Tips for Hiring an Office Manager

If your name is on the door, you’re more than just a dentist: you’re also head coach, recruiter, decision-maker, ruffled-feather-smoother, and more. The best ones are the glue that holds everything together and the oil that makes it run smoothly.

Efficient leaders must rely on an entire arsenal of skills and talents, but they also need to be able to rely on their second-in-command; in the case of running a practice, that person is almost always the office manager. From making sure the schedule is spaced and filled all the way to keeping work spaces decluttered to reduce stress, everything that happens in your practice can be helped or hurt by the effectiveness of your office manager.

But how does one go about recruiting top talent to ensure growth and stability? What’s the best way to find a future leader? We have some suggestions that may help.

Look Everywhere…but Start at Home.

When searching for a replacement for a successful office manager, there tend to be two camps: on the one hand is a tendency to seek out candidates that will serve as their predecessor’s clone. On the other hand are those who automatically jump to searching for candidates outside of the organization. Your best bet is to run simultaneous internal and external searches, judging all candidates against the same criteria.

Selective hiring, particularly in periods of growth, is essential for stability and sustainability. Hiring decisions may be influenced by what has worked in the past, but make sure you’re keeping the future needs of the business in mind. There’s something to be said for knowing the company well from Day One, but new ideas may be exactly what your organization needs.

Interview Professionally, Not Formally.

When it comes time to start the interviewing process, taking a more casual approach allows for a natural, free-flowing conversation…and that’s truly the best way to get to know an interviewee on a real-life basis. Going beyond the resume, as it were, provides a greater opportunity to tell whether the person will be a strong match with your practice’s needs … and with the office culture.

Although a strong work ethic is one of the most important traits you should look for in an office manager, being organized is also reflected in one’s ability to balance work and personal lives. Employees who can strike this balance are less likely to burn out, increasing the odds of them staying with the position for the long-haul.

Look for Organization.

We can’t really stress this enough: Organizational skills are essential for the office manager role:

  • Time-Management. Knowing how to manage time is critical when it comes to keeping everyone on task. The best OMs are keenly aware of the appointment schedule, striving to keep it full enough to maximize revenue but still retain flexibility. This allows everyone to stay busy but not overwhelmed.
  • Physical Skills. As we mentioned earlier, a cluttered workspace causes stress. Loose papers lying around, pens and markers without a proper place, personal items strewn about haphazardly: these not only lead to misplaced items, they can also pose a safety risk. Look for candidates that can present themselves and their work neatly and professionally.
  • Resource Handling. When it comes to smooth operations, knowing where and how to use resources is paramount. The organized office manager will have a history of knowing how to delegate tasks to others, rather than trying to handle everything solo. The best candidates will be able to demonstrate they know who to trust with what tasks, to take things off your plate and make sure that everything is handled in an efficient manner.

As a leader yourself, you should constantly be on the lookout for candidates who are adaptable and exhibit strong organizational skills. Such abilities are vital to an efficient and productive workforce, but they are absolutely critical when it comes to your office manager.


Data Breaches and Dental Practices

As a practicing dentist, you understand the importance of taking care of your equipment. And it’s a no-brainer that you have to take care of your patients, and staff. But how much thought have you put into taking care of your data?

If you think your practice is too small to be a target for hackers, you’re fooling yourself: nearly two-thirds of all cyberattacks these days are directed at small businesses … and that includes yours.

And whether you realize it or not, you have a lot to lose: we keep important client information on our computers: names, addresses, phone numbers, and sometimes more. Can you imagine those clients’ faces if we had to say “Sorry, my computer was hacked, and your info is now on the Dark Net.”? It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

According to Lloyd’s of London, the estimated cost of cyberattacks is $400 billion annually … and that number is predicted to jump to nearly $2 TRILLION by the end of this year. One financial tech expert called the impending disaster an “ecommerce Armageddon.”

And that’s all for a typical retail business; as medical practitioners, we also have to consider the impact of HIPAA. A data breach of sensitive medical information can produce massive fines and possibly criminal penalties if you are found to be negligent. Even if you’re in the clear as far as blame, the average cost per compromised healthcare record is around $400. Multiply that number by the number of patients—even just one-time patients—in your practice, and it quickly become obvious that the final result could be devastating.

If knowing all this doesn’t cause you a little anxiety, you might want to re-read it. The question, of course, is whether there is anything you can do about it.

