Reaping the Dividends with a Winning Dental Practice Team

“We help our practices and the doctors understand how to build a self-led team,” says Wes janowski, CEO and founder of CEODentist. “One that is built on personal accountability, and personal responsibility.”

“We say that the team is everything,” says Wes Jankowski.

No, he’s not the head coach of an elite college football program. But Jankowski knows just as much, if not more, about the importance of teamwork as any coach in the country — especially when it comes to creating a winning dental practice team.

Jankowski, CEO and founder of CEODentist, a global leadership-training institute for dental professionals, says that doctors don’t start a private practice because they want to build a good team. They do so because they want to take care of people.

“But in their environment, if they don’t have the right team around them, they’re always distracted from their mission,” Jankowski says. “We help our practices and the doctors understand how to build a self-led team; one that is built on personal accountability, and personal responsibility.”

Culture and Communication

Jankowski says that the hiring process at a dental practice, just like the idea of team, is very important. Team leaders, those at the practice responsible for running various departments, are part of the hiring process — or at least the interviewing portion. And other team leaders support them because it’s part of the culture.

“It’s not about whether they would do a great job on the front and front desk, or that they would be great chair side,” Jankowski points out. “It’s how do they fit in with the rest of the organization.”

Jankowski encourages doctors, when building a practice team, to look for people who want to be something bigger than just receiving a paycheck. It’s not just about manning the front desk. There are handoffs, and communication between team members so the patients feel like they’re being taken care of at every touch point in the practice.

“People who are coming in for a paycheck have their own agenda,” he says. “But the agenda is the one the practice puts together. I want them to be paid well, and I want them to feel personal fulfillment. But we are here marching in one direction together.”

Communication, Jankowski says, is critical. It’s about asking great questions, and doing a lot of great listening. He says many people believe that great communication is how well they can talk, but instead it’s getting others to talk so you can better understand them. Then you respond.

Focus on Training

Communicating also helps staff understand expectations. Jankowski says that when a new employee is brought into a practice they’re put through a 90-day orientation period, not a probation period.

“If you’ve already made it to our team we believe you can do the job,” he says. “So you’re not on probation, but the orientation process is very structured.”

That means sitting down with the new team member after the first few days to discuss what’s working and what needs improvement. It’s called a growth conference, not an appraisal.

“It says we’ve already decided you’re the one,” Jankowski explains. “Now we’re going to walk you through the process of being great on this team. Let’s work on a plan together with accountability, with measures.”

Those conferences occur regularly during a team member’s first month, especially at the end of every week. During their second month the conferences are usually held every two weeks, and then again at the end of the 90-day period.

“My belief is that if a team member is ever fired from the practice and they were surprised by it or didn’t know they were tracking poorly, that's a leadership issue,” Jankowski says. “That's not an employee issue.”

The Bottom Line

Building a winning dental practice team can provide substantial monetary benefits. Jankowski recalls a team member who was a great hygienist, but she fell and broke an ankle, taking her away from being a hygienist. She was moved to the front desk because of her considerable people and communication skills, and a new hygienist was hired. The doctor liked the new hygienist so much she was moved to a dental assistant position, but could still overflow into hygiene. A third hygienist was then hired.

“We found when we had those three people on the team, we actually generated $1.4 million in revenue,” Jankowski recalls. “And even with three hygienists our percentages were always under 22 percent. So they outperformed the practice.”

They key, Jankowski says, was that the hygienists all worked well together, had excellent communication skills, and were committed to the program.

“Month after month we were in the 21 to 21.5 percentile,” he says. “And I believe that has a lot to do with having the right team.”