Associates in Dentistry has built a great office atmosphere, increased production, and increased the value of the business.
production, company vision, team development, systems
In 2020, when things slowed down due to COVID-19, Associates in Dentistry discovered they weren’t being effective or efficient. Located in rural Kentucky, there were six equal partners running four locations. As things slowed down and they stepped out of the rat race, they evaluated the practice. They made the decision to close one location and one of the doctors retired. But despite one less doctor and one less location, the way they were running things was not sustainable because each of the five remaining partners had a different idea about how the practice should be run. The biggest problem caused by not being on the same page was that their team often had conflicting directions to follow which meant confusion and inefficiency.
“There were too many chefs in the kitchen,” Dr. Corey Hamm said. “We were all equal partners, and we all wanted to do it our way. The staff didn’t know what to do. All the doctors rotate in and out of all the offices all the time. It was a struggle for the staff to figure out how to act on each different day because one doctor would tell them to do it one way, and another doctor would tell them to do it another way. They were doing a great job, but they were just trying to keep the peace.”
The partners were worried. With everyone thinking different things, there was concern about how they would flourish or not flourish, whether they should stay or go, and where the practice would end up if this wasn’t resolved.
“We knew we were never going to reach our potential,” Dr. Hamm said. “We would never reach what we could become and never serve the patients to the fullest extent if we kept doing things the same way.”
Although they’d identified the problem, they weren’t sure HOW to get everyone on the same page. On their own time, two of the partners, Dr. Corey Hamm and his wife, Dr. Jessica Hamm, became involved in a group called Freedom Founders. It was here that they were offered the opportunity to speak with a trusted advisor. Upon reviewing their options, the Hamms chose to speak with The Team Training Institute’s co-founder Wendy Briggs. After speaking with Wendy, they brought the idea of working with The Team Training Institute (TTI) to the other partners. No one in the practice had ever received coaching before. However, all the partners agreed to bring The Team Training Institute in to help them. “We all wanted to figure out how to make things right,” Dr. Hamm said.
Since joining TTI, the partners created a united vision. Despite decreasing their team from five doctors to four and decreasing the number of days they work in the office; their revenue and profits have increased. In November 2022, they also were able to acquire a new building that was efficiently laid out by a dentist.
“We all know where we are going now,” Dr. Hamm said. “We’ve been able to generate enough revenue from losing a doctor and closing two more days a week that we’ve been able to pay that doctor off in eight months without taking a loan. To me, that shows we are doing the right things.”
Not only are the doctors on the same page now, but their entire team is also on board and fully engaged.
“I’m super excited,” Dr. Corey Hamm said. “I feel we’ve developed a good core group. It’s fun to do this with them and to see what the future holds. We’re having fun at work and fun learning. We’re having fun on the retreats and seeing what is possible. It’s fun doing it together, so I’m excited about the future.”
Dr. Corey Hamm shared the following key takeaways from Associates in Dentistry’s experience with The Team Training Institute:
Create One Cohesive Vision
The five partners started with a 2-day Vision Day session with Dr. John Meis.
“Because there were five of us, The Team Training Institute suggested we needed to figure out what direction we wanted to go first so we would know how to proceed,” Dr. Hamm said. “We all got on board with a vision, a mission statement, and core values that we all agreed on, and that’s where we wanted the practice to go. Then The Team Training Institute guided us on how to bring it to the team and how to approach them to get their involvement.”
Approximately one year after creating their vision together, one partner decided they wanted to go in a different direction, so they parted ways. Today there are four equal partners, Dr. Corey Hamm, his wife Dr. Jessica Hamm, Dr. Robert Millay, and Dr. Harold Maynard. Associates in Dentistry includes three locations. One each in Russell Springs, Kentucky, Somerset, Kentucky, and Whitley City, Kentucky.
Get Your Team Involved
After getting all the partners on the same page, Dr. John advised the partners to involve their team. The team helped to further define and develop the core values. “We didn’t define it for them. They helped create it,” Dr. Hamm said. “The Team Training Institute helped guide us through situations, so we knew the right questions to ask. This helped us understand how the team perceived certain things.”
