I had built a new building and I had some of my old staff, some new staff, and was growing rapidly. Things were getting out of hand, as they say. So I was picking out some kind of consulting group and Sterling appealed to me most because it directed me and not my practice. They weren’t coming in to look at my practice and say, “Well, this is exactly how you have to do it” and do a boilerplate kind of thing. They allowed me to make the changes I felt were appropriate based on everything that I learned through Sterling Management’s executive training program.
Prior to Sterling, things in the office were not too bad. But I felt I was losing control of the management of my staff and that my time was being spent not only working as a dentist, but I was spending way too much time doing all the administrative things of the practice. Sterling gave me direction. They set the framework up so I could put people in place to have jobs and count on them to do their jobs and be able to monitor them appropriately. That freed me up from a lot of the administrative stuff so I could just be a dentist, which I really like being.
The organizing board helped a lot from the standpoint that before things get to me they have to go through each department head. A problem should be able to be handled on a lower level, rather than all problems always coming to me. Problems dealing with the day-to-day operations should be able to be handled by the people in charge of those areas. It also helped with patient flow and where things go and who does what and who is in charge of financial arrangements so people don’t slip through the cracks.
I think dentists, when they are managing things, tend to read things that “ought to be done,” and these articles are written by people who are not out in the real world. When you go to Sterling they set it all down and educate you on what business is and how all business is run. Dentists aren’t trained to do business; they are just trained to do dentistry. We need that kind of reinforcement to tell us this is the way to do it, this is how to handle people, to communicate with others, and this is why you are in business.
I’ve been in practice ten years now. When I started Sterling we were in the $40s. We’re averaging about $90,000 in production and collections a month now. That’s more than a 100% increase. We’ve added an associate; we’ve added staff members; now I have 13 staff. It probably took me three months total to make back what I’ve spent on Sterling. It didn’t take me very long.
We’ve always tried to provide good service. I was worried that as we grew we wouldn’t be able to continue to provide the kind of service that I wanted for my patients. Sterling has set in place the ability to have my staff members handle situations, not for me to have to handle all the patient situations, and yet providing the same kind of quality service. We’ve hired an associate and trained him to do it the way I do it. So everything doesn’t slide up to me now.
Compared to a year ago I’m definitely a better manager. I just needed to have it all defined for me as to what I was supposed to do so I didn’t have any doubts about where I was going or what I was trying to do as a businessman. Sterling made sure that I understood that I have the responsibility for my employees’ jobs and their livelihoods. So all the little things do matter and you can’t let them slide.
I use the statistics we keep—here’s an example: Some of the stats we keep are failed appointments, toothaches, cancelled appointments, and new patients. We customize our schedule to fit those situations so that we can control the flow of things going on in the office and have time available for the things that are important to people. Like when they have a dental problem, being able to fit that problem into our schedule without really crimping our style, and still handle all the other things that go on. My personal experience is that as you keep all these graphs you start to see pictures of what your practice looks like, and you have real information to hold onto. I just refer to my binder with my stats in it to be able to tell what I was doing a year ago.
My consultant makes very sure that I apply the formulas indicated by the statistics. For me this has been very successful. Our numbers indicate where we’ve come from and where we’ve gone in the past year or so, and it has been a total win to this point. In the next year we’ll make more progress toward my goals. I’d like to have a three-doctor practice and personally take a little more time off. But already I’ve put that into my books and I’ll have four to six weeks off this year and spend more time with my family and still have the same production and quality practice I want. That’s what I was missing when I left the other practice – I was working like a dog to keep things going. Sterling set me straight so I can run this practice instead of it running me.
The way I’ve set it up is I look at more of a monthly situation and we plan out what our overhead is going to be and what our expenditures will be, and base things on that. Before, I was only doing that by the year! I was looking at a year and saying, “Where would I like to be at the end of this year?” And not knowing how to get there. Now, we’re saying, “This is the projection. This is what we’d like to have, this is what our overhead should be, this is what our staff overhead should be.” We’ve put in bonus and incentive plans to keep costs down and keep production and morale up.
If another doctor is running his own business I would highly recommend Sterling. Their technology is technology we’ve all heard in some form, but not always in a way that is as clear-cut as Sterling has made it for me. The best thing is Sterling puts the management technology very succinctly. Their training covers knowledge that we’ve intrinsically known about running our business, but they tell you exactly how to do it, how you should be doing it, how to follow along. They give you the tools you need to monitor it.
I can look back and say we’ve always been in affluence since starting with Sterling because we keep going up and up. So, I know we’re doing things correctly as far as the business is concerned.
After reading the materials and experiencing what goes on there, I think that L. Ron Hubbard [the source of the management technology] has made a lot of very astute observations about real things and that is the way it is, and he was able to write those things down in words that communicate to others. So, as far as that goes, I think the Hubbard management tech is the truth, the reality for anyone reading the material. It is hard to deny that these things occur and happen as he says they do. It makes sense.
For me the biggest thing has been having some backup and a reminder on a daily basis that this is my long-term plan. We can always look back and say this is where we’ve been, this is where we are, and these are all the successes that we’ve accomplished. I was just pointing this out to the staff member in charge of our lab – she’s been setting it up, setting it up, and she was getting frustrated because she wasn’t reaching her goals she had set for herself. I had to point out to her, “Look back at all you’ve accomplished on the way here, all the good things. You’re 90% there. You’ll get the rest of the way if you just choose to do so.”
Tony Hojnoski, DDS