams. And some dentists, facing these new headwinds, didn’t make the right choices. They didn’t see where technology and processes that made it safer and faster for the patient to be in the office would make a significant difference. They didn’t adjust to the shift in patient behavior and patient mindset, and watched their practices shrink.

And there were others who figured out how to accommodate their patients, protect their team and get the money that the government provided in order to keep their doors open. They started doing teledentistry. They started taking many more emergencies. They even saw it as a chance to eliminate some of their more problematic (read, non-profitable) patients.

If you weathered this year, you’ll find going into 2021 that your practice is stronger. The choices you made to sustain your practice, by determining who were the strongest players on your team, streamlining your operation and adapting new software and technology, will pay dividends for years to come.

I even see that dentistry as a whole got stronger, because the healthcare industry suddenly realized that oral health is essential to maintaining people’s overall health and immune systems. That’s a big shift that happened much more quickly because of this headwind. This new understanding actually got a tailwind, and probably accelerated the appreciation of dentistry by five years or more.

Maybe the headwinds knocked you off the path. That’s going to happen to some of us, and it’s not always our fault. But it’s a strong reminder that there is no such thing as a permanent tailwind. Or maybe you just wished the problems would go away and things would get back to the way they were.

 Complaining about the headwind never makes it go away. It only makes the journey harder. I’ve seen nothing more effective this year than the application of positivity in the face of extreme difficulty. 

I’ve also seen that the practices who succeeded were the ones who got coaching, particularly those who worked with Fortune Management. Fortune immediately went into action and created a 12 -Week Recover Plan for their clients to deal with this crisis and adapt new strategies and tactics to stay strong. It’s a powerful lesson to not try to figure it out all by yourself.

I remember my biking coach telling me, when I was struggling with a headwind on a ride earlier this year, to lower my body and use the lower part of the handlebars to grip so that I would face less wind resistance. Why didn’t I think of that? Too busy pedaling as hard as I can. 

So, it’s not just about putting your head down and working harder. It’s about getting insight, advice, guidance and embracing adaptability. We have to be willing to change and learn. That’s not just a survival technique. It’s a thriving technique. 

This year, we might have to keep pedaling harder, because the headwinds are not abating just yet. Don’t fear these headwinds. Appreciate them, and get stronger and smarter. And get help. And then, when the next tailwind hits, you’ll go even faster. Won’t that be fun?!

Want to make the best of 2021? I’m forming a mastermind for a select group of high-end dentists in Southern California. To learn more, go to www.fredjoyal.com.
 

How Good Is Your Packaging?

In the retail business, everyone pretty much agrees that Apple is king. And one of the first things you notice when you buy an Apple product is the beautiful, brilliantly designed packaging for every single product. In fact, I know some people who collect the boxes just because they are so impressive they can’t bring themselves to throw them out.

There are plenty of businesses owners and product manufacturers who would say, “That’s nice for Apple, but I can’t afford that.” And that makes perfect sense if you don’t want to be considered the best, and just want to be the cheapest or an average product.

What’s this got to do with dentistry? Everything. Your “packaging” is your entire office: your reception area, your scrubs, your operatories, your bathroom, your signage, your parking lot, your website and your social media pages. All of it tells patients how they should rank your value against other things they spend money on.

The fact is that Apple products, from a technical standpoint, are seldom the absolute best in the market. There are better phones, bluetooth headphones, tablets, laptops and computers out there. But there aren’t any that look better or come in a more appealing box. On top of that, Apple gets more money for their products, even though they are not the best. And they also never discount their products, when everyone else in the marketplace does, often on the first day of release. (And they’re also the second most valuable company in the world.)

Don’t go to the trouble to create a great clinical practice and then do an average job of packaging it.

Please don’t misconstrue this as telling you that you don’t have to be a good dentist clinically if you have a great-looking office. That’s hardly the point. What I’m saying is, don’t go to all the trouble to create a superior product, i.e., your clinical dentistry, and then do an average job of packaging it.

By all means, be a great practitioner, get loads of CE, and use all the latest technology that gives your patients the highest quality treatment possible. But don’t ignore the box it all comes in. Renovate your reception, get nice designer scrubs with your logo on them, and make the entire office pristine and well designed, from lighting to the wall colors. And make every aspect of your digital presence the highest quality.

And remember also that your team is your packaging: their smiles, their attitude, their helpfulness, caring and integrity, that’s all your packaging too. It all matters. It matters in case acceptance, loyalty, and getting your patients to refer you. And just like Apple, you won’t have to offer discounts to attract patients.

So pay attention to all of it, and maybe someday you’ll even have people lined up outside your office, just like an Apple store!

Are you prepared for the future?

Dentistry is changing – fast. The good news is that there’s still plenty of opportunity, plenty of options and great profit in dentistry, the biggest risk is staying the same.

If you want 2018 to be your best year in practice, you can’t do what you did last year.

