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Ask Amy: Asking for a raise

Issue 2

February 2010 | dentalproductsreport.com WEB EXCLUSIVE  Ask Amy  Amy Morgan, CEO of the Pride Institute, takes your practice management questions. 

February 2010 | dentalproductsreport.com

Ask Amy

 Amy Morgan, CEO of the Pride Institute, takes your practice management questions. 

Amy Morgan is CEO of the Pride Institute. With Pride since 1993, she is a sought-after educator who still consults one-on-one with practices.

Sometimes a dentist or team member needs a very specific answer to a very specific practice management question-fast! It's not fair to have to read through back issues or full articles to try to find that one piece of information needed to address a challenge or opportunity that's impacting the practice now. That's why we are introducing this ongoing column to address your needs.

Go ahead-ask Amy! (She'll answer anything, other than how to get stains out of your reception carpet.  FEBRUARY
Q: The dentist I work for hasn't given me a raise in two years. I feel like I'm doing a great job for him. How do I handle this? 

This is a great question, because compensation is such an important, foundational topic in creating a culture of self-direction, inspiration and growth. Before I go into the elements of what an ideal compensation model can and should look like, my first piece of advice has to be on how you bring up this very sensitive subject to your dentist.

Any professional should be able to see their contribution to the practice result in potential merit increases. You are well within your rights to wonder why there has been no communication on further increases. Communication is always the difficult obstacle that stands in the way of win-win compensation and recognition models that are viable for the practice and the individual employee. Truthfully, it's easier not to talk about it, which is why two years can fly by with no resolution. To approach the topic:

First, ask for some quiet time (never confront the doctor with others around or during work hours) to discuss how you can support the practice and improve your own prospects at the same time.

Second, prepare your opening statement in advance so that it is non-judgemental, avoids blame and is pro-active. Here's an example:

"When there is no feedback on performance or communication regarding potential compensation increases, I get frustrated because I feel out of control and unsure as to how I can support the practice's goals and enhance my own personal viability. How can I help you to make the practice grow, while creating an opportunity for a potential salary increase?"

Third, stay curious and positive at all times. Be willing to be flexible in supporting the doctor through his or her obstacles and remain open to new ideas.

The big ask
An ideal compensation model should be simple. The mechanics of the model must be black and white and each individual team member must feel in control of his or her future. The primary elements are:

  • Compensation must be competitive with what the market is paying.

  • Compensation increases must come from increased profitability; otherwise it comes from the owner's pocketbook.

  • Potential increases are earned when a team member demonstrates new skills and results.

Look for more articles on this very important topic and, if you are interested in further reading, I invite you to read our book, Take Pride in What You Pay, a four module series on all aspects of staff compensation. SEE LAST MONTH'S QUESTION AND ANSWER
Q: What How do I get patients to accept additional oral cancer screening when insurance doesn't cover it? 

Whether you are asking a patient to accept additional oral cancer screening, three-month intervals for perio maintenance visits, or any other additional treatment offerings, the same answer applies: There is no silver bullet. One thing is for sure, though-if you wait until the patient is saying no, it will be difficult to get them to ever say yes. The solution is to be pro-active and educate the patient. Then, ask yourself: Do you have the diagnostic collaboration tools in your toolkit to handle objections?

Heard and understood 
Let's start by talking about influencing the insurance mindset from the start. That process begins on the very first phone call when a patient calls in and asks, "Does my insurance cover...?" Your front office response should be something along the lines of, "Sounds like you are interested in maximizing your insurance benefits. Our patients appreciate how closely we work with them to utilize their benefits, while not compromising their clinical care. The good news is, your first visit is fully covered. If there is future needed treatment not covered by insurance, we will work within your financial parameters to make your commitment as stress-free as possible."

This gives prospective patients an idea that: 1. They have been heard; 2. That you will help to maximize their insurance benefits; 3. That there is a connection with clinical care and rising above insurance...; 4. ...and, if that has to occur, there are solutions.  

Once in the office, all purposeful conversations from the pre-clinical interview to the clinical evaluation and treatment conference need to be focused on:

  • Co-discovering the patient's motivators and concerns.

  • Educating at the patient's level. Don't sugar coat-you say the words "oral cancer" and you clarify the real consequences.

  • Co-diagnosing the patient's clinical needs.

  • Partnering with the patient to come up with the idea, win-win treatment options (that they agree to before they formally agree).

And then, finally, if after all that the patient asks, "Why should I do this additional screening if my insurance doesn't cover it?" you and your team need to be armed with the right tools so you can say: "Mrs. Jones, there is no question that your benefits help reduce your personal investment in your oral and overall health in many ways. I know you are interested in being in the best health for the long term, right? In that case, we could never ignore screening for cancer due to an insurance obstacle! If there was a way we could make your financial commitment as stress-free as possible, would you be willing to look at solutions? That way, we do not have to compromise your standard of care."

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR AMY? E-mail your questions and ideas to tcarter@advanstar.com. 


  • Should you open that door?

  • Hit the mark 
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