Orthodontic Practice Management
For thirty-three years, Sterling has delivered viable, stable, organized, and enjoyable performance to tens of thousands of professionals. Our orthodontic practice management program is second to none.
For about the last ten years I’d been looking for solutions to unknown problems in my practice. I knew that things were not going the way that they should, but I didn’t know why or where I should really be going. My friend (also an orthodontist) and his wife had enjoyed great success with Sterling for about a year. A lot of the same things that he had seen wrong in his own practice, he saw in mine. He wanted me to look into Sterling and see what they had to offer.
Actually, we were at a point where we had to wait for this month’s collections to pay last month’s bills. It was terrible! We couldn’t understand why. I’m really one of the best orthodontists, but I will tell you that I had been beaten down to the point where I just felt like, maybe I’m not that good. Maybe my work isn’t that good. Maybe what I’m being told, that my work is too expensive, my fees are too high, is true. It’s not true. None of it is true.”
I think we probably set a record time in going to Sterling. Within ten days of contacting them, we were receiving services. My wife has been here with me for all these years as my office manager. She really learned the meaning of being an office manager from Sterling.
As it turned out, I had employees that were causing me a great deal of trouble that I didn’t know about. When I finally understood that, I saw part of what my problems had been. It became apparent after we attended Sterling that certain staff members were the greatest cause of most of the problems in my practice – and I hadn’t known it. I had no idea what was occurring. These were very long-term employees. It was such covert action that I couldn’t see it. I thought I needed them because I thought that they were such key employees for me. I didn’t realize that they were the problem.
Before I went to Sterling, I didn’t want to be here. I would have just loved to put down everything and walk out, because I just didn’t want to be here. Now, I love it! I’m having the time of my life!
I would say that we have almost doubled our gross production. Collection income is probably 35 to 40 percent greater. My wife is asking about our collections secretary, ‘Where does she get all this money from?’ It’s amazing what she is doing. It never was like that before. She is doing what Sterling is telling us to do.
We have a bonus plan now. I have to say that the bonus plan is one of the things that is a key to our success. Because of using statistics and because of the bonus that is available to the staff, they work a lot harder and are more in tune to thinking this is their business. They have received a bonus every month since last August when we implemented the bonus program. They’ve been good bonuses, too!
My biggest problem right now is how to deal with all the new business. It’s a terrible problem!
Now I look forward to coming to the office and working with my staff. My staff makes me so happy! I don’t mind staying here after hours. I’m not anxious to leave because I have work to do. I feel that I’m being rewarded now for my efforts, so the more effort I put in, the greater my rewards are. It wasn’t like that before; it seemed like it was a case of diminishing returns where the more I worked the less reward I saw.
We’ve concentrated on my practice, but I have to say something about my personal life. I realize now that your professional life and your personal life have to both be good, and if one is bad, it will affect the other. My personal life had not been what it should have been or what it could have been, but it has changed now. Even my own kids said, after I got back from Sterling, that I am a changed person, that I’m different. I’m more caring, happier, and more interested in what’s going on in my personal life instead of having all my focus be on my professional life. I couldn’t ever figure it out. I couldn’t get a grasp on it.
Now that we are on that road, my personal life is much, much better. It’s happier. My wife knows that, too. It is really, really different. I’m happy now. Most of the time I wasn’t happy before. That’s sad. To go all those years – I’ve been out of dental school since 1965. That’s a long time. After all that time, to really be happy now for almost a year – it’s so great! I’m thankful I went to Sterling, thankful to my friends for pushing me toward them.
Larry Cross, Orthodontist
I practice in West St. Paul, Minnesota and Amery, Wisconsin. West St. Paul is a suburb of St. Paul, so it is a town of about 25,000 people in a metropolitan area. Amery is very small, about 3,000 people. Currently I have two associates and about 15 staff between the two practices.
I’ve been a Sterling client for about five years. Why did I search out Sterling? I wanted my practice to grow a bit, yes, but what I really wanted was to be in control of the practice rather than having the practice be in control of me. After doing the Sterling training and consulting program, I can say unequivocally that this is absolutely the case. I am in control of my practice, even when I am not there!
I practiced for ten years before I became a Sterling client. During those ten years, I twice built up my practice to where I had a single associate, and then that seemed to be about all I could handle administratively. Now, after being a Sterling client for five years, I have two associates and my practice is over twice the size it was before I started with Sterling. I would have to say the difference is mostly due to being associated with them – I had reached my plateau twice before where I just couldn’t seem to handle any more than one associate, and then the practice would collapse. Twice I ended up splitting the practice, selling half to my associate at the time. While that wasn’t the end of the world, it also wasn’t what I wanted to accomplish, either. I wanted to accomplish putting together a group of three or four orthodontists who would have the freedom to take a lot of time off and still earn a really good living from the practice while retaining complete control of the practice myself. With the two associates I have now working stably in my practice, we have achieved this!
My wife is the Executive Director of the practice, which is a little bit different than being Office Manager but encompasses those duties. She has also been trained at Sterling along with several other of my staff. This training and the stability it has given my staff have made a tremendous difference in the way the practice operates. The staff know what their duties are and they are much more capable of performing their duties with much less supervision and minimal stress on me.
My practice has increased by 20-25% per year since I became a Sterling client. It has been surprisingly steady each year although this year we’re on track for an even bigger increase!
Patient satisfaction and patient services (or ‘customer service’ would be the buzzword now) have also improved tremendously during our association with Sterling. We have a system to monitor our quality of service.
The executives in my practice use statistics on a weekly basis to monitor what is going on in the areas for which they are responsible and then to predict what will happen in the immediate future in those areas. Monitoring our statistics closely like that allows us to isolate administrative areas that need improvement. Then we can target our efforts on those areas to very quickly remedy problems (or reinforce areas that are doing well). Once you improve those weak points, the business increases, patient satisfaction increases and everything just gets better!
One of the things Sterling has really helped us with is selecting top-quality employees. Those benefits are obvious to any employer. That’s about 75% of any business; if you can locate, select and hire top-quality employees then you are well on your way to having a successful business. The testing available from Sterling, and the training that we’ve gotten through Sterling to help us evaluate prospects before we hire them have both been invaluable. With these tools we can evaluate prospective employees beforehand instead of finding out after the fact that they were not someone we wanted to hire.
The Hubbard management technology which Sterling uses is a system that has been used for almost fifty years to manage an organization that is intended to help people. It has been very, very successful. Those same techniques apply very well to health care practices.
In orthodontics right now, ‘practice management groups’ are being touted as the solution to a doctor’s problems. Sterling can accomplish for you, the individual practitioner, everything that these practice management groups ‘claim’ to accomplish – but you will maintain ownership and control of your practice! You don’t have to sell your practice or give up control of your practice to accomplish those things.
The consulting that I’m getting on a regular basis from Sterling is absolutely excellent. You can’t really compare it to consulting from other companies because other companies just, in my way of putting it, use a kind of shotgun approach. They give you a lot of information, and some may hit the target. The consulting that you get from Sterling is like using a laser beam! They just sight in on what is needed and hit the target with pinpoint precision. You don’t waste effort and you don’t waste time. In consulting, wasted time translates into wasted fees.
When I started with Sterling I was taking three weeks off a year. Within six months after starting Sterling I was taking thirteen weeks off a year, and I continued that for two years. Then I brought in an associate and I continued taking off thirteen weeks a year for two more years. Since I brought in another associate this year, I’ve been able to take fifteen weeks off so far. Once in a while I feel a little bit unneeded!
I would highly recommend Sterling as a consulting company, and I’d highly recommend it as an alternative to anyone who is considering one of those orthodontic practice management services. Sterling operates on a fee-for-service basis. They don’t lock you into any kind of long-term contract, and they don’t ask for any ownership of the practice, which most, if not all, orthodontic practice management groups do. I’ve made back what I’ve spent on Sterling many times over and consider that it has been money very well spent. And my practice is still all mine!
Doug Podoll, DDS
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Doug Podoll, DDS, has been practicing orthodontics for the last fifteen years in America’s heartland. We interviewed him on vacation in Florida. “I practice in West St. Paul, Minnesota and…