Leadership is learned and earned

In order for profitability and success in dentistry to occur, the doctor must envision a bigger picture and then make conscious decisions ...

Bill Blatchford, DDS

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: leadership, profitability, teamwork, overhead, Dr. Bill Blatchford.

In order for profitability and success in dentistry to occur, the doctor must envision a bigger picture and then make conscious decisions to help that picture become a reality. In addition to being a top clinician, making prudent business decisions is critical and directly correlates to long-term success.

Making good decisions in a timely manner is often a learned skill. Some dentists are born with the entrepreneurial spirit of forging ahead. But many more are hesitant and need all possible data gathered, examined, and digested before they can make a decision. The opportunity to change may go away when one hesitates to act. Some people set up their lives to actually avoid these tough decisions.

Leadership is learned and exhibited by your behavior. But trust in your leadership is earned. When you struggle with decisions, remember the Blatchford motto: “Progress rather than perfection.” Move forward and keep moving forward. Actions speak louder than words. Keep moving forward. Be in motion.

As a new dentist purchases an existing practice, he or she may want to quickly establish who is boss. Before jumping in, find out who is the existing leader on the team. You will earn the leadership position with trust and by holding on to the bigger picture.

Dithering is not a characteristic of a strong leader. This describes the ready, aim, aim, aim ... and possibly never firing ... never making a decision. Learning takes desire and practice. Here are some benefits to operating a practice with strong decisions:

  • You will attract a team who wants to move forward.
  • You will implement strong systems that create efficiency and accountability.
  • Your team will be able to see the bigger picture and will make conscious decisions to reach those goals.
  • You as the doctor will not have to micromanage, because the team “gets it.”

In today’s marketplace, it is especially important for the leader to hold on to the bigger picture and make critical decisions to achieve the practice vision. For example, the insurance compensation picture is always changing.

Currently, Washington Dental Service (Delta Dental) is dropping reimbursement to providers by 15% to 20%. Other states will follow. Do you know where you stand? Are you prepared for this shift? If you have a 75% overhead and a 15% drop in collections, your net will be 50% lower. Have you already prepared your practice and made the decisions required to be fee-for-service?

Another decision that could make a huge difference for you is the opportunity to purchase an additional practice. A select number of practices are for sale. A decision maker sees the bright future and, with a business coach, makes it work well for all parties involved.

Other dentists may not even be aware of the opportunity, or they may see it as requiring too many tough decisions. What will I do with the other team? Do I need to have two offices? What about the equipment? Will my team be able to double their workload?

Remember, no decision is a decision too! The opportunity goes away when some younger dentist purchases the practice, and then you have a proactive competitor rather than a retiring dentist. Those patients could have easily been yours. We worry too much about the “how” rather than the “what.”

Decisions regarding your team are also important. Over time, our team often gets too big, and some employees may even be incompetent. Yet, we tend to hesitate to make a final decision even when a team member says that another coworker is a drag on the practice. I believe a strong team of just three bright and accountable members can, with the dentist, produce in the range of $1.5 million.

Making decisions about your team directly affects your overhead. Staff salaries and costs are areas of overhead over which you do have control. We have seen doctors spend 38% for staff salaries when that number should be 20% of production. These are the leadership decisions that are learned and earned. You may worry, “What will my team think of me if I let someone go?” The good ones will respect you for making these tough decisions.

You want a more accountable team? Make the big decisions, provide the right direction, and the right team members will see the opportunity to become accountable for results. Micromanaging is not leading. As the leader, you must see the future and share it with your team. Earn their trust through strong decision making. Leadership can be learned and earned.

Dr. Bill Blatchford is America’s premier dental business coach. A solid net return is a cornerstone of his coaching success. Blatchford In A Box is a recent product and Blatchford’s Bu$iness of Hygiene arrived on May 1. He has published two best-selling books and can be reached at (888) 977-4600, www.blatchford.com, or www.blatchfordinabox.com.

More DE Articles
Past DE Issues

More in Practice