How Long is Too Long?

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The Impact of Delaying the Inevitable

It is not at all uncommon for me to connect with a dentist who approaches me simply for advice, although often it is followed up by a full engagement.  The struggles and challenges vary, but one problem seems to be more and more prevalent; and that is the long-term employee who has actually stayed way too long. 

All too often when asked, “How long has this employee been with you and when did you realize that they were not right for you and your practice?”  I have heard things like, “Oh, about 25 years and I knew this wasn’t going to work about 24 years ago.”  The first time I ran into this I was shocked, but having heard a similar strain a number of times I am no longer shocked and have almost learned to understand the dynamics of why this happens.

Once again, we are back to the behavioral style of us dental folk.  We are not comfortable with change or confrontation, and in some cases to such a degree that we would rather deal with less than competent employees year after year than to either address their weaknesses or try to help them correct their inefficiencies.  After a while it gets to a point where the employer just accepts what “is” and learns to deal with it, at the expense of ideal practice culture, harmony, and effectiveness.  In some cases they are even willing to sacrifice good team members who leave the practice, unable to work alongside of the bad apple or non-productive, disinterested employee.

There’s no one “moment of truth” that puts the employer over the edge or gets them to a place where they know it is time to dismiss this person.  I haven’t been able to isolate one specific thing that seems to be the catalyst or “inspiration” that finally makes them wake up and realize that it’s time! I’m also amazed at how often I observe them saying goodbye to outstanding and valuable employees over and over again, knowing quite well that the contributing factor to their resignation is clearly based on the one employee that they also know is bringing the team and often the production down.

So are we slow learners?  Would a major catastrophe be something to get us going? What type of stimulus does it take to motivate an employer to do what they should have done many years ago?

I’ve written before about those dentist/employers that prefer to keep their heads in the sand. As for a recommendation going forward, there’s really no “secret”.  I think it’s just a matter of recognizing the problem team member and having the will to take action.

Less is More

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Think Quality over Quantity

I’m not one to set New Year’s Resolutions for myself, but I do make it a habit to live by a phrase that those who know me hear from me quite often; and that is “Less is more”.  My goal for 2017 is to continue to live by this as best I can.  I apply this in numerous ways, and would like to share my mantra with you and how it aligns to much of our day-to-day living both personally and professionally.

Often during a casual conversation I will catch myself unconsciously monopolizing it, and when I do I adjust my participation in the banter.  This applies most often when I am communicating with clients who clearly want to vent or fill me in with the details that are obviously important to them and the operation of their practice as it relates to the team.  Team issues can be trying and challenging and I understand this all too well.

When it comes to creating ads, I coach to remove as much of the “fluff” and stick to the facts and verbiage as it applies to your business style, avoiding reference to what people will receive in the way of compensation, perks and extras. Instead I speak more to the unique dynamics of what you and your approach to dentistry is all about.

How about the perception that if one consultant is great, then why not enroll 5 or 10 of them? This should be 5 or 10 times better, correct? I contend that is a common (and potentially devastating) mistake. Do your homework!  Research the consultants and advisors that you are considering and then narrow the field to those that appear to be right for your practice and offer the guidance and teachings that best relate to your specific needs.

I like to use baking a cake as an example.  If you don’t follow the recipe utilizing just the ingredients recommended in the right proportions and throwing in additional ingredients assuming it will make it even better, it very often results in disaster.

What about once the responses from your advertising efforts begin to roll in?  Are you elated when you see lots of resumes and interest from all types of job seekers, or do you see the value in narrowing your field to just a few that closely fit the demographic you are seeking?

Obviously “Less is more” is not apropos for all situations, but in relation to the examples I’ve shared I think you’ll agree that it does make sense.  Wishing you all a wonderful 2017 with Less negatives and many More positives.

 

Outside of the Box Thinking

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Must every employee be fulltime?

When I am asked by my clients to help them locate some strong candidates to fill a particular position within their dental practice, the usual request is that they require a fulltime dental professional to add to their team. While this is understandable the majority of the time, there are occasions when the questions I ask reveal the need for a permanent part-time employee and not necessarily someone on a fulltime basis.

