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Reality secrets revealed

Feb. 1, 2013
I am passionate about dentistry and fervent about furthering the profession, so let me address a subject about which many of you have questions … numbers.

by Ricardo D. Zambito, DDS

I am passionate about dentistry and fervent about furthering the profession, so let me address a subject about which many of you have questions … numbers. I would like to share knowledge with you, not to boast about my career, but to show you that if I can do it, you can too.

I have a general dental practice in an area with high unemployment that lost 10% of its population last year. Although the area is not thriving, our office was able to achieve some goals.

Our practice production increased 33% in the last two years. We've had an increase of 24% per year in new patients. Not only did our production increase but our collection rate remained at 97%. We've had 94% acceptance on consultations. In addition, we've provided increases in wages to all 16 practice staff members.

A few years ago, my staff and I pledged not to bemoan the negative economy. Instead, we dedicated time to refocusing on ourselves. We amplified expectations and changed strategies to what we thought would be necessary to go in the direction we wanted.

We require team dynamics, and everything in the office is done with a "whatever it takes to get it done" mentality. We do not have any prima donnas, and the office is accountable. We have instituted a reward system that allows everyone to work as a team to accomplish goals.

We have "A" players on our team. If you do not have these types of players, trade them or your growth will be hindered. Each of our staff comes into the office with high expectations. This translates to our patients. This approach puts patients at ease when they realize that we want quality work done in every aspect of the practice.

In order for your team to focus on winning, team members need to know the goal. We have monthly meetings that explain details, thus, everyone is well informed. Staff members understand the cost of the practice. When they receive a raise or bonus, they are appreciative and don't have attitudes of expectancy.

In the past few years many dental offices have cut fees or joined other plans with the hope that the added volume would even out or increase production. If this has worked for you, you're in the minority.

Now may be the time in your career to rebalance your fees. Then you can increase by percentage per year. Obviously, one way to decrease overhead is to increase production. This is the direction that our team decided to take.

We looked at what was holding practice revenue back and reformed it. We know that the livelihood of dental practices is new patients. We've drastically increased new patient numbers. We've been blessed with some fantastic patients who were looking for a dental office like ours. In turn, these patients have become part of our marketing team.

We set a goal to increase new patient flow. A plan of action was instituted, and there was a 100% commitment from everyone.

It's true that a dental office takes on the personality of the doctor. By speaking to just one employee, you should be able to decipher the tone of the office. If you are a positive doctor, it will permeate throughout the office to the rest of the staff. It is important to keep a positive attitude.

Let's discuss the role of leadership and how you can empower the office. This is one area we did not learn about in dental school, but it is one of the most important aspects for the dental office.

Leadership is the process of getting everyone to the place they're supposed to be. It's the opposite of controlling them. No one can be a leader unless he or she is trusted and possesses the No. 1 characteristic that staff or patients want – integrity.

In my office, we have the "unspoken work leadership." I allow staff members to work "on their own," and make decisions based on what I expect. The only way a team member will know what you expect is through consistency.

You must teach your staff, and always compliment team members when they achieve success. Complimenting staff is important, but making staff members aware and accountable when they have fallen short is equally important. In order to empower a team, you must become a great listener.

In order to relate to a team member or patient, you must first identify who he or she is as an individual. Although I have a large staff, it's imperative that I relate to each team member.

I know there are many ways of classifying people through personalities, but sometimes it's difficult to remember the formulas. I recommend you just start communicating. After you have a conversation with a patient or staff member, you'll understand the person better.

For example, if you have a fun-loving person (puppy), you would treat them differently than one who is more detailed and focused (shark). You may have someone who doesn't want to be confronted with a decision and prefers to move to the next topic (butterfly). Compare this person to one who's ready to take control and make things happen (bull).

This is my simplified system. But I trust you get the idea of the puppy, shark, butterfly, and bull. You deal with each of these individuals differently based on their respective characters.

Why would you want to settle for being an average dental office, which is the best of the worst and the worst of the best? Dreamers never stop at this level. If you're having difficulty with focus, have no direction, or find yourself with an insecure staff, I suggest you find a mentor immediately.

Jim Rohn once stated, "Work harder on yourself than you do at your job. When you work at your job, you will make a living. When you work on yourself, you will make a fortune."

My favorite quote is from Zig Ziglar, who said, "You can get everything in life you want if you'll just help enough other people get what they want."

I hope that my secrets have sparked your interest. I want to thank good friend and lab technician David Block (Aesthetic Porcelain Studios at www.aestheticporcelain.com), who encouraged me to write this article.

Ricardo D. Zambito, DDS, is a practicing dentist in Wheeling, W.Va. He serves as president of the Midwest Implant Institute Fellows, and is founder and president of Integrity Practice Management. Contact him at [email protected] or (304) 243-1500.

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