Roger P. Levin, DDS
According to the Levin Group Data Center, 75% of dental practices have declined in production in the last six years. I attribute much of this to the lack of managerial skills on the part of dentists and their office managers. Furthermore, I believe many dentists are hesitant to deal with their team members in a straightforward manner. Unless this changes, a number of highly capable and dedicated dentists will experience disappointing financial performance and delayed retirement.
Are you willing to take control of your team?
It may not be in your nature or part of your concept of practicing dentistry, but you should accept the fact that your success depends on your ability-and your willingness-to work with, train, motivate, direct, and sometimes confront staff members. You deserve to have a successful career, but that will happen only if you actively manage staff members, even if you would rather not.
As a leading dental management consulting firm, Levin Group has dealt with every conceivable scenario in practice operations. We regard every doctor and team member in our client practices as VIPs, and we do everything possible to enable all of them to become better at their various jobs so that they can achieve greater success and satisfaction, both professionally and personally. However, some staff members have a strong negative impact on the team and are either unwilling or unable to change.
This situation is quite common in the business world, where most managers have learned how to identify and deal with such a problem. Dentists, on the other hand, are often inclined to hope that things will somehow get better. So rather than confronting the problem and encouraging a staff member to behave differently, dentists tolerate the resulting damage and suffer the consequences: dissension and stress, poor morale and negative atmosphere for other team members, high staff turnover, inefficiencies, low patient satisfaction, and stalled production.
The limitations of most office managers
A number of dentists who recognize their personal managerial limitations frequently rely on an office manager. Unfortunately, as a 2014 Levin Group Data Center survey indicates, the majority of dental office managers have little or no background in management. Often chosen for the position because they are trusted, long-term team members, they lack management training, experience, and mentoring.
This is not to stay that "homegrown" office managers can't perform well. It's just that unless they receive intensive training, they cannot be expected to provide the skilled management that every practice team needs and deserves.
Taking the right steps
It's time for doctors, even those who have office managers, to become more aware of the systems that must be in place in order to manage a dental practice efficiently. Failure to do so will likely result in the practice experiencing flat or even declining production. Once the systems have been established, then they and the staff members using them have to be managed. The doctor must either act as the manager or appoint and train an office manager.
Rather than attempt to read textbooks or attend myriad courses to gain this managerial knowledge, there is a simple method. I suggest implementing proven systems that already exist, setting targets for what the practice is to achieve, and then assigning those targets to individual staff members. The manager, whether it's the doctor or office manager, can then manage by targets and evaluate performance.
In most cases, when proven systems have been implemented (with appropriate scripting and other training), the practice will reach or exceed its targets. If targets are missed, it is often caused by a failure to use the systems properly. In this situation, it's the responsibility of the doctor or office manager to coach the team members who are responsible and make it clear that they are responsible and accountable. While this may at first seem unpleasant for many doctors, it is now an essential aspect of running the dental practice as a business. It can be done pleasantly, but the bottom line is that expectations must be met.
The modern dental practice will not run itself. To succeed, you need to provide effective systems, set targets, train staff members, and hold them accountable. Only by taking control in this way will you be able to achieve the career success that you deserve.
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Check out next year's seminar schedule for Roger P. Levin, DDS, at levingroup.com/gpseminars. New locations include Kansas City, Minneapolis, Orlando, Philadelphia, Houston, and others.