Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dentist, Consultant, or What?

Note: In response this week to several posts on a dental message board about "consultants" in dentistry and some specific comments about my not being a dentist, I posted the following. I thought you might be interested in some or all of what it says. Enjoy!

Three years ago I was fortunate to have some one-on-one time with Coach Chuck Daly who coached the Detroit Pistons and the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team." Coach Daly has since passed away, but his lessons live on in my own life. One of the many truths he shared with me was this: "It is the player's job to play, but it is the coach's job to make sure the team wins." Some of the best coaches in history never played much ball including Coach Lou Holtz, one of the greatest of all time. It is because playing and coaching are two different skill sets. Just because you can do something does not mean you can coach someone else effectively to do it. The converse is also true. Just because you can teach it, does not mean you can do it.

I am not a dentist. I have never been a dentist and I will never be a dentist. And from what I am told by many IN dentistry, that is a great asset. I have always tried to look at dentistry from the patients' viewpoint (because I am one) as well as from an organizational and business standpoint. It is a unique and different approach that, for many, has yielded some impressive results.

Having worked with dentists for over twenty years, I too have heard the cliché time and time again, "Those who can, do and those who can't, teach." I am sure one can find many examples to which that cliché applies. After all, if you have drawn a conclusion before you know the all facts, you tend to look only for facts that support your conclusion. You can miss a lot of valuable wisdom that way!

But just for the heck of it about six years ago, I thought it would be fun to put that cliché to bed for good in this case. So I put my own personal money on the line, signed the lease, bought the equipment and started a dental practice from scratch (yes, it is all legal - the attorney for the Texas Dental Association is my legal council and it has all been signed off by the Texas Board of Dental Examiners) to prove to myself (and others) that it is possible to "teach" and "do." Fast forward to today, we have multiple offices that we operate on a daily basis. It is where we test everything we "teach" first, on our own dollar, before we ever roll it out to the rest of the industry. I have always told our entire team that we do not have the right to ever recommend anything that we are not doing successfully ourselves. That is our standard. That is our commitment. While I do not personally drill or give injections, (and that is not a problem since that is not what we teach) we do put our own money where our mouth is in the specific areas of practice success like strategic planning, marketing, case acceptance, profitability, leadership, etc. to make sure that what we "teach" is proven every day.

One of the many things that "doing" AND "teaching" has taught me about dentistry is that most dentists want to talk about production, but most don't want to talk about profit. Profit is one of the best-kept secrets in the industry. For every one hundred dentists that will brag about what they produce, you might find one who will be honest enough to talk about what they are really making. Production numbers without disclosing profit is fiction, not reality. You don't know the REAL story until you see the bottom line. That is why I have always been a big believer in open book management. I will put any one of our hygienists, dental assistants, or business assistants, or dentists for that matter up against any dentist in the country in terms of being able to read, interpret, and action plan from a practice Profit and Loss statement. It is part of knowing and understanding the reality of dentistry. Yet, it is one of the most hidden secrets in most practices. Most dentists don't get it. But that is because they are the "player" first and are "playing" the game most of the time and have not taken the time to stop and seek a good "coach" who will make sure they "win" the game over the long haul.

So who is really a good source for learning and growing? I sat through a business course recently presented by a less than inspiring speaker. He was a real sleeper for most of the crowd. I left inspired, however, because his ideas and wisdom were invaluable. His presentation skills were lacking, but his mind was brilliant. It reminded me that we are all too quick to judge in life and because of that, we miss valuable insights, lessons, and wisdom that might otherwise have been ours, many times from the most surprising sources. It is possible to learn from just about everyone IF you are open to learning and IF you are always seeking the truth. If you limit your sources, you limit your learning.

Finally, some of the biggest breakthroughs in history have been made by those from the "outside" who dared to think differently because they did not know any different and were not constrained by conventional thinking of the "insiders." You could start your list with Christopher Columbus. Thank goodness he did not "subscribe" to and believe everything on the "sailor's message board" of the day. If he had, he would have never done the unconventional. Similarly, dentistry, if you are not careful, can be an incestuous experience if you only listen to "conventional wisdom."

