Saturday, January 30, 2010

More than one purpose

For year’s we’ve talked about the purpose of the practice: To create happy paying patients that pay more than it costs to serve them and who repeat and refer.

That, however, is different than the purpose of getting into practice: The purpose of getting into practice get out! In other words, the purpose OF the practice is to serve people. But the purpose of getting IN is to get OUT or to have a business that serves your needs successfully and then when it has fulfilled that purpose, gracefully and profitably exit and move onto the next part of life that holds meaning and purpose.

More frequently today, I am running into dentists who never considered the purpose of getting into practice when they went through the planning process. They never asked themselves how they would build the practice in such a way that it would be the easy to get out when it had served its purpose. If planning is done at all, it seems like we spend the most time planning around the purpose OF without considering the purpose of getting in practice in the first place.

Could I suggest that the first place to start if it has been awhile since you have worked on the purpose of getting IN? Answering questions like these might be useful:

  1. What is the financial goal I am trying to reach and by when? (How much is enough?)
  2. What kind of practice should I be building that will help me reach that goal?
  3. What kind of practice should I be building that will be the most marketable when I reach my financial goal?
  4. How can I build the most "exit" options into my plan so that I will have an easier way out when I am ready?
So as you work on the day-to-day function and fulfillment of the purpose OF the practice, make sure to look up from time-to-time to see that you are fulfilling why you went into practice in the first place…to get out!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Your Perception - Your Reality

In an effort to always be looking for and implementing things that work, we often reach outside the dental industry for ideas that can be translated and applied successfully to dentistry.

To that end, we spent the day today with about 100 leading optometrists from around the country listening to what they were doing that was working as well as what their challenges are. What fascinated me was their response when they all found out we worked with dentists. Here are some of their comments:

  • Dentists have it made.
  • Patients don’t question the dentist on what he or she charges.
  • Dentists don’t have to deal with insurance companies.
  • Dentists have the best lifestyle.
  • All the dentists I know never work Friday.
  • Their professional meetings are always during the week.
  • They always have weekends to themselves.

And the list goes on.

I could not help but contrast their comments to the comments I frequently hear from dentists and dental team members that generally focus on the challenges and problems in dentistry.

All of this talk leads to one conclusion: every profession, every business, every industry has its challenges. Too often we spend more of our time dwelling on the problems that we lose sight of the advantages we have. The negative focus then translates into negative outcomes.

If most of the dentists had the same attitude about their profession as the optometrists I talked to today have about the dental profession, there would be a lot more happier dentists out there!

What if you made a list of all the positives of your practice and the dental profession like my new optometrist friends did for you today? If you adopted the attitude that they have about you, you would most likely be a lot more positive, proactive and successful!

While their perception was not totally accurate, their overall attitude about dentistry was right on track. It is a great profession. And comparatively speaking, it has a lot of advantages over many of its peers in other professions.

So take a moment to make your own list of advantages. That list will help you focus on the positives which will make you more positive. And if you have any challenges with the list OR your attitude, just go visit your local optometrist. He or she will have plenty of positives things to tell you about you and your chosen profession!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Education / Income Perio Excuse

It is a strange dichotomy in dentistry. Just about any time I ask dentist or hygienist alike, “What percentage of the population has periodontal disease?” the answers always seem to center around a 70 to 80% range. Then I ask, “If 80% or so of the population has periodontal disease, and you are doing a good job of treating the disease, what should the ratio of total healthy mouth cleanings to perio maintenance appointments be?” It would stand to reason that if 80% of the population has periodontal disease, then 80% of what happens in hygiene should be perio treatment related. Right?

But when closer inspection of the numbers reveals something less than 80% or a lot less than 80%, the explanations start flying. “Our patients are different. We just don’t have a lot of patients with periodontal disease. Our town is more educated than most. We practice in a wealthier part of town.”

For quite some time now, I have been looking for the clinical study that proves that there is an inverse relationship between household income or education and periodontal disease. If there is one out there somewhere and you know about it, please let me know because I have not been able to find it.

On the other hand, I have yet to meet a dentist who could tell me of a trial attorney for example who is a patient who did not have periodontal disease. Maybe there is one out there somewhere, but more often than not, they have it. Why? They are educated. They get paid far more than the average person. But they have periodontal disease. They have it because periodontal disease knows no educational or income boundaries. It has more to do with a compromised immune system that it does education or income. A compromised immune system can be fueled by stress. People with a lot of education and income many times have a lot of that because of their occupations and complicated priorities.

