5 Tips for Building a Winning Practice Team


A dental practice is only as good as the team that operates it, and putting together that team might be one of the most challenging parts of the business of dentistry. Miriam T. Furlong, D.M.D., is the chief clinician of Jackson Orthodontics in Jackson, New Jersey. Here are her five keys to putting together the team that makes her practice great.

Here are five quick tips to build the a strong team for your dental practices.

Being an employer is the most difficult aspect of owning a dental practice, and assembling the right team to keep your practice running is also no easy task. However, following these guidelines can help you find and keep your dream team, setting your practice up for continued success.

1. Know where to search, and be selective.

For certain lower-level administrative positions, such as front-office help, and for entry-level clinical duties, such as instrument sterilization and patient setup, hiring experienced candidates might not be the best course of action. Consider contacting local vocational schools, checking work-study programs for high school seniors, and posting free help-wanted ads on social media and CraigsList. Then, as you develop these less experienced employees, you can encourage them to grow, taking on more senior roles within the practice.

If you place paid help-wanted ads or look to hire more experienced employees, you may only find potential employees who expect higher starting salaries and are less adaptable. When you hire individuals at the beginning of their careers, you can more easily mold their attitudes, habits, and work methods to meet your expectations.

When you begin the hiring process, scrutinize applicants’ resumes and conduct phone interviews. Check their references and look over their social media profiles.

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If you're still interested after your initial assessments, invite applicants in for interviews to evaluate their communication skills, appearance and demeanor. You may want to administer some type of personality or a skills test. I find the Personality Evaluation Test by Dean C. Bellavia, Ph.D., M.S., to be a usefull assessment.

Next, invite strong candidates to a working interview with your team. If they pass muster, hire them for a specific trial period during which you or the employee may terminate employment without penalty.

2. Be clear and honest about what you expect and what they can expect. Then stick to it.

Have written job descriptions with pay ranges, hours, expectations and responsibilities for each position.

Select the right person for the job, rather than the right job for the person. Avoid creating a position for someone, or tailoring the work to suit an employee’s needs. Don’t hire someone you can’t fire, such as a friend or family member, and do not hold onto problem employees no matter how short-handed getting rid of them will leave you.

Have a fair and systematic protocol for warning and firing employees. Document everything in an employee’s file with dates and signatures, and have a witness present (your office manager, for example, in addition to you and the employee). Do not make empty threats. Stick to your word.

3. Maintain peak performance.

Hold productive team meetings with a specific agenda on a regular basis: morning and evening huddles (10 minutes each) and monthly meetings (half-day).

Put good systems in place for every aspect of the practice: Write them down, review them frequently, and modify them as the practice changes.

Conduct training sessions and plan continuing education on a regular basis.

4. Maintain a file on each employee.

Keep an updated employee handbook that contains your policies about conduct, dress code, attendance, and social media, and review this handbook with your employees annually. Have them sign it after reviewing it.

Follow state labor laws. When in doubt, consult an attorney to make sure that your policies are legal.

5. Give meaningful feedback.

Praise publicly and critique privately. When possible, sandwich negative feedback between positive feedback.

Hold private meetings one to two times annually, or as needed, with each team member.

Show your team members you appreciate them. Institute a bonus system, and every now and then, give small, unexpected gifts. Your employees will likely exceed your expectations!

Miriam T. Furlong, D.M.D., is the chief clinician and administrator at Jackson Orthodontics in Jackson, New Jersey. She can be reached at mfurlong@jacksonorthodontics.com or at (732) 942 8400. You can find more information about her and her practice at www.jacksonorthodontics.com.

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