Sixteen years ago, I spent the last week of Dr. W. Edwards Deming's life with him. Named one of the top one hundred most influential men in business of the last century, he revolutionized quality in hundreds of industries around the world. The funny thing about him was, he never ran a business, he never manufactured a single product, in fact, I am not aware of any company where he even sat on the board of directors. Yet his RESULTS are indisputable.

Deming did have a few choice words for dentistry buy-the-way. He said: “How many dentists do magnificent work? The question is impossible to answer, for the simple reason that there has never been a definitive study of quality in the dental profession; nor is there likely to be one. Partly because they tend to work alone, dentists resist the idea of being evaluated, or even observed, by others. And because inferior dental work may not be discovered until years after it is performed, patients are seldom in a position to make informed decisions.”

Serious food for thought from a man who changed the world. But then again, what did he know? He was just a "consultant!" He never picked up a drill or gave and injection, so how could he know anything about dentistry?

Respectfully yours,

Steven J. Anderson (Not a dentist! Maybe a consultant! But always a seeker of truth!) Founder

Total Patient Service Institute -

Crown Council -

Smiles for Life Foundation -

LEAP Youth Foundation -


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Want more new patients?

If you are looking for more new quality patients, here are two “update” ideas that depend on daily execution to be successful. I call them “update” ideas because they are ideas we have discussed before, but we have some new data that might give you some additional motivation to act or make a greater effort to put them into action. Done correctly on a daily basis, they have the potential to increase new patient flow by 20 to 30%.

Update Idea #1: Ask for another new patient.

As you probably know, we always track the number of potential new patient calls that come into a practice every day. We also track how many of those patients schedule. Our standard goal used to be an 80% success rate until late last year when one of our appointment coordinators changed the game with a 130% success rate. She developed the habit of always asking every new patient who scheduled an appointment who else in the family needed a new dentist that she could schedule today. Roughly 1 out of every 3 new patients responded with another new patient!

Since raising the bar last year, we have had an on-going contest to see who can schedule the most number of new patients out of one phone call. The record to date is held by our own ToPS Practice Advisor, Pam Peterson with a total of 6 new patients from one in-bound call! Another new record was set this week in a slightly different area when Aimee, the business assistant at The Grapevine Dentist scheduled a total of 12 new patients out of 4 new patient, in-bound calls in one day. Congrats Aimee!

So if you are not in the habit of tracking calls and scheduled appointments, start doing it today. Then make sure to ASK each patient who schedules, who else needs to schedule an appointment as well.

Update Idea #2: After hours calls
Again, this is nothing new, but not many offices do it. Done right, it can keep your schedule in tact and increase your new patient flow.

Each day we print out the schedule for the next 5 or so work days. Someone on the team takes home the office after hours cell phone to which all office calls are forwarded. With schedule in hand, the team member is equipped to handle any call that comes in including new patient calls which can be scheduled on the spot. The team member can also personally handle potential cancellations if they call after hours.

The team member responsible also gets $10 for every new patient who schedules after hours and who shows up for their first appointment. Even if it is only 3 or 4 new patients a month that may have otherwise hung up or not left a message, those numbers start adding up over a year’s period of time. Think about it. It could mean 35 to 50 new patients in a year. If your average new patient value is $2,000 for example, that is a potential of $70,000 in production that may or may not have come into the office.

Now those are two very simple, easy to implement ideas that could have a combined result of over $100,000 or more result in a year!

Now that’s something to seriously consider!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Law of 3

How many times have your felt that your patients just are not telling the truth when you hear things like:

“I can’t afford it.”

“I’m too busy.”

“That’s more than I was expecting.”

“I’ll do it next year.”

Whatever the “excuse”, it is rarely the real reason. Most patients, and most people including ourselves, are like a delicious, moist chocolate cake. Upon first inquiry, we will give the “frosting” answer which is the socially acceptable, easy escape route response. But rarely is this response the whole truth. Dig a little deeper and you might get a little more of the truth on the surface of the cake. But by the third inquiry in a different way, you’ll usually hit the tender, moist middle of the “cake” where the truth resides.

