I was already very successful money-wise, and I lectured nationally. But I wanted an associate. Everyone I interviewed, if they were right out of school they wanted the sky and if they weren’t just out of school they weren’t real sharp. So I had this dilemma.
I receive tons of advertisements every week. But when one of Sterling’s ads came across my desk I recognized a dentist in it from Glenwood Springs, about 150 miles away from here.
I talked with a representative from Sterling and told them that what I really wanted was to find an associate. That was my whole purpose.
He asked me, “Do you know how to write up a power description of what you’re doing right now?”
I said, “Well, no.”
He asked, “What kind of executive training have you had?”
I said, “Basically, none.”
He said, “You still have a practice in the top five percent in the U.S. Just think what you could do with some executive training.” I had to agree with him. We coordinated right then how I would do the Sterling program.
The training was a real learning experience. I consider myself to be quite a student of life and particularly dentistry, and I found out that even with a doctorate degree that I really didn’t have a handle on how to study. They taught me a completely different way to analyze data objectively and I realized that the WORDS were the reason I had miscommunications or wrong ideas. Because I was skipping over words that I really didn’t understand.
My wife did the training with me. She does all the TMJ assisting and all the orthodontic assisting.
My top chairside, Susan, went to the Sterling weekend training program we just had in Denver. Since then she has really gotten on board with the bonus system, getting everybody to play that game. In May I had told my staff, “We’re going to implement a bonus system.” I had a series of small meetings with them to show them how this was going to work. Before Susan went to Denver she was saying, “I don’t know if we’re ever going to make this goal, I don’t know if it is realistic,” and so on. After she came back from Denver, we made our goal. Boom! In fact, we exceeded our projected goal for this month so we’re setting new goals. I don’t know how we’re going to top it next month, but we’ll keep trying!
Working on our organizing board is really helping. Everyone is assigned a specific responsibility and there is a complete chain of command on there. You don’t get any misrouted communications. Everybody is on the same page as far as how things are supposed to be done. They know how to apply formulas based on the condition they are in.
We really pride ourselves on the quality of what we do. Everyone in the practice is starting to get the picture on this. We’ve started to implement a little game of upgrading the treatment plans at chairside. Tartar specter type restorations: a lot more aesthetic things. Before, they were being diagnosed for posterior metal jacket or posterior crown. So now the girls will come in and start talking about how this looks so lifelike and tooth-like, and they’ve got the posters on it, and we get these patients who say, “Well, is it a little more expensive?”
They say, “Well, yes, it is, but Dr. Bixby is really pleased with the results and the patients are oohing and aahing over it.” So we are upgrading treatment plans on the spot, not just in the fee that we charge but in the quality of the material that we are using. We are working a little smarter and not quite so hard.
I’m definitely a better executive now with Sterling’s training under my belt. I was not really facing up to important issues. I was someone who would not confront issues until I just totally blew up. I’m more direct now, as far as comfortably facing issues as they develop so they don’t escalate. I’m more efficient at delegating and assigning projects and making sure that they are followed out, as opposed to just assigning the project and hoping it gets carried out. That has really helped clean up my life since I don’t go around thinking, “Oh, man, now I’ve got to confront this person on that. I should have done it yesterday.” It has really helped me learn to complete cycles. When I start something, to get that particular project done before I jump on another one. It has caused a great deal of organization and efficiency, not just in my practice but in my life.
Everyone in the office keeping statistics is really helping, too. Now we can go back and look for what we did right or did wrong in that particular area. Here’s a good example from a problem that we had in the past: The type of dentistry I do is called neuro-muscular dentistry, so I use electro-diagnostics, electronic instrumentation to generate bites for the type of prosthetic work that I do. The problem I had before is that these procedures would get scheduled without my assistant working with me on the project scheduling through the lab technician. There are not a lot of lab techs in the world that can do the kind of work that I require done for my practice. Now, when we start one of these cases, it is the assistant’s responsibility to get on the phone with the lab tech and coordinate how much time is going to be involved in each step, so we are pinned down to certain days. The assistant also makes sure all the things go out UPS that night, overnight. If we are flying the lab tech in, the assistant coordinates plane tickets and things like that. So it has been a lot smoother as opposed to how it ran before.
I do have a general practice; I just have a strong interest in TMJ therapy and full mouth reconstructions and advanced ortho cases. On top of which I have a pretty tough lecture schedule. Before, I was trying to organize all those things myself. Of course, being the human being that I am, I would drop the ball or end up with no sleep and my home life would suffer. As I started delegating those things and giving them up and my assistants assumed responsibility for them, it made my life considerably less stressful. I also think it made them have a new appreciation for what I had been doing for a number of years prior to making these changes why things were the way they were. They are taking more pride in the finished, final product because they are really involved in every step of the process.
The stress level is down considerably in the office, mainly because we’ve met our targets. Everything is going according to the plan my consultant and I laid out. Before, it was more like, “If we do well this month, great; if we don’t, we’ll try to figure out why.” This way, we actually have a way to do that. We are doing weekly battle plans based on our weekly statistics.
After I signed up with Sterling, before I went out for the program, I had them send me a list of 20 doctors who had done the program, with the idea I would call one or two of them. I called all 20 of them. A couple of them I went to school with, some of them have heard me lecture, a lot of them are rural doctors like myself. (Actually, some of Sterling’s heaviest hitters are rural doctors.) They told me they had felt the same way. They were all very positive. If another doctor were to ask me about Sterling, I’d say, “Definitely go for it!” I think it is the only way to go.
Doing the Sterling program has allowed my wife and I to have enough free time to do things together that we really love to do. It sounds hokey, but we both like to garden. We’ve been able to take our boat out. The year before it sat in the boat shed. We have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and we’ve had that out a few times. The year before it sat in the garage. The whole Sterling program has improved the efficiency of what we were already doing. I definitely have considerably more free time now. Monetarily we were already there; it was just that we didn’t really have any time to enjoy our life. Now we do.
Greg Bixby, DDS