Beaverton TenderCare Dental

Beaverton, OR

After cutting back his hours 50%, Dr. Wong grew the practice and took his whole team on a memorable trip to Cabo San Lucas.

Breakthroughs in:

production, leadership, tiger-proofing, company culture, delegation, patient experience

"It’s been a wonderful year both professionally and personally. I no longer feel disappointed—instead, now, when I retire, I’ll have the pride of knowing I built the practice into what it is, and I’ll feel proud to pass the torch to whoever takes over the practice next."

"It’s been a wonderful year both professionally and personally. I no longer feel disappointed—instead, now, when I retire, I’ll have the pride of knowing I built the practice into what it is, and I’ll feel proud to pass the torch to whoever takes over the practice next."

Dr. Wong’s Journey from Heart Attack to Thriving Dental Practice

Shortly after turning 58 years old, Dr. Lennie Wong, owner of Beaverton TenderCare Dental, suffered a widowmaker heart attack which is typically fatal. Dr. Wong was fortunate to survive.

But this didn’t mean he was in the clear. Doctors instructed him to cut his schedule back to half-time immediately. “I worried this could cripple my practice,” Dr. Wong said. “For the past 13 years, as the sole owner of the practice, I was the main provider. It was a very scary time.”

Located in a high-tech industry area in Beaverton, Oregon, Beaverton TenderCare Dental draws professional-level employees from big businesses such as Intel, Tektronix, Columbia Sportswear, and Nike World Headquarters, which are located nearby. As a family practice, Beaverton TenderCare also serves the families of these professionals. It’s not uncommon for Dr. Wong to see three generations of patients. The practice provides all facets of general dentistry, including implants, Invisalign, and both cosmetic and therapeutic Botox.

Although the practice was thriving, revenue remained stagnant for several years. No matter what he did, Dr. Wong couldn’t break through the $2 million mark. However, he believed it was possible due to what he had to work with, which included a tremendously loyal team with most of his staff working for the practice for 20+ years and a generous working space of 3600 sq ft and ten operatories. (He also owns his building, totaling 7000 sq ft, and rents out the extra space to other tenants.) With retirement on the horizon, he was determined to optimize his practice and prove to himself that he could do it.

“We were successful in the sense that we were a larger-than-average practice withstanding the pressures of the economy and the realities of running a dental practice,” Dr. Wong said. “But it was frustrating not to be able to grow. I wasn’t at full capacity and was a little disappointed that I wasn’t fully utilizing my available capacity. I knew I should be able to do more with what I had—but I just wasn’t doing it. For the rest of my career, I wanted to be able to tap into what it took to grow and use my space. I’m a high achiever, and I wasn’t content. I was down on myself because I wasn’t fully utilizing what I had available, and both personally and professionally, I wanted to have pride in having grown the practice, not just sustained it.”

But with the significant loss of fifty percent of his contribution to production because of having to cut back his hours, the question was not only how to grow but “Could he keep his practice from decreasing substantially?”

Fortunately, shortly before his heart attack, Dr. Wong started to make changes, which included hiring two new part-time associates and hiring The Team Training Institute. “I knew I had more potential, and I got the sense that The Team Training Institute was going to help me get there. Having achieved growth, I wanted to go into the last part of my career on a high note.”

While he’d never worked with a consultant before, Dr. Wong saw something different when he met Dr. John Meis and Wendy Briggs at a seminar. “What appealed to me was how personal they were,” Dr. Wong recalled. “I felt like they were clearly different from any other practice management company that I’ve heard in the past. At the time, I didn’t know exactly how unique they were, but I just got that sense that they weren’t cookie-cutter. They weren’t just spewing out percentages about things such as what your wages and bills should be and how to meet those benchmarks like most consulting companies. Their approach was refreshing, and they also clearly had success with other practices.”

One year after his heart attack, Dr. Wong reported his practice had grown nearly 20%, despite the fact he’d cut back a full 50% and was no longer the main provider. Not only is his revenue up for the first time in years, but he says it has been the best, most enjoyable year of practice in his life. “In prior years, the ever-increasing overhead of things such as staff wage increases and decreasing insurance compensation was counteracting growth,” Dr. Wong said. “It wasn’t until The Team Training Institute entered the picture that we had our first significant and real upswing. I have not looked back and continue to practice just half time.”

Dr. Wong attributes the following to his successful year:

Optimize Production

The first thing Dr. Wong did with The Team Training Institute (TTI) was their Perio Explosion training. This gave him a good sense of the TTI framework and what he could achieve with their help. It also helped his staff get more comfortable with the idea of working with consultants. “Many thanks to our hygiene coaches, Laurie and Theresa,” Dr. Wong said.

Immediately, Dr. Wong experienced increased production and improved patient care. Case acceptance for adult Fluoride has risen to 70%, and they are protecting over 200 teeth per month.

