Maintaining. Think about your favorite new car, that first day you get it, how great it smells and how clean it is. Think about it how it drives, smooth, wheels like butter. Everyday despite how hard we work to protect it, that car changes. The kids bring mud in or food in. The dog sheds. You run through a mud hole. No matter how hard you work, its impossible to maintain that new perfect car. It’s a lot of pressure to make sure it looks and smells like it did the first day we got it. Why is it so hard to maintain perfection?
The hardest thing to do in business is to maintain. You don’t think about it when you start. You think the hardest thing will be getting started, getting the patients in, getting cash flow. Then once you start making your goals, you are thinking about how to make the next step. How will I fill up all my ops? How can I add my associate? Then you get to a point in your career when you have to maintain. You have to keep those numbers at certain level and not go backward from last year. You have to keep your employees happy for the long term so that they will stay. I understand that in business things are constantly changing so to grow you are always learning and adding new things, but the maintenance part of keeping things up so they don’t go backwards is difficult. It’s a pressure that gets to people because they feel the made it to the top then don’t realize the immense amount of work that is needed to stay there.
I read somewhere that the average time a patient remains with a dentist is 2-8 years. Why? People move, yes, but people are fickle. “I didn’t like the way the receptionist looked at me when I walked in.” “I didn’t like the fact they didn’t put my napkin on me before they started to talk to me, I’m going to a new practice.” Trust me I’ve heard it all and have seen it all in reviews. People are fickle. This is especially true if you live in an area where dentists exist at every shopping center. People are not as loyal as in my grandpa’s years and are ready to jump boat at the slightest hint of a change.
The one comment that gets me the most now that I’ve been in my maintenance phase is…”there is so much overturn”. “I always see new people when I come in.” Now once again this may not be the case with smaller town dentists or practitioners that want to operate at a slow few operatory pace, but if you are going to take on a large multi doctor/location practice you will hear this. It kills me because those people have no clue the story associated with every employee that walked into your practice and the drama that followed them out of your practice.
So how do you maintain? How do you keep the pace and endurance for the long haul? How can we encourage our employees to be there for the long haul?
- Vision- Everyone has told you to have one. If your anything like me, you say, well my vision is a dental practice. Well that’s not good enough, you need more. You need to have a clear stated vision so that your team feels like they are working towards a goal, a meaning. So they feel like they are working toward a goal and not just a paycheck. This keeps them present and connected to the long term growth of the practice. Your vision should be clearly posted somewhere for your team and patients to see. Now throughout the years the vision may need to modify slightly, but the tone of the vision should always remain the same so that you are reminded why you started in the first place.
- A willingness to adapt- A lot of times during the maintenance phase we are set in our ways. We feel that whatever helped us get here is all that should be done. No, try new things. You hear so many dentists that have been in the field for years that haven’t been to a trade show in forever. Go see what’s on that trade show floor and try something new. You never know it might take you to a new level.
- Do what you know- You see people all the time get to maintenance phase of their business and get bored. They started to wonder into other venues and professions. They start opening spas or taking on a restaurant. Now if this has always been a dream of yours that would be a totally different conversation, but if you are just sitting at home pondering how to do something else with your life take a vacation instead. It’s not worth jumping around to things you really don’t want to do or don’t have the time and information to invest in, just because you are bored. Change it up with in your profession. Take on a mission trip or free dentistry day. Go work at your nearby dental school or consider being a mentor for anyone trying to get into the dental industry. Do what you know, because if you made to the maintenance phase you know how to be successful at it, you just need to find a way to keep it exciting.
- Set new goals- Keep it fresh. Set new annual goals whether its production numbers or continuing education classes to attend. Set monthly and weekly goals also. Give yourself and your team things to attain to that will make the day to day more interesting.
- Keep up with the changing culture and adapt- Things in our world are changing on a daily basis and you want to meet the needs of your patients, but if you don’t keep up with how our culture is changing you will miss the boat. Keep up with social media and be involved in it. Keep up with fresh and new marketing ideas to make sure you are staying in front of your patients outside of the office. Listen and talk to others around you and take in what they say. As I said before its so important that we aren’t staying stuck in our ways that we are missing out on a chance to find a new level we didn’t know was there.
- Don’t let them get you down- This is the hardest for me personally to deal with because I always want my patients to be happy. The longer you’re in business, the more chances that you will have a bad review or an angry patient. In the beginning patients were all about how awesome this new practice is and now they are all about how things aren’t the same as in the beginning. Well we have to let ourselves off the hook. If you are working toward a goal and certain patients aren’t getting it, it’s okay to let them go. You won’t make everyone happy and I’m telling you the stuff you let your patients get away with in the beginning of your practice will change once you have been open a while. You’ll be amazed because you will have patients who get it and will ride the goal wave with you, but there will be plenty that won’t. Don’t let negativity get you down. If those patients sat down with you and had a one on one conversation about you and your journey they would have a whole other opinion of you.
Maintenance is the hardest. Don’t believe me, check out the podcast with Pitbull and Tony Robbins called “Self-made success”. Now if you don’t believe them then I can’t help you. 🙂 Keeping patients happy and staff happy for the long haul can be daunting, but you can be successful by keeping things fresh in your career and surrounding yourself with people that encourage your goals and vision.