Maintaining

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Endurance

Have you ever had a period of time where literally everything was going on wrong around you. Literally everything. And instead of feeling helped or supported you feel like people are watching you like a circus animal waiting to see when you will loose control.  Ever feel like you have nothing or no one to grasp and your just in free fall.  Ever feel completely alone and out of control. Have you ever?

Where do you start?  How do you start to pick up the pieces alone when no one else is there to help.

  1. Make a list- write down every gut wrenching thing that is going wrong. And there are no wrong or right answers to the list, write it all down. Feel the emotion stated with it. Anger, sadness, frustration. Let yourself feel those emotions instead of telling yourself you have to hold it all in. It sucks right now, totally sucks. And no one has a magical wand that will make it all better tomorrow, but you’ve got to let yourself express the feelings or you’re just asking for your body to act out in other ways. Might be best to do this in solitude so you can be more free to express how you feel.
  2. Wake up the next day- I know this is the hard one when you aren’t sure if tomorrow is really necessary to show up. Just wake up. Put on the clothes go through the day knowing everything won’t be perfect, but that you at least showed up. And be proud of yourself for just showing up. One day showing up will get easier and the path that was laid before you will be a little bit clearer, but for today just show up.
  3. Pray constantly- Yes, you feel very isolated from the flesh, but you are surrounded by the One who is in control of it all. Just talk to Him all day. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It might not seem like anything is coming from this, but stay steadfast and keep talking.
  4. Celebrate the little joys- Huge issues won’t be solved in one day and they will take endurance, but each day there has to be a little joy. Whether that your coffee was made right at Starbucks or your kids actually brought home their homework. Find that little joy, hold on to it for the few minutes it feels good. Breathe through the joy and celebrate.
  5. Lay your head down at night- You have to sleep. When you are going through exceptional stress it feels like you should be constantly doing something to fix it. You have to rest. Sometimes all that will fix an issue is time. Lay your head on your pillow. Breathe and pray. Rest and garner strength for the next day.  You need rest to have a clear mind to make decisions. If you wake up in the middle of the night, pray for peace for calm.
  6. Be grateful- I heard once you don’t have to feel grateful to be grateful. It sounded bad at first, but there are days when its so difficult that gratitude towards anyone is the last thing I feel, but I still have my family, my home, my freedoms. Just taking a moment to say thank you for whatever you still have will pay so much forward to getting you through this.
  7. When things finally work themselves out and they will in time, promise yourself that if you see someone that is under immense stress you will not be the watch and stare club. You will be present; you will contribute to helping another human being get through their difficult time.

We can do this.  Endurance through the storm is the hardest and it’s like running a marathon. I promise there is nothing like seeing that finish line at the end! Be patient with yourself, I promise you’ve got this!

One word

Courageous. The lion found it, so why couldn’t I?  After weeks of pondering my “word of the year” or so my friend calls it, courageous just showed up.  It was one of those ah ha moments that it all made sense. It was the word that answered all my needs and questions for the year. But then the fear jumped in. How on earth could I be courageous? I have a struggling business. A family that has more needs than sometimes I feel I have strength for. A dream of writing and teaching that has never come to light. How could I be courageous to tackle these another year?

I know its cliché but if you look up the definition of courageous is says…” not deterred by danger”. Not deterred by danger. Isn’t that exactly what we as humans try to do…STAY AWAY FROM DANGER! Danger in so many forms.  Besides the obvious, everyone’s individual danger is different. To some it’s dealing with employee or work issues. To some it’s confronting family issues. To some danger is avoiding all and any conflict or opposition at all.

How does that help anyone grow?  How can we grow as people without confronting the danger in front of us.  We can’t. You can’t keep avoiding driving over bridges in your life, you’ll never get off the island.

This year will take heart of being courageous. A lot of times we aren’t courageous because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or we are afraid that someone might not like us.  We aren’t courageous because we don’t want to stand out in the crowd for fear that we are wrong. It’s time now though to stop being afraid of being courageous. To stop just getting by and making something great out of our story.  This won’t be easy. This will be a one day at a time thing.  This will be scary, but my gut is telling me something beautiful is going to come out of this.