Of course there is.

In reality, there are multiple steps you can take, most of them fairly simple. First and foremost, you need to protect your practice and its computer systems using things like firewalls, virus protection, server monitoring, and data encryption. You should also perform regular security risk assessments to identify “weak links” where your data could be vulnerable.

Any cybersecurity software you install should run through the cloud (as opposed to a local server) and needs to go on all of your computers and any mobile devices such as tablets you might use in your practice.

Automated computer backups are a good thing, too. Again, whenever you do this, you should move data to the cloud—although it never hurts to have a back-up of the back-up on a portable drive you keep in a safety deposit box or somewhere else off the premises.

One thing you have to be especially vigilant about is credit card data. It’s great to have the ability to integrate credit card payments with your practice management systems, such as Dentrix. But keeping credit card data on-site is just asking for trouble, either from hackers or HIPAA. Again: thieves can’t steal it if you don’t have it.

Other proactive steps you can take:

  • Invest in cyber liability insurance
  • Train staff to spot the warning signs of “phishy” emails
  • Enable two-factor authentication

Some 60% of smaller businesses go out of business after of a cyberattack. Don’t become a statistic: take steps now to insure your data’s security.

In a future post, I’ll talk more about HIPAA and credit card processing.


Marrying Denistry with Business

Your dental practice is more than the sum of its parts. This is your livelihood, so you want to treat it as well as you can. Sure, dental care is what you offer, but you’re also a business. Successful dental offices run on efficiency, co-operation, and an enhanced workflow that synchronizes management, systems, and product offerings. Does that describe your practice? If not, read on as we offer some hints to running the most effective office.

Take Care of Communication

It’s a given that you need to take of patients in your chair … but that is really only a tiny speck of their time. If you wait until you have a patient in the chair to start responding to him or her, you’re in trouble.

For starters, the patient will most likely talk to your staff members long before talking to you. The first interaction between your patient and your practice is usually by phone. That means it is crucial to train your staff on answering and returning phone calls in a professional manner.

Your staff also functions as a de facto sales force, as well, so it’s a good idea to train them on basic sales techniques. We’re not suggesting “used car salesman” techniques, but it’s easy enough to create a sense of urgency, especially when we’re talking about the importance of oral hygiene. Your office staff should feel comfortable suggesting callers make an appointment now, “… as our calendar fills up fast.” If callers seem concerned about finances, make sure staff lists out both payment options and how stalling can lead to even greater expense down the road.

Take Care of Your Staff

Make sure your people have the tools they need to do the job you’re asking of them. The latest customer service management software programs help track patient visits, insurance issues, and more. Better yet, most of these systems are designed to be accessed from anywhere in the office, ensuring that the latest, most accurate information is available to everyone.

Beyond technology, think in terms of your staff’s comfort. They spend a lot of time in your office: do what you can to make it as pleasant as possible. One dentist we know, after having is office completely renovated, overheard his staff members complaining about “the chairs from hell.” He immediately went out and purchased five completely different office chairs. Over the next two weeks, everyone was instructed to try out every new chair for two full days and decide which was preferred.

In the end, three people chose one style, one chose another style, and yet another decided she was happiest with her original chair. His chairs no long match his office, but his team members are happier.

Take Care of Your Numbers

Traditional billing methods are time intensive and susceptible to human error. If you haven’t done so by now, it’s time to consider switching to automated billing. Not only does automated billing save you time during the day, it also provides your staff with more access to insurance programs and payment options.

Paper billing systems can take days or even weeks to go through the payments system. And since paper billing systems are being phased out of many insurance companies, printed claims processing will take significantly longer in the future. Upgrading to an automated billing system means your office sees revenue in the fastest, easiest, and most secure way possible.

This is especially important as more practices are accepting credit cards for payment. The longer the time period between payment and processing, the more opportunities for criminal fraud … and the greater the risk of chargebacks. There is also a greater risk of so-called “friendly fraud,” which one chargeback expert labeled the “enemy of small business.”

And that’s what a dental practice is: a small business. Some dentists can become fixated on the patient care or most recent techniques—both good things. But anything that causes you to lose site of the fact that you are operating a business is a sure recipe for disaster.


Building Teamwork in Your Dental Practice

For your dental practice to be profitable and sustainable, you need returning patients. But patients can be amazingly fickle, and their loyalty easily swayed. That’s why it’s so important for practices of all sizes to function as a team with the patient’s best interests at heart.