So every time I hear the education / income perio excuse, it causes me to start looking deeper for the real cause of the lack of perio treatment in the practice. Is it a lack of diagnosis? How about failure to treatment plan? Or is it really “Approval Addiction?”

Whatever the cause of this type of supervised neglect, it is rampant. Maybe as rampant in some dental offices as periodontal disease itself.

So start taking a closer look at what is really going on in your practice. Are you really treating the disease? Or are your patients victims of supervised neglect because of the “Education / Income Perio Excuse?” The numbers rarely lie. So look at the numbers before you listen to the excuse.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Law of Positive Distraction

In a world with so many messages coming at us every minute, keeping focused on the purpose of the practice becomes a major project.

James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, reminds us that we ultimately get what we think about and we become the person we focus on the most. The challenge is staying focused.

Everyone is familiar with the work of Professor Walter Mischel at Columbia University and his famous marshmallow experiment. He found that four year olds who were able to resist the temptation of eating the marshmallow in front of them for the reward of getting a second marshmallow if they could hold off for 20 minutes, did so by singing songs, playing with their shoelaces, or some other act to temporarily distract their mind away from the temptation. By distracting their attention and their mind from the marshmallow, they were able to get the bigger reward. Mischel also discovered that these same four years olds ultimately did better on SAT tests and had lower body mass indexes later on as adults than those who could not distract themselves.

One of the most important validations of Mischel’s work is that you can’t focus on the opposite of an idea. You can’t think about marshmallows and not expect to eat one. You can’t think about failure and expect to succeed. It’s exactly what James Allen was trying to teach us. Mischel just validated it in a different way.

With so many messages bombarding us every day from the media, patients, e-mail, text messages, etc. staying “positively distracted” is one of our biggest challenges. Just like the four year old with a big, fluffy, white marshmallow staring back from the table right in front of him or her, we have things staring back at us every day that demand our attention, but that will not lead us any closer to where we want to go. We have to stay “positively distracted” in other ways in order to stay focused.

Here are some suggestions to stay “positively distracted” as you go throughout your day:
  1. Start your day with a quick review of your vision, your goals, and your positive focus.
  2. Be consistent with your team’s morning huddle every day and make sure you stay on purpose with a set, written agenda that stays focused on the opportunities in the day ahead.
  3. Ask your patients what the best thing is that has happened to them since you saw them last. Don’t ask them how they are doing. They just might tell you! Keep them focused on the positive and you’ll stay positive.
  4. Compliment at least one other person on the team each day for some contribution they made to the team that day.
  5. Thank every patient for coming in and for being a patient.
  6. Conclude every day with a short celebration of some victory or accomplishment during the day.
“Positive distractions” make the allure and temptation of a possible negative focus from creeping into the workday. Nature abhors a vacuum, so when there is space to fill, you can bet that it is going to be filled with something less than what you want unless you fill you day with positive distractions that keep those negative “marshmallow” thoughts and conversations away.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pick Just One - The Spill Over Effect

If an observation of the parking lot at the local gym on Saturday morning, January 2 is any indication that New Year’s Resolutions are alive and well – they are! It is that time of year again when most load up on resolutions after they have loaded up on holiday goodies. Getting in shape will be just one of a long list of things they intend to do.

Instead of a long list of resolutions this year, consider picking just one thing, or just a few. The power of picking just one thing has amazing benefits. Among them is what I call the “Spill Over Effect.”

Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University did an experiment over ten years ago wherein he asked a group of students to work on improving their posture for two weeks. As they did, these same students reported improvement in other areas of self-control when compared to others who were not working on improving their posture. In other words, strengthening the skills that are required to improve in one area will “spill over” into improved things in other areas.

Think of the many applications of the “Spill Over Effect” in the office. Pick just one thing to work on as a team and then think of the many other things that will benefit as a result.

For example:

  • Improving telephone skills will also result in better overall communication skills in the office with patients and between team members.
  • Improving the cleanliness of the lab will also result in overall cleanliness of the office.
  • Improving accounts receivable balance will also result in improved financial arrangements as you discover that most of the A/R problems started there in the first place.
  • Improving on-time arrival for the morning huddle will also result in a better job of staying on time during the day.
And so forth.

So pick “just one” area of improvement and all of the related skills that will be needed to get the result you want. Then, before you get started, just make a list of all of the other areas of the practice that will positively benefit as those same skills “spill over” into those other areas. If you pick the right “just one” area for improvement, the “spill over” effect can be even more beneficial than the specific result you were aiming for in the beginning.

The “Spill Over Effect.” It is the power of picking the right “Just One” area to improve this year.