An interview with Dr. Scott Leune

Dr. Scott Leune recently graduated with honors from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

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Dr. Scott Leune
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by Dr. Michael Gradeless

Dr. Scott Leune recently graduated with honors from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He maintains a highly successful startup practice that focuses on performing high quality and efficient care while maintaining high levels of new patient flow and profitability. Leune is currently developing continuing education lectures for dental students that will teach successful business systems in all aspects of practice management, marketing, and customer service. Reach him via e-mail at scott_leune@hotmail.com.

Dr. Gradeless: First, give us an overview of your practice and your background. Where and when did you graduate? How and when did you acquire your practice? Tell us about the most challenging aspect of your transition and how you overcame that challenge. Is there something about the structure of your deal that has contributed to your success?

Dr. Leune: I graduated in May 2005 from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. My wife Cassandra graduated at the same time in dental hygiene. When we started our practice from scratch right out of school, we had no prior business experience, zero patients, zero financial help, and a large amount of student loans. We also found out the wonderful news that Cassandra was expecting our first child. The biggest challenge we faced at the time was deciding to take on the added risk of a startup while foregoing other great opportunities that were available for associateships, practice purchases and partnerships. But we were very confident that our vision and business model would give us more professional happiness and financial success than other options. So we dove in.

Dr. Gradeless: Tell us how your practice supports your vision. What are your long-term goals? Describe your target market and procedure mix. What did you need to learn after graduation to support your success? What is it that makes you excited to go to work everyday beyond making a living?

Dr. Leune: Our vision is to perform high quality conservative dentistry, maintain low fees, have proven systems to manage the office and keep overhead low, maintain very high production, and limit my time to 2.5 days of work per week while having a partner practice the other half of the week. Since bringing in a second dentist to split the week, this year’s goal is to reach $1.4 million in production with 48 percent overhead, maintain 200 new patients per month, and increase our collections to 98 percent. These numbers may seem a bit off to some because of our low fees, high staff salaries, and high lab fees. But these numbers are accurate and very possible with the right systems, right niche, and right team for support. What really makes me happy is hearing patients compliment the office and staff and tell us they have never seen another office like ours. That’s when I know our vision is working. When you treat everyone well and perform minimally invasive dentistry while having a great set of systems, finding good patients and good staff becomes very easy.

Dr. Gradeless: Tell us about strategic planning. Do you have an annual plan, and what statistics do you track? Are you phasing employee hiring, equipment purchases, and business expansion? How do benchmarks influence or indicate your professional growth?

Dr. Leune: We track many statistics so we know where improvements in systems can be made. The main numbers I keep an eye on are new patient flow, hygiene and dentist production per hour, collections, and advertising expenditures. The key to a healthy dental practice is high new patient flow, which offers increased production, increased word-of-mouth advertising, and helps build a very large hygiene department. I also keep a close watch on how many weeks we are completely booked before our next opening. If hygiene is booked one month in advance, that tells me I need to add hours, an assistant, or another chair. I never want to reach capacity in my practice. I always want to have a few extra openings and a few extra staff. Once you reach capacity you are unable to track your true potential statistics and you become very stressed in the office. You end up missing out on added production while hurting the “new patient experience.” Because new patient flow is so important, we are providers for several PPOs. We also gave away free whitening during the first month we were open. With low practice overhead due to great systems, we can afford to be on PPO plans and still be very profitable. Since our third month, we have consistently collected $90K or more per month. New patients are key to our success.

Dr. Gradeless: What systems have allowed you to create ongoing success? Scheduling, marketing, new patient exams, operations, financial arrangements, and continuing care are all important systems in your practice. Which systems are most important in your practice? What do you especially excel at?

Dr. Leune: Your market strategy is what determines your potential, while your systems help you reach that potential predictably. Our market strategy is to perform quality comfortable conservative dentistry to PPO patients; however, we are no dental factory. We never run late. We spend 1.5 hours per new patient, we offer blankets and pillows, a television above patients during treatment, warm scented towels, Internet access in the lobby, a playroom for kids, complimentary beverages, and more. When our patients walk through the door, they are amazed at how well they are treated. They smell our scented candles, see comfortable living room seating in the lobby, and notice all of the little touches we’ve added to their experience. Many times a day patients compliment our office. Once you surpass patient expectations, they become your raving fans, telling the whole world of their experience in your office.