“Most of our patients have been with us for years,” Dr. Wong explained. “It was getting frustrating because as our patients are living longer, despite our regular care, they’re still getting cavities in their elder years. I felt like we needed to do something more proactive, and then TTI came along and gave us tools we could recommend earlier in our patients’ lives rather than trying to catch up when they’re elderly. Now, our patients can get a head start, which makes sense to them. That’s been immediately impactful and gave us our first boost in production, too. The other thing it allowed was the opportunity for me to mentor my associates. Elevating the production of the hygienists, hiring another full-time hygienist, and working with my associate doctors to elevate their individual growth all contributed to the growth in our production.”

At first, his team was apprehensive; however, they changed their tune after meeting and working with their Team Training Institute coaches. The team enjoys that, although they already had a reputation for stellar care, TTI helped them to elevate their care to a new level.

“When I told my team that consultants were coming in, they definitely had a roll their eyes response,” Dr. Wong said. “Their previous experience with other consultants was that people got fired. I reassured them that this was not going to happen. When TTI came in and communicated with them, they realized there was nothing cookie-cutter about TTI. It’s tailored to optimize what you have and incorporate practical tools.”  

Stop seeing patients full time and do this instead.

Cutting back the time he was dedicating to production allowed Dr. Wong to focus more on management and to better manage and support his practice, associates, and team.“ Trying to manage and incorporate changes on top of seeing patients full time is hard,” Dr. Wong said. “I’m finding it not nearly as hard on me, stress-wise, to manage the practice since I’ve cut back on seeing patients. It’s afforded me the time and energy to effectively incorporate the changes I’ve learned from The Team Training Institute and allowed me to be more responsive to the needs of my staff and patients. While I had hired the two associates prior to engaging with TTI, I wouldn’t have started using them as effectively without TTI.”

Dr. Wong’s schedule is spread out, giving him extra time to enjoy visiting with patients on a personal level. “It’s been the most enjoyable year of my entire career,” Dr. Wong said. “I’m not seeing patients all the time, so it’s a very leisurely schedule. I feel kind of like a Matre’d at a restaurant—going around and saying hi or telling a funny story to patients. And if the schedule gets jammed up, I’m fully capable of pitching in when needed. That’s been a real luxury and wonderful to do.”

Due to elevating the revenue at the same time, he was cutting back his hours, which also makes his practice more desirable to potential buyers. “Dr. Meis told me that if I could show that I was not the main provider of the practice and still grow it, then more people would be interested in buying my practice,” Dr. Wong said. “It’s kind of sad it took a heart attack for me to make the changes that made that happen, but sure enough, it happened.”

Develop leaders.

Leadership no longer falls solely on Dr. Wong’s shoulders. He credits The Team Training Institute for helping him to unify his loyal staff and make them more effective through their newly acquired skills of contributing to the leadership and daily function of the practice. “All these years, we’ve had the potential,” he said. “We had always been lucky to have good people and people that felt like they’re well treated. I just needed the guidance that TTI provided on how to use good people like that effectively. I used to think that I had to lead everyone and even though I had an office manager, everybody looked towards me for the lead. TTI allowed me to be a more effective leader by showing me that there’s great value and better success by allowing and encouraging others to be leaders in their own way. TTI showed me how to integrate and utilize the staff to help me lead so I don’t have to be the lone soldier. Their teachings helped make me a better leader and helped create multiple leaders from within my practice.”

Build strong relationships across the practice.

Dr. Wong credits TTI’s approach of monthly meetings and getting to know him, his team, and his practice to growth inside and outside the practice.

“TTI gets to know you as an owner and as a practice so they can help you tailor your approach to your specific needs,” he said. “At least half the training we receive is on a personal level—about relationships with your staff, relationships between your staff and about personal growth. This has all translated to becoming a more effective leader. I love that they work so much on relationships, how people work, and personal growth. I feel like what we’re learning helps each person in their personal life—how they live and feel about themselves. Although it’s a huge responsibility, and sometimes a burden, to be a dentist and a small business owner, I mostly feel it is a privilege. I get to employ people and can make people’s lives better by creating a work environment that they enjoy. Work is such a big part of people’s lives, so if I can make it a good place for them to work and now, through TTI, enhance their lives, then I get to make a real positive impact like I never have before.”

Ask your patients to write a review. 

Patients like the changes Dr. Wong made, too. He has more than doubled his positive Google reviews, surpassing 500 positive reviews within only a few months of starting with TTI.

“We know we are doing things right by looking at our Google reviews,” he said. “Our patients are seeing a difference—an elevation in how we do things and how we feel about ourselves. We were already known to be very personal and treat people well. It’s amazing and cool when I think about what we were already doing and how that is even higher now.”

Improve your work environment.

Optimizing each operatory has made everyone more efficient. He is now prepared to offer same-day dentistry, something they’ve never been able to offer before, and he looks forward to seeing their results. Another thing Dr. Wong changed was the working environment. “I had my own idea within The Team Training Institute framework of what I wanted to accomplish in year one and year two,” Dr. Wong said. “I wanted to be prepared for growth. Because if we weren’t ready, we risked creating a negative patient experience. I spent most of my energy learning about the principles and investing in all the physical improvements to my office that I wanted to do first. Everyone loves the improvements we’ve made—both aesthetically and in their functionality. That is something we enjoy every moment of every day. Plus, now we are ready to hit capacity—and because we’re ready, I know we can deliver a great patient experience. We also had separate private doctor offices. My idea was that if we are going to work together as a group of doctors, we need to be able to speak the same language, and you can’t do that if you’re not collaborating on a regular basis. My TTI coach Karleen agreed, so I blew the wall out between the doctor’s offices and unified the three doctors, making a beautiful space for us to work out of and meet regularly.”

