by Corinne Jameson-Kuehl, RDH, BS

Published with Marquette University

There is an exciting new era of private practice owners hitting the ground running!  This season is perfect for practice ownership transitions, but there are several considerations a new potential owner should be aware of while they contemplate the decision of entering private practice.

There are many paths to ownership: build from scratch, purchase from a retiring dentist, or the associateship path to ownership.  Very few banks will extend a loan to a new graduate, but after some experience is gained in the workplace, a loan is obtainable to begin the journey to owning your own dental business.

 A few questions to ask yourself if you think this path maybe one for you:  Do I want to “do more” than clinical dentistry? What lifestyle do I want to pursue within dentistry?  What support system will I put in place to ensure my success as a solo entrepreneur?

 Often times, the day to day business operations and the human element is neglected during a transition of ownership. Excellent brokers, attorneys, and accountants are going to get you through all the paperwork and details, but what about the actual management of this business when the dust settles and all those advisors are gone?  New owners are often met with the feeling of overwhelming buyer’s remorse, and lack of support because they walk into an environment they did not prepare for success.

By doing your prep work in advance you will be sure to lessen the “bumps” of entering private practice ownership. 

The 8 Simple Secrets

  1. Hire someone outside the practice to “show and teach” you the dental software system so you are running reports and verifying numbers.
  2. Look at the actual costs of supplies, salaries, etc and understand what you can afford.
  3. If you choose to keep the previous owner’s employees, be understanding they may not support you and the changes you are making.
  4. Hire team members that buy into your philosophy and want the same growth you do.
  5. Be consistent and clear in your expectations for the team, and put it in writing (Office Manual and Employee Terms).
  6. Chose dental specific advisors and meet with them regularly.
  7. Be teachable and grow in your responsibility as a leader.
  8. Do not update everything immediately. Pace your spending and building expansion dreams.

To be an excellent dentist and an excellent owner, the buck stops with you. Only your name is attached to that dental practice sign and the bank loan.  Prepare to work hard, and be a servant leader. Nothing you neglect or put in haphazard effort will be amazing.  

I strongly encourage you as an owner to learn every aspect of the business and then bring alongside trusted advisors and employees that have your best and philosophy to move forward. Put in the TIME to be amazing as not only as a good human, but as a private practice dentist owner.  With the right mindset, systems and support, you will never regret the decision of private practice ownership.

Keeping political peace within your practice

While 2020 has provided ample reasons for tensions to run high within dental practices, many may feel like the presidential election has added a heightened level of anxiety and potential for conflict. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, of 522 working Americans surveyed in 2019, almost half personally experienced a political disagreement at work.

Between other team members and patients who have differing views, how can we reduce political conflict and stress within the workplace?

Respect that others have a right to not agree with you

Personal experiences, news platforms, and other informational sources that we utilize help to shape our views. While it’s tempting to want to educate others on why they are wrong about a particular topic that you may feel passionately about, it’s important to consider if doing so may damage your relationship and add more stress to your environment. What will arguing accomplish? Do you truly believe that you will change his or her mind by being forceful with your opinion? Chances are high that the answer is No.

Some things are better left unsaid

If you are put on the spot to share your political beliefs, you can respectfully decline to answer. Practice a standard response, such as, “I appreciate you asking but I prefer to keep that private.”

It is wise for owners and managers to set healthy boundaries for their team. While staff members have every right to their own views and opinions, providing policies on how they are expressed within the workplace avoids feelings of harassment.

Know when to walk away

If you begin to feel a physical reaction to a discussion, like a racing heart or sweaty palms, recognize that you are entering the “fight-or-flight” response. Try to end the conversation as politely as possible. Openly recognize that you have a difference of opinion but you prefer to focus on work-related subjects rather than debate. If your coworker or patient cannot accept a polite end to the conversation, document the experience and bring it to the attention of your owner or practice manager.

It is also important to be aware if your words or actions are eliciting the fight-or-flight response in someone else. Be observant of their reactions and alter your behavior to avoid making others feel uncomfortable. Recognize that we all deserve to feel safe within the workplace.

Practice self-care

How we spend time outside of work affects our ability to handle stressful situations. Are you spending your free time focusing on the political tension or surrounding yourself with people who do? Take an inventory of your daily routines and reevaluate how your habits are serving both your physical and emotional health and wellness.

In the end, we cannot control what others believe or value. We can only control ourselves. Avoiding heated political discussions in the workplace is important to maintaining a positive and productive environment.

Who is the Pot-Stirrer in Your Practice?

By Corinne (Corey) Jameson-Kuehl

Today, more than ever, people are stressed and our dental offices are affected just as much as any other work place.  It seems I am getting calls weekly asking for “how to deal with a toxic team member”…or how to work with someone who simply is negative.

Check yourself first:
During an emotion, are we able to assess how we are feeling in the moment and identify the “pause” to evaluate the response?  Perhaps it’s the rude sharp statement from a co-worker or employee.  Do we add to the drama by “lashing back” or do we ask for some time to process this and ask to address this concern over the lunch hour, or the following day?

Assess yourself as you present to others:
Are you looking at your boss, employee, co-worker with grace?  Everyone is tired from COVID, politics, and students being home, not home, etc.  Regulate the way you look at someone else.  Are you empathic to them as you witness their words and actions?  Ask questions.  What are they struggling with that is making their current situation challenging?  Be a present-in-the-moment lister.  Find compassionate solutions.

