“Wisdom doesn’t always come with age. But with age always comes experience.” —Stanley Victor Paskavich
This fall, the Scheduling Institute celebrates its 20th anniversary. What started as a team of three (myself included) stuffing envelopes and making mystery calls in a 1,200-square-foot office, has grown to a team of 200 headquartered in a 36,328-square-foot building plus two training facilities—for a grand total of 79,508 square feet. It’s pretty cool to look back at the journey.
As we’ve grown, so have our clients. In that time, I’ve created my own extensive laboratory of data on private practice owners and teams. In fact, I probably know more about how dentists operate than you! And after 20 years of successes, fails, tweaks, and progress, we have learned a lot. Because of that, we know what works and what doesn’t.
These are seven of my best pieces of advice that we teach our clients. They are time tested, proven to be true, and despite how uncomfortable they may make you feel, will help to set you up for success.
Anything you actively track improves
It goes without saying that you need to be tracking every possible data point: new patients, collections, production, etc. But what we have found is that most doctors don’t do it as regularly as they should—daily. The best way to do this is to publicly display your goals and your progress. We’ve learned that the more visible your numbers are, the better chance you have to reach them. As shown in Figure 1, create a graph template that can be customized for each goal. Draw a line from day one to your goal. Now, track out 30 days for the month and mark your numbers daily, connecting a line to each day. You will know you are on or off track by how close your progress line is to the goal line. This comparison will allow you to see how you are trending, and you can make adjustments weekly or daily if you are falling short.
You get what you deserve
Obviously, this doesn’t refer to things beyond your control. I’m not talking about health issues, natural disasters, or unfortunate accidents. Rather, this applies to the things that are absolutely in your control, such as how many new patients you have, how productive your employees are, and how much money is in your account. The problem is that we live in a world where excuses are acceptable. When something doesn’t go our way, it’s accepted that we throw out an excuse and continue behaving the same way but expecting different results. The fact is that the results you get directly correspond with the effort and energy you put into it. Therefore, if you want a different result, you have to do something differently. We train our clients not to make excuses, but instead deal with reality. We teach them to be intentional about changing results and make it clear to their teams that excuses won’t be tolerated (including their own). So, when an expected result isn’t met, they figure out what they need to do differently to get that result.
Frustration leads to breakthrough
Frustration is a catalyst for change. Unfortunately, people tend to avoid it. The fact is you should embrace frustration as it leads to problem solving and change. Do you have a team member who’s not performing? Have you confronted him or her about it, or are you hoping the bad habits will magically disappear? If you avoid frustration, you will never solve problems. It’s not easy, but neither is growth. Any top performer has countless frustrations—you just have to mentally push through it. The reward for doing so is clarity and a solution to the problem.
Figure 1: Worksheet for daily tracking of goals
New patients can solve most Problems
New patients are the lifeblood of your practice. You simply cannot grow your practice without a steady increase in new patients to make up for the natural attrition of patients moving, dying, or submitting to the competition. I say it all the time, but dentists still come to me and tell me they aren’t interested in new patients. They think they just need to work on their collections or something else. What they don’t realize is that their new patient numbers have a direct impact on production, collections, cash flow, and even team engagement. Let’s say each new patient is worth (conservatively) $2,000 over his or her lifetime. If you were to get as little as five new patients a month, that equals an additional $10,000 in revenue. Multiply that by 12 months and you’re looking at $120,000 of new revenue you’ve created—a much bigger bump. See how that works? We’ve been able to show clients time and time again that if they spend time focusing on increasing their new patients, most of the other issues get resolved. In fact, 20 years ago I created a program that focuses on nothing but increasing new patients—it is that important!
In the early days, when I would go into offices to work with the front desk, I was often met with “Hey, Jay, glad you’re here! Just to let you know, I’m really busy, so whatever you are planning to do, just know I can’t take on anything more.” I got so tired of hearing this excuse that I decided I would address it head on. So, I started going into offices and would immediately say, “Hey, by the end of the day, I’m going to create an opportunity for you to make a few extra hundred dollars a month. Would you like that?” Ten out of ten times the response was “Yes!” Suddenly, this overworked front-desk team had time in their schedule to do whatever I told them to do.
Listen, it’s not a secret. People are motivated by money. Incentives offer an opportunity for your team (and you!) to make more of it. A good incentive takes your current staff and motivates them to a higher level of production, making it a win-win for you and them. Because it is so effective and is often done incorrectly, we have created a turnkey incentive structure as a fundamental part of our New Patient Mastery program.
Overdeliver in everything you do
I learned early on that the key to becoming wealthy is to give more in value than what you are getting paid. By doing so, you create trust and loyalty. Our goal is always to overdeliver to our clients. Anytime we create a new product or service, I consider the value it provides the client before I determine its price. For example, our New Patient Mastery program guarantees a 15%–40% increase in new patients. I know that, if implemented correctly, our clients have the opportunity to make their money back and then some within the first 30 days, and then add to that success month after month. That is overdelivery.
For you, this means put your patients first, even if it inconveniences you or your team. Make scheduling appointments easy. Make the experience of checking in and waiting easy and comfortable. Make the in-office experience more than what is expected by offering a snack and drink bar, warm towels, or hand massage. Offer easy payment terms. Maybe even accept payments chairside. This isn’t hard. Think about the average experience you have at a doctor’s office or professional service business. Then just do more than what they do. That’s overdelivering.
The mission of the Scheduling Institute is to provide the tools and guidance private practice owners need to run a successful business. It’s our goal to create a margin of time and money where dentists have reduced stress, can give back, spend quality time with their families, and enjoy life outside the office. We have had an enormous amount of success in the past 20 years and have had the opportunity to be a part of life-changing success for our clients. It all started with the success of our New Patient Phone Training, which continues to be our most popular training after 20 years.
Author’s note: Want to know how efficient your system is to bring in new patients? We will analyze how effective your team is at turning potential new-patient calls into scheduled appointments using our five-star system and sending you the results. Take the five-star challenge at schedulinginstitute.com/5star.
Jay Geier is the founder of the Scheduling Institute and creator of the world-renowned five-star telephone training program that has revolutionized the way dentists attract new patients to their practices. Visit schedulinginstitute.com/DE to learn more.