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Put your patients SECOND

Sept. 1, 2008
(Trust me, it's the best thing you can do for your practice — and your patients.
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(Trust me, it's the best thing you can do for your practice — and your patients.)

by Kirk Behrendt

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: patients, patients second, practice, plateau, Kirk Behrendt.

Our brochures, Web sites, and mission statements all proclaim that our patients are our highest priority. We have often been led to believe this mantra will propel us forward into the land of ubiquitous practice ecstasy. While this is partly true and may work for awhile, a shift in your thinking has to occur to propel you toward a new level of growth. Without it, you're stuck in Plateauville. The key to leaving this place in an exciting fashion is to put your team first and your patients second.

I assume you understand the importance of serving people with "world class" customer service in your practice. There is no debating this. It is incredibly important. But actually doing it is another discussion. Doing it requires help from those around you. Let's face it — you can't do everything by yourself. Try as you may, it's the fastest road to frustration.

One of the biggest questions in dentistry is, "How do we break free of this plateau?" My answer is that you have to see your priorities clearly. While vision and patients are of utmost importance, nothing — and I do mean nothing — will propel you forward, in a faster fashion, than a great team.

Here are the four steps to consider when getting your business priorities straight to get out of Plateauville:

1. Put team first and patients second

The talents, skills, and attitudes of a well-developed team are much more important to the health of your practice than your patient charts.

Michael McLaughlin, CEO of Mindshare, says, "Whether you have two team members or 200, their talents and skills are more critical to your long-term success than your roster of clients. It is, after all, great team members who drive the profitability of your business."

There is no question that the impact of losing a good patient is difficult on any of us. But the emotional and financial impact of losing a fantastic team member is horribly deflating. Great team members are much harder to replace than good patients. Put your team members first and they in turn will make your patients their highest priority.

2. Understand the effect of "energy"

No resource can replace passion, energy, and drive in the marketplace. They are the business world's most valuable resource. Even a person of poor means and intelligence can (and usually does) influence the world with these three resources. Finding, procuring, and nurturing these resources always seems to be the hardest part of running a business.

One of my favorite and most efficient practices just hired a new chairside assistant and a hygienist in the last two months. Their production is now up by 47% in that short time span. I am asking him all the time, "What is the secret?" His response: "New energy."

Today is a good time to take stock of the plaque that's been collecting on your brain and the roster around you. Realize that 1 + 1 = 2 with mediocre thinking and team members. Also, realize that 1 + 1 = 11 with great thinking and talented team members. One talented team member, empowered with the right thinking, can do the work of five mediocre team members.

One of my favorite quotes of all time came from an assistant in a great office we're training. When she came into the practice, she told the doctor, "I believe so much in you and your vision that I am going to get us there, even if you get in the way!" Do you think that dentist loves going to work? You bet he does.

New energy and talent can change the face of your practice. Better yet, it can change your life. You breathe different oxygen with talent around you.

3. About hiring "talent" and "energy"

No ad you place in the local newspaper is going to find and keep talented people for you over the course of your career. You may get lucky once in awhile, but over the long haul, this is a futile recruitment method.

One of my mentors, Jim Rohn, says, "To attract attractive people, you must first become attractive."

The ability to attract talent is more a reflection on the office culture you have built rather than the recruitment methods you use. A great office culture comes first, and word-of-mouth endorsements flow from that. In essence, you have to become the kind of dentist who the most talented people in dentistry want to work for. You don't see the most talented graduates from MIT looking for jobs with mediocre companies that have "good" reputations. They go right to the top — to the rare, world-class companies. The same thing happens when the nation's premier high school athletes choose elite college programs with the best reputations.

Who you are becoming in dentistry is speaking louder than any words coming out of your mouth. Don't fool yourself; really talented dental auxiliaries are doing more homework on you than you're doing on them when it comes to hiring. Become the kind of practice that the most talented team in dentistry would want to be a part of by putting patients second and team first.

4. Bring a better "you" to work

You are part of your team. At home, put yourself first in the morning. If you have kids, do it before they wake up. Take care of yourself first and you'll be able to take better care of those you're responsible for. There is no greater tragedy than someone who has spent a lifetime helping (or chasing) others at the expense of himself or herself. God didn't put you here to make you an expendable resource; you were put here to make a signi¿¿ cant contribution. Start believing it. You need a good support system in order to make a signi¿¿ cant contribution. The way you feel about yourself has a lot to do with the way the world sees and responds to you.

Watch Oprah enough and you'll hear a barrage of women authors fervently promoting the same message: "Take better care of yourself so you can take better care of others!" They're right.

Get used to "earning your shower" in the morning, instead of "taking one." It will change your life and undoubtedly affect everyone around you in a positive way.

Tapping into your potential and taking your business where it was called to be requires you to see the elements that are holding you back. Make sure that your team members know they come first in the practice, and then they will make sure your patients are their first priority.

Kirk Behrendt is the director of ACT Dental Practice Coaching. He has lectured all over the United States to major meetings and study clubs. With his extensive experience in practice profi tability, team building, leadership, and dental practice marketing/branding, Kirk and his team are primarily focused to positively impact the future of dentistry one practice at a time. You can reach him at (800) 851-8186 or e-mail to [email protected].

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