Each month, they took one of their five core values, which are communication, teamwork, integrity, family, and respect, and worked with their team to further define what that looked like. “One of the best things that happened is bringing our team in,” Dr. Hamm said. “Dr. John guided us. We got everyone together, took one of those core values, and asked everybody what that word meant to them–what it looked like to them.”
After writing down everyone’s input, they chose five statements for each core value that defined how they all agreed to define that value. Once core value statements were created, they began taking their team to TTI’s quarterly retreats and collectively deciding on one, two, or three items to incorporate into the practice. “Each retreat has a topic, so we would figure out which idea we all liked, incorporate it, and move on to the next idea,” Dr. Hamm said. “We’re still evolving. We’re still learning. We’re still growing. We are definitely going in the right direction and the team; they are fantastic and amazing. They’ve really bought in because they can see we are investing in them.”
Protect Your Company Culture
Dr. Hamm attributes the success of the practice to the whole team, so he and his partners do everything they can to protect the culture they’ve worked so hard to build. He lets people know upfront during the interviewing process that if they don’t fit into the culture, they won’t be allowed to continue working there.
“Our team is a special group of people,” Dr. Hamm said. “I’m very protective of them. We’ve worked extremely hard over the last eighteen months to get where we are. Recently, we had an assistant that we hired. She was fantastic, but about four months into it, the team was getting frustrated with her. I asked my team, ‘Is this someone you want on your team?’ They said no, and so we let her go. She was good, but she didn’t fit our culture.”
The practice never had a hygienist prior to joining The Team Training Institute. Now they have two hygienists with a third one slated to join them in June. After they hired their second hygienist, they went through Hygiene Explosion with their TTI hygiene coach.
“Hygiene Explosion really helped us because the team was thinking the same thing… ‘Well, they’ve never been here. They don’t know my patients. They don’t know my area. My patients aren’t going to accept this.’” Dr. Hamm said. “But once The Team Training Institute gave us the tools on how to present, we were no different from anywhere else. Our patients did accept it. They did embrace it. It was neat. Not that we were giving the wrong information or giving the wrong treatment before, we just didn’t deliver the information in the right way. TTI helped us with the delivery as well as the why behind the delivery.”
Dr. Hamm attributes their improved patient care as well as their increased revenue to the training they’ve received. “Once TTI coached us through all of that and we found that patients did want this stuff, we added adult sealants, fluoride, and now we are adding seal and protect,” Dr. Hamm said. “Because of the way the hygienist talks to patients, we’re doing more dentistry. Plus, because of that training, when the fifth partner decided to part ways with us, we’ve been able to buy her out without getting a loan.”
Do the Right Thing
Although the partners hear the occasional ‘thank you’ from patients after delivering information about treatment options, what really lets them know patients like the changes they’ve made is by observing how the patients act. “You can see it in their actions because now they’re actually going through with treatment that we’ve tried to talk to them about doing for the last several years,” Dr. Hamm said. “It’s because the way we deliver it is different.”
But Dr. Hamm emphasizes to his team that it’s not about selling dentistry. “Everybody talks about selling dentistry,” Dr. Hamm said. “But you are not selling dentistry if you’re doing ethical treatments. We’re not selling anything. We’re just giving them good ethical treatment. And as Dr. John says, we’re doing the right thing for the patient at the right time. Which is just the right thing to do.”
Systems Create the Results You Want
Currently, the partners are working on creating and finalizing systems. Once again, the team is heavily involved in helping get these in place. One system they are focused on is how to onboard new hires.
“TTI is giving us guidance on how to approach that,” Dr. Hamm said. “For example, we look at what a new hire should know in three days, three weeks, and three months. We are working through that to create an onboarding process with that in mind.”
Their new bonus system is allowing them to reward their team more than they ever have in the past and making it more enjoyable for everyone.
