I graduated from dental school in 1988 and six years later opened my own office in Manteca, a city of 55,000 in California’s Central Valley, about an hour’s drive east of the San Francisco Bay.
The practice wasn’t doing well. Richa, my wife and office manager, and I were managing by the seat of our pants, going from one problem area to another, which created a lot of stress both in the office and at home. I knew I had the dental skills, but didn’t have the management skills needed to succeed. As a result, we were having a high staff turnover and had trouble getting patients to accept complete treatment plans. We would have some good months now and then, but it wasn’t consistent. Our production was running about fifteen to twenty thousand dollars monthly.
Personally, I was burning out and was looking at doing something else for a living. Well, I didn’t quit dentistry. Instead I learned the management skills I was missing.
My brother, who is also a dentist, went through the Sterling course. He had phenomenal results and strongly recommended that I do it as well. He told me not to even look at any other programs. Just do this one and it will work out.
He was right.
It‘s been about fourteen months now since Richa and I did the Sterling training. We discovered through the courses that all those things we were having trouble with can be managed, and that it doesn’t have to be ‘management by crisis.’ We learned instead that it can be ‘management by goal setting,’ and that running a practice can actually be fun when hitting those goals.
After doing the courses, we took a look at what we wanted to achieve and actually wrote down a plan detailing how to get there. Then all of a sudden we started making those goals. In fact, we’ve been having months that were higher than the goals we originally set twelve months ago. The stress level in the office has gone down and we no longer take the problems home with us at the end of the day.
Our staff love the Sterling program as well. Everyone now knows what their job is, office policies are in writing, and there is better communication between my staff and the patients. We’ve been able to give them pay raises and now pay above average salaries. In addition, we have implemented a bonus program and have had four bonus months for hitting record levels on our collections. Instead of the ‘revolving door’ personnel scene we used to have, the staff want to be here for the long term, not just for a few months. Overall, the office is just a more fun place to work.
It has also worked out well financially for my wife and I. Our production is now twice what it was before we started with Sterling. This has allowed us not only to increase our level of retirement savings, but also gives us money for other projects we’ve wanted to accomplish. For example, we had wanted to put in a backyard ever since we had bought our house, but didn’t have the money for it. Well, this year we were not only able to do it, but we paid for it in cash.
Sterling has had a real value for us. We took a look at what we made for every dollar we spent, and figure we’ve made a ten-to fifteen-fold return in just over a year. (Try getting that kind of return from your IRA!) And that is just the monetary aspect. There are other benefits in terms of having more free time and better working conditions that are hard to put a price tag on. Everything is easier and the future looks brighter than it did before we took the courses. Stress is no longer hurting my work and family life. I am finally accomplishing what I set out to do as a dentist: to help people while also making an above average income. Where a year ago I was looking at quitting dentistry, now I look forward to coming in to the office. I can see doing this, and enjoying it, for the rest of my life.
Ricardo Cuevas, DDS, and Office Manager Richa