Praising Dr. Wolfe

Feb. 1, 2000
I`m usually not one given to raving about discovering a pearl among the swine, so to speak, but I really think that the dentists of the world need to know about Dr. Ira Wolfe and his company, Success Performance Strategies. I read his article in Dental Economics ("The Best Fit" in September, 1999), but I was really fortunate to have found him quite a while before that article.

Lloyd Dowd, DDS

Tyler, Texas

I`m usually not one given to raving about discovering a pearl among the swine, so to speak, but I really think that the dentists of the world need to know about Dr. Ira Wolfe and his company, Success Performance Strategies. I read his article in Dental Economics ("The Best Fit" in September, 1999), but I was really fortunate to have found him quite a while before that article.

I think I`m typical of the vast majority of dentists when I tell you that I want to do more dentistry and spend as little time as possible on personnel problems. For 22 years I struggled with the problem of finding staff members compatible with my personality and work style. I thought that anyone could do the job if I trained them well enough and paid them higher than the average salary for my area. Some worked out well and some didn`t, but how do I find more of those staff members that worked out well? Every article I read and every colleague I talked to had screening techniques that they thought worked well for them but, in the end, everyone finally admitted that there was still a high degree of unpredictability as to whether the "chosen one" worked out well or not.

As I got older, I realized I wasn`t getting any wiser in hiring effectively. By the time I was almost 50, I had learned certain personality types fitted my practice much better than others. I tried all sorts of personality tests, aptitude tests, and a variety of other random tests but I didn`t really know how to interpret the results, especially when I had what appeared to be conflicting results from different tests I gave at the same time.

I don`t even remember where I read about this dentist who, after practicing and struggling for about 25 years like the rest of us, had put together what appeared to be the Holy Grail of staff-member selection and strategies in communicating and working with those staff members with a minimum of stress. I had talked to some companies that supposedly helped businesses with this problem but everyone I talked to had no earthly idea of the unique requirements that we look for in dental office personnel. Companies with medical office experience thought that helping a dentist with his or her "simple" requirements would be a breeze.

To make a long story short, I immediately e-mailed, faxed, and left messages on Dr. Wolfe`s voice mail that afternoon. I was very surprised when he returned my call that same evening about 7. Talk about personal service and quick response time, and I had never done any business with him at this point. He spent more than an hour going over the attitude, personality, lifestyle, workstyle, and work ethic surveys that he uses to help select personnel that will fit well with each dentist. I filled out a set of surveys myself. Since I am very pleased with my current staff, I also gave the surveys to every staff member to learn more about what traits appear to mesh well with me and my work style and to learn more about my staff to help in selecting future staff members.

We even had my wife fill out a set of surveys. My wife and I are happily married and have been for more than 10 years. It was very interesting - and helpful I might add - to find that, even though our communication styles are totally opposite, our core values and ethics are virtually identical. This explains why sometimes Cindy and I get a little frustrated when dealing with daily issues of marriage, yet we are still extremely happy with each other. I don`t know how you`d do it, but if we could use these surveys to better match prospective marriage partners, the divorce rate would plummet and we`d have fewer single-parent families. The children grow up with so much negative emotional baggage that the scenario just repeats itself, generation after generation. I speak from personal experience in that arena as well.

We all have different amounts of emotional baggage that we carry around. Anyone can be on their best, but I always prefer to have a prospective staff member come in for at least one day to get an idea about what his or her skills and attitudes really are, which are very often radically different from what he or she listed on our employment application.

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