Monday, July 25, 2016


Most dental offices are exceedingly busy places.  Aspects of a small business with lots of customers and aspects of a hospital with lots of patients are combined and packed into your office every day.  Ideally, the most important aspect of yours or any dental practice is top quality treatment delivered with tender loving concern for patients.  To assure such care is part of your practice, you must have a superlative relationship with and among team members.  And in order to have such a relationship, you, Doctor, must take the time to listen and really hear what your staff is saying to you. 

The following staff survey, Questions about My Feelings and Our Practice, may prove helpful to start the kind of meaningful dialog that enriches a dental team, lifting it to the necessary level of trust and synergism.  Two ways to use the survey:  distribute copies a few days before the staff meeting or staff retreat at which it will be discussed to give team members time to consider their opinions and suggestions; or distribute copies to be completed by individuals on the team and schedule one-on-ones with each person.  Either way, you will receive invaluable input from your team---if you, Doctor, listen non-defensively, hear what is meant, and act on feasible suggestions.

Questions about My Feelings and Our Practice

What do I like best about our practice?
What do I like least?
What are one or two things I would change about our office?
What in the office made me feel stressed recently?
What did we do this week that was unnecessary?
What wasted time or money or energy this week?
What did our patients complain about this week?
What did one or more team members misunderstand this week?
What can we do to fix these problems?  Which should we tackle first?
What three positive things happened in the office this week?
What took too long this week?
What is top priority for our office?
What is top priority for me as part of our dental team?
What do I need to help me do a better job?

What do I tell people when I want to brag about our office?

Monday, July 18, 2016


You’ve heard it said that the aura of a dental office depends on the staff as much or more than on the dentist.  So true!  Your team is involved from the beginning to the end of each patient appointment.  From the telephone greeting to scheduling appointments, from welcoming patients to assisting with treatment or providing hygiene care, from collecting fees to filing insurances to billing, from rescheduling and dismissing patients to contacts between visits---your staff handles it all.  The way team members relate to patients sets the tone, mood, aura, perception (good or bad) of your office. 

And, consider this fact---often, staff members relate to patients in the same way you relate to the team, as individuals and as a group.  I’ve witnessed it again and again in my 35 years of consulting---a sound, pleasant, trusting, productive relationship between doctor and team is reflected in a sound, pleasant, trusting, productive relationship between the entire staff and your patients.

What about your relationship with your dental team?  Are you aware of how individuals feel toward you? toward each other? toward patients? toward their work? toward professional growth opportunities?  Let’s review aspects of motivation, and then you can peruse the list below for specifics about how to motivate your team members to become the best they can be.

Over 40 years ago, Dr. Frederick Maslow, renowned psychologist, completed a study about motivation of employees.  Published in The Harvard Business Review,  Dr. Maslow’s study showed that employees were motivated by:  Achievement---a sense of accomplishment; Recognition---applause from their leader; Meaningful Work---particularly service to or care for others; Responsibility---delegation NOT followed by micro-management; and Growth---opportunities to improve professional skills and knowledge. 

You may wonder why I would reference a 40 year old study about motivation---because experts currently tout these same factors as important motivational stimuli.  With many team members in the Generation X (between 36-51 years old) and the Millennial generation (between 16-35 years old), these motivational factors still hold true.  Your team members care about being made to feel important, appreciated, and essential to quality patient care and the smooth functioning of the office.

Yes---things like wage rate, benefits, status, job title, working conditions, etc., do matter, particularly to Millennials.  Business analysts often use Dr. Maslow’s term for such aspects of employment: “Hygiene Factors.”  Hygiene factors help individual team members avoid job dissatisfaction, but the five factors listed above, Achievement, Recognition, Meaningful Work, Responsibility, and Professional Growth, are the lifeblood of motivation.

These five motivational factors are the ingredients that make your dental team stronger, more cohesive, better satisfied; and, therefore, more attune to your patients’ needs and care.  The way you make your staff members feel, the respect and concern you show them, are reflected in the way they serve your patients.

Next month I’ll send you a list of specific ideas you can use to better motivate your dental team.  The motivational tools to be listed are practical and well tested in scores of offices with which I have consulted over the years.”   

Monday, July 11, 2016


Recently my email Inbox told me I had received a note from one of my heroes in the dental profession, Dr. Ted Croll.  Dr. Croll has practiced Pediatric Dentistry in Doylestown, PA since 1978, and he has shared his ideas, inventions, wisdom, and wit with us here at Practicon since the 1990s.  Ted has written innumerable articles on dental treatment, research, products, and other dental topics, published in dental journals around the globe.  He has published seven books, several of which Practicon distributes, and holds 19 U.S. patents, several awarded for products Practicon carries.  In short, we admire his work, his dedication to dentistry, his friendship, his energy, his effervescent personality, and his willingness to show others what he calls “his old softie side.”

The email he sent was a piece found by his “old softie side” and was entitled Change Your Thinking.  By the time I finished reading it, I had decided that with Ted’s permission as contributor, I would share it with you, our readers, in hopes it will remind you, as it did me, never to forget that there is “tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.”

