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Inside Dentistry

July/August 2009, Volume 5, Issue 7
Published by AEGIS Communications


Supercharge the Least Productive Hour of Your Week

Angie Skinner; Penny Reed Limoli

As a nation, we’re facing some tough economic times. Certainly, in our lifetimes, we’ve never seen anything like it. Between the daily media announcements of layoffs and bailout proposals, we’re all trying to focus on the things that are most important. People in every walk of life are worried their jobs may disappear, most people have lost over half of their retirement savings, and our biggest investments, our homes, have lost value. We need to be mindful of that as an industry now. Elective dental purchases are going to be pushed to the back burner, as Americans try to figure out when it will be safe to spend again. In this climate, you have to get better at what matters, quickly, to keep your business on track with what you’ve produced in the past. The number one thing you can do right now is improve your communication. This may sound strange, but there is no one more effective thing you can do immediately to keep your office humming. Let’s start with planning and preparation. It’s common for us to ask prospective clients if they meet regularly with their teams. Here’s what we hear in response:

  • Meetings? They are the least productive hour we spend each week!
  • One of my staff members invariably starts a brawl during every meeting; I gave up.
  • When I use meetings to discuss departmental issues, each department says I am “picking on them” in public. I feel like I can’t win!

If these sound like reasons you’ve been using to avoid regular meetings, it’s time for you to make some definite changes in the way your team communicates, right now. Here are the top six things you should do to make meetings work.

  1. Choose a meeting facilitator. Doctors, this should not be you. You’ll get a better result if you participate in, not legislate, your meeting. Choose someone who is organized, firm, and can keep others on track...and on time. Have them create an agenda and stick to it during the time allotted; we recommend 1 hour per week.
  2. Set goals. Short-track, attainable goals make all the difference between highly successful teams and groups of people who happen to work in the same building each day. It’s staggering how many dentists know what the daily goal should be but their administrators have no idea what the goal is, or how to reach it. Use your first meeting to discuss how much should the practice collect each month? Based on your current collection percentage, how much should then be scheduled per hour, per day, per week? Get commitments from team members on how they will contribute to the financial goal, and follow up weekly.
  3. Re-define “accountability.” When we were kids, and even now, being accountable meant your chances for being in trouble sometime very soon just escalated. Do you feel the same way? Chances are your employees do too. Let your team know there’s a new definition of “accountable” in your office. It simply means, “You can count on me.” When your staff says, “Yes, I will be accountable for this task,” the emotion attached to being accountable feels different, better, and more worthwhile than avoiding future chastisements. And that, friends, feels good.
  4. Create team leader positions. If you feel your team never steps up to help you resolve problems, team leadership is for you. We’ve been creating these positions in offices for 9 years now and the difference in employee buy-in and results with defined leadership roles is exciting. Set a team leader for operative, hygiene, front desk, new patients, and recare/reactivation. Big offices may need a separate collections leader. The role of the leader is to not “do” everything in their department, but they will act as the mouthpiece for issues in their area. The rule of leadership is not to simply come to meetings with an issue, but to come with at least two possible solutions, so the doctor(s) or entire team can decide what will work best to solve problems. With five or 10 people working on an obstacle, you will get a faster solution and, often, dazzling ideas for implementation.
  5. Create action steps, accountability, and “by-whens” for each task created during your meeting. We know. You mean to get things done after meetings, but weeks later you’ve done nothing you promised. Action steps are imperative, but without a person designated to do each step they mean nothing. Write down the necessary action, who is responsible for following through, and by when the item must be accomplished. Follow up at your next meeting.
  6. Put the right things on your agenda. Right now, these items are imperative:
  • Distributing some low-cost marketing to attract new patients, religiously asking for referrals, or simply being aware as a team what openings are on the schedule and working together to fill them.
  • Most practices need to get dramatically better at securing appointments, period. Focus on a 95% rate of hygiene pre-appointment so your future business is protected. If you’re having a harder time getting operative patients to schedule, keep reading.
  • Is our phone being answered 100% of the time during business hours, Monday through Friday...and are we doing a good job? Use your meeting time to figure out a way to eliminate unmanned phone time and pinpoint where you’re unsuccessful in getting prospects to schedule.
  • If your patients aren’t flush with cash, it’s time to help them figure out a way to get their treatment. This might involve offering several financing plans, especially ones with long-term, low monthly payments. There are many payment resources out there for automatic drafts; use your meeting time to address which ones will work best for you and your patients.
  • Involve your whole team in reconnecting with patients. Assign a certain number of charts per day, per team member, for review. Operative appointments hard to secure? If patients tell you they’ll let you know when they are ready to schedule, get permission to follow up with them in 2 or 3 weeks, just to be sure they don’t end up in pain. Then, do it. Stay in contact in a loving way, and discuss who has been contacted in your weekly meeting.

Remember, meetings are only as dry as you make them!Focus on what’s urgent to keep your practice moving forward, not just little items that seem “important.” Cover lesser items in your daily huddle and put them to bed quickly. Make these changes to the structure of your next meeting, work on the things that truly matter, and finally get everything done as you intended.

Angie Skinner and Penny Reed Limoli are co-founders of Dental Genius®, providing practice management training and coaching as well as marketing to dental professionals. Visit: www.dentalgenius.com for our monthly free TeleForums, Webinars, and Podcasts. For more information, please call 866-332-6224, or e-mail: info@dentalgenius.com.

About the Authors

Penny Reed Limoli and Angie Skinner
Coaches
Dental Genius®
Memphis, Tennessee


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