It's all in a name

I'll always remember my grandfather saying, "Greg, it's all in a name," as I sat in his study during my first year of college. Of course, back then I was sure I knew everything; so those words didn't have the same impact on me then that they do today.

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Gregory L. Ayers, DMD

I'll always remember my grandfather saying, "Greg, it's all in a name," as I sat in his study during my first year of college. Of course, back then I was sure I knew everything; so those words didn't have the same impact on me then that they do today.

I had called my grandfather one morning with a special request. I wanted to borrow $100 to buy a new golf club. He invited me over and, while I was bringing him up to date on my classes, he turned and graciously handed me a check made out to Mr. Greg Ayers in the amount of $100.

Wanting to impress him with my college-gained maturity, I carefully wrote out an IOU for the $100, dated and signed it, and handed it to him. I thought for certain he would think the gesture was very business-like. He seemed to stare at the IOU for the longest time, but then he asked me to give back the check he had just written. Puzzled, I handed him the check — and he tore it into a hundred pieces!

He leaned over, pointed his finger at my nose and with a stern look and voice said, "If this IOU holds more value than your word or your name, then it isn't worth a damn!"

What perceptions come to mind when you hear or see names such as Rolex, Mercedes, BMW, or even Godiva chocolates? Sure, these products cost money, but more than that, they stand for trust. What comes to mind when you see or hear names like Joe's Used Car Bargains, Al's Cheap Loans, or Fanny's Fashion Discounts? It's all in a name — and it's all about trust.

As simplistic as this may sound, do you really understand how important your name is to your practice? Your patients?

"Gregory L. Ayers, DMD," is more than an individual. It's a place, a professional business, and an entity in the community. Your practice could be seen as a Saks Fifth Avenue or a Dollar Store — it's all in a name — your name.

What makes the difference in the way your practice is perceived in the minds of your patients and prospective patients? Many elements combine to form the image of a practice; but in my view, it's how you and your staff feel about what your name stands for.

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Pelham Links Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, Greer, S.C.
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Your staff is your most important investment. They are your multi-level marketing arm. Do they feel and exude enthusiasm about "their" office? Are they proud? Do they portray the image you want? Do they show genuine concern for the comfort of your patients? Do your patients know your staff cares? How do they know? If your office prides itself on its "concern for comfort" or "gentle-care dentistry," yet has had some patients leave in tears or even trembling, does the assistant or hygienist just say, "I'm sorry," or does he or she take a minute or two with the patient to demonstrate real care?

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Reception area and team members Pelham Links Family & Cosmetic Dentistry
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Your equipment, by itself, may be state-of-the-art, but it can't show concern. It can't reassure, it can't lessen tension, nor can it empathize. Only you and your staff can provide these distinguishing qualities. If they don't come across to your patients, your name and your practice might get the reputation as the "old torture chamber" that we have all tried to live down for years.

Ask yourself this question — Does any member of your dental team work for you just because you pay him or her? Or, do team members feel the passion of their calling? If they're only there for the paycheck, they will feel trapped, looking to escape or looking for some other practice; or they'll become totally mechanical — Monday to Friday — Monday to Friday — same old, same old.

Many years ago, Cadillac had as its slogan, "The penalty of Leadership." In terms of your practice, this means that you, the doctor, have to set the pace. You have to create the climate where self-motivation and the passion for dental skills will flourish and set your practice apart from the ordinary.

The mission statement of our practice is brief and to-the-point: "To provide excellence in dental care for all who come to us in trust." This statement is attractively framed and appears in every operatory and patient area. It not only says what we're about, but it is personally signed by each doctor. It also serves as a constant reminder for our staff. Our names are there for all to see.

When a patient comes up to you in a restaurant, shopping mall, or Little League game to compliment you on your fine staff, you can rest assured the "cash value" of the life insurance on your practice's name has increased substantially.

My grandfather never did lend me that $100. I can't figure out how I made it through college without that "Power-Bilt" graphite driver — but I did. Thanks, Pop, for teaching me a valuable, if not dramatic, lesson about me and about life. It really is "all in a name."

Gregory L. Ayers, DMD, is a native of Indiana and a graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine. He also is a graduate of the Ross Nash Institute, and the creator and founder of Smiles for a Lifetime, an all-volunteer dental program for needy children in South Carolina. For contact information, call (888) 269-1451 or visit www.smilegreenville.com.

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