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"When our patients walk through the dor, they are amazed at how well they are treated. They smell our scented candles, see comfortable living room seating in the lobby, and notice all of the little touches we've added to their experience."
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We chose to center our practice around PPO patients because it’s easy to surpass their expectations, they have decent jobs, and they’re usually looking for dental care for the entire family. The growth we’ve seen has been due mostly to word-of-mouth because these PPO patients have not been treated well in most dental offices. But because of our systems and efficiency, we can handle a large volume without feeling rushed or taking away from their experience. We have dozens of systems. But the most important ones are the “new patient experience,” scheduling, marketing, and practice efficiency. I hired a fulltime hygienist and have had assisted hygiene from the very beginning, and we schedule strictly based on assistant and provider times. This has allowed us to predictably see more patients while staying on time without feeling rushed.

For marketing, I use the marketing services of Rebecca Palmer at practicecafe.com, and the promotional products from Jake Starr at JCSbranding.com. Rebecca and Jake are top-notch professionals who provide great services at a very affordable price. They helped us set up a marketing plan, practice image, and products to enhance our patient experiences and bring in lots of new patients. We have also invested in Dr. Brad Hylan’s Clevedent® workstations, which have simplified supply management and eliminated wasted assistant time in the operatory. Dr. Hylan’s system is a great way to minimize upfront and ongoing costs while maximizing efficiency. I am able to equip more operatories and perform more dentistry utilizing this system.

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Surpassing people's expectations is one of four daily goals for Dr. Scott Leune.
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Dr. Gradeless: Leadership is the art of influencing others to help us achieve our success. Tell us how others have helped you get where you are. What have you learned about managing your staff? Do you have any pointers on leadership you would like to share with us?

Dr. Leune: There are a lot of people who have helped me along the way and cheered me on when times got tough. My parents and my wife’s parents have been wonderful examples and motivators for me during this time. I am also very lucky to have a wonderful wife who has helped us achieve the success we have always aspired to. These people have taught me what is truly important in life. This in turn has enabled me to become a better leader in the dental practice. Leadership is extremely important as a dentist and employer. However, everyone views leadership differently. I personally lead staff and patients through honesty, positive reinforcement, and ethical behavior. I never push for a “sale,” never push for high production, and never perform excessive dentistry for personal gain. By treating people honestly and as equals, you gain their respect. By always taking the ethical approach, you gain their trust. By surpassing their expectations and giving them genuine positive reinforcement, they become your raving fans. This is what can set you apart as a dentist and employer.

Dr. Gradeless: If you could give one piece of advice to another new dentist, what would it be? You could also summarize what you think are the most important points.

Dr. Leune: Success lies in having the proper vision and pursuing it with passion. I definitely suggest reading a lot of books to help define your vision. As a dental student I read many books on personal development, dental practice management, investing, and marketing. Not many people will passionately pursue a vision that sets them apart from the competition while treating people ethically and maintaining an efficient work environment. If you do that, you will be extremely successful.

These are the four goals I have daily:

  1. Treat everyone with genuine respect.
  2. Use high-quality products and amenities to maintain a comfortable and inviting office environment, which will set you apart from others.
  3. Surpass people's expectations, every time you see them.
  4. Track all numbers and adjust systems immediately when needed.

These four goals must be passionately pursued. If you do something only halfway, then it becomes a waste of your time. Create your vision, set up the right systems, and put everything you have into it. By doing so, you are almost guaranteed to find happiness and success. 0703de056 058

Dr. Michael Gradeless, a 1980 graduate of Indiana University, practices preventive dentistry in Indianapolis with an emphasis on cosmetics and implants. He is an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University, where he teaches the Pride Institute university curriculum of dental management. He also is the editor for the Indiana Dental Association. Contact him at (317) 841-3130 or e-mail to drmike44@aol.com.

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