“I feel good about the changes we’ve made,” Dr. Hamm said. “We’re able to pay the team more, and we’re not paying them just to pay them. Because we have a bonus system, they have fun doing it. Our team lets us know where they are at. We cheer them on and tell them, let us know where you need us, and we’ll go for it. We’re all working hard. But we’re having fun because we learned how to do it together and be on the same page.”
The systems they’ve put in place are helping them provide better treatment for their patients. “Comprehensive care has increased,” Dr. Hamm said. “That’s a big change. We know we’re following the systems because of the result.”
Use a Customized Approach with Guardrails
While they’re still learning and growing, Dr. Hamm believes they’re headed toward more autonomy and freedom. He attributes this to not only working with a dedicated business coach and dedicated hygiene coach but also to TTI’s approach to coaching, which includes showing the partners different ways to get the results they desire.
“I like that they didn’t try, and they’re still not trying, to make it a one-size-fits-all program,” Dr. Hamm said. “They never say, ‘Do it this way.’ It’s more about giving us some guardrails and letting us know there are some different ways you could do this. With the guardrails in place, we can find our way through with their guidance. That was totally appealing because there isn’t just one way to do things. If we’re getting the result, and we’re staying within the guardrails, we know it’s happening. But if the result is not happening, then we know there’s a failure in the system, and we got outside of the guardrails.”
Make Decision Making Easier
The partners have gotten into the practice of setting goals with the team and tying them to everything they do. They also use their core values for decision making.
“Our team likes what we are doing now,” Dr. Hamm said. “We’re constantly setting goals, and don’t do anything now without goals. Our team knows that if we want to do something, we must have a goal. And the goal must be a win-win-win. It’s got to be a win for the patient, a win for the team, and a win for the practice. For example, if we want to go on a retreat, we set a goal that we must meet to make that happen. Our team is having no problems reaching those goals, which lets us know they’re engaged. We also tie in our core values. If it doesn’t fall within our core values, then it’s not a decision we’ll entertain.”
Schedule Time for Learning, Thinking, and Planning
A combination of focused time working on the practice, instead of in the practice, being around other successful dental practices, and including the entire team in the process is driving them forward.
“There’s clarity of where we are going now,” Dr. Hamm said. “There’s clarity for the team and the culture we’ve created together. There’s clarity about what they want. When we go to a retreat, we talk about things. We see that there are other practices all across the U.S. that are going through the same struggles and that it is possible because we also are able to see practices who have already navigated through these struggles. We learn new stuff, get clear on that, and apply it. Then we regroup, go to another retreat, and get more clarity so we can go even further.”
Dr. Hamm feels good about their decision to bring The Team Training Institute into the mix.
“Before working with The Team Training Institute, I didn’t know if it was possible to get all the doctors on the same page, and then get the entire team on the same page as well. And then it happened. It’s given us a clear vision, a clear mission statement, and clear core values to follow. We took them to the team who has been great. They’ve really bought in, and really want the practice to do well.”
Everything the team at Associates in Dentistry is doing adds up to a more enjoyable work environment, more comprehensive care, easier decision making, and a practice that is worth more. Still, Dr. Hamm says even more important than increasing the value of the practice is what he and his partners are able to provide.
“Do I want my practice to be worth more? Yes, but I want my team to be able to come to a place where they’re having fun, and they’re able to make a good living as well,” Dr. Hamm said. “It’s not just our family I want to provide for, I want my team to be able to do things for their family, and spend time with their family, and do things they would like to do.”
What is Dr. Hamm’s Biggest Piece of Advice for Others Considering The Team Training Institute?
“You don’t have to do it alone,” he said. “Just partnering with the right people can unlock a lot of doors. Your situation is not as unique as you think it is. When you get in a room full of dental practices and hear them expressing the same issues and problems that you have, some of them from big cities, some in rural areas, you discover we have a whole lot more in common than people think. You get in the room with the coaches, and you can tell they’ve done this before. I tell people when you get with the right coaches in the right room, it can be life changing.”