Hitting records month after month, Dr. Betts has hired additional staff and now is in the process of hiring an associate.
production, hygiene care, patient experience,
Eight years ago, Dr. Charles Betts’ practice was in a rut. It was growing slowly and there was what he describes as “a lack of passion for growth” in his hygiene department.
Practicing in Decatur, Alabama since 1989, Dr. Betts worked as an associate to another dentist for only two years before the dentist sold him his practice. Over the past 30 years, he’s grown his practice most years except during the great recession. He even built a new building in 2000.
He admits that it would have been easy to just keep plodding along, growing slowly.
But as a fee-for-service practice in a 55,000-person community where there are close to 40 other dental practices, it was important to up their game. There was the real danger of having to deeply discount services to keep the doors open. Dr. Betts felt it was important to build a successful solo practice that would protect his employees and could eventually be sold or taken over by another dentist. He is adamant that he never wanted to sell out to a corporation.
Even more important to Dr. Betts was living up to his core values of excellence and integrity. “We really want to do what’s best for our patients and to provide them what they need,” he said.
But you kind of degrade over time and get to where you’re not doing the level of care you want,” his wife Sylvia added. (Sylvia held several nursing positions and was a nursing instructor at Calhoun Community College before she began helping the dental practice part-time while raising their family. Today she serves as the office manager.)
It was Sylvia who suggested they consider bringing in The Team Training Institute (TTI). “When I heard Wendy speak at a meeting it dawned on me that hygiene was the weakest link in our practice,” Sylvia said.
At first, Dr. Betts had a little fear and trepidation about diving into TTI. “We knew it was a long-term financial commitment to join TTI, and that is something we had to consider, but becoming a member quickly proved to be a profitable decision,” Dr. Betts said. “Your money comes back to you tenfold, so the investment is well worth it.”
The staff was hesitant at first too, but it didn’t take long to win them over. “When Wendy talks about the preventative things that hygienists do, that really resonated with our staff,” Sylvia said. “This opened their eyes to the possibilities that they could be doing more for their patients. The hygiene drew us in and the practice management and the wisdom that John Meis shares kept us here all these years.”
Since joining TTI, hygiene production has doubled, and revenue has increased by thirty-three percent. The Betts feel more confident in the dentistry they perform and the care they are giving patients, too. “The staff has gotten better at giving everyone the services they need and at educating them,” Dr. Betts said. “And that’s one of our goals–to give great service.”
The number of sealants and fluoride has gone up 38% year over year since they started with TTI, supporting his goal of better care for their patients. “At the end of the day, I feel extremely good about what we do,” Sylvia said.
But while things had been steadily increasing, they never would have expected what happened in 2020. After being closed for seven and a half weeks, their business has been the busiest it’s ever been. Hitting record month after record month, they’ve hired additional staff and now, for the first time, Dr. Betts is in the process of hiring an associate to help meet the demand.
With over 150 Google reviews--all 5-star ratings, their patients are happy too. Comments from patients talk about trust and how kind and caring the staff is. “Patients tell me they love coming here,” Dr. Betts said. “They feel well cared for and I feel we are delivering a quality package.”
Here are four things that made the difference for Dr. Betts:
#1: The Game Changer of 2020
The Betts attribute their record-breaking months that started in 2020 to fully implementing same-day dentistry. While TTI’s processes had increased their productivity and they’d done a lot with periodontal treatment, they’d only scratched the surface with same- day dentistry. But when the pandemic hit, the Betts decided to refocus and truly commit to doing same-day dentistry. “We decided to change everything,” Sylvia said. “At first the hygienists were hesitant. They were like, ‘Oh, that sounds nice, but I don’t see how we can do that.’” The Betts credit their success to three things: 1) Leading with conviction; 2) What they learned about same-day dentistry from TTI and how to carry it out to make it go extremely well; 3) Their TTI coach Bert.
“We really, really believe in it,” Sylvia said. “It’s been the biggest game-changer of the year for us.” By leading with real conviction, their staff became more engaged than ever before. “We knew that there was going to be an influx of patients when we opened back up and we needed to be able to serve people as efficiently and productively as possible,” Dr. Betts said. “The staff jumped in and came up with physical systems to facilitate the change such as how they manage instruments and rooms. This was no small feat–to facilitate moving from one thing to the next, as quickly as possible in light of the COVID restrictions that we had. It was extremely different this time. It was a TTI concept, but it became real to our staff when they got involved in the plans. In spite of those things that took longer, we are more productive.”