One bad apple may not spoil the whole barrel, but it might make you leery of sampling a second one from the same batch. By the same token, the actions of one individual might not reflect your core philosophies, but it could mean the difference between success and failure for your practice.

Think about it: have you ever decided not to return to a business because you received terrible service from an employee? The stakes are even hiring when you’re talking about something as personal as dental care. Like it or not, any employee who has contact with patients represents your practice as a whole, as far as outsiders are concerned.

Teamwork—or lack of it—also affects your internal productivity. Negativity spreads quickly. In a tight, efficient practice, you must be able to rely on each person doing the tasks assigned to him or her. When one individual is taking twice as long to complete work, only putting in half the effort, or constantly complaining about the workload, it affects the entire office. Quality and efficiency take a major hit and other team members become unnecessary stressed.

Why Teamwork Matters

While running a large practice can be stressful, operating a smaller office presents its own set of challenges. Obviously, all your employees are aware of each other. On the other hand, the smaller your operation is, the more likely your staff will be isolated within the office: in other words, yes, they know their co-workers, but co-workers are the ONLY peers they ever deal with.

Again, a positive atmosphere is key and teamwork is essential. The smaller the group, the more you feel the effects of one person who isn’t pulling his or her weight. There is much truth in the old adage that we’re only as strong as our weakest link: as the highest authority in your practice, it’s your responsibility to create a team dynamic where everyone contributes, and everyone understands their contribution.

Building a Tighter Team

So what can you do to help turn your practice into a smooth-running machine? The most important factors in building teamwork often happen behind the scenes. Forget clichéd games and so-called team outings: research has shown these seldom work. True teamwork is based on shared accomplishments, not forced participation in events that often lead people to feel even more isolated

Here are some real ways YOU, as a leader, can create a stronger team:

  • Due diligence in hiring – Avoid making bad hires from the start: A simple background check can quickly uncover things like a falsified resume or a negative employment history.
  • Delegate – It’s important that employees are very clear on their job responsibilities, any measurable metrics, and exactly what is expected of them.
  • Share the load – To ensure your business runs smoothly even with an absence, train all employees on the responsibilities of their fellow team members.
  • Conduct 360 reviews – Employee reviews aren’t just for giving feedback: they’re also an excellent time to identify weak spots ranging from employee behavior to process inefficiencies.
  • Be inclusive – This is more than an open-door policy; give your team a stake in the company’s future. Consult them on strategies and plans…you might be surprised how much they know.

One other factor to consider is how to KEEP a good team once you have it established. Today’s workforce today is extremely dynamic. On the one hand this means employees expect more options; on the other hand, it also means they’re more comfortable than previous generations in leaving jobs that don’t mesh with their lifestyles.

Part-time? Full-time? Regular business hours? More and more, these terms are losing relevance in a world of flexible schedules, time sharing, remote work, and the like. Of course, in a dental practice, many of these things are not an option, due to the nature of the work. This makes strategic workforce planning all the more important as a way of keeping your staff happy in their positions. Even in a small practice, some of these various styles of work can…but it may require you to rethink traditional policies.

The bottom line is, teamwork isn’t just people working in the same place. It’s people working together for the same goal, where the total is greater than the sum of the parts. For that, all you really need are people who are willing to learn.


5 Steps for Leading Your Practice

By default, most dentists are the leaders of their respective dental practices: if your name is on the door, well, the buck stops with you.

Having said that, many of these same dentists are uncertain about exactly what that role entails. What can they do to provide the best leadership for their staff? Many of the best qualities of a leader are common sense: following the Golden Rule, for example. But even the subtler things matter … which is why we’ve compiled this easy-to-read list of five leadership tips for your dental practice.

