Why Your Patients Should Never Come First

Why Your Patients Should Never Come First


Speakers and Consultants have said for years in lectures and workshops that “Patients Come First.” I get it. As health care providers, we want our patients to feel like they are very well taken care of, that they are important, and that we truly care about them as people. We start to believe that people feeling this way about our practices is crucial to survival.

It’s an alarming thought but totally not true.

The essence of a great dental practice is knowing the order of your energy and attention. You can’t put it everywhere. You will feel exhausted when you do. You have to put it in one primary place. That one place has to give you the return you have always dreamed. And no one place gives you a greater return than when you put your energy into the people that work within your business.

The problem with the PATIENTS COME FIRST thinking you hear all the time is that you never truly reach your potential in business. You will always hit a ceiling with this thinking. It is only when your thinking changes that those ceilings disappear. And let’s face it, when you think that PATIENTS COME FIRST, it implies that everything else comes second.

The hardest job we have as dental consultants is to influence the dentists we coach into better thinking. The quality of a leader’s thoughts influence everything around them. If the thinking is off, so is every other motion of the business. You see schedules that are a mess, unhappy patients, financial pressures, turnover, and very unhappy dentists that ultimately go home as very unhappy spouses and parents.

When we can get a dentist’s thinking about his or her practice to improve, everything transforms in a very short period of time. Things get better fast. Dentists will call us and say, “This is crazy! I just had my largest month ever, and if you can believe it, I worked fewer hours.” There is no better recipe for better results than to start with better thinking.

When your thinking is poor, no recipe, system or script brings a better result. You are stuck. Your practice is stuck. And your team is stuck. Quite possibly forever. And with that, everyone’s confidence slowly deteriorates.

The truth of great results is great thinking. And great thinking starts with the idea that PATIENTS SHOULD ALWAYS COME SECOND. When you put your TEAM FIRST and then your PATIENTS SECOND, your team members can make your patients’ feel first in a way that you can never make them feel first. As a dentist you could try to put the behavioral, technical, financial, and emotional needs of a patient first, but you will die trying. When you put your TEAM MEMBERS FIRST and you truly care for them in an authentic way it sends a viral, radiant message to everyone that comes in contact with your practice. When you as a dentist can authentically say “I love these people like my family” it transforms everything you do and everything your patients experience.

This same thinking has a dramatic effect on your family. When a parent puts their spouse first and their kids second, everyone knows the order of focus and attention, and the expression of love is multiplied by the entire family unit in greater ways than you could ever imagine.

Your Greatest Marketing Asset

Dentists around the world are looking for a competitive edge to differentiate their private practices against the larger DSOs and increasing competition with patients’ discretionary spending. Their thinking naturally goes to marketing, maybe social media, facebook ads, improving technology, and maybe lessening their fees or participating with more insurances to get patients approval to grow their practices. Try all those as you may, you will never find a bigger return than investing in your single greatest marketing asset — YOUR TEAM.

When I speak to dental audiences around the world I will ask this question:

“How important is it to have a great team?” They usually look at me with that bewildered look. They move their head to one side and raise their eyebrows and say, “What do you mean?” And then I ask them. “Let’s put some data to it. Give me a number. On a scale from 1 to 10 how important is it to have a great team in a great dental practice? (10 being critical and 1 being not that important). Is it a 7, is it a 6, or is it a 9?” I had one person at our most recent ACTivate workshop say, “IT’S A 12!”

They couldn’t be more accurate.

Conversely, I’ve never heard any dentist say, “I have an amazing practice and I really don’t need a great team. I go in every morning and turn on the computers myself, I answer my own phones, I do my own intake sheets, I do my own hygiene, I pour my own models, I do all my own financial arrangements, and oh by the way, I do my own dentistry too.”

The quality of your practice is in direct proportion of the quality of your thinking around your people. When dentists say “I can’t find great people” you can already tell where their challenges exist.

Running a great dental practice requires you to step back and take a look at how you think about your people. As a restorative dentist or specialist you can only go farther when you let go and allow others to grow. We always say “you have to let go to grow.” Which requires that you first care and believe in your people. Give them the opportunity to step into roles and greater leadership within your practice so that they can take some of those responsibilities away from you and let you focus only on what you do best.

Your goal is to figure out the one most important thing to put your energy into within the walls of your practice. You could argue with me about what that could be, but I will shorten your learning curve if you can buy into this:

There’s no greater asset than the people you have working with you.

