We all know that a great location can be a huge advantage when it comes to having a successful business. Therefore, dentists in small towns might use their location as an excuse for having struggling practices. In actuality, many small-town doctors are able to not only survive but thrive if they leverage a key asset in their practices.
Michael Strickler, DMD, is one of those doctors. The owner of Littlestown Dental Associates in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, population 4,400, Dr. Strickler first realized his practice was going downhill in 2014. Production and collections were stagnant, and ever since he had taken over the practice from his father, there had been no new patient growth to offset the natural attrition of older patients.
He said he "couldn't afford" to make necessary investments in the practice, so he didn't. Consequently, as his numbers dropped, Dr. Strickler was forced to take regular pay cuts so he wouldn't have to cut his staff's pay. Eventually he sold his SUV, quit the country club, and dropped his ADA membership. In the fall of 2014, he remembers thinking, "There's something wrong here. We're in a sinking ship."
But instead of allowing himself to be limited by "small town" excuses, Dr. Strickler decided to focus on one area of the practice that had plenty of room for growth—new patients. He invested in training his front desk team on the phones, hoping this would teach them how to schedule more new patients and counteract the practice's patient attrition.
After just one month, he witnessed two important changes in his practice. First, his training investment triggered greater new patient growth than he ever expected. He said, "Just from answering the phones better, the next month our new patients tripled! Our jaws were hanging open. We couldn't believe it! I kept thinking, how does this happen?"
Next was the change in his team. Dr. Strickler noticed they were happier, more engaged, and more results-oriented than ever before. As it turned out, the initial training was one of the first real team meetings Dr. Strickler had ever had with his employees. He had no idea what an impact coming together as a team would have on them.
"They want to perform and they want to do more," he said. "I just have to get out of their way and let them do it. I saw what an investment in my team did for them and for the practice. It really brings your staff alive!" The results spoke for themselves.
It was an "aha" moment that he describes as "waking the sleeping giant." He says his office is in a different place now. "I love coming to work. And so does my team. We look forward to strategizing to find ways to get new patients and make a big impact on our small town."
In 2014, Littlestown Dental Associates attracted 75 new patients. In 2015, the staff had increased this number by 228%, scheduling 253 new patients and setting new production and collections records! Last year, they saw 344 new patients and had a 26% increase in collections. The best part? The office is on track to have its best year ever in 2017.
Dr. Strickler's goals for 2017 include getting all 4,400 people in his "little town" to walk through his doors, either as a patient or for a fundraising event. What's your goal for 2017?
Jump-start the new year by refocusing your efforts on leveraging your team to get new patients. Take the five-star challenge at 5starchallenge.com. We will conduct a mystery call and show you how you can increase your new patient numbers and grow your practice.
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. He is finally revealing his secret for record-setting results, 600+ new patients in one week. Visit schedulinginstitute.com/DE to learn how he did it.