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