Disagreements arise all the time about how difficult is to find great team members. Frankly, great team members only work for great leaders. This is your opportunity. Be the kind of practice that great team members would want to work for. Differentiate your practice from everybody else by making it the greatest place to work. Make engagement a super high priority.

Dentist come up to me and say I get this. But how do I do this?

Here are the 4 ways to predictably create a great team and keep them over a lifetime:

  1. Get super clear about your core values. This is the single most important exercise you will ever doing business. It’s the DNA in which you see your business and how you serve people. Your core values never change. They are reflection of who you are and who you want to be in what you believe in. When you get super clear about your core values you will find that you will be able to communicate that clearly to everybody within your organization and it will attract people that have the same core values. It will make your ability to communicate with your team effortless and exciting. Don’t make this any more difficult than it needs to be. Your least favorite employees don’t have the same core values. It’s that simple. When you find the right people that have the same core values they will start to attract great patients that have similar core values. Keep in mind your favorite patients believe the same things that you do. Your least favorite patients don’t believe the same things that you do. Core values is the best place to start.
  2. Constantly remind yourself and the people around you that your team comes first. Easy to say hard to do. But when that comes from the fabric of your soul people will feel it. It will keep you focused throughout the course of all the many activities that you have today and tomorrow. It’ll be one of the driving principles that stabilizes your practice for a long time. Pete Dawson always used to say ask any dentist what happens when they find the right people. They can always produce twice as much and half the time with a quart of the stress. The benefits are beyond anything you could imagine when you find the right people.
  3. Breathe energy into the reason WHY your practice does what it does every single day. Research shows that 51% of workers in the United States are currently looking to leave their jobs mostly due to the fact they are disengaged and not appreciated. The best team members have a very strong reason for WHY they stay in the practice they work for. Talk about what you care about all the time. Find opportunities to celebrate wins daily. Recognize great people and amazing efforts on a regular basis. When you get your thinking right in this respect all you have to do now is get out of the way. The bottom line is your people have to like who THEY ARE as a result of working in your business. This all comes back to your WHY. You can see evidence of this when a great team member says to a patient, “Mrs. Jones I could work anywhere…..but I CHOOSE to work here, because my dentist is amazing.” You can tell by the look in her eyes she’s 100% authentic when using those words. Now there’s no selling involved. People are attracted to this kind of confidence and it ultimately transforms a work environment.
  4. Create a regular schedule in which you grow your entire practice. Don’t make growing your team a spontaneous effort. Make it a goal to take one great course per quarter that forces your entire team to get better together. Take the time to invest in group learning. Be in one place if possible away from your practice. You can never do great maintenance to an airplane in the air. You always have to land it to work on it. Same thing applies to your practice. Make a bold statement to work ON YOUR PRACTICE and not just WORKING IN IT. The healthiest and most productive teams we coach make a commitment e to learn together and have fun doing it. And travel to a great course when you can. Doing that makes a bold statement. It screams that you are “invested in them and committed to creating a better us.”

Having a great team starts with having great thinking. Debunk the belief in your mind that patients come first because they really don’t. Do the same thing at home. Put the people that make this environment successful first, and then watch the magic happen around it. It’ll be one of the most important strategic moves of your lifetime.

Dentistry is the greatest profession ever. Your challenge is to create the greatest business that attracts the greatest team members, which ultimately attracts the best patients ever.

Then all you have to do is get out of the way!

See you soon,

Kirk Behrendt | ACT Dental CEO | kirk@actdental.com

Sep 4, 2017 6 Comments
Two Important Transitions for a Rewarding Dental Career

Two Important Transitions for a Rewarding Dental Career


Congratulations! After many years of hard work, you graduated from dental school ready to treat patients and be the first line of defense in their overall physical health. For most in dentistry, this means heading out into the world to practice newly learned clinical skills as an associate in an established practice. A few recent graduates will try their hand at starting a new practice if the right opportunity presents itself. Regardless which direction you choose, the first 5-7 years of your career is a time for you to prove your mettle as a clinician and continue to hone your technical prowess.

But where do you go after that? What happens when you’ve improved your clinical efficiencies and prep times? Where do you turn when you begin to reimagine your role beyond the practicing dentist?

I don’t have all the answers for you and each doctor’s experience will be different, but I do know there are two critical transitions every dentist must make in order to progress in their career and build a fulfilling life.

