MGE’s weekly webletter, Issue 55.
By Gregory A. Winteregg, D.D.S.
A common theme when you read articles about the “Business of Dentistry” is that our dental schools do not prepare us for the business side of practicing. I certainly found that to be the truth, and that is why MGE: Management Experts, Inc. exists: to give doctors the education they need to achieve success in private practice.
One of the first steps to achieving this success is understanding your overall business model. At MGE, we teach a basic formula that all businesses follow in order to prosper. All businesses have a service or product that they supply for the public, and they must:
SELL IT—DELIVER IT—GET NEW PEOPLE TO SELL AND DELIVER TO
This “it” in our industry is of course dentistry. It’s very simple. In order for a business to make money, it must sell its product or service and it must attract new people to sell to. If you want your practice to become a successful business, then you must apply this formula.
“Management” holds the machine together to continue to sell and deliver more services or goods to the public. However, if there is ineffective marketing and sales, then there isn’t enough activity in the business to have something to “manage.”
My observations have shown me three interesting phenomena:
1. We spend tens of thousands of dollars on the newest gadgets and hundreds of hours in continuing education so we can deliver better services to the public. We travel all around the country learning new techniques to deliver better and more services.
We spend tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on management consulting so we can have the best staff meetings, best software, best appointment book, etc., etc.
3. We stand back and say that it is “unprofessional” to promote our services with external marketing or sit down and talk money with our patients to sell them what they truly need.
But what if major corporations took this approach? They would have a great product line filling up warehouses with products they are too “proud” to market or sell. Their stellar management team would be watching an empty production line because no product is leaving the warehouse to create a demand for more production.
When I first started my practice in 1981, external marketing was definitely something you “did not do!” While things have changed a lot in this regard, with many doctors more than willing to market, the idea of “selling” still has quite a stigma attached to it. A majority of the thousands of doctors I have spoken with over the years find the idea of selling abhorrent, unprofessional, etc.
Here is the truth of it: The person who handles the finances determines the income of the business. If you want to control your income, you must learn how to discuss money with the patient. It actually is no more complicated than that.
And let me say right here that selling includes discussing money. It is actually very wimpy on our part to do the easy part of the case presentation and only tell the patient what treatment they need then send them to a Financial Secretary to handle the money. All the reasons of it being “unprofessional,” “not wanting to appear money-motivated,” “too busy,” etc., really don’t hold up against the advantages of discussing money with the patient yourself. You are the doctor, and your opinion holds much more weight with the patient than the front desk staff’s.
But let’s stand back from the whole subject of money for a second. If we can’t sell the case, we can’t truly help the patient. For example: The patient needs six crowns. Insurance pays for two. We do two now, two next year, and hopefully two the next year—if they still have insurance and they haven’t left the area.
So when we do two crowns instead of six, we have only provided a third of the help the patient needed. Now I’m sure you offered six crowns and let them “choose” what they wanted. But who decided it would be two instead of six? The patient and the Financial Secretary? The last time I looked, they didn’t have “DDS” or “DMD” after their name.
The person best qualified to answer the patient’s questions and address their objections is the doctor. That is why you must learn how to handle their questions and any objections they have to complying with their treatment plan and get them onto the service they really need.
The days of “Be a good doctor and get involved in your community” to build a practice are over. It is very worthwhile to get involved in your community for its own sake, but it will not create a successful business for you in the competitive world of dental private practice anymore.
You can only deliver as much dentistry as you can sell. Marketing and promotion give you people to sell to. One could then conclude that the amount of services that you deliver will be determined by how much you sell and that determines your income.
For many years as a practitioner, I had the same misconceptions about finances that many dentists do. I had used six different management companies in eleven years and each of them agreed that the staff should handle the money.
Then I became a client at MGE and the gentleman who is now my partner, Luis Colon, asked me a very direct question, “How do you feel not being in control of your financial future, but instead leaving it only in the hands of your employees?” Now this is not an attack on effective employees doing their jobs, but what happens if that employee’s spouse gets transferred to another state or they leave the practice for any other reason? What if the next employee isn’t as productive as the previous one? This could mean that your kids won’t go to college or you may not be able to retire when you want.
The only safe and secure conclusion to make is that if you aren’t doing the selling–then start.
If you can’t do it, then learn. It’s time for us as a profession to start addressing this issue head on.
Your ability to sell dentistry is going to determine your volume of delivery of dentistry going into the future, no matter what happens with the economy or dental industry.
The next time the patient says “I only want to do what the insurance covers,” or “I have no money,” just keep talking to them for another five minutes. You’ll be surprised how effective a little persistence is.
One final word of advice: If you’re working with someone who is helping you manage your practice, then look at your collection numbers before your relationship with them and after. If they are worth what you’re paying, your collections will go up. No excuses. If your collections aren’t going up, then why continue?
Measure your results. It is the only thing that counts. The MGE New Patient Workshop, which teaches you how to market to attract more fee-for-service new patients, comes with a full money-back guarantee, so if you aren’t satisfied with your results you can get your money right back. No risk.
We also deliver the MGE Communication & Sales Seminars every month at our Florida training center. These are a series of three 3-day seminars that teach you how to communicate effectively with your patients to get them to want the treatment they need.
For more information about MGE, contact us at (800) 643-3456 or (727) 530-4277.
Dr. Gregory Winteregg provides this general dental practice management advice to furnish you with suggestions of actions that have been shown to have potential to help you improve your practice. Neither MGE nor Dr. Gregory Winteregg may be held liable for adverse actions resulting from your implementation of these suggestions, which are provided only as examples of topics covered by the MGE program.