Sometimes less is more. That's what Steven Feit, D.M.D., P.A. discovered when he vanquished rude and disrespectful patients from his practice. He went from experiencing desperation to forging more meaningful patient relationships, and it even slipped over to his home life.
Feit believes that when doing the right thing and having integrity, character and ethics, profit will follow.
Steven Feit, D.M.D., P.A., D.M.D., P.A., a Florida-based prosthodontist, trains with two friends who are Navy Seals, restores old cars, and was once invited by the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins to play professional baseball. He might just be the most interesting person in the world who’s not in a Dos Equis commercial.
Then again, maybe he should be in one.
Feit says he’s been restoring old cars most of his life. The difference is that as an adolescent, “restoration” meant changing the radio and trying to put all the screw back where they belonged.
But all that changed when a “phenomenal master mechanic” took Feit under his wing and took him well beyond his days of changing radios.
Feit completed his post-graduate education at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and eventually moved to Florida to set up his own practice. It was there, while playing softball with a bunch of his buddies that he was introduced to a master mechanic who, at the time, worked for General Motors.
“He asked me, ‘Do you want to restore some cars together?’” Feit recalls. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I only know how to change a radio.’ And he said, ‘I’ll teach you.’”
One thing led to another, and before Feit knew it they were restoring a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, a 1959 Impala, and several late 1960s model Corvettes. On some it was just cosmetic work, while others required rebuilding motors.
“It was fascinating,” Feit says. “He had every tool you can imagine. It was like $70,000 worth of tools. He did with tools what some people do with golf clubs. When you’re in the midst of greatness, you kind of sense it.”
This man of greatness once spent three hours putting a steering coupler on a 1969 Corvette so that it would be dead perfect parallel with the spokes of the wheel. Feit recalls telling him that if it were his car, he would just put the steering wheel on and forget it. It didn’t make much difference.
“He said to me, ‘If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” Feit says. “That was just one lesson I learned that transcends actual car restoration.”
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Feit received his Bachelor of Science degree from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. While there he was in Army ROTC. One day, while waiting to begin a hand-to-hand combat module, Feit was chatting with a short, thin individual in the back of the group. When it came time to introduce the instructor, it turned out to be the individual Feit was chatting with.
“He said, ‘I need a volunteer,’” Feit says. “He doesn’t look at anyone but me, and then he calls me up.”
Feit had previously engaged in some kickboxing and Taekwondo, but nothing serious. The instructor told Feit to try and punch him, and to put him in a hold.
“He put me down in two seconds every time,” Feit recalls. “He was in residence there, and I begged him to train me. And I was starting to get it, but he said that good is not good enough.”
Feit says he feels very fortunate to have found himself in the midst of people like the master mechanic and martial arts expert who strive to achieve at such a high level. That mindset has rubbed off on his dentistry career.
LEARNING THE ABCs
Feit started his Boca Raton, Fla., practice from scratch in 1991. He describes it today as a frontdesk-less, CareNurse system that is fee-for-service only, and by invitation only. But when he first opened his doors there was nobody there for weeks until he ramped up and began receiving referrals.
It was at that time he made a conscious decision that money was never going to be the focus. That by doing the right thing, by having integrity, character and ethics, profit would follow.
That philosophy brought in lots of patients, the practice became extremely busy, but Feit wasn’t happy. He was working crazy hours, and labels many of the patients he had then as “angry, disrespectful patients.” He reached a point where he thought about purchasing franchises and quitting dentistry. Then he read a book by Paddi Lund called “Building the Happiness-Centered Business,” and immediately thereafter ordered all of his manuals and emulated everything Lund proscribed.
“We started to rank our patients, A, B, C and D,” Feit explains. “It was about how good is this patient to our core values of the business. If they were mean and nasty, they were a C or a D patient. Eighty percent of your problems come from 20 percent of your customers.”
It was hard, Feit says, but he ended up cutting ties with about 70 percent of his patients. He describes it as breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, because no matter how polite you are, rejection is rejection. But within 90 days, the practice was back to 100 percent capacity, but with only A and B patients.
“When you have these negative people that are difficult and require a great deal of time, it becomes a paradox,” Feit says. “You’re giving the wrong people all of your effort, energy and time.”
NEW OPERATING MODEL
Today, Feit says he operates his practice by inviting people in from the outside, much as you would when inviting a guest into your house. There are no assistants and no front desk person.
“We have care nurses,” he says. “Words are powerful; words become your thoughts; your thoughts become your behavior; your behavior becomes your habits. Create good thoughts to create good behavior to create good habits. So, we cross-trained everybody.”
Feit has been running his practice this way for the last 18 years. The end result, he says, has been the formation of more meaningful relationships.
“And if you told me I had to go back to a traditional organizational style, I would graciously leave and never come back.”
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