  1. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Being a leader does not mean doing the work yourself. If you feel the need to go in behind your people and finish tasks they should be doing, you either don’t have the right people, or you don’t have faith in them to do their jobs. Your job is to be the DENTIST–in dental practices, 3/4 or more of total income should be generated by the dentist. The more you let your people do their jobs, the more time you have with patients … and that helps drive your success.
  1. Make the hard choices. This is a follow-up to the first suggestion. What if you discover you DON’T have the best person for a position? Do you let that person go? Find him or her another place in your practice? Just let it go and hope it works itself out? Effective leaders learn to make firm decisions, quickly and confidently. This decisive manner sends a strong, positive message to team members and makes them feel that things are under control. While we’re on the subject, feel free to encourage your managers to make decisions themselves in their areas of responsibility. 
  1. Be ready and willing to adapt. The ability to make decisions sometimes means stepping out of your comfort zone. Our culture is ever evolving, and technological breakthroughs change the way we operate, sometimes seemingly on a daily basis: flexibility and adaptability are keys to survival. As business conditions change–in the dental field, in your local market, and even right in your practice–wise leaders know when to move away from the status quo and seek out new strategies for success. 
  1. Spell out your expectations. From running the office to making the morning coffee: no matter what the job is, the person (or people) doing should understand what’s expected–and the most efficient way of doing it. Sometimes that’s as simple as walking through the process or bringing it up at a staff meeting. Other situations may call for online training videos or off-site continuing education courses. Be willing to provide whatever’s necessary.
  1. Show, don’t tell. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” There is wisdom in that advice, and it’s just as relevant for your practice as it is for your community. Leaders should strive to become the epitome of the type of employees they hope to attract. They may not say it, but your people are watching you: everything you do–even if it’s just saying “Good morning”–has a strong influence on the behavior of your staff. Rather than simply telling people what you expect, the best practice leaders demonstrate it every day.

Even dentists with no formal business training can go a long way toward becoming more effective leaders if they take the five steps discussed here. By inspiring their staff members with a clear vision, empowering them with responsibilities and targets, and exhibiting the right qualities day by day and over time, dentists can lead their practices to great success.


How Revenue Leakage Is Hurting Your Practice

From a financial perspective, these are tough times for dental practices. Sure, you may be seeing a greater number of patients, but at the same time, the amount insurance actually reimburses seems to get lower every year, while expenses continue to skyrocket. Adding insult to injury, dentists are also expected to keep up with continually evolving compliance issues and mountains of paperwork to get the reimbursements they are entitled to.

There is still hope, however: even with these rising pressures, there are almost always ways to save money in your practice. Think of it in terms of revenue leaks: common areas of waste and inefficiency that could be draining thousands of dollars from your business. These leaks need to be plugged to ensure the sustainability of your practice while you focus on patient care.

Some typical areas of leakage:


Many dentists can be overly cautious in the area of coding, often using a lower billing code in case they get audited: better safe than sorry. According to studies, this so-called downcoding can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year.

Undercoding a procedure is like a mechanic charging $500 for $1,000 worth of services. Practitioners claim to do this so as not to attract the scrutiny of insurance company auditors, but the practice could actually backfire: undercoding itself can also trigger an audit. Insurers and the government look at any suspicious payments, which means both underpayments and overpayments.

To plug this leak, dentists should bill at the appropriate level while keeping comprehensive and accurate documentation to support each submission. Always include the patient’s name and relevant medical history, reason for the visit, your diagnosis or assessment, and action plans. That sounds like a lot of work, but using electronic health records can simplify this process while simultaneously guarding against downcoding; an EHR system can also be used during an audit to show that the coding was correct.

Inefficient Billing

Billing can seem like a pain, especially for “smaller” amounts. The fact is, however, that it doesn’t take many small invoices to equal one large invoice. If you’re not diligent about billing patients and collecting outstanding balances, you could be leaking thousands every year.

The best way to plug this leak is to have established accounts receivable procedures so every person on your staff knows how things are supposed to work. Having procedures in place not only ensures that everything runs in a streamlined, consistent manner, it can also protect you against unintentional legal violations and keep you up-to-date on exactly how much money is owed to you–an important piece of information when making financial decisions.


Most dentists these days accept credit cards. It seems like a great way to get payment at the time of service, without having to worry about bounced checks. But hold on: just because a transaction has cleared doesn’t mean you for certain have the funds. Patients can file a chargeback against you for up to six months after the payment.

Why would patients do this? Perhaps they were unhappy with the service. Perhaps they felt like you didn’t solve their problem. Or–in a frighteningly increasing number of cases–they may have just discovered that by calling the bank and complaining, they may receive something for free. Industry insiders term this “friendly fraud.”

It isn’t very friendly for you, however: not only can the transaction amount be transferred back to the patient’s account, both the cardholder’s bank and your own bank may hit you with fines or administration fees. If you use a third-party card processor, you may get fees from them, as well.

