Ask Amy: Letting go of 2010

March 21, 2012

The wonderful thing about the beginning of a new year is it allows us to close the door on the past and set new goals and strategies for a positive future. Let’s face it, 2010 was a tough one for most. The good news is patients continued to say “yes” and receive the dental treatment they desire and deserve, and a good number of dental offices still experienced many successes (though we had to work a little harder to achieve them).

The wonderful thing about the beginning of a new year is it allows us to close the door on the past and set new goals and strategies for a positive future.

Let’s face it, 2010 was a tough one for most. The good news is patients continued to say “yes” and receive the dental treatment they desire and deserve, and a good number of dental offices still experienced many successes (though we had to work a little harder to achieve them).

So how about we all take a deep breath and say, “So long, to a tough 2010,” and “Hello, to a promising 2011!”

To get the ball rolling, here is some advice on how to capitalize on the promise of a better year.

1. Those who don’t study and learn from history tend to repeat it. It is essential to analyze where a practice has been to set the stage for progress. If you and your team experienced new levels of success, it is vital to capture the recipe so you can bake the same success cake again. It is way too easy to generalize what’s good- “I don’t know why we had an increase in productivity, I guess we just had the right number of patients…”

We never have trouble getting team members to get very specific on the challenges, but specifics on what went right can be much more difficult. To the degree that the team analyzes and acknowledges the systems, staff and processes that contributed to success, is the degree that one can be sure it can be done again.

At the same time, if there were challenges, confront them! If hygiene cancellations were up and more patients were delaying treatment, then the team needs to brainstorm what issues  were behind the problems and solve them. Everyone has heard the quote, “Insanity is repeating the same behavior, but expecting different results.” It is unfair to set a team up for failure, before the game ever begins.

2. Smart teams set “SMART” goals for new levels of success. The acronym “SMART” stands for setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and trackable. Have you completed an ideal (abundant) budget for cash flow management? Did you then create production, collection, marketing and treatment presentation goals that will support your budget as well as goals for balance and efficiency? Was the team involved in the goal-setting and did they set specific strategies for goal achievement? If the answer is no to any of these questions then you are sending an Olympic team out to compete in their sport with no method of scoring the results! Goals give everyone the opportunity to get focused and passionate about winning.

3. Reach out and touch your patients. Many of your patients have had a rough year, too. The beginning of the year is a great time to send a “State of the nation” letter/e-mail to your base to acknowledge their concerns and point them toward a positive future. Let your patients know the practice is proud of its efforts to maintain oral health in the most challenging times, there are exciting upgrades planned for the future, and their service and experience is always top priority. Focus patients on the positive and you will benefit from the enhanced relationship through stronger commitment, additional referrals and much more.

4. Catch your staff in the process of doing something right (or almost right) and recognize, acknowledge and reward their skills and behaviors. Whether through formal salary reviews or informal recognition plans, your team members deserve to be acknowledged and rewarded for their individual contributions. If you treat everyone as median employees, you will get median efforts. If there are superstars on your team (whether you had a tough year or not), they must be acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts and results.

To dig out of inertia-or even worse, a hole-it requires a happy, motivated team with the right tools to move forward. It doesn’t have to cost a lot-a simple, “here’s what you did that was very, very right,” along with a sincere thank you can go a long way in inspiring a team member! 

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