There are always situations where direct communication needs to occur. I certainly do not advocate tolerating abuse or repeated patterns of disrespect. There are certainly times where a patterned behavior needs to be called out and dealt with consequences and an action plan or perhaps the team member needs to be released.  The evaluation of how to handle a person’s continued toxicity is to evaluate: 

  1. Is this person aware and does not care? 
  2. How is this affecting the team’s working environment? For example, does the atmosphere appear “lighter” when they are not there?

Anything that is affecting the culture to the point of physical illness, extreme stressful thoughts and other employees exiting because they do not want to be with that person is indeed grounds for the direct communication-action plan process.

Let me know if I can help.

“Communication is Everything.”  -Lee Iacocca

Dropping Insurances Like They’re Hot

By Jill Shue

Over the last several months, our team has had discussions with owners over a common theme: dropping insurances.  Why is this and is it the right decision?

Since offices were shutdown for upwards of 8 weeks beginning in March, dentists experienced a demand for their services and an overabundance of patients waiting to get in for their next appointments. Podcasts, social media, talks with colleagues, all lead to one common conclusion: “we need to drop insurances while the demand is hot!” Between the added time for procedures (and time between procedures), additional costs for PPE, and patients pounding down our doors, this seemed like a reasonable time to band together and take back our practices, both in the way we treat patients and in our hard earned money.

While going out of network may be the right decision for some offices, it may not be the best decision for your practice. Our team strongly encourages practices to thoroughly evaluate their decision. Some items to consider before pulling the trigger to becoming an out of network or fee for service practice:

1-      Do your finances and practice retention/growth trends support your decision to drop insurance contracts? An in-depth financial review and practice trends is key in your decision making. What percentage of patients would be affected by this decision?

2-      Is this a whim decision or something you have contemplated for years on end? Abrupt decisions regarding future insurance relationships may backfire and cause a higher patient loss than anticipated or than can be afforded. If this is a decision you have been preparing for and you have that plan that is forever a thorn in your side, this may be a great time to review whether to continue that contract.

3-      Outside of COVID, has there been a waiting list to be seen or is this a pent up demand resulting from the shutdown? Due to the length of time waiting to be seen at their dental home, some patients may be calling around to see who can get them in sooner, which may give a false view on practice growth. The phones ringing continuously with patients waiting to be seen can feel overwhelming, but is this a temporary demand? If you look into your October/November schedules, does this trend continue or do the holes in the schedule return?

4-      Is your team prepared? Providing your team with resources, training, and scripting in how to manage conversations regarding the network changes and re-educating your patients to not allow insurances to dictate their care, is crucial in your success in going out of network. Preparing your team for this mindset shift will make the transition, for both your team and your patients, much smoother.

5-     Consider implementing an in house membership plan, if you haven’t already done so. Providing your patients with an alternative option to purchasing an insurance plan is a great way to introduce the change in your network status. This alternative option will show your patients the benefits to a membership plan without an outside party placing restrictions on their healthcare, while still providing them with savings. 

Once it has been determined if the changes in network status is the right fit for your practice, have a plan before you send the termination letters. Prepare a slamming letter communicating the change to your patients (most contracts require you to notify your patients of the change) and start communicating the changes with your team.

Let our team of experts assist you in reviewing the financial status and trends within your practice and to prepare your team in the coming changes successfully with minimal impact on your patient base.

Why Assess STRESS?

As you look around your office, you may see people who are the picture of productivity. But looks can be deceiving. Your workplace may actually be a breeding ground for stress, which is slowly chipping away at the collective morale, and the individual spirit of your most valuable people. Often times stress rises and spreads unbeknownst to even the most empathetic leaders.

Only when you understand how much stress you’re dealing with can you begin to create a more productive work environment.

This Stress Quotient® assessment helps you understand whether or not the stress in your office is dramatically rising and hampering productivity, killing your culture or staying within reasonable levels. Once you know, you can address the root causes — which can include lack of job fit, miscommunications or mismanagement.

Offer Valid for New and Current Clients Until July 31, 2020.

Email Office@CustomDentalSolutions.com to learn how the individual and group versions of the Stress Quotient® can help you and your team!

1, 2, 3, and GO!

By Jill Shue

1 – Avoid Mass Announcements.
Invite select patients for select procedures back into the office. Do not send a mass announcement to your patients announcing a reopening date as this will only open the flood gates. Your patients WANT to come in! They have been waiting to either fix the chipped tooth from Day 2 of Quarantine, to reschedule their affected hygiene appointment, etc. Your administrative team will be screening patients, taking temperatures, and catching up on the past two months of schedule and production loss. Your team may not be able to keep up with the demand following a mass announcement. Keep it as a soft reopening, not a grand reopening!

2- Create Your Protocols.
Set your protocols and practice the flow. Discuss possible outcomes and limitations with your team. I cannot say enough how important dry runs are! Your protocols should be clear and direct. Any room for interpretation will cause frustrations and confusion within your team and will transfer to your patients. Your team’s confidence in your protocol will reflect in your patient’s experience and confidence in your team.

3- Prepare Your Mindset.
Amongst all the steps you can do to prepare for your reopening, preparing your mindset is the utmost important. Changes are inevitable. Our first set of protocols will likely not be the protocols you end with. You must acknowledge and accept that there will be change. Remain positive and communicate with your team to ensure an optimal outcome in your return.

When Should You Reopen Your Dental Practice?

Corinne Jameson-Kuehl, with Custom Dental Solutions, along with ADA Commissions committee member & Chief Encourager, Dr. Tom Lambert and Michelle Strange, RDH, MS unite for a Q&A to help you prepare to safely reopen your dental practice.