What convinced Dr. Ruth Morgan that after 12 years of dental practice, things could be better? Plenty.
“We weren’t making enough money,” says Dr. Morgan, “we were having staff turnover and the staff we had were driving us crazy. I was coming home exhausted and our family life was going downhill.
“My husband Robert said, ‘We have to do something!’
“What Sterling had to say made immediate sense to me. A Sterling consultant told me a couple of things which were so striking in terms of a new way of looking at things, that I thought if Sterling gives me this free, I can’t imagine what I’d learn on the actual program.
“One thing he said was if you’re not sold on the service that you deliver, then why are you doing it, and if you are sold, why does it bother you to charge for it?
“So when we came out to do our study in California, Sterling said why not have my staff work to fill the book for when I got back? Which we did, and that was a real change. Because it used to be when I’d go away on vacation, the staff would sit around twiddling their thumbs for two weeks.
“I even liked going to Glendale. I’m very nervous going to some place I’ve never been before, or meeting people I haven’t met before. But when we went to Glendale for the Sterling program, we were picked up from the airport, everything was handled, they took us to the hotel, all the arrangements were made, and everything was made easy to do. If it had been a vacation, I definitely would have come back!
“The thing I found the most valuable,” says Dr. Morgan, “was the consulting that went along with the courses. It really helped me so tremendously, not just with my professional life, but with my family life, with things I was unhappy with, such as the way I was dealing with my family.
“On the management skills, per se, I really liked all the stuff in terms of self-confidence building, such as handling people and management by stats. Managing staff is so simple now; I just say here are the stats, here’s what you do. Sterling gives you help in hiring people; using the emotional tone scale helps you to know where to put people in the office, and even if you want to have them in the office at all.
“And as I say, it really helps with the management. Before, you would say, ‘You’re not doing a very good job,’ and they say, ‘What do you mean, I’m not doing a good job?’ and all you can say is, ‘Well, you’re just not doing a very good job.’ Now, with management by statistics you can say here is what the product and goal consist of, and see this statistic shows how much you are producing and now what can we do to correct this?
“Our hygienist has been applying these steps for herself, for instance, and has been very successful.
“So with the practice I started feeling like, if you build it, they will come, and sure enough, people showed up out of the woodwork. We were gone for ten days to California, and we did as much production in the ten days after we got back as we had the month before! It was as if we had not even been gone.
“Better,” says Morgan, “we recouped what we had paid Sterling within a month. If you’re a dentist, unless you’re at your production capacity, you can recoup what you spend on the Sterling program just by doing it, at least that’s how it was for me.
“Since then, we’ve dropped all our PPOs, we’re not in any HMOs, we got out of Medicaid, and it’s been a year now and we have been so thrilled with the results and we have eliminated the headaches.
“Of course, there are people who say, ‘You are an expensive dentist.’ And I say, yes, but I’m also one of the best, and service counts. There are people who don’t care about the service factors, who don’t care about quality, and frankly, those aren’t the people we want as patients.
“I found the integrity factor gets compromised with the HMOs,” says Morgan. “I would be doing work and charging a third of what I should be, and you just ask yourself, ‘Do I have to be doing as good a job on this as I do for someone who is paying full price?’ That I would even ask that question, that’s what was worrying me.”
Dr. Morgan’s husband, Robert Morgan, is an accountant formerly with one of the Big Eight accountants and got his training at the same time. He focuses on the business side of the practice, acting as the office manager as well.
“As an accountant, I’ve been exposed to a lot of consulting,” he says, “and to a lot of businesses—and Sterling’s management system works.
“Statistics give a real method of improving things. It gives you a lot of tools to locate and identify problems, and then deal with them and go home, rather than sitting around the supper table saying, ‘I wonder what’s going on at the office.’
“It’s also easy to see who is doing their job and who is not. Some of these people with bad work ethics will just figure out your office is not for them. For instance, I had a front desk person who had a percentage of appointments kept of 75-76%. I didn’t fire the person, she left. But the new person routinely gets 98%.
“And then as Ruth says, we just decided to get rid of a big chunk of our patient base. We probably would never have had the courage to do that, but now, we have had no regrets. Now we’re getting paid a fair fee for our services.”
Dr. Morgan talks to a lot of new dentists, and recommends Sterling to all of them. “I see those dentists one or two years out of school,” she says, “and I think, you’re not going to go through doing things the wrong way, the years of being miserable, you’re not going to have to lose all the money I did, because there is Sterling.
“And you don’t know how lucky you are!”