To plug this leak, go over all documentation associated with your credit card processing. Make sure you are adhering to their mandates (which often change, unfortunately). Then make sure your entire staff understands the importance of making each patient touch point a positive experience: a patient who feels slighted by the receptionist is every bit as likely to file a chargeback as one who feels uncared for by the dentist.

Finally, again, thorough records of each visit are crucial: with the proper records, you may even be able to challenge a chargeback and win. Having said that…such cases are time-consuming and hard to win…and what’s worse, you’ll still have to pay any fines or fees. Prevention is a much better plan here.


It’s 2019: Does Your Practice Have a Business Continuity Plan?

Last year was one of the deadliest and costliest on record in terms of natural disasters. From the deadliest wildfire in California’s history to the worst hurricane to hit the East Coast since 1969, 2018 brought more than its share of trouble to the US…and put more than one small business OUT of business.

A dental practice is, at its heart, a small business…and one doesn’t own a small business: it owns you. No matter how many staff members you may have, the buck stops with you…and the sustainability of the business is on your shoulders. That’s why a business continuity plan is crucial for every practice. Since we’re at the start of a new year, this is a great time to take a look at your plan…or create one, if you haven’t yet.

Why your practice needs a business continuity plan

Business continuity planning is a preemptive strike, a fallback course in the event disaster recovery becomes necessary. Your plan should take into account the basic item your practice will need to function, should a disruptive (and seldom anticipated) event occur. We’re talking about anything from a simple extended power outage to a data breach to a full-blown hurricane or out-of-control wildfire like we saw last year.

In a recent post, Forbes Technology Council member Monica Eaton-Cardone put it very succinctly: “While you can’t stop nature from disrupting your business, you can minimize the impact with good planning and preparation.”

There are also other types of disasters, such as an accident that takes you out of commission, or a crisis that seriously hits your reputation. Of course, you’ll want to do all you can to mitigate your risk, but taking the time to plan for “what-if” can help minimize business interruption costs, get you back up and running as quickly as possible, and help keep vendors, staff, and patients informed.

How at-risk is your practice?

First off, of course, it’s important to actually have a plan. If you’ve never bothered to put something down in writing, now is the time.

The first step to building your practice’s business continuity plan (BCP) is to assess the potential impact that various disaster scenarios could create. Try to imagine the most viable potential emergencies, then cross-reference that against the likelihood and impact of each event in terms of personnel, assets, finances, or personal danger.

The goal here is to set priorities. Looking at the “big picture” can help you develop plans for major disasters while also helping prepare for minor events such a power outage; it also lets you see how to divide your planning resources.

Developing your plan

Once you have a list of potential emergencies and their likely impact, take it a step further by creating strategies and documenting procedures to maintain services, recover any lost assets, and get your practice back to making money, as quickly as possible.

One part of this process would be creating a list of what actually needs to happen, and in what order. In other words, it’s important to know what to do, but it’s equally important to know what to do first. A few areas to address might include:

  1. Personal safety and safety of staff
  2. Checklists for assessing damage to assets (vehicles, buildings, equipment, etc.)
  3. Prevention of further destruction
  4. Checklists of forms and contacts for insurance and legal purposes
  5. Replacing lost paperwork
  6. Incident-specific response checklists

Once you have a detailed response plan, it’s time to make sure your people know what to expect and what their individual roles are. Gather your staff together and go over plans for various emergency situations. This gives you a controlled setting in which you can hopefully identify gaps in those plans and come up with ways to improve them.

One other area to consider: if trouble-causing event hit your entire community, you might also want to think about providing emergency services to locals who might have been affected

Is your BCP ready?

We often toss around the maxim, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” The reality, of course, typically falls in between those extremes. But a practice with a well thought-out contingency plan has a better understanding of the potential dangers and knows what critical actions are necessary to recover quickly and to minimize business interruption.


Why Your Practice Should Take Credit Cards

Simply put, there aren’t very many dentists out there that don’t take plastic anymore. The biggest argument against them is the fee schedule, but that is becoming less and less of an issue, for one main reason: collections.

According to one survey, more than 40 percent of a typical practice’s receivables are owed by patients as direct payments. The average collection time is drawn out over 48 days, and the average annual patient out-of-pocket cost–roughly $650 per year as of 2014–is expected to increase as more employers switch to managed-care plans and health insurance companies tighten reimbursements for dental care.

