Dan Brown - Senior Service Consultant MGEConsidering the statistics, I’d dare to say that the average business owner (or “starter,”) is also pretty darn brave.

Case in point:

8 out of 10 businesses in the first 5 years fail. That leaves only 2 out of 10 business that survive the first 5 years.

Out of the 20% of businesses that survive the first 5 years, 80% of those businesses fail in the next 5 years. That gives you a 4% success rate if you’re a new business owner.

I know. Not the happiest of statistics. And chances are you know someone who started a business that is no longer running.  But let me give you this one:

75% of “Systems Based” businesses succeed in their first 5 years!

Systems based businesses, sometimes called “turn-key” models are not a new concept.  You may or may not have heard of them.  If anything, with this potential for success it makes sense to look at how to apply it to a dental office. We’ll start by looking at the concept as a whole.

(Related: Practice Management: The Secret to a Successful Business)

What is a Systems Based Business?

A systems-based business is a business that isn’t reliant upon a specific person or “personality type” or gushing amounts of talent being required of every person that holds a position in your office. Rather, each staff member is trained on practices and procedures through documented manuals, documented practices, and thorough job descriptions. These are all tools which allow that person to quickly understand what the purpose of their position is, how they carry out these daily and weekly functions, right down to what to say when a patient calls and says, “I’d like to know how much it costs for a crown.”

Not having these systems, these practices, and even scripts (I know, we hate scripts), but even scripts just to show the guidelines of how things should be handled in a perfect world scenario, causes you to be subject to the talent, the experience, the judgement of your existing personnel or your future personnel.

Let’s talk about personnel.

Can you say you have fantastic people occupying each position in your office? Some people can say, “yes! I’ve got the team I want. It’s my dream team.” But how long is that dream team going to be there? The reality is: people move, people change careers and life plans and some people will even get hired right out of your office.

My point: personnel aren’t permanent. Systems and your procedures in your practice — now those are permanent. Make them permanent by documenting them, establishing them, making them easily understandable, and then get your staff to know and understand these systems and procedures.

Ideally, you don’t want to have to wait to find out if someone is going to make it or not.

You want to be able to have a person sit down and within a short time have them up and operational.  Of course, they will improve over time, but they would be functional in a short period. If theWhy Your Practice Needs to be Systems Based person you hired doesn’t work out, you can to go the next person, and again, that person has a short period to get up to speed. (Note: There is of course a whole technology to hiring productive personnel, which I’m not going to get into in this post, but we do cover on the MGE Power Program).

If you have a talented front desk person right now, capture exactly what they’re doing, down to word-for-word what they say when a patient calls in order to convert them from a prospective patient to a new patient that arrives, is scheduled and pays for treatment.

(Related: Surviving Staff Turnover)

So, you might ask, “how do I capture this person’s actions?” or “how do I capture that successful personality?” or “What do I do if I don’t have a successful person in that position right now? Where do I start?” Well, it’s as easy as this:

  • Lay out what the person’s job description is. What are the basic points? What is the purpose of that person’s position? What are the basic functions of that position?
  • What are the successful actions of that position?
  • What is the type of traffic that position handles?

Once you’ve established these things, you’ll want to find out what the most important thing that person has to deal with. In the case of a front desk, it’s pretty obvious. It’s the prospective new patient. I’m not sure how much we spend on marketing to get that phone to ring and get that person to call and get them converted into a new patient, but I can tell you it’s 100s of dollars.

Why Your Practice Needs to be Systems BasedSo, how is a systems-based approach to having a front desk, for example, totally mapped out so you could put anybody in that position, and within a short period have them up to speed? Well, the first thing you need to do is go to www.ddssuccess.com, MGE’s online training platform. We’ve actually documented so many different points on how to put systems into place that it makes running the office far easier. The areas covered on ddssuccess.com include how to build your hygiene area, how to handle phone calls, how to handle customers, and even how to handle scheduling. That’s just part of what is available on DDS Success. So, rather than racking your brain around trying to figure it out for yourself, we’ve done it and laid it out for you and made it easy for your staff to sit down, learn and understand these basic principles.

Now, let me give you an example of how you can start putting this all together today.

We’ll use the front desk for this example. When the phone rings, what do you want to capture? You would probably want to know the name of the patient and how they found out about your practice. If your front desk isn’t easily getting that information every single time, then you don’t have systems in place.

Here’s an example of how I would handle a phone call:

Me: Thank you for calling Dan Brown Dental, how can I help you?

Prospective Patient: Hi, how much does a crown cost in your office?

Me: Oh, fantastic! I’d love to answer that for you. First, can I ask you a few short questions?

Prospective Patient: Sure.

Me: Great! What’s your first name?

Prospective Patient: Bill.

Me: Fantastic. And your last?

 Prospective Patient: Smith.

Me: Thanks, Bill. Just curious, can I ask how you found out about our office?

Prospective Patient: Oh, I found you on Google.

Me: Great. And what did you search on Google?

Prospective Patient: Dentist near me.

Me: Thank you, that helps! Now, let me answer your question. First, I’ll need some more information from you. What tooth are we talking about?

Prospective Patient: It’s a tooth in the back.

Me: Okay, is it on the bottom or top?

Prospective Patient: Bottom.

Me: Okay, right side or left?

Prospective Patient: Left.

Me: Okay, and are you currently in pain?

Prospective Patient: No, not really.

Me: Okay, well if you’re not in pain, how do you know you need a crown?

Prospective Patient: Oh, well my dentist told me I needed one.

Me: I see. Can I ask why you’re calling us if you already have a dentist?

Prospective Patient: I got a little nervous when I heard the price and wanted to see what other offices were offering.

Me: Okay, understood.

Now, at this point, I’m going to ask this person more questions, if I can, about themselves, their condition, if their tooth is sensitive to hot or cold, if it keeps them up at night, etc. I have a number Practice management tips - MGE Management Experts Blog - Why Your Practice Needs to be Systems Basedof questions that I can use to make sure I connect with that patient and I know exactly what they’re running into. Obviously, the front desk can’t diagnose (and the doctor can’t either over the phone), so ultimately, I’m going to have them schedule to come in and see the doctor to evaluate. Whatever it is that’s said or done, you’ll want to capture all of this so any future front desk personnel will know exactly what to ask when a new patient calls.

Now, this example is if you have me sitting at your front desk; it’s how I would do it. Is it necessary to have someone with experience and talent to ask such questions? The answer is no. You simply need someone who knows how to ask these questions, has been drilled one-on-one on how to ask these questions, and feels comfortable about it. They’ve had the OM standing over them when that phone call comes in and saw that they followed the guidelines or not. Plus, that person has been corrected on the procedures to the point where they can do it smoothly. If they can’t ask those questions smoothly even after practicing it over and over and getting corrected, then they may not be a good fit for that position.

The value you will get out of having a systems-based practice is huge. You’ll be taking the BEST person, you, replicating how YOU would handle each situation throughout every position in the practice so anyone can do it. Once that’s done, you’ll find you can step out of the practice and you won’t need to be there if you don’t want to be; you’ll have more freedom.

I hope this helps! If you have any questions, please email me at DanB@mgeonline.com or call us at (800) 640-1140.

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