When Dr. Williams bought the practice, she was doing $55,000 a month, now she is doing over $100,000 per month.
profitability, team development, scheduling, systems
“I was thrilled when I was able to purchase my own practice after working as a dentist for 14 years,” Dr. Lisa Mullis Williams recalled. But she hadn’t anticipated the things that can go wrong when buying an existing practice.
“You’re buying an entity with its own personality,” Dr. Williams said. “And when a new doctor comes in and wants to change that, it’s like throwing a big wrench into the cog. There were things that happened that didn’t even cross my mind-- You name it, and I have probably been through it ...”
There were unexpected holes in her schedule that she didn’t know how to fill. She hadn’t calculated a higher overhead because the previous doctor’s wife filled the role and wasn’t on the payroll. There was also the added stress of staff and patients depending on her.
“I take full responsibility,” Dr. Williams said. “There were things I hadn’t considered including that people don’t like change. I’d repeatedly tell my hygienists to do full mouth probing... I assumed it was being done until a patient that had been coming to this practice for years went over to a periodontist and needed $5000 of perio cleaning and scaling, etc. The patient was upset and wanted to know how this could happen because he’d been coming here every six months. I had to comp him $3000 worth of treatment because we didn’t do what we should have done. That was a hard lesson to learn.”
The business side of the practice was taking a personal toll on her too, as she struggled to balance being a mom with being a new practice owner.
“I was working so hard, but I felt like a failure,” Dr. Williams recalled. “I felt like I was a steamboat captain who is manning the ship to make sure we’re heading in the right direction, but without the right people in place, and I’m also the one in the furnace room shoveling the hot coals. The amount of stress was unbelievable.”
These were the reasons Dr. Williams, owner of Creekside Dental in Greensville, SC sought help one year into owning her practice, plus she wanted to spend more time with her children, aged 9 and 11.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Dr. Williams said. “I didn’t want this to fail. I wanted to right this sinking ship and make it a well- oiled machine that would run on its own. I wanted to provide the best quality care and wow every patient that walked through the door and do excellent dentistry. I didn’t want to just succeed. I want to exceed.”
After struggling for a year, a dental rep recommended she join a conference call with Wendy Briggs. Dr. Williams was hesitant, but she agreed anyway. When the day came, an emergency patient prevented her from joining the call so her husband, who is in Wealth Management, attended in her place.
“My husband came back from the call and said, ‘You’re doing this. You can’t afford not to.’ So, I bought in and have never looked back and never regretted it. I only wish I would have signed up the minute I bought the practice. It was a turning point for us. To have the business acumen available to us at a moment’s notice... they know how to answer all our questions and keep us informed. Team Training Institute (TTI) did an amazing job with the coronavirus. I can’t sing their praises enough. They held our hands through the whole process and made it a slam dunk.”
Today, revenue has gone way up. When she bought the practice, she was doing $55,000 a month, now she is doing over $100,000 per month.
Dr. Williams has paid down debt. Profitability is up, nearly doubling, even with the coronavirus forcing a shut down in the spring. “Patients are getting the world-class care I’d envisioned. My confidence level and our ability to get the practice where I want it to be is much better.” Staff and patients have responded supportively to the changes too. “The practice looks completely different and has a female touch now,” Dr. Williams said. “We make it fun. Staff and patients alike say they love the energy level and positivity.”
Here are four things that turned her practice around:
#1: Make Team Buy-In a Priority
“Our practice was struggling with being more of a social practice,” Dr. Williams explained. “We’d talk about our patient’s son’s football and this and that. The very first training with our hygiene coach (Bert) she gave us the protocols and verbiage. She helped get my team to buy into our philosophy of excellent dental care and reiterated it in a way that gets everybody on board.” Now the casual language of ‘come visit us’ has been replaced with language such as “we are your oral healthcare providers” and “this is the standard of care in dentistry.” “Our hygiene numbers went up 30% after the first visit,” Dr. Williams said. “I’m talking thousands and thousands of dollars of increased production merely by changing our verbiage and seeing what we were missing. We are providing more excellent care. The three extra x-rays we started taking on every patient pays for the TTI fee alone and that’s without the benefit of diagnosing the extra decay. The training was so informative and that was just what I learned the first month.”
#2: Don’t Be Afraid to Make Tough Decisions
The second month she switched to the Blue Diamonds program so she could also work with a business coach. “Sherri kept telling me to get a different front desk person, but I was stubborn and wouldn’t listen at first,” Dr. Williams said. “I’m a big softie and I didn’t want to let her go. But it was a HUGE issue. Before, there were always holes in the schedule. Now I have an extremely aggressive front desk scheduler named Alicia. She’s the best thing that’s happened to me. If that schedule isn’t full, Alicia is going to make it full. She started on a Monday and three days later I had her on a plane to go to a TTI training. Alicia’s been killing it up there since then. We are already producing $40,000 more per month than we were a year and a half ago.”
Staffing has been a problem. Her office manager had to be replaced and there was turnover with hygienists. “I had great people before, but they were stuck in the old ways and it just was not where I wanted it to be,” Dr. Williams explained. “Making sure the insurance is checked, and the schedule is full—so many things like this that weren’t being done the way I wanted. The amazing resources from TTI helped us with our verbiage, our tribal language, and organization—things that we were 100% completely lacking. TTI helped me get new hygienists that are top-notch. They are using the right verbiage and paying attention diagnostically. It’s a completely different experience.”
#3: Implement Systems, Procedures, and Team Communication
Putting systems in place has alleviated stress, improved quality of care, and made the office more enjoyable and fun for patients and staff alike. “We did a Core Values Day with TTI Coach Sherri to develop the Creekside Dental Core Values,” Dr. Williams said. “We came up with three core values that we need to live by every day.” Daily, weekly, and monthly huddles help keep the practice on course. “TTI suggested I do small group huddles,” Dr. Williams said. “This has really helped to make sure we keep our lines of communication open.”
One by one, Dr. Williams is getting everything in place, so her practice runs like the well-oiled machine she envisioned. “We are creating the standard operating procedures that should be in existence and followed whether or not I’m here,” Dr. Williams said. “Getting the systems in place and knowing that the practice will produce when I’m absent has been a breath of fresh air. I no longer feel that everything is resting on my shoulders.”
#4: Pay Attention to Your Numbers
Not fully being aware of the business side of the practice was one of the mistakes Dr. Williams admits caused her problems. She credits the accountability she receives from her TTI coach for making the impressive progress she’s made. “We look at numbers every single month,” Dr. Williams said. “Sherri goes over where we are for this month and last month. She shows me where we need to bring our numbers up to reach our goals. I would never sit down and look at those numbers without TTI. That guidance is worth its weight in gold because you can only improve on the things you are measuring. Without looking at those numbers, there’s not going to be progress.” By looking at her numbers, Dr. Williams predicts her practice will continue its growth trajectory and soon double in value.
“TTI is my secret weapon,” Dr. Williams said. “Had I not found them, I would have gone under. I probably would have sold out to one of those bigger places like Heartland and been working for ‘the man.’ But now, I refuse to sell out. When I look at what we were producing before TTI and what we produce now, the difference is astronomical. TTI knows what they are talking about and helped me to succeed.”