The first transition for a dentist to make is that from clinician to owner. This is a big step but it’s probably the easier of the two transitions, because many before you wore this path well. It is the transition from just doing the work to also managing the work. Becoming an owner of a practice might look like buying out the practice where you are currently an associate, starting your own practice from scratch, or becoming partners in a practice with your old pal from dental school. No matter which path you choose, this is a huge decision and one that creates a lot of tangential responsibilities – Now you are the one making hiring (and firing) decisions, paying the bills and loans, getting supplies ordered, marketing your new practice, and oh yeah, still practicing your craft every day.

Here are the four primary challenges we hear from our clients about becoming a manager in their practice:

  1. When the business side of the practice is a priority, the clinical treatments start to fail
  2. When the clinical side of the practice is a priority, the business goes on auto-pilot or runs on low-octane fuel
  3. Between finances, staffing, scheduling, and production there are just too many different things to juggle
  4. The cycle never stops and it’s difficult to find the time to formulate a strategy or goals to get ahead

If you made it this far and are feeling defeated, don’t worry, it’s time to start talking about how to make this situation better. I’ve had some great managers over the years, and some not so great managers. The ones who were really good at their job did three things exceptionally well – created systems for organization, efficiently delegated tasks to the right people at the right time, and communicated ideas clearly. These may sound obvious or trivial, but it’s amazing how many individuals in managerial positions aren’t proficient at even one of those things.

Here at ACT Dental, we are extremely focused on helping our clients create systems that make their lives easier. For example, from the time you first speak to a new patient on the phone until when they are sitting in your operatory, the process should be pretty seamless. If you or someone on your team has to step in and intervene in that process on a regular basis, that’s going to create anxiety and take time away from a more important task. Automate as much as possible, make sure the rest is documented in detail, and then communicate expectations about who is responsible for each step of the process to your team members.

Once you have successfully transitioned to being an effective manager, it’s time to start working on the second transition – becoming a leader. Being a good leader requires a lot of hard work, constant reevaluation of yourself, and an openness to external guidance. While being a good leader is innate for some, I believe if you truly want to develop into an effective leader you can learn the skills and strategies required. I want to hammer this point home, being a good manager does not make you a good leader. In fact, I’ve worked for several managers who will never be good leaders because they either weren’t interested or didn’t want to put in the effort to change what needed changing. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with just being a manger. Every organization and certainly every dental practice needs a person who can skillfully manage others and ensure everything runs smoothly. But if you want more from your dental career than that, keep reading.

A good portion of our clients bring us into their practice between the first and second transition. Many of them realize that running a practice shouldn’t be so difficult, but they aren’t sure what’s missing. We spend a significant amount of time teaching foundational leadership principles that are essential to organizational health. To be honest, I’ve met a lot of doctors who are excellent on the clinical side and have figured out ways to cope with their managerial responsibilities in their practice, but continuously micromanage their staff and are on the verge of burnout by their late forties.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is another alternative.

I think we can all agree that micromanagement does not create a healthy work environment. Sure, that’s a good start, but what are other traits of a good leader? Based on the habits of the most successful leaders I know, you should continuously strive to do these five things:

  1. Listen. Big ears, small mouth. It may sound elementary, but when was the last time you actively listened to a team member’s complete thought before formulating your own?
  2. Learn to build an organization around you with the right kinds of people and then invest in their success. The right people are usually not the ones that agree with every one of your ideas.
  3. Grant autonomy, guide with vision, give clear direction.
  4. Choose to accept guidance & support.
  5. Continuously work to improve your leadership skills and style, it’s a lifetime process.

As I mentioned previously, the transition to being a successful leader is not for the faint of heart. But trust me, the juice is worth the squeeze. Becoming a leader means you will attract the kind of talent that will make you want to jump out of bed and go to work every day. It means you will put the right people in place to counteract your weaknesses and decrease opportunities for failure. It means you can stop worrying about the minutia and focus on growing your practice and your clinical skills at the same time. But most of all, it means you will be well on your way to building a better practice and a better life.

Here’s to your next big transition,

Jay Breeden | ACT Dental COO | jay@actdental.com

Aug 28, 2017 No Comments
The Single Fastest Way To Grow Your Dental Practice

The Single Fastest Way To Grow Your Dental Practice


The Single Fastest Way To Grow Your Dental Practice Year Over Year…And It Is Not What You Think.

In a world of so much noise and information overload you are probably looking for an edge to grow your practice every year. Owning a dental practice requires you to be on the lookout for new ways to grow. DSOs seem to be popping up everywhere, the costs of doing business are rising, dental insurance carriers are constantly changing the rules for your patients, mid-level providers are now apparently making dentistry look like a commodity. All of this can make you crazy and send you into a downward spiral thinking, “Where do I start?”

