Tomorrow I’m doing a live webinar with Bete Johnson from CareCredit, and we’re going to do a deep dive into how to maximize the utilization of patient financing in your practice. You’ll learn about some amazing tools and some very practical tips, and you’ll also realize how critical it is to introduce the financing option to your patients. That’s May 17 at 11am PST, 2pm EST. Register by clicking here. See you on the Internet!
We all know what it is. It’s no-shows. New patients never showing up, existing patients canceling at the last minute or forgetting their appointments altogether, and it wreaks havoc on our schedules and production. So famous practice coach Gary Takacs and I are getting together to do a webinar and give practical solutions that will drastically reduce your no-shows.
Gary has been a practice consultant for over 30 years, and also owns a practice in Phoenix, so he has to walk his talk every day, and he knows what gets results. I guarantee you will come away from this webinar with tools and techniques that will take a big bite out of your no-shows!
It’s happening Friday April 21st at 11am PST, 2pm EST. If you can’t make that time, register anyway and you’ll get a recording of the entire webinar. Click here to register.
Next Wednesday, February 8th, my old friend Dr. Howard Farran and I will take a deep dive into the raging waters of building a dental team! You can be sure that it will be a lively discussion, and will give you some practical ideas on creating a team that will make your practice thrive in this ever-changing economy. It’s a free webinar (retail value $1 million+) so be sure to join in at 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern, etc. Register here to join the fun!
Also, if you can’t watch at those times, if you register you will be sent a full video recording of the webinar, so don’t miss out, register today!
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.
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.
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?
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.]
I recently attended the award event for INC Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing companies. As a guest, of course, not as someone with a company on that list. (After 30 years, that kind of accelerated growth is a lot tougher!)
It was an amazing group of entrepreneurs, and the energy at the event was inspiring. The company that topped the list, Loot Crate, grew at a phenomenal 66,789% over three years. That number is not a typo, by the way. And their last year’s revenue was $116 million. Not bad.
But there were many other businesspeople with amazing growth as well. I knew two of them, DentalPost.net and eAssist, both in the dental industry and coincidentally both with female founders. DentalPost is a sophisticated job site, and eAssist outsources dental billing for practices. In fact, they were both in the top 2000. And for DentalPost it was their second year in a row. Impressive.
A very interesting thing happened to me when I was there. I walked up and introduced myself to the CEO and founder of Loot Crate, Chris Davis, and to my surprise he immediately recognized me. Not as the 1-800-DENTIST guy, but because I had mentored him seven years ago as part of a startup class for new entrepreneurs.
I honestly didn’t remember him, but he was effusive in his praise of me as one of his mentors, and explained that after the class he launched his first company and it didn’t take off, so he moved on after two years, but then he started Loot Crate and it succeeded. Spectacularly.
I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to know that he had taken his entrepreneurial drive and ran with it. Now, I’m not taking any credit for his remarkable success. (Okay, maybe I’m taking a little!) My point is that I did those mentor sessions and still do because I want to help young businesspeople avoid some of the mistakes I made, and inspire them to chase their dreams, no matter how difficult.
I have a personal rule: I’m never going to discourage anyone from pursuing their idea. I will coach them as to how to do it better, or caution them as to some of the risks they aren’t considering, but I know that plenty of other people will try to discourage them along the way, including friends and family, and I’m not going to be one of those voices.
Back in 1986, several people told me 1-800-DENTIST would never work. My partner Gary and I used it as motivation. And that’s what I tell young entrepreneurs to do as well. Proving your detractors wrong can be very satisfying. And Chris Davis didn’t succeed on his first try. But he told me that everything he learned with the first business made it possible to turn Loot Crate into a major success.
And that’s my second rule: persistence and determination will get you further than you ever imagined. Chris is living proof. We may not all achieve such stratospheric results, but we can all reach our dreams by showing up every day and giving it our absolute best.
There won’t be any financial reward for me because of my mentoring of Chris. And I could care less. The joy I experienced seeing his marvelous success, knowing that I played some part in it, however tiny, is more than enough for me.
You can read more about Chris’s story and the INC 5000 by clicking here.