5 Characteristics of Effective Leadership

It’s no secret that the most successful teams and businesses start at the top. When it comes to establishing a dental practice that goes the distance, one of the biggest reasons is due to effective leadership. If you run a dental practice, understanding the characteristics of effective leadership can make or break the success of your practice. Read on to see what components you can implement (or continue doing!) to boost your practice’s sales and reputation.

BE AN EXAMPLE

An important characteristic of any good leader is the ability to exemplify the skills, personality and motivation that you would expect from your staff members. This means that you demonstrate an ability to work with multiple personality types and are excited and motivated to drive results for your team. As a leader, your actions and behavior are watched carefully. Keep this in mind.

ETHICS AND INTEGRITY

A similar facet of effective leadership has to do with ethics and integrity. In order to earn the respect of your staff, following ethical best practices is of utmost importance. Stand by the values you want to have in your practice. Keep your promises, as much as is possible. Remember that a team is stronger if it’s unified rather than divided by office politics, drama or even intense personality clashes. The “Golden Rule” still applies to leaders: treat others as you want to be treated.

COMMUNICATION

Communication is a vital component of any successful relationship, including the workplace. Make every effort to establish a smooth and comfortable environment among your team. Transparency can go a long way to repairing and healing conflict, especially between managers and staff members. Effective leadership involves communication about both the successes and trials facing your dental practice. Collaborate and brainstorm on solutions and ideas together rather than keeping them only to upper management. By establishing clear lines of communication, you instill trust and openness in your team, which makes it easier to come together for the common goal of working to make your practice successful.

SKILLS

The dental industry, like many others, is not stagnant. New technology develops rapidly, which requires knowledge and skills. In order to be a truly effective leader and run a successful dental practice, you need to master and possibly even edge out the skills your competitors have. This involves study, research and time outside of your work in the office, but it is worthwhile.

INVEST IN STAFF

Finally, your practice would not be successful without the hard work of your employees. Your business will do better if you invest in your staff’s career motivations and work with their own set of skills. If possible, meet with your employees regularly. Understand the ins and outs of their daily role, how it benefits the practice, and recognize your staff for the work they do. The best leader knows how to honor the people who work and support them.

GOT QUESTIONS?

For more information on what makes an effective leader in the dental industry, browse through our website or book a consultation call with Dr. Coughlin today.

Boost Patient Care with Flexible Financing Options

Whether planned or not, dental care is expensive. Although most Americans have private dental insurance through their employer or another plan, patients will likely have some out of pocket costs for the majority of preventive and emergency dental procedures.

These added costs are both frustrating and stressful for many Americans, especially given the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on jobs and the economy as a whole. But when a patient needs a crown or replacement filling, it needs to be taken care of. So what can you do to encourage patients to seek care even if it’s tough on the wallet? That’s where flexible financing options come in. Here are three good reasons to offer financing to your patients.

BOOST PATIENT MORALE

In today’s uncertain economic climate, major or even minor dental procedures can be cost prohibitive. For patients without dental insurance, even the cost of an annual cleaning may be too much. If you offer financing as a payment option, your patients can still receive excellent dental care without draining their funds to do it. This is especially important in today’s social and economic environment as a result of COVID-19. There are several ways to incorporate flexible financing into your payment plans.  Popular options from companies like CareCredit include low monthly payments, zero prepayment penalties, and low interest loans. If your patient has poor or no credit, they may still qualify for certain plans if that’s something you feel would benefit your consumer base.

ATTRACT NEW PATIENTS

Another benefit of offering flexible financial payment plans is that it attracts new patients who might otherwise be unable to seek high quality dental care. As stated before, consider the needs of your patients. How might the pandemic have affected their wallets? What options can you offer to assure them of their options even if they can’t afford standard procedures out of pocket? This applies not only to new patients but also to your existing ones.

INCREASE YOUR BOTTOM LINE 

Although it might mean less upfront revenue at the time of service, incorporating flexible financing terms can result in increased profit later on. Why? Because the alternative is that new or existing patients don’t seek dental care even in an emergency because of the potential costs. This not only puts your patients at risk for developing significant dental conditions, but also affects your practice if no procedures take place to generate income. Flexible financing payment plans are practical, effective and beneficial for your practice and for the patients you serve.

CURIOUS ABOUT FLEXIBLE FINANCING OPTIONS FOR YOUR PRACTICE?

Contact Dr. Coughlin today with any questions you have about how flexible financing options can boost your dental practice.

Benefits for your Team

When starting and running your own dental practice, one of the biggest concerns to think about has to do with how to manage your team. What needs do they have? What basic benefits should you cover for your team in your dental practice? Are there any basic requirements? This article will discuss some of those questions.

SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE

In the United States, employers with W2 employees are expected to pay for social security and Medicare benefits. These benefits make up part of your employee’s tax withdrawals on their paycheck.  It’s important to consider social security and Medicare benefits first when evaluating the costs of benefit programs because they are required for any W2 employee.

DENTAL INSURANCE

As a dental practice, offering your team a discount on dental services is appropriate and maybe even expected. There are several ways you could offer dental service benefits. Some practices cover 100% of employee dental services. You could also cover up to a specified amount per employee.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Another standard benefit for most employers to sponsor for their staff is health insurance. The practice’s financial situation often dictates how flexible you can be, but it’s best to consider what options are valued most for your team. If you can’t afford an insurance policy with both low deductibles and low premiums, which option fits with your budget and your employee’s needs? These questions are important to consider. In Massachusetts, health insurance is required, so don’t skip this.

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS

Most employers offer employees the ability to contribute to a 401K, 403(b), or other form of retirement account. If your dental practice is profitable with a fair amount of room in the budget, matching your employee’s contribution attracts both current and potential new staff alike. Make sure your retirement benefit program works for both you and your team.

PAID VACATION & OTHER BENEFITS

Your team works hard to bring the best dental care to your patients. They deserve adequate, and even generous time off if your budget allows. Do you want to allocate a specified amount of time off up front for salaried employees? Would you prefer an accrual system? Keep in mind the differences and specific regulations between salaried and hourly employees and plan accordingly. For example, a Massachusetts dental practice with more than 11 employees is required to provide a certain amount of paid sick time as part of the basic benefits package.

In addition to paid time off, other “nice to have” benefits might include things like paid family leave, subsidized childcare, discounts to local attractions and businesses, and more.

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

Do you own or manage a dental practice and still have questions about benefits? Comment below or send us an email and we’ll help you out!

New Dentists: independent or corporate practice a personal choice

Congrats. You’ve finished school and graduation was a blast. However after you’ve taken off the cap and gown, you have dentistry degree certificate and a lot of decisions to make. Life happens fast and you don’t have a lot of time before you have to begin your career.

You’re at the proverbial fork in the road. And you really have two options: corporate dentistry (Managed Service Organizations or Dental Support Organizations) or starting your own practice.

Corporate dentistry is definitely an easier road and a lot of grads are tempted by the allure of a steady, predictable income. I come from a different world. I know how great it is to have your own practice, set your own rules, define your own standards for performance, and even set your own hours of operation.

I’m not here to judge. What works for one dentist won’t work for another. Corporate dentistry isn’t going anywhere and both private practice and corporate work each have pros and cons to consider.

One of the objections I’ve heard when speaking to new dentists who are considering opening their own practice is, what they see, as a lack of experience in clinical skills and complete absence of any practical business knowledge.

To these dentist corporate dentistry looks pretty good: more skill experiences, a built-in primer on running a business and the piece of mind that comes with knowing everything else is the corporation’s problem.

But here’s the thing. I’ve talked to many practicing dentists who have taken this path only to find out that the above scenario isn’t necessarily true.

Experienced dentists today say 50 or 60 percent of the stress in their practice, is not related to their clinical focus but rather, caused by staff and patients.

These are stresses that will happen whether you’re the captain of your boat or a hired hand on someone else’s.

For me, being independent and in control of both the clinical and business aspects is very important. Not only do you control every factor in your professional life, it also pushes you to get the training on the clinical skills you need and upgrade your management skills.

It really comes down to the kind of person you are. Do you just want to do A, B and C? Then explore a corporate dentistry opportunity.

Just don’t do it because you’re lacking clinical skills and business savvy. You can learn those while developing your own practice. And this is something I help new dentists do through my private coaching programs.

So ask yourself: what kind of a person am I? Are you happy being the employee, or would you rather develop the skills to create something special? The answer to that will ensure you make the right decision: your right decision.

Setting up a good dental practice same as setting up a good business

“So how do I set up a good dental practice?”

When I meet colleagues or new dentists, it’s the first real question that gets put to me, after the hellos and “that’s-a-nice-shirt-you’re-wearing” chit chat.

It’s a great question. But sometimes the answer I give isn’t exactly what they expect.

The answer, or at least my version of it, is that setting up a good dental practice is exactly like setting up a good business.

My colleague Steve Parker is responsible for that observation and he’s absolutely correct.

So how do you set up a good business that just happens to be a dental practice?

