Th 296310

Trust, delegate, and celebrate

Sept. 1, 2008
A look at Preston Dental Center in Cary, N.C.
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A look at Preston Dental Center in Cary, N.C.

by Linda Miles, CSP, CMC — Photos by Creative Images Photography

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For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: Linda Miles, office design, team continuing education.

When invited into a dental practice to consult, we consultants always hope the four dreaded obstacles of practicing do not exist. If they do, our results will not be very good, much less exceptional. These four dreaded obstacles are poor clinical skills, a dated and poorly designed facility, dentists or team members with negative attitudes who are totally resistant to change, and unethical business practices.

One of my nearly ideal practice consulting assignments came four years ago at Preston Dental Center, owned by a husband and wife in Cary, N.C., Drs. Greg and Lisa Mayes. The Mayes met in dental school at UNC their freshmen year in 1984. They knew from day one they wanted a patient-centered, modern, and well-run practice.

These two dentists are on the cutting edge of clinical excellence. They attend clinical updates and provide this type of CE for all their team members. They know that the assistants, hygienists, and administrative team are an extension of the dentists. They also know that whom they surround themselves with clinically and administratively will not only determine their success level, but their stress level as well. Born teachers, these two dentists realize that having an environment of trust, being able to delegate, and celebrating their successes allows their team to grow professionally along with the dentists.

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"Our practice philosophy has always been to treat patients special in an up-to-date, high-tech/high-touch environment," Dr. Greg Mayes said. "When we began our design process we knew we needed professional help, and we used T.H.E. to design an office that allowed us to meet our philosophy but also with an efficient floor plan and patient flow." Joe Mayes, practice manager and father of Dr. Greg Mayes, added, "Patients arrive to a warm and friendly reception area and are greeted by one of the team members. When they are escorted to a treatment area, that warm feeling continues. Patients are never exposed to sterilization areas and behind-the-scenes instruments or lab equipment that can make their visit less pleasant."

State-of-the-art equipment and technology is always part of the budgeting at Preston Dental Center. They recently invested in operative lasers and the CAD/CAM E4D for one-visit restorative procedures. While the practice was closed for vacation recently, new computers were installed with the use of TLC technology lighting and entertainment centers in each of the 10 operatories, allowing patients more ways to relax during treatment. The Mayes also plan to use some of their existing equipment and technology that integrates nicely with the new purchases for as long as it provides good results.

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The dental team members at Preston Dental Center are included in the decision making of new equipment and technology purchases and office design. This smart practice realizes that it is the dental team that is instrumental in determining the total use of the equipment. Their input is of tremendous value to the owners and management team.

As for the ROI (return on investment), it must always be a factor in making buying decisions. First it must make patients more comfortable and efficiently treated. Second, it must save time for the doctors and dental team, which is a win-win. The growth of this practice over the past four years is a testament to the fact that almost all purchasing decisions have paid off. At a time when many practices are experiencing a sluggish year, Preston Dental Center is celebrating its best year ever.

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The third dreaded obstacle that is difficult for a consultant to work with is negative attitudes. Every practice will deal with this issue from time to time. Consultants often understand these negative attitudes (due to a negative environment), and most of us have consulted long enough to get to the root cause of it. Negatives are not allowed to linger at Preston Dental Center. One of Joe Mayes strengths from his business management background lends itself to nipping these types of problems in the bud. This takes a lot of the stress away from the two dentists, who are then free to practice dentistry and focus on patient care, which is their No. 1 priority. If the doctors need to get involved however, Joe is fully aware who the true bosses are.

In working with the team at Preston Dental Center, I have found them receptive to improved communication in the business arena and at the dental chairs. They also enjoy having more organized systems of management. Their business team has attended our two-day Dental Business Conference and Practice Administrator workshop. Stephanie, the financial/scheduling coordinator, has blossomed from a young dental auxiliary to one of the top administrative team members in dentistry. This is thanks to the doctors and Joe seeing her potential as she grew with the practice.

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The close to million-dollar hygiene team that was producing a bit more than $44,000 per month when I started working with them is now averaging nearly $78,000 per month with four hygienists. Patient retention is at an all-time high. They have fewer broken appointments in hygiene.

At my recommendation two years ago, they had Colleen Rutledge, an independent hygiene consultant from Pennsylvania, help them create a better mix of services to round out one of the best hygiene departments in dentistry.

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The assistants at Preston Dental Center enjoy the fast pace of their days. They also enjoy the level of delegation Drs. Greg and Lisa provide. Following the dental practice act to the highest level, these assistants are at the top of their game and eager to do more. The secret of their enthusiasm is, "The more we learn, the more we want to learn." They are very excited about going to classes with the doctors to learn all about the new E4D. Bad attitudes? I don't think so! All dentists would love to have a team that functions like a well-oiled wheel, and that truly enjoys their work family.

The fourth dreaded obstacle, unethical business practices, is not something we consultants often see. But we hold our breath when we discover foul play that it won't be discovered while we're consulting with the practice. We can point it out, but it often falls on deaf ears, whether it's trying to eliminate taxes by being non-profit, running home expenses through the practice, committing fraud against insurance companies, cheating patients by not returning credit balances, or lying to the team about what might rightfully be theirs.

All these make consultants very uncomfortable. Preston Dental Center gets a five-star rating (on a scale of one to five) when it comes to above-board business tactics. They're honest, dedicated, and hard-working.

Drs. Greg and Lisa also make time in their busy lives for their preteen daughter and her many activities. They take family vacations and enjoy their lives out of the office. Last but not least, they have surrounded themselves with advisors and seminar leaders for more than a decade who have had the doctors, team, and practice's best interest at heart. Their advisory group includes accountants, bankers, lawyers, coaches, and consultants. I'm happy I have had the pleasure of being one of their consultants and working with them the past few years.

Linda Miles, CSP, CMC, of Virginia Beach, Va., is an internationally recognized consultant, speaker, and author on dental practice and staff development. Miles is a successful businesswoman who not only founded LLM&A, a leading INC 500 dental management consulting firm in 1978, but also founded the Speaking Consulting Network, now in its 13th year. Miles is known as the speaker who instinctively understands and loves to share the business side of practicing dentistry. She's a 26-year member of the National Speakers Association, a member of the Institute of Management Consultants, and serves on the board of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants. She believes dentistry should be fun, exciting, and rewarding for patients, dentists, and the entire team. Reach her at [email protected] or visit

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