My general dentistry practice is in Laramie, Wyoming, a university town. I graduated dental school in 1986 and did my one-year residency in Sepulveda, California. Then I was in the Air Force for four years, after which, in 1991, I bought a practice from a retiring doctor here in Laramie. I started with two part-time hygienists, two part-time dental assistants and a receptionist. Now I have two hygienists, one full-time assistant, two part-time assistants, an office manager and receptionist.
I’ve been a Sterling client since March of 2000. I had the dental end of things pretty well figured out, but the business end of things had never been taught to us in any detail, so I was going by what had always been done in the practice before me, and by the seat of my pants. I didn’t feel like I had my finger on the pulse of things. The practice was running me as much as I was running the practice. I was looking for someone to teach me basic management skills. We were all working very hard, but it felt like we were just spinning our wheels. I felt like there had to be a better way.
While doing Sterling’s training in Glendale, it started to make very good sense to me. My first concern was trying to get my staff on board. Because of that, I had Sterling come out and do a SPEEDO* Program in my office about three weeks after my training. I didn’t want anything lost in the translation between Sterling and me, and me and my staff. Having someone else come in and bring them up to speed was great.
The SPEEDO consultant helped me figure out an organizing board and we put that up. Our people were posted on it. We put in a communication center, assigned a hat to everyone and a set list of job responsibilities. It made the unwritten laws around here written.
We’re doing much better. If you were to look at what we were doing prior to Sterling and what we are doing since, we are in a whole new production range and it is continuing to get better. I hit an all-time high in May—it blew me away!
Since we introduced Sterling, our production has gone up about 50% over the same time last year.
I’m excited that we are more productive around here. I’m not putting in as many crazy hours as I was before Sterling. It’s more organized; it’s more efficient. There would be weeks when I wouldn’t get a lunch hour and I wouldn’t get out of here before six. But those days are gone, and the production is better because I’m organized.
You can get out of Sterling a way to make more money, but that wasn’t my concern. I was looking for a way to get more organized. I didn’t feel like I was in control. They’ve given me some guidelines that have been helpful in establishing a chain of command, and having things written, having accountability for people. We’ve got a bonus system in place that my staff are excited about. We’ve had a bonus for the staff every month except one. Their bonuses are weighted by job responsibility and the condition of their statistics, so it is very fair. The bonus system is a good motivation for them.
Sterling has also given me some tips on how to hire the right people for the right job. If you are having trouble getting the right people working for you in your practice, there is help for you.
Sterling has a lot of valid information on all these points and it has proven workable for me. My staff are on the same page with me now and they like the bonus system based on their production.
We are where we are today because of following the strategic plan my consultant came up with when we were training back in March. She looked at what the practice was doing and how we were doing it, and we talked about the changes we would need to implement and what steps would need to be taken, and when and how to do all that. We are where we are now because we are following that plan. It has been very good advice and it is working.
If you go into this with an open mind and just try to learn and get out of it what you can, then there is going to be a lot that you can apply. If you go out there and pooh-pooh everything and say, ‘Well, this wouldn’t work for me,’ or ‘I could never try that,’ then you are wasting your money. You have to have an open mind and be willing to make some changes, and then it would work in any situation.
I’ve actually used some of the Sterling principles at home to help my daughter with homework assignments. The applications are universal—they apply to a dental practice but obviously they apply to other business as well. If you are willing to apply it, then you’ll see the results.”
Bradley Walgren, DDS
* SPEEDO – Staff Production Enhancement and Establishment by Debug Officer