Granted it isn’t always easy to determine the exact man/woman power to effectively manage the needs of a practice, but there are things that I like to consider when guiding my clients through the process. In some cases it’s based on the physical size of a practice and how the work area lends itself to the flow of activity during the work day; while in other situations it’s based on the lack of proper systems, protocols and efficiency measures applied within the business model.

More times than not, the lack of systems is one of the main reasons an employer/ dentist assumes that there is a need to hire more help; when truthfully without proper direction and protocols an efficient team can easily be mistaken for a group that just can’t keep up with the workload .

I encourage my clients to assess and evaluate the systems or lack of that they apply within their practice along with making sure that everything is clearly defined and every team member (whether it is in their job description or not) is aware of the methodology established within the culture of the practice.

I suggest taking a good, clear look at the structure and overall organization within the business and how it relates to running and managing the various duties that are distributed among the group.

Are the employees assigned responsibilities that they can not only manage properly, but thoroughly? Do their duties align with their ability?

Is everyone clear with exactly what they need to accomplish to successfully manage each day, each month and end of year?

Here’s a thought–what about seeking a permanent part-time employee to manage the overflow that may not necessarily require an additional fulltime employee? I will say that it’s a little more difficult to find a permanent part-time employee than a fulltime one, but once you and your team can pinpoint the specific area(s) that are lacking within the structure of the business, seeking out the necessary team support will be so much easier.

Part time permanent positions when designed correctly are very effective for both administrative as well as clinical positions. If the box is organized, it’s ok to think outside of it!

Eventually, You Have to Take the Leap

 

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Importance of due diligence during the hiring process

When it comes to guarantees, we can expect to receive them when we buy groceries that appear not to be fresh or when we have our cars serviced with guarantees attached, along with other large ticketed items.  This is a normal expectation.

The one area where we NEVER have guarantees is when it comes to new employees that we hire.  Over the years I have heard many many times statements such as, “She’s a great employee, but what if she moves?” or “He’s the best employee I’ve ever had, but what if he grows tired of my practice?”

While these are definitely concerns, I always let my clients know that there are indeed no guarantees when it comes to employees, be it their longevity or work ethic.  I also make the analogy of the risks we all take everyday just getting up in the morning. We could slip in the shower or, heaven forbid, get hit by another car while we are innocently sitting at a stop light.

Truthfully you do have some control when it comes to making a decision on a hire, although again, there are many things you simply can’t control. Examples are: guaranteeing that they will stay with you forever, continuing to prove themselves as the best employee you’ve ever had, and all the other accolades you hope would apply.

You can conduct background checks and drug testing, and weigh all the negatives and positives.  Many negatives can be addressed properly right from the start and corrected, since so much has to do with communication.  Thorough due diligence is a must, and when you feel all of your “I’s” are dotted and your “t’s” are crossed you really need to trust that you AND the new hire both made the right choice going forward.  Remember, they are taking a risk with you also, for there are no guarantees for them either. What they hear during the interview protocol and skill assessment might have to be enough for the new hire to believe that they too found their long term employment.

Take risks my friends, but make sure they are calculated risks.

It Pays Dividends to Take Your Time

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Rushing a Hire is One of the Biggest Mistakes an Employer can Make

I’m so frequently asked what the biggest mistake I see when it comes to dental team development. Although there are a number of things, by far the biggest mistake of all is hiring too quickly in my opinion.

The hiring dentist receives an ideal, picture perfect resume and almost sight unseen is ready to make the applicant an offer. Then there is the job candidate that presents beautifully, with a resume in hand in a shiny folder. Or it’s the applicant who arrives early and introduces herself to the front desk, shaking hands as she moves from one to the other. While all of this is admirable and great to experience, this is not enough to make a well educated hiring decision. Not by any means.

It’s a process that we need to go honor–one that takes time and one that requires much more than simply the superficial things that initially might impress. Making a hasty decision based on a first impression is not the way to enter into a long-term hire, one where you and your team member can celebrate years of “togetherness” and basically establish a match made in dental heaven.

They do happen, as I have seen many and the one commonality is that there was not a hasty decision made from the side of the new employee or the employer. It took time for everyone to see if the fit was right, if the personalities jibed, the practice culture was aligned, the dentistry was in synch and the mutual respect was reciprocal. These things take time and time is what should be invested by both parties in order to be sure that everyone can expect a long-term, healthy business relationship.