It comes down to focusing on five areas:

  • Leadership
  • TeamBuilding
  • Money (finance)
  • Metrics (measurement for the business and systems)  

Whether you be setting up a sole practitioner office or one in a DSO or MSO, the principles are the same. A DSO will provide the measurement systems and some of the team building tools.  But in the end it’s up to you to provide inspired and inspiring leadership.

But here’s the rub. Most dental school graduates emerge from the hallowed halls of their academe wielding a dental drill like a champion but with a limited business acumen that borders on financial illiteracy.

It may explain why some find the allure of DSOs and MSOs enticing. Much of the marketing and business growth is left to the corporate head offices.

But let’s go back to those factors again, one by one…

Leadership: It’s about the buck stopping with you. It’s about standing behind your team members so they know you have their back. Remember, how you behave sets the tone and atmosphere of your entire practice.

Team Building: Your team can build you up if you build them up. Get them to understand that training is a lifelong pursuit. If one of them learns something in any given day, ask them to share it with the others. Encourage sharing of lessons learned and how they were learned them. In essence, you are their coach, showing them how to do the work, push them when needed and cheer them when they do a superb job.

Money (finance): This one is important if only to ensure a smooth flow of finances to keep the doors open.

Metrics (measurement for the business and systems): This is about where you steer your Good Ship Dental and why you’re doing it. If you decide to focus on getting new children patients, then that is where you’ll point your metrics and determine your success.

Is it really that easy? Well yes and no. Within each of the four areas noted above there are multiple areas for discussion and exploration.

But those four factors are the foundation of setting up a good Dental / Business practice.

If you want more direction on setting up a new dental practice, please give me a call.

Early decisions in a dental career are the most crucial

New dentists don’t often think of themselves as business people. But that’s exactly what they are. Whether you are starting your own practice, buying into a practice or joining an established team as an employee, your decisions are all primarily business decisions.

And the choices you make at the beginning of your career are some of the most important you’ll ever have to make.

When you leave dental school you are ready for patient care. But what about career care? What business prep have you received?  I can tell you that when I left school it was very little and that hasn’t changed much.

I was out on the street with a DDS and not much else.

Thirty-four years later, I have 14 dental offices, 23 dental associates and over 150 employees.

I learned a few things over those years. Today I coach young dentists, so they don’t have to figure out the toughest part of the job  – the business part.

I still practice dentistry day after day. Oral surgery, implant surgery, TMJ, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, fixed and removable prosthesis: I do it all. I can do this because I learned how to implement processes and procedures that make the business part work efficiently.

I talk to new dentists all the time and I get the same questions over and over again.

“Do I open my own practice?”

“Should I take over a practice from another dentist or join a corporate practice?”
“What should I consider before signing a contract?”

“How can I research a practice and learn more about it’s potential for growth?”

These are all great questions and I wish a simple FAQ would do the trick. But every dentist’s situation is different. While some are more entrepreneurial, others might prefer to clock in and clock out in time to hit the golf course a couple of times a week.

Defining your goals and then mapping out a career plan to reach them is something I enjoy doing.

If you’re interested in this specialized career guidance, take a look at my dental coaching program and I will help you match your plan to your goals.

Talking to dentists is a great spring break

Last month I had a great spring break at Destin 2017. No, there wasn’t a lot of swimming, or reading by the beach. It was a different kind of break: one where I was connecting with fellow dentists and sharing best practices to make our businesses more profitable.

At these types of events the one-on-ones are great. But I was fortunate enough to have been invited as a speaker – thereby allowing me to share my practical experiences with more people dentists than I could ever have reached simply walking the halls.

With 34 years in the industry building up 14 dental practices, I played to my strengths and talked about building profitable dental operations.

Specifically I spoke about the reality that cutting corners often costs a practice more than one might think. Instead I am an advocate for investing in the processes and procedures that really drive business growth.

It comes down to what I call the SPECIAL approach:

S scheduling tips that make a big difference to profitability by increasing efficiency

P production improvements to provide better care and service to patients

E employee or team member management that make everyone want to deliver better results and perform at higher levels.

C collections improvements that will show you how to reach 98%

I internal controls to help you manage your practice

A associates and accounts receivables as a tool for growth

L liabilities and asset management to protect yourself and your business

The talk went over very well, given that in the days afterward, I was fielding questions about the SPECIAL factors from many in attendance.

If you weren’t able to make it to the conference – or even if you did – I pulled together a resource page with the slide deck of my presentation, and related materials.

If you want to talk to me about how to make your practice SPECIAL, please send me note and we can schedule a private coaching/consulting session that will help you make your dental practice more profitable going forward.