“After the last training and phone call with Bert, all of a sudden it just clicked, and the hygienists were like, ‘I can do this,’” Sylvia said. “Sometimes it just takes them hearing things from someone else, especially if you’ve been in practice for a long time. Now, one of our hygienists cut her workdays down by one day a week and increased her production. She’s producing 38% more working three days than she was when she worked four days a week!”
“We were thinking back to the last recession and how we limped along for years. But when we opened up after being closed for the pandemic, because of putting those same-day dentistry systems in place, we’ve been busier than we’ve ever been.”
#2: Engage With the TTI Community
Actively participating in the community, being in constant contact with their TTI coaches, and not being afraid to ask for assistance has helped them grow faster.
“When you’ve got a crisis going on with an employee or whatever, we can pick up the phone and call or text our TTI coaches or Wendy... all of them there are so great,” Sylvia said. “During COVID our coaches, Bert and Sherri, were in constant contact with us. They helped us with all sorts of plans and encouraged us to do things like keeping in contact with our team so they would know what we were implementing to keep them safe because everybody was afraid. They helped us find masks... And being a part of the whole TTI community, all the dentists were helping each other, and the coaches were facilitating this to help us find the supplies we needed that were in such short demand. They were there during the pandemic and while we were closed to help us prepare ahead of time so that we could open up really well. And that was very, very helpful.”
“It wasn’t just the two of us thinking about what’s going to happen when we open back up,” Dr. Betts added. “It was a whole community thinking about what we had to anticipate when we opened back up. When you’re going through something you’ve never been through before, having regular meetings with TTI where we knew we could get questions answered, resources could be found, and advice would be given –it is nice to have someone to hold your hand a little bit.”
While the pandemic is the most obvious crisis, the Betts have had other things come up where they’ve appreciated having the TTI community to reach out to. “One of the hardest things we went through was disciplining a long-term employee and eventually separating from that employee,” Sylvia confided. “Having another person on the outside to be objective with that was extremely helpful.”
#3: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Neither of the Betts has a background in business, so having the TTI processes and systems they can put into their business has saved them time, frustration, and from making costly mistakes. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Dr. Betts said. “The practice loop helps me know what numbers to look at and what numbers to watch as far as growth and profitability is concerned.”
“This was all new to me,” Sylvia added. “Capacity was an issue for us, so we hired several new people. Sherri walked me through the successful hiring processes. Now we’re tweaking manuals and checklists to fit our practice as we plan on bringing on more new people. If you need a job description or a checklist or something like that, TTI has it. It’s like having an HR Resource available all the time.”
They are also looking for an associate dentist. “This will be my first associate that I hire,” Dr. Betts said. “I’m looking to bring in someone who can do some things that I don’t do to widen the practice and also to allow me to take more time off. We are learning from those in the TTI community who have hired a lot of associates.
#4: Build Leadership
Hiring more people helped with their capacity issues for same day dentistry. But this only made them more aware that they needed to invest more in building leaders.
”TTI has built our confidence,” Sylvia said. “I can’t say that enough. Just like we need to empower our team to be leaders, they’ve empowered us to lead in an effective way.”
“We have recognized that people may show leadership ability, but don’t necessarily have all the tools they need in order to lead,” Dr. Betts said. “So, part of our responsibility is providing books, information, and instruction on leadership skills to empower them to be leaders.”
To build their team leaders, the Betts have them watch TTI training videos, give them books to read on leadership, and plan on taking team members to TTI meetings.
“Before TTI, it was just the two of us trying to figure things out,” Dr. Betts said. “It was eye-opening to be around dentists from all across the nation. The wide experience that TTI presents, not just their own ideas, but things shared with the members from all these practices across the country. Just thinking of different ways to handle your problems and ways to handle growth and things like that is eye-opening and extremely mind-broadening because you start thinking of possibilities that you had not thought of before. Without TTI, we wouldn’t be where we are today, and we wouldn’t be as financially secure as we are. I don’t know how we would have made it through the pandemic. We would have been shorthanded... because we would have cut staff post- pandemic to save money instead of adding staff... and that was the exact opposite of what we needed to do. It gave us the courage to go back full speed ahead.”
Dr. Charles and Sylvia Betts have also been featured on The Team Training Institute's podcast. Click here to listen to their episode: