Busting 10 common management myths

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10 common management myths dentistry
photo: franckito – 123rf

Some of Bite magazine’s regular commentators bust 10 common management myths. By John Burfitt

Ask around for management advice about running a dental practice and stand back for the rush of well-meaning wisdom. Some is borne of years of experience, some the result of strategy training, while much is the product of a just-hoping-for-the-best approach.

One thing that is clear about good management is for all the best theories, there are just as many myths at play. And it’s those myths which can ultimately trip some businesses up. 

We asked some of Bite’s favourite dental profession commentators to weigh in on the top 10 most common management myths we have heard in recent years. And they offered no shortage of ripe insights!

The dentist can’t work any harder than he or she already does.

“Dentists go through phases. Younger dentists believe working harder and longer will generate income. In their 40s, they understand more about having a better work-life balance, and in their 50s, they appreciate working a little less. Working harder than what you already are is about understanding what is possible. Every few years, I like to change up my schedule, and I seem to reap far more benefits than I thought possible.”

Dr Vas Srinivasan, specialist orthodontist, Invisible Orthodontics

Morning and afternoon staff meetings can streamline the day.

“A morning meeting sets the tone of the day. An afternoon meeting is unnecessary as it should have already been covered [in the morning meeting], and if the team can’t roll without another meeting in the afternoon, then skills building is required. For new staff, it might be appropriate to complete a quick check in at the end of the day to ensure they are on track.”

Dr Stephen Liew, federal vice-president, Australian Dental Association

Computerised record keeping saves time and simplifies paperwork.

“The most important thing is keeping thorough records in the first place. Accurate clinical records are essential for the professional running of a practice, whether they be in paper form or computerised. The advantage of computerised records is they’re easier to access by other clinicians—there are no issues in trying to comprehend different handwriting. In the long run, having everything on a computer saves time.”

Bethan Flood, general manager (Human Resources), Prime Practice

The more you know about management, the more success you’ll have.

“Just because we know things about management does not always equate to being able to effectively manage. There are many commonsense things we know but do not always do. We can read every book on management, but if we don’t have the time or the skills to implement what we know, we struggle. The most effective managers are the ones that know things, and actively take the time to implement this knowledge in a way that positively motivates their people.”

Scott Stein, author, Leadership Hacks

Cute or funny recall cards/emails/SMS demean the importance of dentistry

“The recall systems and recall marketing vary so this must be used with caution. If a clinic chooses to use cute or funny messaging, they need to ensure this is aligned to their brand. So, if the practice’s brand is one that’s warm, approachable and relaxed, then selective use of cute or funny may be appropriate. But on the whole, few practices have this branding and cute or funny messaging may actually detract from the credibility of the clinic.”

Carolyn Dean, founder, My Dental Marketing and Wellsites

For maximum productivity, hygienists should have a ‘per day’ quota of appointments

“A per day quota of appointments will not necessarily ensure maximum productivity; instead set clear expectations for production results. Different appointments will result in different production amounts achieved. For maximum productivity, it is best to have a ‘per day’ quota of production. An experienced and talented hygienist can be a strong practice-builder.”

Bethan Flood

All members of the team need to be aware of the need for selling the clinic’s dental services to maintain profit.

“When it comes to hard-selling services to patients, be careful. Patients will take up treatments based on communication and trust in the clinical aspects of the practice. They do not want to experience a hard sell in a dental clinic. It is critically important all members of the team are aware of their impact on every customer experience as it can ultimately make or break that relationship.”

Carolyn Dean

Really good staff just aren’t available these days.

“In many practices there are really great staff. It must be a 50-50 deal; the characteristics and performance of the employee, and the environment the employer creates for that employee to bring their best to the role. Foster a good team with an environment that is supportive and where the leadership is fair, consistent and action-oriented. Adequate wages and employment conditions also need to be addressed to attract and hang onto great employees.”

Julie Parker, management consultant, Julie Parker Practice Success

Patients can’t afford costly procedures, especially if a practice is not in a wealthy suburb.

“Many of the most successful practices I have dealt with have been in very average suburbs. There are lots of dentists in wealthy suburbs who do very few costly procedures, and conversely, lots of dentists in regular, average suburbs who do a lot. Patients’ desires for long-lasting dentistry come more from the dentist’s ability to communicate and explain its benefits than anything else. It’s about much more than geography.”

Dr Phillip Palmer, founder, Prime Practice

Owning your own dental practice is the ideal, and what you should be aiming for.

“As a practice owner your responsibilities are far beyond clinical dentistry. You must have a genuine interest in staff management, finance, high-level business principles, mentorship, equipment maintenance and much more. This level of commitment is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy the challenge it’s truly rewarding. Some people thrive on this, others are far better being a dedicated member of staff.”  

Dr Stephen Liew

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