You have probably tried just about everything to grow your practice. You hired a marketing company, you sent out postcards, you signed up for a few less desirable insurances, you brought in new technology, you hired a new amazing front desk person, you even splurged for a bigger sign in front of your practice; all to be a catalyst for some growth.

Ultimately, these efforts probably made some kind of an impact on the growth of your practice, but maybe not what you expected. Many of these efforts have fallen well short of what you had hoped.

There is one magic bullet that every great dentist comes to understand at some point in their career. And the day they learn it everything changes for them. With this knowledge they start to fix ALL of the problems they have. They see their practice grow more than they ever dreamed. No matter how flashy the next trend is they always come back to this, the biggest kept secret to growing any business.

THE SECRET: The Growth of Your Practice is Directly Related to Your Leadership Capabilities

There I said it. I know you’re completely disappointed because you were hoping I was going to give you an algorithm or recipe for success that you hadn’t heard before. Or you were hoping I would give you another great script to use to increase conversion with prospective callers when they call your office in hopes that you would get more new patients. Well sorry to disappoint you, but stay with me. Because if you get this, it will change everything for you forever.

Your practice is limited by ONE thing. It’s YOU and only YOU.

In more than 20 years of working with some of the top restorative dentists and specialists all over the world one thing is apparently clear. The dentists with the best practices, best team members, and the healthiest profit margins are always the BEST LEADERS.

It’s no different in any other business. Especially here in our amazing company. When we have problems (yes we do have them too) I always like to think it’s because of someone or something else that might be influencing us, and then I’m constantly reminded the source of all of our problems are because one consistent glaring thing — ME.

The hardest part of this journey is starting with this truth. Taking the time to learn more about how you positively or negatively influence the health and trajectory of your own life is the most crucial step.

As a dentist, you see this all the time. Patients come into your office and they have a lot of problems. The problem isn’t necessarily the problem itself. It’s usually that they don’t own the problem or understand how the problem happened in the first place. And you have learned over time that the first step is gaining clarity around how this problem happened in the first place and who owns it.

The same thing applies to running your dental practice. Your ability to improve your skills as a leader, greatly impacts a healthier bottom line, a healthier team along with better patients.

Leadership capabilities have consistently shown to have a profound effect on the performance of any business and most investors know this.

A recent study commissioned by a division of a Fortune 500 commercial bank wanted to measure the effectiveness of leadership on the bottom line. They studied 50,000 managers and analyzed 500,000 feedback instruments (commonly called 360-degree feedback reports) to gain the opinions of those people that the managers led. What they found was incredible! The top 10% of extraordinary leaders (measured with these instruments) more than doubled company profits in comparison to the other 90%. They also found that poor leaders actually lost money.

The Conclusion:

Poor Leader = Negative Profits
Good Leader = Little Profits
Extraordinary Leader = Extraordinary Profits

Every one of our ACT Dental practice coaches will tell you that the NUMBER ONE determining factor in how healthy a practice is FINANCIALLY and EMOTIONALLY is the owner’s leadership capabilities. And we start with leadership with every practice we coach. The question always becomes, “Well, how do I become a better leader?”

Here are 5 ways you can continuously improve your capabilities as leader:

1. Encourage the people around you. Great leaders invest time in growing the people around them. Take your team members to great courses. Make a habit to do it all the time. Expose them to new and engaging learning experiences. It’s one of the best investments you will ever make in your business. Dentists often refer to team compensation expenses as COSTS. That is one way to look at it. I like to look at it another way. Try to use the word INVESTMENT because it implies a return. The money you invest in people not only in their pay (and their growth) will bring you returns you never dreamed of. Recently, I met a dentist at our course called ACTivate. He flew all the way from the east coast and didn’t bring his team. I asked him where his team was and he said, “I would never bring them to one of these. I would have to pay for their airfare, their hotels and all the meals to get them out here. That would be a fortune. What if I spend all this money and they LEAVE?” Well, I have a better question for you. What if you don’t invest the money in taking them to great courses to expand their knowledge and they STAY?

2. Make it a lifelong goal to become more self-aware. Stephen Covey said that the magic of great leaders exists between stimulus and response. Emotionally intelligent leaders have the ability to pause between a stimulus and response and behave appropriately. Take a few seconds to improve your response from any stimulus and see how it can make a better impact on those around you. Wondering if your self awareness score is low or high? Try this. Ask 3 people that know you really well (and preferably work with you every day) this question: “How self aware am I about how I contribute to my own problems?” Hopefully you can get an honest answer. Be ready to listen to what they have to say and use it positively.

