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!

The Night I Slept with a Knight

Last week I completed what was definitely the most physically challenging experience of my life.  I signed up for part of the Strive Challenge, a 27-day fund-raising event that is still taking place. It involves a five-day hike, a 1350 mile bike ride, swimming from Italy to Sicily and then a half marathon up Mount Aetna.  I just did the hike segment, which had over 100 participants.

I call it a hike, but it was more like mountaineering, which I did not know ahead of time.  On the longest day we covered 11.4 miles, ascended 5400 feet and descended 5900 feet, and took almost 45,000 steps. Virtually none of it was level and little of it was smooth, and large portions of it were simply climbing over rock slides like the one below.

This is not my idea of a trail!!

This is not my idea of a trail!!

Because I thought it was basically like a normal hike, I foolishly did not train for this.  Oh, and we also were carrying packs weighing 25 pounds.  In other words, this damn near killed me. I was so trashed after the first day I could hardly summon the strength to feed myself!

And we also stayed primarily in “refugios”, which are essentially eating and sleeping lodges for hikers. The first was the most spartan, with no showers, cold water to wash, toilets that were essentially open troughs, meals that were the equivalent of prison food, and rooms with bunk beds.

Though my childhood was fairly simple and spare, I’ve certainly grown accustomed to creature comforts over the years.  But what was perhaps the most striking aspect of this adventure is that Sir Richard Branson was also doing the hike right along with us.  In fact, he’s doing all 27 days.  And did he sneak off to somewhere luxurious, or even comfortable? No. The first night he was in the same room with me in one of the lower bunks, ate the same food, and walked the same routes. (He’s the knight in the blog title, of course). I know few millionaires who would put themselves through all that, never mind billionaires.

I also took two Ambien that night, which makes me snore, and I pretty much kept everyone else awake for the four hours it allowed me to sleep.  (I think Sir Richard has forgiven me by now!)

My admiration for this man grows with every encounter.

My admiration for this man grows with every encounter.

This was called a challenge, and it was meant to be, and for me it really showed me how much difficulty I could endure, how much will I could summon, and how much harder I could push myself than I ever imagined.  Finally, at the end of the fourth day, I crumbled.  My 62-year-old joints and untrained muscles rebelled to a point where I couldn’t be cheerful, and that was a hard lesson.  But I also learned that being comfortable isn’t anywhere near as important as I thought, and that I’ve been way too easy on myself in the past ten or twenty years.

And perhaps most impressive to me was that a billionaire, who could have had a helicopter take him to the nearest Ritz Carlton, not only did every step of the hike, but did it with a sense of humor, an amiable nature and not a hint of entitlement behavior the entire time. (By the way, he wasn’t the only billionaire with us.  Hartley Richardson, who I believe is the second richest man in Canada and recently beat throat cancer, also did the hike.)

I have been both humbled and inspired by this experience, more deeply than I could have imagined.  I can’t count the number of times that I felt like giving up, except that I had no other option but to keep going, and I had my hike mates toughing it out with me, and encouraging me, and cheering me up and cheering me on.  It was grueling, unpleasant, tedious, and painful.  And I already miss it.

I saw beautiful sights that I would never have seen any other way.  And I saw myself laid bare.  And I spent time with a remarkable group of people.  The whole experience was filled with unexpected gifts.  At one point on the fourth day we stopped at a little inn and I had one of the most memorable snacks of my life: an orange popsicle.

fred-popsicle-strive-2016

My lesson from this was simple and powerful, and I give it as advice to you: Do something hard. Harder than you think you can do.  It doesn’t have to be physical. It can be learning a new technique or new technology, instead of coasting along on your current skills.  It can be learning a musical instrument, or a language, or getting a degree. Whatever it is, get way out of your comfort zone, and you will amaze yourself.  And if you can, do it with other people.

The charity that this was for, by the way, is called Big Change.  It leverages the money raised to create programs that encourage young people to learn about the possibilities of business, and how they can make a good living and a better world.The last time they did this, in 2015, they raised $800,000, and leveraged it to get over $40 million in government support around the globe for their programs.  If you would like to donate for my efforts, I welcome that, and you can do so by clicking here.

I’ll end with the motto of the Strive Challenge: “Growth begins when you get out of your comfort zone; magic happens when you do it with others.”

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!