How many marriages have endured based on a very short courtship? Take the time to be sure–from both sides–and once everyone involved agrees, it’s a matter of maintaining the bond that you have created.

Attracting the Candidates You Want to Meet!

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Advertising Verbiage Does Make a Difference

A client called me last week in a panic. “Deb”, he said, “I’ve been running an ad for a couple of weeks and we have found that the majority of those who respond don’t fit our needs and the few that seem like possibilities once invited in don’t even show for their interview. Out of the 3 that had some of the qualifications I’ve been looking for, one called hours before their interview was scheduled to inform us that she has accepted another position and the other two just plain didn’t show up, and this was with confirmation calls! I’m so discouraged and can’t figure out what the heck I am doing wrong.”

I began by reviewing the verbiage and approach they used with their advertising,

I said, “Doctor, you need to ask for what it is you are hoping to find”, and with this I proceeded to explain how I craft ads that send the message to those that you are wanting to attract and GRAB.

When I asked him if he could pinpoint what he felt was lacking from the few that did respond he said that none of them were sincere. I would agree 100%, so I suggested that we take things in a new direction.

Here’s the ad I crafted for him:

“Sincerity” is the key word for us when it comes to filling this position. Are you “sincere” about continuing your current experience within the dental field? Do you “sincerely” appreciate making a difference for others? Is your interest in managing your responsibilities a “sincere” one? Is the dental profession one that you are “sincerely” proud to be a part of? Are you “sincerely” interested in learning new systems and perfecting your current skills? If any of this resonates with you and if you come with some significant experience as a *true dental professional*, then we would really like to hear from you. The most important qualities are that you bring:

* A strong desire to contribute to a “sincerely” devoted team

* That you have been responsible for various dental business office duties

* That you pride yourself in your attention to detail and your ability to prioritize as needed

Locating that perfect employee is much like selling a home, it only takes one! Tons of resumes may seem impressive, but what good are they if none of them are appropriate for your practice and requirements?

Sure enough, within the first few hours that the ad ran I received 2 resumes. Both “appeared” (I never use the resume as the beginning and end of all to make that hiring decision) to show me some of what I’ve been hoping to find. They both included cover letters that responded to my ad and were well constructed resumes with what seemed to be valuable backgrounds, but it was still too early to pop the champagne.

I conducted my first phone interview today and was pleased to say that so far all is good. I always ask why the job candidate responded to my ad, it’s interesting what I hear.

Some will say “what did your ad say?” I hear the imaginary alarm go off… Noooo! The ones that remember and share with me why they responded continue to get my attention.

This particular candidate couldn’t wait to share with me before I even asked. “Deb”, she said, “I read your ad and then I read it again and again and couldn’t respond fast enough. You wrote this to find me! I’ve been working in a corporate environment since I moved to town, and although I’ve lasted almost a year, I just know this culture is not for me. I am sincere and I do care so much, yet the style of this practice is holding me back from developing the wonderful relationships that I was able to create and nurture in my other practice. I really could relate to the message you were sending with your advertising.”

It’s early in the process, but so far so good and once again it’s like I always say: “Ask for what you are looking for!”

The Bottom Line to Success

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Hint: it shouldn’t be the numbers

Prior to specializing in dental team development and related issues, I spent many hours working right in the trenches with dental practices to tackle areas pertaining to practice development and management.  Back then I felt much as I do today; and that is that obsessing over the “numbers” is simply not the key to creating a successful dental practice.  I feel even more this way today.

My approach was to have strong, efficient systems in place, enroll the team and educate them on their responsibilities, deliver quality care at fair market prices and not only will “they come” but you can bet you will sell your dentistry and collect what is due to you.

In other words, your revenue and profits will increase because of your operational effectiveness, and  there will be no need to agonize unnecessarily over the bottom line.  With systems and protocols in place along with a reliable, well-informed team, making a habit of checking the numbers will not only be unnecessary, but I see it almost as a deterrent.

Keeping numbers predominant in the minds of employees can actually sidetrack them, making them uneasy and unable to focus on what matters most, which is following what has been designed to work well, giving their patients attention and the utmost of care, and serving as a great representative of your very special practice.

Today as I limit my scope to dental team issues, I continue to feel and support the same methodology.  That is to focus on the care, treatment, customer service, respect for one another, keeping team morale at the highest point. Do this, and trust me, the numbers will happen.