Management myths exposed

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Like every industry, dentistry has its fair share of management myths. Although, having a good knowledge management plan is still a great way to succeed in many of the tough management scenarios that may face you. We spoke with successful dental management specialists to save you the pain of discovering these myths the difficult way. Here’s what they had to say. By Chris Sheedy

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Hire for personality and train the skill every time.

MYTH NUMBER 1: Owning your own dental practice is glamorous and preferable.

“This used to be the norm. As soon as you graduated people would ask when you would buy your own practice. Those were the days when dentists used to make money by default. There was no need for business tools or management skills. But these days competition in the marketplace, rules and regulations, legislation and increasing numbers of dental health practitioners all make it more challenging. Assistant dentists working in well-managed practices can make a very decent income and not have the responsibility of running the business. If you want to experience successful practice ownership you need to put in lots of hard work and be prepared to learn business skills.”

Dr Toni Surace

MYTH NUMBER 2: Daily meetings should allow time for everything that every staff member wishes to discuss.

“Meetings without clear agendas are a mistake. If there isn’t an agenda and somebody to manage that agenda then don’t bother having the meeting. Daily meetings should always have a fixed agenda. The meeting should only last five to ten minutes-it’s like a pilot running through a check-list. Look at yesterday’s schedule and work out what went right and what went wrong. Discuss what you need to adjust and patients you need to call back etc, then look at today’s schedule and quickly discuss anything important. Anything that comes up that is more detailed should be introduced into the weekly meeting agenda, to be discussed in a longer meeting.”

Anita Roubicek

MYTH NUMBER 3: Really good staff just aren’t available.

“There is really no such thing as the perfect, ready made staff member that dentists would define as having an amazing personality, decades of experience and willing to work for sandwiches. The problem is many practices aren’t willing to pay for great staff. They don’t make time to train them properly and they don’t identify what the most important feature is for the role they are trying to fill. To fit best into my business people need to have great interpersonal skills. I hire for personality and train the skill every time. I recruit from the hospitality industry where people have developed exceptional customer service skills, and I can then provide the specific knowledge they need to succeed. Don’t use the words ‘must have dental experience’ if you expect to get outstanding, long term staff.”

Dr Myles Holt

MYTH NUMBER 4: Patients can’t afford costly procedures.

“Dentistry in most cases is a luxury, particularly costly procedures. Convincing people to accept these procedures involves a deep understanding of a patient, their motivators and concerns towards their oral health and their specific dental issue. Some people truly cannot afford costly treatments but often a comment such as ‘I can’t afford it’ can mean other things such as ‘I don’t see the value’ or even ‘I don’t trust you’. Some of the most successful practices are in lower socioeconomic areas. The dentists simply have great communication skills. So know how to build relationships and provide patients with what they want.”

Dr Toni Surace

MYTH NUMBER 5: Before-and-after photographs in the reception room, hallways and restrooms etc generate patient desire for cosmetic treatment.

“I believe it is a good idea not to waste the opportunity of having a captive audience and to use strong, interesting, humorous and unexpected visuals to convey a message regarding the services you offer and the patient benefit. The problem is often the types of visuals and their use-by date. Patients have seen before-and-after pictures of teeth and the same old smiling images so often they have lost their impact. Visuals should be changed regularly to keep things fresh “for returning clients.”

Dr Myles Holt

MYTH NUMBER 6: The dentist can’t work any harder than they already do.

“It is certainly true that there are only so many hours in the day, but there are also only so many patients available. Smart dentists realise the goal is to work more productively with each patient rather than simply being a mass patient conveyor belt. Forward thinking dentists now look for new ways to offer more to their existing patients, rather than looking for more patients. For example, the addition of Botox and Dermal Fillers at a standard recall appointment takes only 5-10 minutes more than the exam/clean, yet fees increase by over $1000. This comes from existing patients, without the need for the expensive pursuit of new patients.”

Dr Myles Holt

MYTH NUMBER 7: All members of the dental team should be aware of the need for selling dental products as they provide an important profit centre for most successful practices.

“It all comes down to the motive for selling products. If the motive is purely financial gain, many patients will sense this a mile away. But if the dentist and their team truly believe in the products they are selling, that they truly benefit patients, this is a great service and will be sold with enthusiasm and received with thanks. Patients appreciate the professional recommendation that allows them to cut through the hype and confusion that is the wall of products on the supermarket shelves.”

Dr Myles Holt

MYTH NUMBER 8: For maximum productivity, hygienists should have per-day quotas of appointments.

“To a certain extent I agree with this as it gives the hygienist something to strive for. A certain level of productivity is important, but it is not everything. Good hygienists create happy patients, resulting in greater productivity for the practice as patients remain loyal, make referrals and agree to treatment options. A hygiene department is essential for maximum productivity in the long run as they also enable the dentist to do more productive work. The daily target of the hygiene department does not have to be met to gain an increase in productivity for the practice as a whole.”

Dr Toni Surace

MYTH NUMBER 9: The more you know about management the more success you’ll have.

“Knowledge and action are two different things. You can do every course under the sun, read books and watch management videos but if you don’t use that knowledge to create real change you will never be as successful as you could be. Dentists know how things should be done and how to get better results but can also be their own worst enemies. They are often unable to implement what they have learned because it is easier to stay in their comfort zone. If this is the case they will never know what is possible. Even bringing in a management consultant can make a huge difference. 

Dr Toni Surace

MYTH NUMBER 10: Computerised record keeping will impress your patients.

“This is partly true. I think today’s patient does expect that things are computerised. If you don’t have up-to-date systems it makes you look as if you’re behind the game. The problem arises when dentists interact more with the computer than the patient. The computer must not take the place of the relationship with the person. And if you look at the computer too much then the patient wonders if you even know what you’re doing. Use the computer as a tool to help communicate with the patient, as a visual tool. But don’t use it as a crutch. It must not be used to the detriment of the relationship.”

Anita Roubicek

MYTH NUMBER 11: Cute/funny recall cards demean the importance of dentistry.

“If you’re in a very serious city practice where the dentist is referred to as ‘Doctor’ and your clientele are business people then it looks quite strange if you have a cartoon character on a cute, funny recall card. But if you’re a fun, friendly, family practice and the dentist has a personality that relates to the card they’re sending then it works. This is more about aligning the image of your brand with any correspondence you send, whether it’s a recall card or a letter. It’s not about making the industry seem serious or otherwise, just making sure all materials match your brand.”

Anita Roubicek.

Our Myth Busters

1) Anita Roubicek – Management Consultant and Partner of dental practice management company Prime Practice

2) Dr Myles Holt – multiple practice manager and Director of the Australian Academy of Dento-Facial Aesthetics (AADFA)

3) Dr Toni Surace – Managing Director of dental business consultancy Momentum Management

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