It is what I call the Law of 3. It usually take three inquiries (stated in different ways) before you get the real truth. For example, the patient might say:

“I can’t afford that.”

You ask: “You can’t afford it?”

Patient: “It is just more than I was expecting.”

You ask: “It sounds like you’re surprised by some information you were not expecting. Am I right?”

Patient: “Exactly. I thought I was just fine especially since I just went to my previous dentist under a year ago. I am shocked no one has told me this before.”

You ask: “I understand especially knowing how important your health is to you like you said. So based on what you have seen today, what do you want to do.”

Patient: “I need to get started. I’ll just have to figure out a way to make it work.”

Now, it may not go exactly like that because every patient is different, but the point is that the truth rarely comes out at first. It takes patience, empathy and persistence. Hang with them and you eventually hear the truth whether it is after the 3rd inquiry or beyond.

The Law of 3 has numerous other applications. Here’s two more:

1. Patients don’t really “hear” you until the third repetition. The hygienist expresses concern over something she sees. That’s once. The hygienist expresses the same concern to the doctor when he or she comes into the room. That’s twice. The doctor reinforces the concern by talking to the patient about it in more detail. That’s three. By the time the doctor gets to the third expression, the patient will finally wake up and pay attention! (I know. I am that patient!)

2. Patients may not accept until the third opportunity. Give them a first opportunity to accept and they will :”think about it.” Give them a second opportunity to consider it and they will consider it. Give them a third opportunity and they will accept! Those three opportunities might be in the same visit or subsequent visits. You don’t have to be pushy or overly aggressive when you know that the Law of 3 is always at work. Just hang in there.

So give your patients a second and third chance in every area. Don’t give up on them so fast! They’ll get with the program if you will just stay with the program! Remember the Law of 3. You’ll usually get the truth, understanding, and acceptance by the third time around!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Law of Enthusiasm

One of the most important natural laws of case acceptance states: “People don’t buy initially because they are enthusiastic about the service, but because you are.” Enthusiasm is contagious. Let me illustrate with an example from a most unlikely place.

No one is thrilled about jury duty. In fact, since it is the law, most enter the courthouse with a feeling of being there under duress. While looking around the courtroom this week anticipating the rapid completion of my civic duty, it was clear that most everyone who had been summoned for jury duty that day had other things on their mind. Then something magical happened that changed the attitude in the entire room.

When the court administrator walked in, no one expected much except to be told what to do. But when she stepped to the front of the room, her approach was different than expected. She stated her name, who she was, and welcomed everyone for the day. Then she gave us some background: degree in law, husband had cancer, she needed a job with better benefits and was fortunate to be hired as the court administrator. “Our family is so grateful for this position. It has made a big difference in our lives.” (A surprising, open and personal confession in an otherwise “sterile” environment.”) She continued with an explanation of why this was one of the best jurisdictions in the state of Texas and why that would make a difference to us during the day. Then she concluded by saying how much she loved the law, her job, and what she got to do each day. “Our system of law is one of the characteristics that makes our country great. Thank you for your service and for upholding and supporting The Constitution of the United States of America.”

By the time she got done, everyone felt like standing up and singing “God Bless America.” Attitudes were transformed and perspectives were changed all because of one woman…who loved her job.

Similarly, the attitude and enthusiasm of any doctor or team member can change the attitude and outlook of any patient. It happens every day in offices with enthusiastic team members. In most cases, patients do not tend to walk in the door overly enthusiastic about their dental visit. But brought under the influence of an enthusiastic team, their attitude changes and they adopt the same enthusiasm. Remember, the natural law states: “People don’t buy initially because they are enthusiastic about the service, but because you are.”

Take a moment this week to inventory your own enthusiasm. How contagious is it? One way to measure it is by the response of your patients. If they are not enthusiastic when they leave, maybe it is because you’re not!

“People don’t buy initially because they are enthusiastic about the service, but because you are.” Take your enthusiasm up a few notches this week. It will do wonders for your own attitude and the attitude of your patients. After all, if it can be done at the courthouse, it can be done anywhere!