Early success

May 1, 2006
Excerpted from “Playing Your ‘A’ Game - Inspirational Coaching to Profitability,” by Dr.

Excerpted from “Playing Your ‘A’ Game - Inspirational Coaching to Profitability,” by Dr. Bill Blatchford.

Dr. Chris Mueller, 33, is very young to be producing $1 million only four years out of dental school. He is smart, personable, and definitely not slick. The most important thing in Chris’ life is his family.

Chris said, “I still have moments when I am not 100 percent sure I will be successful. I purchased a practice that produced $250,000, choosing it over another producing $600,000. My decision was based on personal meditation and was against logic. Starting out, I was very intimidated and success was far from assured. I couldn’t even get a bank loan, and eventually had to ask my father for the $180,000 purchase price.

“In 2003, with Dr. Blatchford’s coaching, we collected $433,000 on $480,000 of production, and I felt we had reached a comfortable level. The dentist across the street unexpectedly passed away and life got complicated again. I was absolutely sure I wanted nothing to do with his practice and tried to convince a friend of mine to buy it. Weeks passed and Dr. Blatchford heard of my situation. How could I, a relative rookie, handle the patient load of two mature dentists? It seemed overwhelming, not to mention the pending staff issues, having to move offices, paperwork headaches, etc. There were times when I firmly believed it would be too much work and chose not to rock the boat. Finally, after much consultation, I put my hat in the ring. The daughter of the deceased doctor felt I was the one her father would have wanted and sold the practice to me. The practice had collected $450,000 in 2003. The selling price was $260,000 for the practice and $250,000 for the building. I hoped to bring production up to $600,000.”

Several challenges came with the second practice:

• “The deceased dentist’s wife was the office manager and ran the business on a pegboard system.”

• “Being busy was considered profitable. I treated patients like we’d get the money someday and I’d rather stay busy. In retrospect, I should have had a staff meeting, gone home early, or read a book.”

• “I didn’t have a clue about what the receptionist was doing. I was too busy with teeth and home life to check. I should have had weekly meetings to discuss numbers.”

• “I tried to save pennies on supplies.”

Chris cited his practice highlights: “purchasing my first practice, purchasing the second practice, and acquiring a staff that supports my vision and is loyal to me while implementing techniques learned from Dr. Blatchford.”

Team members were less than enthusiastic about making changes. Chris said, “At the first staff seminar, the groups began forming ‘camps’ and teamed up on me. It wasn’t long before most departed or were shown the door.”

In 2004, Dr. Mueller and his newly reorganized team collected $797,000. In the first half of 2005, production/collection marched toward a $1.2 million finish for the year. With three full-time employees and one part-time, overhead is 51 percent. Currently, the practice attracts 30 new patients a month and is open 180 days. Fee for a crown went from $796 to $850 plus $175 buildup.

“When we are playing our ‘A’ game, the day flows by with us hardly noticing. We’re happy; our dinner conversation is not about work. We feel good about the services we provide, and our patients express that as well. We do not dread going back to work after the weekend.

“My staff is really motivated by the Blatchford bonus. The first one was just a couple hundred dollars, but the one over $1,000 really got them moving.” Chris is impressed with his salaried employees: “They even want to come in on their day off for team meetings so as not to lower the bonus.

“Getting a group around me who respects me as a dentist and a person and really sees my vision of what we stand for and where we are going has by far been the hardest part.” His leadership allowed him to create a vision statement. The team with vision tends to address issues themselves. “I do provide the final word, but oftentimes I don’t need to.”

Chris’ practice goals were to increase the number of new patients from less than 15 a month to at least 30 by December 2005. He wants to consistently produce $120,000 a month, which would result in $1.5 million by December 2006. Anterior cases will increase from one per month to one per week by the end of this year.

“The best business decision I made was buying the second practice and having Bill help me manage it. I never thought I would be this successful this early.”

Dr. Bill Blatchford’s Custom Coaching Program is now available anytime, anywhere. Utilizing 18 years of practice-management experience with more than 1,100 offices, he focuses on leadership, systems, case-presentation skills, communication, and profitability. The program involves maximum personal time with the coach and interaction with other doctors. Contact him at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at www.blatchford.com.

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