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Getting to know Dr. Bill Dickerson, creator of the Las Vegas Institute

Issue 4

Heather Hennen, DAII, a member of the Modern Dental Assistant Editorial Advisory Board, recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Dr. Bill Dickerson, the creator of the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI Global).

Heather Hennen, DAII, a member of the Modern Dental Assistant Editorial Advisory Board, recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Dr. Bill Dickerson, the creator of the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI Global).

More than 9,000 dentists from all over the world have attended LVI, and more than 10,000 of their patients have been treated there, as well as the thousands of others who have enhanced their practices by attending Dr. Dickerson’s lectures.

During her time working with LVI, Heather had the chance to sit down and talk to Dr. Dickerson about everything from the importance of team learning to why mentors make such a difference.

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How long have you been in dentistry? When did you realize this would be more than just a “job”?
I graduated dental school in 1976. After 10 years, I was ready to quit. But a transformation took place that changed it from a “job” to a hobby. Because of the enthusiasm I discovered for dentistry, I was asked to lecture to others, and some 25 years later, I’m more excited about the profession than ever before. The learning never stops because the evolution of what we can do for our patients never stops.

What are the top things you look for when finding and keeping a team member and why?
The most important feature I look for are people skills. I want an enthusiastic, positive, upbeat person. I can teach them the dental skills, but it’s hard to change someone’s personality. The reason people agree to treatment they need is because the team is enthusiastic about what they are doing. And negativity is a virus that will affect the rest of the team.

How would you encourage a team member to help turn their co-”staff” (a.k.a staph infection) into a cohesive team?
Education is the key. The reason most dentists and dental team members are not excited about what they do is because they can’t diagnose what they can’t see. Education opens a door to a world of dentistry that the majority of dentists and team members are completely unaware of. And most importantly, that they have a comprehensive, physiologic-based practice that can eliminate a lifetime of pain of their patients as well as giving them that million dollar smile!

Related reading: The relationship between the dental practice and the dental laboratory: Q&A with Lee Culp, CDT

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Many team members voice the feeling of not be appreciated by their dentists. As a dentist and a boss, how would you advise this team member to deal with this? Also, what changes could the team member possibly make to stand out?
If they can’t get their boss to take a course at a place like LVI that teaches the importance of the team and appreciating them, then it may be time to find a new place to work. Everyone needs to be appreciated and feel that their contribution is valuable. The question is, is that team member really doing the things that MAKE them valuable? It’s one thing to think that appreciation is deserved but another to actually deserve that appreciation. Assuming the team member is treating the practice like it’s his or hers, i.e. he or she comes to work every day enthusiastic about the job and has the personality patients love to be around, which will make them stand out, then any doctor that doesn’t appreciate that is an idiot and doesn’t deserve to have that team member. There are plenty of doctors that would LOVE to have a team member like that in their office.

Who are your top three mentors and why did they help mold you into what you are today?
First and foremost, Omer Reed. He made me realize that making a living in health care was not something to be ashamed of. Long-term success is because you are doing the right thing for your patients, and win/win dentistry is the best way to practice. Cal Evans, who was like my local guidance counselor, was the one who referred me to Omer and helped me through my frustrating time. And my lecturing mentor was Ron Jackson, who, although we started together, gave me the example of what I should do.

More on practice management: Important lessons about dental staff compensation

You balance being a father, husband, dentist, business owner, international speaker, mentor, developer of many processes that we use in the industry today and I'm sure much more. How would you encourage all of the team members out there to keep a good balance at work and at home?
I talk about this in our Core 1 class. Setting an example of work ethic, passion for what you do and commitment to excellence is just as important as spending time with them. Although I traveled a lot, I took a lot of red eyes when they were young so I could put them to bed and then fly to lecture the next morning. Maybe not the best thing for my health, but it allowed me to show them that I loved them enough to sacrifice like that. I would also take them to meetings that were in fun locations. For example, one of their favorite things to do every year was to go to the IAPA meeting. It was always held in a great location, and they loved being around the people. But they saw how all these people loved what they did and were happy, and I believe it’s instilled in them the desire to find that same passion in their lives.

There is much controversy in dentistry from occlusal philosophies to treating sleep, and the list goes on. Being in the forefront of many advanced concepts can place you in the eye of that conflict at times. How would you advise someone to deal with conflict in the office or otherwise?
First and foremost, no one should be a critic based on ignorance. It’s generally not the team member that is resistant but the arrogance of the doctor that refuses to listen and learn. No one knows everything, but the egos of some prevent them from admitting that there might be a better way. If the team member can’t encourage his or her doctor to have an open mind and find out for themselves, then, again, it may be time to find a new office to work for.

Related reading: 5 important focus areas for dental practices in 2015

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Can it be difficult for a team member alone to find and decipher information to educate themselves if they do not have access within their practice?
The good news is that the Internet can be a valuable source for that education. The problem is that anything can be put on the Internet, wrong or right.

What is your favorite life quote and why?
My favorite quote is by Teddy Roosevelt: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take ranks with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
What a beautiful and profound lesson about life. Sadly, most people are so afraid of failing that they never step out of their comfort zone to try something new, something risky that could provide them with the “glorious triumphs” that make life worth living. I hear excuses all the time on why people don’t take that step that could change their life.

Related reading: 7 steps to improving leadership in the dental practice

What is the No. 1 book you would recommend to a team member or anyone and why?
Wow, that’s a really hard question. The easy answer would be my books! Ha. Seriously, if they would read my first two books, “The Exceptional Dental Practice” and “In Search of the Ultimate Practice” (which is the sequel to the first), it would lay down the foundation of how to achieve the ideal practice. My book “Unleashing the Power of Dentistry” is more clinical and technical but about how to develop a physiologic-based practice.
However, the book that they can get off the shelf that every practice should read is “Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service.” We are in a service business, not a product business, yet most dentists treat it as if it were a product business. The perception of how good the practice is, however, is based on the service they get from the practice. The sooner the practice realizes that, the sooner they will start having stratified, happy patients who are excited about referring their friends to you office.

If you could do anything outside of dentistry, what would it be?
After seeing the deficiencies of our legal system and how it can be manipulated by unethical people, it might now be a lawyer. But a talk show host would be the most fun. I love finding out the stories about people and how they achieved what they have achieved. But, truthfully, there is nothing I would rather be doing than what I am doing now-changing the lives of thousands of dentists, which allows them to change the lives of thousands of their patients. It’s a very rewarding job that I look forward to every day and spend pretty much 24/7 involved in.

More on dental staff: 3 ways to help keep your dental staff happy

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