Is Your Dental Team Remarkable?

I use the word “remarkable” in its most literal sense, meaning worthy of being spoken about. There are several reasons to want a team of remarkable people, but in this age of online reviews and social media, you want team members that your patients think are so special that they can’t resist commenting about them on Facebook and recommending your practice on Google.Super woman cropped

I’ve found that, more often than not, when a person says that they love their dentist, they mean that they love the team members and the way they are treated by them.  There are of course terrific dentists out there, and all the dentists in the practice should also be remarkable.  The team starts with them, and they must establish the culture and build the team that fulfills their vision.

Hiring is a big challenge in every business.  But typically in dentistry we plug a hole rather than fill a position with someone great.  And the consequences of that behavior are not always easily detected, or accurately diagnosed as being caused by the hiring process.  But from a production standpoint they can be devastating, because you’re not generating word of mouth patients, and patients are not accepting treatment because they don’t like the experience of being in your practice.

I recently took a small group of employees out to a dinner, and when we sat down, this bouncy, energetic waitress brought menus, introduced herself and took our drink order.  A minute or two later a different, dour waitress stepped up and said that she would be taking care of us.  We told her we had already ordered drinks, and she glumly went away.  We all looked at each other and said, “We want the other waitress back!”  Fortunately, she did come back, and she was a pure delight through the entire meal, and we ordered dessert in spite of ourselves.  In the end, we had a great meal, a great time, and spent more money than we would have otherwise (like, with the other waitress.)

Our waitress was remarkable. Literally. In fact, I remarked about her and the experience later on Yelp.

Building a remarkable team is difficult.  But successful business is not ever easy. It takes focus and purpose and vision.  And if your vision is to help people to have healthy smiles, then you will accomplish that to a much greater degree with a team that is enthusiastic, friendly, engaging, courteous and supportive of each other. And by ELIMINATING anyone who doesn’t participate in the creation of that culture, and is not truly remarkable. (This recent blog post gives a different perspective on firing people.)

This first thought about “remarkable” employees I learned from the marketing expert Seth Godin, (who writes an insanely good blog every day!).  This second thought I gleaned from the company NetFlix, as part of their corporate philosophy.  And that is, your business is a team, not a family.  That is a very important distinction.  With a family, you’re stuck with each other, and you tolerate weaknesses and bad behavior.  A team is built by training, giving clear direction, hiring great players, and cutting players that aren’t as good as you need in that position, or have lost their effectiveness as the team got better. Big difference.

The natural tendency in a dental practice is to behave like you’re a family. (And often, someone is, I know.) But there is a price to be paid for that. If you’re willing to pay it, fine. But do it consciously.  Because the other choice is to build a great team. A team that shares in the success of the practice, believes in the purpose of the profession, and believes and communicates that dentistry is one of the best investments a person can make.

How do you do it?  Hire slowly, carefully.  Be demanding of excellence, and use your whole team to decide if that person is a good fit for the culture of the practice.  Because if they are not, it doesn’t matter how skilled they are.  And when someone leaves, or has to be cut from the team, have a shared understanding that you’re going to collectively tough it out and take up the slack until you find the new, remarkable team member.

And then, life is beautiful.

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