3. Get a coach or a mentor. Great coaches and mentors can see things that you will never be able to see. Give your coach the permission to be brutally honest with you. Invite their feedback and ask them to hold you accountable. Every great athlete has a coach. If you want to be great, you should have one too.

4. Tell yourself you never have it all figured out. Embrace a lifelong journey of learning and curiosity. I met Dr. Pete Dawson at the age of 24. A mentor of mine made me take his class. I didn’t want to be there. I remember flying out to Boston and sitting in his course thinking to myself, “What is this guy going to teach me. I am 24. I have it all figured out.” Little did I know that day was going to change my life forever. He amazed me the entire time and transformed my life. At the end of the course I told him how much I enjoyed it, and I asked him this one question, “What’s the ONE THING you know for sure at this point in your career?” I’ll never forget his answer. He said, “The ONE THING I know for sure is that you can NEVER tell yourself you have it all figured out. First of all, when you come to that conclusion, you are constantly engaged when you’re learning. It keeps you young. Secondly, you will find that dentists who have it all figured out are not that much fun to be around.

5. Create a leadership team. I got this one from Patrick Lencioni and it’s one of the best things that has EVER happened in my business. A leadership team will do things you could never do! Create a small trusted circle of people that you can communicate with every day about the direction of your practice. Make it a rule to communicate without any filters. Let them be brutally honest with you and you with them. Work everyday to create more TRUST and embrace great CONFLICT. You’ll be amazed at what happens. Making an investment in a leadership team will not only make you a better leader, but it will greatly improve your overall emotional health (which is crazy important as a dentist). Your leadership team will have your back at all times and bring better people to your team in a way that you never could.

The secret to growing your practice is how well you grow YOU. Embrace a lifelong journey to grow your ability to see how you influence your own problems. Grow your ability to understand your practice. Grow your ability to communicate with people. Grow your ability to find and nurture great people. Grow your ability to think better every year.

When YOU get better, your PRACTICE gets better … and ultimately your LIFE gets better too. That is why I created ACT Dental Practice Coaching more than 20 years ago as a resource to predictability facilitate this process and make dentists dreams come alive. This is the greatest profession ever. If you need help in making YOU better and ultimately your practice better, we are here for you every step of the way.

Better Practice = Better Life

Hope to see you soon,


Aug 21, 2017 12 Comments

The Confidence Quiz


Crate & Barrel is a great example of confidence at work. It doesn’t matter what you’re buying. By the time you reach checkout, you will have chosen the best set of napkin rings ever created… At least according to the sales person. They’ll often say, “I have those same ones at home. They are so simple, yet elegant!”
You, in turn, will feel those napkin rings are the wisest purchase you’ve ever made.

Trader Joe’s employees are the same way at checkout.
“I love those frozen chicken strips! What are you going to do with them!? I put sauce and mozzarella on them, and bam! The world’s greatest Chicken Parmesan ever!”

These people absolutely ooze confidence in the products they are selling. They make it a point to validate your choice, illustrating a very important reality: Nothing is as contagious as confidence, except maybe, lack of confidence!

What kind of messages are you sending? When people look at you, how much confidence do they see?

Take our little confidence quiz. Make sure you are convincing others of your amazing dental expertise!  http://actdental.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Confidence_Quiz.pdf

Jun 28, 2016 2 Comments

Why your team members don’t “get you,” like you think they do.


I know that Johnny (our video guy and my close buddy) has a favorite food: Pizza.
That is, until he told me it’s actually cheeseburgers.

(I swear he once told me it’s pizza…)

You see it turns out we understand (or perhaps misunderstand) questions and comments by our close friends and team members at the same rate as total strangers. Yup, it’s true! Kenneth Savitsky of Williams College in Massachusetts actually did a study about it. He even coined a term for it: “The Closeness-Communication Bias.”

In Johnny’s case, I assumed I “get him” …same as he “gets” me. In this video we’ll illustrate just how wrong I was about that. While the video is light-hearted, the topic is important and a good lesson about your interactions with your team. Making assumptions about close acquaintances…just because you know them…may actually be degrading your communication. So ask follow up questions, listen intently and remember there is a communication bias at play.

(Oh, and if you ever take Johnny to lunch…make it a burger joint!)

Oct 5, 2015 4 Comments