Dr. Wong also created a space for the entire staff to share, a beautiful new sterile room like no other with a dedicated wall where staff members can hang their personal pictures. “It’s unconventional, but I love it. It’s beautiful and very homey,” he said.

Develop tribal language.

Within the practice, Dr. Wong is looking forward to implementing a new system where each dentist and staff member use the same terminology for diagnosis and treatment.  

“I used to think there was honor in letting each of the three doctors work as solo dentists within the practice,” he said. “But now I realize it’s not impersonal to use the same language and procedures—the reality is that it is better in every way to be more unified as dentists than it is to be separate entities.”

Live your core values.

Dr. Wong and his team worked with their TTI coach to come up with core values and a concise mission statement. Having a mission statement and developing the practice’s core values have been game-changers. Now, his staff lives and breathes their mission statement and core values.

As an example of Dr. Wong living the core values, he treated his entire team to a one-week, all-expense paid trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. “My TTI consultant Karleen came on site to help us narrow down about 200 potential core values to four,” Dr. Wong said. “Our core values are caring, respect, teamwork, and fun. It took a couple of weeks for the staff to memorize and start living it, but now it’s natural. We didn’t go on that trip because we had met a particular goal. I was thrilled that everyone had embraced our core values, and I felt that taking them to Cabo showed how much I believed in those values myself. My wife and I took them with us on our family vacation just to have a good time together and celebrate life.”   

Create a concise mission statement.

While he had a mission statement before, no one could recite it or internalize it because it was too long.

"TTI helped me to create something for us to strive for together and make a concise mission statement,” Dr. Wong said. “Before, I had a manifesto with 22 lines that nobody could remember. Dr. John said to get it down to seven words or fewer, which I did. Now we’ve got it on the back of a t-shirt, and my team has a short, precise mission that is simple and focuses our attention. Because we’re striving for this mission, we’re improving the aesthetics of the practice. We’re providing a better patient experience. We’re incorporating better systems to be more efficient to make things better for our patients. A clear mission has helped the staff understand why we’re doing everything we’re doing, too. We’re also doing stuff to make the staff happy, which also makes the patient experience better because the staff has a better attitude about working here. That’s been huge for us.”

Tiger-proof sooner rather than later.

One month after his heart attack, Dr. Wong attended a Team Training Institute retreat, where he shared his story of surviving a heart attack and how he was still able to grow his practice immediately. “I asked my doctor if I could still attend this retreat because I was really looking forward to going,” Dr. Wong recalled. “Dr. John said, ‘This is why you tiger-proof your practice—you never know what might happen.’ And he’s right. Tiger-proofing isn’t just about building a multi-million-dollar practice. It’s about being able to survive something like what I did and still come out ahead. If I didn’t have associates and people in place to back me up, then my practice would have been crippled. I know another dentist whose wife nearly died from an accident, and he had to tend to her. He had to rely on friends to cover for him, but that was just short term. When you have associates, your coverage is built in for the long term. Between having my new associates step up and elevate their production and the urgings of Dr. John early on during a hot seat to hire another full-time hygienist, I was prepared to grow. I took his recommendation, and the new hygienist was full within one month.”

Looking back one year after his heart attack.

Dr. Wong credits TTI for helping him sustain his practice and flourish while cutting back. Additionally, he expressed sincere gratitude for the help he received from others: “I want to add that I could not have done this without the love and support of my wife, my family, and my dental staff. It’s important to me that they receive credit for what they did for me.”

Despite having to deal with the fact that he’ll never be able to go back to work full time, he said, “It’s been a wonderful year both professionally and personally.”

"Everything has been extremely positive,” Dr. Wong said. “Before The Team Training Institute, the consultants I ran into were dentists but not really business people or business people but not dentists. Dr. John is both a highly successful dentist and a highly successful businessman, specifically in dentistry. Following someone who has succeeded in both arenas felt like real-life advice you could count on. Without TTI, I would have survived, but I would not have thrived, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed this year nearly as much. I love that I’ve cut back my hours and can still be here physically without micromanaging. I get to just be here and enjoy the rest. Better yet, I have a flexibility and freedom to be out of the office that I never had before. We now have a culture that didn’t exist before TTI, and we’re working on real, tangible goals together. I love attending TTI retreats because I enjoy being around and socializing with high achievers. They are down-to-earth, highly successful people who are beautiful to be around. Plus, it’s fun to hear them drop pearls of wisdom and then try them in my practice, knowing that they will most likely work for me, too. I no longer feel disappointed—instead, now, when I retire, I’ll have the pride of knowing I built the practice into what it is, and I’ll feel proud to pass the torch to whoever takes over the practice next.”

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