Fix your broken bonus system

Gary Kadi

In a game of chess, what is the most powerful piece? Most say the queen. What if you had the power to control the board itself? If you could control the game board, you could control the pieces, influence the players' actions, and win.

You have the power to create a game board for your practice. By creating one primary goal for each team member, you shift their thinking from staying busy to focusing on actions that create momentum-because you create a bonus system that rewards them for doing it.

I have studied many ways of motivating people, from the philosophies of Robert Cialdini and Daniel Pink to a single mom with two kids who is doing everything she can to take care of her family. I've studied the passive leader, who doesn't confront anything, to the micromanager, who challenges everything. (Sound like any dentists you know?) In all cases, I found there needs to be a personal benchmark created. The benchmark needs to measure return on investment. Team members need to be made aware of their benchmarks and motivated by them.

For each team member, you want to create a monetary "BBM": their monetary "bare-butt minimum." The BBM is a monthly number that represents the minimum amount of money they need to make to cover their salary.

Then, you make clear that once your entire team has paid for its base salaries, collected the cash flow needed to cover overhead, paid for a doctor's salary increase, paid for debt reduction, paid for retirement plans, paid for practice upgrades of equipment and facilities, and paid for a 10% cash flow cushion, then and only then does the team receive a bonus.

I call this the "triple-win bonus system" because patients, practices, and team members all benefit. First, patients get the care they need and want. Second, the practice grows professionally and financially when treatment is accepted and team members meet their goals. Third, the team members win when they meet their benchmarks and receive their bonuses.

Most people think that creating individual goals fragments a team, but the opposite is true. It creates interdependency. For example, the appointment coordinator's bonus depends on whether the doctor and hygienist meet or exceed their daily goals. Hygienists meet their daily goals and get a higher percentage of treatment when the treatment coordinator closes cases. Assistants get bonuses when the doctors reach their goals. Finally, the treatment coordinator gets a percentage on treatment presented, accepted, and paid. Your team members are individually responsible, yet each member relies on the entire team working together to close cases.

In this model, you have automatic alerts when team members are not hitting their goals. Instead of saying team members are doing something wrong, everyone around them helps and supports them to succeed.

For a doctor wanting the team to monitor expenses, this bonus structure accomplishes that, too. The team members don't want expenses to rise because that would raise their BBMs, which would make it more challenging to earn their bonuses.

I created this model to put an end to frustrated doctors who can't get their teams to think as they do and to help these doctors stop feeling the need to micromanage. Using the triple-win bonus system, your team is motivated to work together and take actions that produce results.


Gary Kadi is CEO of NextLevel Practice. He created NextLevel Practice to implement the Complete Health Dentistry™ business model, where teams willingly embrace and implement change, patients respect their treatment regimens, patients invest in their health, and doctors enjoy practicing the way they envisioned when they graduated from dental school.

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