Seven years ago I had just opened up my practice, and I met a consultant working in my local area. He came in and did some work in my office and things got better. Then Sterling sent out an announcement that they were delivering a seminar near here. I suspected that a full management corporation could do more for me than my individual consultant could. On checking into it closely, I found out I was right! I jumped in and did the Sterling Executive training program. Then about three years ago, I took their sales training courses. That really helped. I’m closing more programs now—it keyed me up on what goes into a sale and how to make it and finalize it.
We also had a Sterling Speedo staff training program, done right here in my practice, about six years ago. Even though I have entirely different staff here now, most of the things the Speedo program established in my office are still in place. They got my office organized. I think that a doctor who gets involved in Sterling and doesn’t get the Speedo program doesn’t ever really get his office running the way he is supposed to. He doesn’t get the communications systems set up right, he doesn’t do the posting of the stats correctly—he just doesn’t do it. For me, it really did take someone coming out here saying, “Okay, this is where we’re hanging things, this is where we’re putting the comm system. Finally doing it for me, as opposed to my own, let’s think about clearing off an area, and let’s think about where we’re going to hang things, and figure out how to hang things.” All of a sudden, those important first steps were all done!
When I started with Sterling we were doing about $8,000 a month. Now we’re doing about $50,000 a month, average. That’s about a six-fold increase. And I’m still the only doctor in the office. We’re busier, but I’m not all stressed out. I’m working smarter for the return. I’m working harder but not more hours. I only work 32 hours a week, so I can’t really complain! When I sit back at the end of a week I can say, “That wasn’t really that hard, and this isn’t a bad way to make a living!” People work a lot harder than I do and make a lot less, even in dentistry. The national statistics for dentists, as released by the ADA, show that I’m in the upper 90% of what dentists earn. All that means is that a lot of dentists need to get their act together so they don’t kill themselves trying to maintain or build up their practices.
I’m pretty much at a plateau now. I could do a lot more, but I’m happy. I like it the way it is now. I haven’t expanded as much as I could. I could bring in other people, other dentists, make the office bigger, provide more services, but with that comes a certain level of stress: “How many things do I want to keep my eyes on?” I also wonder about how many more people I really want to be responsible for. I’m happy with the way it is right now. You work very hard to get to a certain level and when you get there you want to enjoy the benefits of it for a while before you step back in and say, “Okay, let’s go for the next higher level!”
At least I know what I’m doing now as a manager. I don’t claim to make the right decisions all the time, especially in dealing with staff. But when I sit down and look at what I have done or what I am doing, I understand now what is going on with my staff better. Whereas before I was totally clueless as to how what I would do to one of my staff would affect them. Before, if they weren’t doing something fast enough, I would take something out of their hands and just cut their reach and didn’t allow them to finish a cycle of action or whatever. By taking it away from them, yeah, that moment went well, but I just cut them off; they became less willing. The dynamics of working with people have become more apparent to me. The Sterling training has made me a lot less likely to make mistakes when dealing with my staff. We are reaching for common goals and we are focused on what is important and what has to get done.
I keep the office focused by ensuring that my staff is trained, making sure that they know their jobs. We have staff meetings where we go through things every week. Without placing blame, we will look at certain areas and say something along the line of, “Okay, new patients are down. Why? What’s going on, everybody? How many times this week have we asked for a referral? How many letters have we sent out? How many thank-you notes have we sent out? Are we letting our existing patients know that we like new patients?” We come back to a few basics every time, that we need to keep in place to get and keep patients on line. We can look at the statistics and they tell us where we are falling short. That’s how we stay focused. You look at the statistics—the stats tell you.
We also have a small meeting every morning, which is not really looking at the weekly stats, but looking at that day as it is lined up and seeing how it is going to help us get to those targets. Who is sitting on a treatment plan, not getting started? Who hasn’t made up his mind about treatment, whether to get it or not? Which husbands and wives of patients need treatment, and could we get them in as new patients today? We go through this on a daily basis, at our morning “huddle.”
All the job descriptions in my practice are written down. When I get staff members who are really doing great on their jobs, I get them to write up their job descriptions in detail. When I get new staff in, I hand them the job description from the last successful person on that job and I tell them that, once they’ve learned it, they have the freedom to create the job any way they want. First, though, they need to read those job descriptions and understand everything. Then, as long as all the basics are covered and the products are obtained, they can do the job however they want. If they change something and it works, I tell them to update the job description so the next person who comes along can do it the new way instead of doing it the way we used to do it. Everything is pretty well documented now as far as what needs to get done and how to get it done. Once you have this in place you have to monitor it regularly, but at least it’s there!
It took me a long time—even after doing their training and applying some things and seeing them work—it took a long time for me to realize that it works. When you hear it, or you read it, it makes sense. I’m no better than anyone else. There are many doctors applying the Hubbard management technology and it is working for them, too, in their personal lives and their practices. There’s nothing wrong with it—it’s good for everybody. The money I spent on the Sterling program all came back to me in a matter of a few months.
To a doctor looking at the Sterling program I would say, “Don’t worry about anything except whether you can follow directions!” If a person comes in who is going to try to help you, and you are just going to fight it all the way, then you’re better off just being on your own. I’m not saying you have to follow every step of some cookbook recipe, but you do have to get in there and do the program. The more you follow the Sterling program, the better it is going to work out for you.
I’m pretty open to lots of things, so when I get a notice from another practice management company, or about some seminar, I’ll read the brochure or whatever. It’s apparent to me that much of it is based on offshoots of the Hubbard management technology. It’s amazing! But they’ve changed so much of it that it just doesn’t work as well. In my opinion, most of the management companies out there use some form of the Hubbard management technology—they just don’t let you know it. So you might as well go to where you’ll get the straight stuff. Sterling is where you’ll get that technology straight and unadulterated. Sterling has vast experience in dealing with the problems doctors face every day. My Sterling consultant is terrific, but if she has a question, she has quite a few very experienced consultants there where she can turn to get it answered. I know one of them will have the answer that I need!
David L. Fried, DDS