I have a family dental practice in a small bedroom community in Massachusetts. There are lots of dentists in the area and no commercial traffic in the town, so we have to build our practice by intention, hard work, and good public recognition.
When I started here thirty years ago, I was on a mission to deliver good dentistry to people at a good price. I had the attitude that my desire and my competence were enough to provide me with an income. They weren’t. After eleven years with little growth, we were producing less than $25,000 a month. I just couldn’t understand why people weren’t flocking in the door. I realized that something wasn’t working properly.
After spending a year searching for some good management advice, I attended a Sterling Management seminar. The speaker said that if you were looking for a solution to practice problems, the first place to look is in the mirror. That struck me right between the eyes. I recognized I couldn’t look for excuses anyplace else. If I was hoping to make any changes, it would have to start by changing my own attitude.
I went out to Sterling to find out what else I needed to know to build a successful practice. The first thing that had to change was the idea that all I needed to do was to deliver good dentistry. Well, Sterling quickly disabused me of that idea. I had no concept until then that a dental practice is a business and needs to be operated as a business before you can even deliver dentistry well. If you don’t have an effective support team handling everything from getting patients in the door to collecting the money for services rendered and paying the bills, you will be too distracted to do your own job effectively. While there, I learned how to manage the staff properly and create such a team.
I could see the results of my training from the very first week back in the office. The first thing I did was to make one, long-overdue personnel change. The second was to begin managing my practice by keeping statistics, which is a key aspect of the Sterling program. The results were immediate. By the end of that week, the stats had already gone up and they continued to rise. My consultant also recommended at that time that I do a particular type of promotion, but I was reluctant to do it. Finally, after a year, I sent out my first mailing. We got 65 new patients from it, most of which were families and good stable patients. It only took me that one mailing to become convinced that the promotion they wanted me to do was appropriate.
The practice has continued to grow since then. I now have twelve employees and we did $1.3 million in production last year. During that time I have trained two of my managers at Sterling, and regularly take the staff to Sterling workshops in New York and Hilton Head Island, S.C. They are a good source of inspiration, which shows up afterward in improved productivity. They also serve as a good way to quickly get new employees up to speed on the management system. Earlier this year I hired my first associate, sent her out to Sterling for training, and she came back quite enthused about the program as well.
Although our production has grown five-fold since I started with Sterling, it doesn’t mean I need to put in extra hours. Instead, because of the way the office runs, I have been able to cut my chairside hours from forty a week down to thirty. I also spend fewer hours in the office handling the paperwork. It has also made it possible for me to spend more extended time away from the office than I ever did before—almost two months last year. And that was before I hired an associate.
The best part of being a Sterling client is that they help you balance your professional and personal life so they don’t interfere with each other, but enhance each other. It is very difficult for someone who is involved with the day to day management and production of a dental practice to have a clear overall picture of the practice. But Sterling’s consultants provide that outside perspective needed to spot things you are missing that are going on right under your nose. Then they help you to get it straightened out. I cannot imagine managing without such an outside perspective, and Sterling knows how to do that better than anybody I know.
Arthur McAuley, DDS