I bought my practice in Marysville seven years ago when I retired from the Army. The retiring orthodontist had been in practice in the Everett/Marysville area for over thirty years.
In 1967 I graduated from West Point and was commissioned. I served in Vietnam as an artillery officer. Following that, I attended dental school at Creighton University. I went back into the Army after dental school as a general dentist and received my two years of orthodontic residency training while I was in the Army.
I’m the only doctor in my practice and I have six staff members: Receptionist, treatment coordinator, financial coordinator, and three orthodontic clinical assistants. We see about 65 patients on a busy day.
The practice has grown over the first six years. This was partially due to the growth of the community and partially because I updated my office, expanded and put some capital into building a state-of-the-art facility. But I had hit a plateau in production and collections and wanted to move on to the next level.
I had used very little marketing. My referral base was pretty much intact but not growing. I really felt that I had pretty good leadership skills from the Army, but this is certainly a different ballgame entirely. I was a commander with 120 men and $22 million worth of equipment. As combat officers, you had control of your resources and you had the commitment of your people. You don’t necessarily have that in private practice unless you develop it by earning your staff’s respect. I think in our society we are too fixed on “management” and not on leadership. That’s an area that Sterling emphasizes correctly.
I think there are some intangibles gained from Sterling that gives you much better control of your people skills—communication skills certainly. I found the communication course to be quite valuable in that regard. I gained a better understanding of human behavior, what makes people “tick” and how to deal with them where they are at. Sterling gave me a very realistic set of principles to use to gain understanding with anyone I am dealing with. Of course in our business we are dealing with parents who bring in kids, and they have a perceived problem. This is unlike general dentistry, where you often need to do some selling. Here, people walk in the door and there is already a perceived problem. But there is still a need to communicate exactly what the problem is, what happens if it doesn’t get fixed and how you will correct their problem. The Sterling training has helped me in that area.
Those are the primary areas Sterling has helped me with. I am presently implementing their marketing program and establishing an organizing board and job description manuals that teach my staff what their jobs are and how they fit with the organization.
Our production has increased a little more than 20%. Collections have increased as well. We had our best-ever production two months ago, and our best-ever collections in October. We’re more cohesive as a team and staff relations are better. We’re just a happier office than before Sterling.
Keeping statistics has helped. It has made the staff aware of where we are and where we want to go. I am running some games and when we hit our targets I’m writing out checks for bonuses. I’ve done that two out of the last four months. The staff really feels that they have a piece of the practice now and that’s important.
The focus of the practice is better as far as putting the numbers up in front of everybody. Nobody is intimidated or feels that the numbers are unreachable. That has helped to increase the focus of the practice. It has certainly helped to implement our practice mission statement, too, toward our goal to provide the very best service to our patients and do so in an efficient manner.
I am sure there has been a betterment in our patients’ perceived quality of our service because our communication is a lot better with them. That’s a big part of their perception—our effective communication—telling them what we’ve done and how well we’ve done it.
The Hubbard management technology is effective. There were even intangibles that I brought back from Sterling that have made me a happier camper and have made my relationship with the staff better.
My practice is getting busier. The important thing is that there is less stress while we’re here. We’ve really lowered the stress level here, and that, of course, was one of my aims.
We haven’t yet even fully reaped the benefits of the marketing that we are implementing, and I am anxious to see where that takes me. We’re still early in the program!
I would definitely recommend that an orthodontist looks at Sterling if he needs leadership, management and organizational skills. Sterling definitely provides that. The bottom line is how we are operating now. It is certainly better now than it was, and that was what I was looking for!
Richard Releford, DDS