It typically takes 30 to 45 days for an insurance claim to be settled. Add a few days for patient bills to be mailed and another 30 to 60 days for patients to send in their payment, and you’re looking at having the bulk of your receivables on the books for 60 to 90 days.

Oh, and you’re losing interest income on the outstanding amount, as well as the in-house costs involved in sending out bills, making follow-up calls, repeat billings. It’s a colossal pain in the keister.

Ah, say the credit card holdouts, but so is taking credit cards! Nice try. Modern technology has made accepting major cards easier than ever. There are just a few things that you will have to take care of first:

The Merchant Account

There are two commonly used ways of accepting credit card payments: through your own merchant account or via a payment gateway account provided by a third-party merchant. An internet merchant account–usually obtainable through your current bank–allows you to process credit cards by effectively extending you a line of credit that is used to cover the costs of transactions until funds are officially placed in your account.

The Gateway

You’ll also possibly need a payment gateway account. Gateways are online credit card processors that already has the clearance to connect your customers’ credit card accounts to your internet merchant account for the transferring of funds. The payment gateway interacts with the card issuer’s bank to authorize the credit card in real time when a purchase is made on a website. That means you get paid and the customer gets your product or service, even if the bank is closed at the time of the transaction.

Then There’s PayPal

PayPal is what is considered an electronic wallet, and it may be an even better option than credit cards. The service allows individuals or businesses to easily and securely transfer funds online. According to their site, PayPal has more than 87 million active accounts in 190 markets and 24 currencies around the world.

There are a number of good reasons to use PayPal:

  • * Easy to setup and use.
  • * Global name recognition.
  • * You won’t need a merchant account.
  • * Customers don’t have to have a PayPal account to pay you.
  • * Built-in invoicing tools.
  • * Lower fees than many merchant accounts.
  • * Easily integrated with popular shopping cart systems.

Still, PayPal isn’t the perfect solution for every small business. There are stiff fines for chargebacks, and you’re more susceptible to account suspension.

That can seem a bit daunting, but the point is, you have several options. Spend a little time investigating all the pros and cons of you using any of these methods … and compare them with the pros and cons of not taking electronic payments at all. In the end, it will most likely be mandatory, so why not go ahead and bite the bullet?


5 New Year’s Resolutions to Make for Your Dental Practice

Don’t look now, but the holidays are here again. If you’re like most practices you’re probably still in the midst of that last-minute “I’ve got to get my teeth cleaned before Christmas pictures!” madness. Then will come the slowdown that lasts into the new year, before things start picking up again.

That lull is the perfect time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions–for yourself and for your practice. If you’ve had difficulty in the past making practical resolutions that result in actual solutions, we’ve created a list of practical New Year’s resolutions for your office–ones you should find easier to keep, because it’s based on harmful behaviors you should STOP doing.

  1. Stop Trying to Do It All Yourself . Look, you have staff for a reason: trust them to do their job. If you feel like you have to follow along behind them to make sure everything is done correctly, you either need new staff or a new attitude. And while we’re on the subject, develop the habit of thanking your employees. Workers that feel appreciated are more likely to be happier, more loyal, and better team players. Catch people doing the right thing and praise them immediately. Tell them specifically what they did right, and encourage the behavior. Then watch your best employees perform even better.
  2. Stop Continually Worrying about Money . You can’t give patients your full attention while you’re obsessed with finances. Look at last year’s receipts, and establish an operating budget that works. An efficient practice should be able to run at 20-25% staff costs; anything higher probably means you have either too many employees or too many openings in your schedule. You may need to make some hard choices, staff-wise, but being able to operate efficiently can take away a lot of stress. It also helps to share the burden: once you’ve established a budget, make sure every member of your team knows they are accountable for helping to keep on-budget.
  3. Stop Being Controlled by Your Schedule . Your appointment calendar is the cornerstone of your success. The schedule needs to be full and productive, but unfortunately, that is a dynamic process: with just a few phone calls, a perfect day can suddenly become overbooked, a balanced week can fall completely apart. When that happens, your people need to know there’s no such phrase as “That’s not my job!” Empress upon ALL staff members that keeping the schedule as full and balanced as possible is everyone’s responsibility. There’s no room for prima donnas here: from the scheduling of appointments to timely reminders to the critical follow-up communications, your entire team must be fully committed to the maintaining the flow of the office.
  4. Stop Underselling Your Hygienists . Hygienists provide specific personalized, care that is highly important, both to your patients and to your practice: don’t be afraid to bill for what they do. Not only will this help your budget, it can provide a sense of validation for your staff. One thing to consider is how you invoice. For example, stop calling hygiene treatments a “cleaning” when you know there is so much more to the service. Feel free to itemize the process on the bill so that patients understand what all they’re getting. And in the same vein, stop calling the people who come to as “clients”: law firms and insurance agencies have clients. You’re providing specialized medical (dental) care for patients.
  5. Stop Letting Patients Off the Hook . How are you letting patients slide? Take a look at your accounts receivable. There should be no accounts outstanding for more than 90 days: the 90-day mark is when banks consider accounts to be uncollectable. If a patient has made no effort to pay you in 3 months, he or she has no intention of paying at all. Do your best to avoid bounced checks and/or chargebacks–even if that means insisting on a different form of payment from some patients. No one is saying you have to be mean or inconsiderate, and of course special cases will arise; even then, however, you are not out of line to require a repayment plan. Remember, in the end, it doesn’t matter how much you bill–only how much you collect.

