When teammates, partners, or patients come to us with questions or requests, I truly believe that it is a leader’s job to enthusiastically say Yes! as often as we possibly can. Thoughtfully wielding the power to answer in the affirmative and help someone we serve create value for themselves and their lives is a seemingly superhuman ability to have; it is truly a power that creates momentum for people’s lives and dreams.  And when used in conjunction with strong expectations, open communication, and the ability to say ‘no’ when that is the right answer it is an excellent way to establish a culture of respect, empowerment, drive, and dedication within your team.  

Early in my military career one of my leading Chief Petty Officers, (who loved giving unsolicited advice) pulled me aside one day and said, “Gwinn, everyone will figure out you’re good, if you’re good. You don’t have to tell them.” I guess that like so many of us in our less mature years, I had a tendency to try too hard to impress others at times, and he called me right out for it with pleasure and for sport.  Maybe a bit because of the embarrassment I felt being called out in front of my peers, buy definitely because I felt like I’d taken a chair of truth straight to the forehead, I’ve never forgotten his words. It’s something I ponder regularly and make sure I live into because it’s something I truly believe. If you’re doing a good job people will notice.  

The lesson in his words is simple: work hard, grow, show results, and everyone will see it. The way I do this in my work with OPS is through actively leading our teams, being accountable, staying connected to the daily activities of our company and making sure that I am constantly providing guidance, mentorship and transparency to our clients.  

So, how do you show this type of leadership mentality with your teams as a dental practice owner? What are the principles we at Optimize follow and use to guide entrepreneurs in implementing in their own organizations? And what exactly are the qualities that make a ‘yes’ provider?  

What Is A ‘Yes’ Provider?  

I believe that being a ‘yes’ provider starts with excellent patient service from the team at the front desk, the very first contact with your patient and client. It could be a walk-in, a first-time appointment or an inquiring phone call. No matter what the first point of contact is, it is your responsibility as the provider and business owner to instill the importance of first contact in your teams and employees. If your organization has an adversarial relationship with patients that will be apparent in the first contact. The entire front team should take responsibility for this as collectively they are the Directors of First Impressions in your practice. 

A brusque attitude, a dismissive tone, or a hostile front office environment can and will send people out your door forever. It may not be the first time. The patient may give your office the benefit of the doubt, but eventually you will lose them forever. And you will stay in a cycle of scrambling for patients, struggling with your front office and in a constant state of overwhelm with problem-solving overload.  

The ‘Yes’ mentality starts at the Top, the Dental Practice Owner 

So Doctor, why run a business that has an adversarial relationship with patients? It is a waste of time, a waste of money and most importantly, a waste of a great opportunity. You will also, in the long term, lose good workers and team players. After all, who wants to show up to a negative environment every day? It’s not sustainable. If I were in your shoes, here is where I would start… 

It starts with you, the business owner, the dental entrepreneur. It is solely your job to instill the values you want to convey to your patients in your team.  In their book, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, Jocko Wilink and Leif Babin describe the leadership mindset as taking 100% ownership of everything, the wins and the failures. They write,  

“The SEAL troops and platoons that didn’t perform well had leaders who blamed everyone and everything else—their troops, their subordinate leaders, or the scenario. They blamed the SEAL training instructor staff; they blamed inadequate equipment or the experience level of their men. They refused to accept responsibility. Poor performance and mission failure were the result. The best-performing SEAL units had leaders who accepted responsibility for everything. Every mistake, every failure or shortfall—those leaders would own it. During the debrief after a training mission, those good SEAL leaders took ownership of failures, sought guidance on how to improve, and figured out a way to overcome challenges on the next iteration. The best leaders checked their egos, accepted blame, sought out constructive criticism, and took detailed notes for improvement. They exhibited extreme ownership, and as a result, their SEAL platoons and task units dominated.”  

This passage illustrates two aspects of leadership. The first aspect is how the team leaders viewed their roles as leaders and the second aspect was how they conveyed this view to the people they were leading. The most important takeaway for me from this passage is, how important these team leaders viewed the role of leadership.  

On multiple occasions, I’ve walked into a dental organization to discover a dental owner who viewed his or her role as solely the dentist.  The various other teammates had their roles and they all worked typically independently of each other without a clear sense of teamwork, cohesion or even camaraderie. They all just clocked in, did their various duties and clocked out at the end of each day.  They consistently left an incredible amount of productivity, opportunity for growth, and also opportunity for personal fulfillment on the table.  Those kinds of practices typically have high patient turnover, high employee turnover, stagnant growth, higher overhead costs, and lower EBIDTA margins than a practice that has a fully engaged owner who is leading the team with energy, consistency, and effort.  

The worst scenario is the type of practice I just described at the tail-end of a growth cycle where everyone is pretty burnt out and the overall tone in the practice is one of resentful tolerance. We’ve all had those types of experiences walking into a doctor’s office of one kind or another where the receptionist doesn’t look up to greet you, the doctor phone’s in his or her time with you and then you leaves wondering if you should have made another appointment or if there will be any follow-up on their part. That type of office goes from overwhelm to collapse of the growth cycle pretty quickly.  

So…… 

The simplest answer is Leadership.  

80% Trust, 20% Hard Work 

I believe that 80% of what we do as leaders is cultivate trust. We must cultivate trust first in our employees and second in our patients. So how does a leader turn his or her practice into a ‘Yes’ provider? There are some simple and concrete foundational behaviors that every successful dental provider follows. They are not complicated or difficult behaviors to adapt but it may take some time to get all your team members on board if they don’t at first trust you or the process. These are principles and behaviors that, at first might be challenging for some members of your team, but in the long run will instill your practice with resilience, cohesion and high productivity.    

Five Behaviors that Make Your Dental Practice a ‘Yes’ Provider  

Below are five behaviors we have found in working with dental practices that increase business and revenue, keep patients coming back and allow your teams to stay cohesive, productive and resilient.   

Always Do Your Best to Say ‘Yes’

    Don’t Turn People Away

    Provide the Option of Same-Day Care

    Make Sure Your Team Members Are Taking Care of Themselves

    Make Sure You’ve Got the Right Butts in the Right Seats on the Bus

    First People, Then Strategy 

     As Jim Collins explains in his book great leaders don’t start with where to drive the bus (strategy), they start with getting the right people in the right seats (positions) first. Then they figure out where to drive their bus. A ‘yes’ provider is an organization that puts patients first, teams second, and strategy third. Revenue, profits, technology, business acumen, all of that is essential to success, but it all starts with people. If you are a service provider, you have no business unless you have people to serve. Being a ‘yes’ provider simply means learning to serve the people that make you successful.  

    Being a ‘yes’ provider starts with your front desk: a phone call, first impression, greeting familiar patients. Cultivating an atmosphere of compassion, enjoyment and even delight is not foolish. You will not be taken advantage of, you will not become pushovers. Actually, the opposite is true. You will increase your revenue and referral business and you will decrease patient churn and employee turnover. But it starts with you, the dental entrepreneur. Take the wheel of leadership and drive that bus.  

    If you are interested in finding out how to improve your leadership skills and would like to find out how to stop working in your business and start working on your business, take our assessment and see if your organization is ready to work with us here at Optimize.