It’s time to claim what you want and create a plan to get you there, so I’m inviting you to join me and dentistry’s leading experts, for The 2018 Future of Dentistry Event. During this free, online event, you’ll get a practical plan to transform your practice for the future and make 2018 your best year ever!

Click here to REGISTER for this special event. Don’t let the fast approaching wave of change overcome you. Learn how you can position yourself and your practice for an unbelievably successful 2018 and beyond!

 

January Is Make or Break Time for Dentists

January is dentistry’s busiest and best month for new patient acquisition. How your front desk handles new patient calls during the next few weeks can make or break your year. Knowing exactly what to say to callers as well as how and when to say it can mean the difference between hanging-up in frustration and adding thousands of dollars in new production to your bottom line. I hope you can join me and my special guest Laura Hatch, founder of Front Office Rocks, on January 12th for a special live webinar where you’ll learn how to take advantage of  January’s exciting growth opportunities year round. Sealing the Deal. Call Handling and Front Desk Strategies New Patients Can't ResistIn this all-new free presentation, Laura and I will share proven strategies that will help your practice create the kind of warm and caring first impression – both on the phone and in the office – that lays a great foundation for a long-lasting patient relationship. Recognized as one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry, Laura is an expert at helping practices improve their day-to-day operations and create the ultimate customer service experience. In less than an hour we’ll cover everything from scripts for handling “shopper” calls about fees to tips on the best way a front desk can welcome new patients. It’s going to be great. We hope you can make it. Register now.

Dealing with The Dreaded Money Question

There is a long-held belief among dental consultants that we must never give prices over the phone when a patient asks.  Instead, we’ve created an elaborate way of not answering the question, and trying to get the patient in. I know, because in my first book, Everything is Marketing, I gave exactly that same advice.

Well, times are changing. People are very used to being able to find the price, and the cheapest price, for almost anything. Right there in their hand is a smartphone that can find the cheapest TV, car, dinner or hotel.

The problem in dentistry is compounded by the fact that fees vary so much from practice to practice, and UCF’s are radically different depending on what city or town you’re in.  And I know some dentists in Beverly Hills who charge a separate fee to put on a temporary (which is why they don’t want to get a CEREC–there’s goes that extra income!)

What’s a patient to do? Especially since the whole dental insurance coverage issue is just as confusing to them, and hard for them to understand that it’s not health insurance at all, but some variation of a discount plan on basic care.

I still believe that when a patient is asking what a crown costs, they are really asking if they can trust you not to overcharge them, since they can’t come in and start pulling charts to figure out if you’re a good clinician or not.  (Even if they knew what to look for, HIPPA wouldn’t allow it!) So they don’t know what else to ask, so they ask for prices. And many front desk team members will just give up the cost right away, without establishing any value or clarifying that costs depend on diagnosis.  And that’s not good either.

Now, some patients live on a very tight budget. Quite a few of them, actually. So cost is a huge factor when it comes to dentistry and accepting treatment. I don’t really have to tell you that.  And not everyone values dentistry the same way that you and I do. Some people just want to be able to chew or get out of pain.

And I also understand that most of you don’t want patients who are looking for the cheapest dentist. You don’t want to be that, and you don’t want people to expect that. But somehow, you’ve got to still get them to come into the practice and find out what a remarkable experience you give them, so that they start to believe you are worth the cost.

There is no simple answer here, but a large part of the solution is to have someone very skilled working at your reception, who knows how to listen, how to empathize, and how to effectively create a great first impression of the practice, and persuade someone to come in to experience it for themselves.

And then it comes down to the words. In many cases, rather than being totally evasive, you can give a range of what something would cost, depending on their individual condition. And it’s still critical to explain to people that it’s impossible to diagnose over the phone.  But a root canal is a root canal, and 9 times out of 10 you are going to charge exactly the same amount each time you do it.  So they know you’re being evasive when you don’t just tell them, and that doesn’t build trust.

In short, your front desk person has to be comfortable talking about cost, while making sure to build value over the phone, and inviting the patient to come in and see for themselves. If she is confident that she is working for a dentist who does high quality work  in a comfortable environment at a reasonable price, then she is going to project that over the phone, and the patient will sense it. And then, talk about the range of what a treatment would cost, and also make clear that an initial exam is free or a very low cost.

Of course, you won’t get everyone in.  That’s the reality. And not every patient is a good fit for the practice.  But you can improve your odds.  And I’ve become convinced that we need to not only get comfortable talking about fees over the phone, but we need to get good at it.

I’m going to dive much deeper into this whole question of maximizing the front desk results in my next webinar, with special guest Laura Hatch, who has helped create the front desk environment that built two multi-million dollar practices, and who know teaches those skills in her fantastic video course, Front Office Rocks.  The webinar is Friday, January 12th at 11am Pacific time.  You can register by clicking here, and even if you can’t make it, as long as you register you’ll be sent a recording of the webinar.

It’s going to be extremely valuable for anyone building a practice, so don’t miss this one!