These are just some starter suggestions, of course. The more efficiently your practice runs, the healthier your bottom line will long, putting you in a better position to achieve sustainable long-term growth.


How Learning to Say Yes Can Help Build Your Practice

Are you a “Yes” person?

Believe it or not, many of the most successful dentists are. Of course, when we talk about being a Yes Person, we’re definitely not talking about being a toady, someone who tries to curry favor by thoughtlessly agreeing with anything that’s said.

No, we’re talking about those leaders who are willing to say Yes to challenges. Your attitude towards life plays a huge role in determining both your personal fulfillment and your ultimate success. Being a naysayer not only alienates you from the people around you, it can undermine everything you do.

It can even affect your health: Researchers have found that having a sense of optimism—characterized by enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement, and a sense of purpose—can be linked to a measurably reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.

Knowledge Is Only a Part

Before you became a dentist, you had to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to provide proper dental care. Knowledge is important, of course, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle: for long-term success, you’ll need more than what can learn in a classroom or lab. Fulfillment only comes through growth … and growth requires a specific attitude–a “yes” attitude, if you will.

A Yes Person is the one who routinely goes the extra mile for the benefit of others. Yes Persons are confident, committed, and open to new experiences. This gives them an advantage, both personally and professionally. When you view patients as opportunities to make a positive difference in  the world, you start to realize how relevant even the most menial tasks can be.

It All Comes Down to People

It’s a cruel irony that the more ways we have to communicate, the less we actually feel like anyone is listening. Television, billboards, web pages, social media … we’re bombarded with input on a moment-by-moment basis. We learn to tune it out in self-defense … but tuning out tends to leave us feeling isolated, unimportant, and unreal.

Folks have always sought a sympathetic ear from medical professionals, but now more than ever, patients want to be treated like people. They want to be heard. They come to you in trust, looking for both empathy and a solution.

The person who is sick or in pain (or worse, has a child or loved one in pain), that person wants relief right now; they’re not looking for an appointment in two weeks. Anyone–current patient or first-time caller–who comes to you with severe dental pain should hear the same response: “We’ll fit you in today.” When existing patients feel taken care of, they’ll talk you up to others; going out of your way for a new patient in need could earn you a customer for life.

Your Team Deserves Your Best

Developing a “Yes” mindset doesn’t apply just to patients: it should also extend to your team. Be approachable. Be reasonable. Be fair. Become the leader your people will turn to for encouragement and insight.

Your willingness to go above and beyond for everyone is one of the best ways to build trust with you team. They’ll feel more valuable, and will typically contribute more to the overall practice. Seeing you doing more than the minimum for both patients and employees will encourage them to do the same. Remember, saying yes is contagious, and helps encourage your staff to develop an open, positive, and mentally flexible attitude.

The Way to Truly Thrive

Becoming a Yes Person opens you up to recognizing opportunities and taking on new challenges. Sure, taking some chances can seem intimidating, but saying no–letting that intimidation dictate your choices–is the first step towards stagnation.

Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Gary Cardone is fond of saying that “Failure is not an option!” To take that one step further, the fear of failing isn’t really an option, either: by not moving outside of your comfort zone for fear of making a mistake, you’ve failed before you even start

Will you make mistakes along the way? Sure–that’s part of growth. But to truly experience success–to truly thrive–developing a Yes Person attitude is essential. And it can all start with one simple step:

Just Say Yes.