Change Your Thinking

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.  One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.  His bed was next to the room’s only window.  The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

They talked for hours on end.  They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in military service, where they had been on vacation…

Every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.  The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.  Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats.  Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene. 

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.  Although the other man could not hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks, and months passed.  One morning the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window who had died peacefully in his sleep.  She was saddened and called the hospital attendants for help.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window.  The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after seeing that he was comfortable, she left him alone.  Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.  He strained, slowly turning to look out the window beside the bed. 

It faced a blank wall!

Upon her return, the man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate to describe such wonderful things outside the window.  The nurse responded that the man was totally blind and could not even see the wall.  She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”

Epilogue:  There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situation.  Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.  If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.  Today is a gift; that is why it is called The Present.

Monday, July 4, 2016


The dental practice that reaches its maximum profit potential has a system in place for analyzing overhead and setting an annual budget.  The budgeting process and ultimate control of the financial strength of your practice begins with overhead analysis, preferably from the most recent three years.  The most effective way to analyze overhead is to divide expenses into six categories, NOT including doctor compensation, and understand the percent each category typically takes of collections.

The six categories of expense and the recommended percent each takes of collections:

            Personnel, including staff wages, payroll taxes, and benefits
                        General, orthodontic and other specialties---19% to 28%
                        Pediatric dental practice---24% to 30%
            Occupancy---7% to 11%
            Administrative expenses and supplies---6% to 10%
            Equipment, furnishings, contingency fund---4% to 6%
            Clinical supplies and expenses, including lab
                        General, prosthodontics and other specialties---7% to 13%
                        Pediatric practice---6% to 8%
                        Orthodontic practice---10% to 12%
            Marketing---3% to 6%; more if a Marketing Coordinator is employed            

Suggestion:  if you are just beginning the analysis process, work with your accountant or bookkeeper to set up a Chart of Accounts in which every office bill paid is assigned a code number that corresponds to one of the six categories of expense listed above.  Consistently code monthly payments for each category of expense to the same account number.  By doing so, at the end of the quarter or year, one can tell the total dollars spent in each of the six categories and calculate what percentage of collections each requires.  If a category is well over the recommended percentage, the focus for the coming period should be cutting expenses in that category if possible.

An example of Chart of Accounts codes with the variety of expenses that might be included in each:    
            Personnel – 5000s Chart of Accounts codes
                        Wages, payroll taxes, and benefits
                        Continuing education expenses
            Occupancy – 6000s Chart of Accounts codes
                        Lease or note payment
                        Janitorial, grounds, and security services
                        Repairs and maintenance to facility
                        Insurance on building and contents
            Administrative – 7000s Chart of Accounts Codes
                        Accounting and legal services
                        Answering service
                        Collection costs/merchant charges for credit cards
                        Computer expenses
                        Dues and subscriptions
                        Insurance---Malpractice, Business overhead, Disability
                        Licenses and permits
                        Office supplies, postage
            Equipment, furnishings, contingency fund – 8000s Chart of Accounts codes
            Clinical supplies, expenses, and laboratory services – 9000s Chart of Account codes
            Marketing – 9500s Chart of Accounts codes
                        Online marketing expenses
                        Print pieces and advertising
                        Patient giveaways
                        Wages of Marketing Coordinator if one is employed

A Chart of Accounts should be customized for your practice.  You and your accountant can set codes to obtain as much detail as you choose to use in the analysis of your practice overhead.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Big question!  And it deserves a big answer.  At least once a year I feel compelled to tell our readers about the best practice management newsletter on the market.  This Newsletter is published monthly, typically eight pages per issue, packed full of management information, marketing concepts, tax, estate, and retirement planning concepts, practice transition issues, government regulation ins-&-outs, on and on.  Every issue is a treasure trove of solid information to keep you, the owner/manager of your small business/dental practice, current on laws, regulations, realistic goals and numbers for your office, personal and professional challenges and decisions, etc.

A disclaimer---I have no connection whatsoever with the Newsletter.  I have met one of the principals, Roger Hill, who specializes in practice evaluations and transitions.  I respect Roger’s work and have recommended his services to some of my clients.  I mention these facts to emphasize that the only reason I have for recommending this Newsletter to you is the conviction that reading it will greatly benefit you professionally and personally.

Need more convincing before you consider subscribing?  I will add a personal note that may help.  As I write this on the first of May 2016, I am eagerly anticipating my grandson’s graduation from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Dentistry on May 6.  YES!  We are pleased and proud!  And in order to get Will started on the ever-challenging task of learning to run a small business while planning and saving for his family’s future needs and his some-day retirement, one of his graduation gifts will be a subscription to The McGill AdvisoryI believe the scope of information he will gain from reading 

The McGill Advisory over the years will be invaluable to his career and financial future. 

For more information, go to the Advisory newsletter website: or email questions to or call 888-249-7537.  You will thank me, and you are most welcome!