Dr. Fink grew his practice to 9 ops, increased production, reduced his hours, and feels more in sync with the whole team.
leadership development, analytics, hygiene care, delegation, systems
In 2017, Dr. Gregg Fink’s stress load was mounting and starting to feel inescapable.
He expanded his office from two operatories to eight operatories in 2018 and brought in associates to help out. By 2019, his dental practice, Dental Arts of Delaware, which he started from scratch in 2006, was pulling in barely shy of three million dollars. Highly profitable, he’d grown every year except for 2020, when they were closed for nine weeks due to COVID-19. Also in 2019, he brought on a partner, Dr. Christopher Appleman, finding the right person after having tried a number of associates over the years. But despite all his success, the brunt of the responsibility still rested square on his shoulders. Plus, there were added stressors as his practice was continuing to grow and get busier. Meanwhile, at home, he and his wife, Jennifer, had just taken in two young foster children, which proved to have its own set of challenges.
On the verge of burnout, Dr. Fink was trying to figure out how he could help his practice. “Although I’d brought on a partner, I was still managing and doing 99% of the administration stuff,” Dr. Fink said. “It had just gotten to be too much. I knew the business could not continue to grow if I was continuing to be the main dentist as well as the main administrator.”
In search of a solution, he attended a conference in Las Vegas in February 2020, where he heard Dr. John Meis speak along with a variety of other dental consultants. “I was extremely impressed with what Dr. Meis had to say,” Dr. Fink said. “So, I followed up with him as well as a bunch of other consultants.”
“None of the first group of consultants or coaches I interviewed hit home for me,” Dr. Fink said. “There are a lot of these consultants and charlatans out there who want to sell you their services based on trying to tell you, ‘Everything is terrible, you better hire me, or you’re going to end up bankrupt in a year.’ You see a lot of them on Facebook—just trying to scare people to use them. And they don’t really have anything to offer except fear—so I didn’t feel good about hiring any of them. But The Team Training Institute is the exact opposite of that. What they offer is hope and help and a very enlightened way forward to get you to a better place.”
Since joining The Team Training Institute and implementing changes at the end of 2020, Dr. Fink’s collections are up eight percent. Plus, he is working less. “There are 12 fewer hours that the doctors are working per week,” Dr. Fink said. Despite working less, their numbers have not decreased. Dr. Fink’s production has not fallen off either, which means he’s producing more in less time. His stress level has decreased significantly, which has made the entire practice more enjoyable from better working conditions to better results with patients.
“I’m more in sync with the entire team,” Dr. Fink said. “The entire office is a much more pleasant place. Not that it was bad before, but we’ve weeded out anyone who might’ve caused office stress before. Now everyone’s on the same page in terms of what we’re doing and if they’re not, I’m not addressing it—the office manager is. I’m able to focus more on the big picture and what we need to do to keep this practice moving forward, as opposed to being stuck in the quagmire of the day-to-day minutiae. This is important because I feel if you’re stressed out with administrative issues and staffing issues, then that stress causes your dental work to suffer. I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to refocus on the day-to-day dentistry and have way fewer complications or post-op issues, which I attribute to less stress.”
Here are eight strategies Dr. Fink used to relieve stress and create a happier, enjoyable practice:
#1: Optimize Hygiene
Dr. Fink admits he is a “bottom line sort of guy,” so The Team Training Institute’s “Double Your Production” was the promise that put him over the top when deciding to join The Team Training Institute program. Dr. Fink discovered he is capacity blocked and needs to hire a third doctor, which he is still working on. However, while they haven’t been able to fully optimize their production yet due to the capacity blockage, already their hygienists are experiencing big increases in production by always looking for opportunities to do sealants and adult fluoride. Being aware of opportunities for same-day service has also created big wins for them.
“Implementing things in the hygiene department generates revenue that basically pays for what you’re paying The Team Training Institute to help you do,” Dr. Fink said. “It was almost a no-brainer situation. Right off the bat, the hygiene training was an extremely positive experience for us. It helped develop communication with the hygiene department. It helped the doctors, the admin team, and the hygienists all get on the same page. It helped us to understand the potential that we have as providers to really help patients, which helps the bottom line of the office. And with hybrid compensation, that helps the team as well. So, it’s a win-win-win for everybody.”
#2: Utilize “Unbiased Accountability” to Get Better Results from the Team
At first, Dr. Fink’s hygienists were resistant to the changes. But he found that with continued training, referring to accurate data during morning meetings, and showing their real- time results, his team came around.
“We continued to train,” Dr. Fink said. “One of the biggest things that has been helpful, not just for them, but for the whole office, is incorporating Dental Intel into our morning huddles. This is because there’s unbiased accountability there. You might think that you’re doing a good job with your fluoride discussions with patients, but the data shows that you’re not. If you have the data, you can say ‘hey, here’s what you did last month, so here’s where you can improve. And here’s a celebration point to say, ‘Hey, you’re up 10% over the last three weeks. That’s great. Keep it up.’’ So, they can see when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing and they can be congratulated when they are. If you have that data, you need to use it. Not just to see where you are, but to help coach people in the direction they need to go. Once you start really getting into that, it’s tremendous.”
#3: Trust the Process and the People
Before The Team Training Institute, Dr. Fink did everything himself, but he discovered through coaching that by not trusting others, he was limiting his growth and creating stress for himself and his team.
“Once I started working with my Team Training Institute business coach Karleen, that’s when things really took off,” Dr. Fink said. “She came in with one of our hygiene coaches to observe the office and that was a big eye-opener because she was able to meet with different key staff members and make some monumental suggestions that really helped push me in the right direction. I’ve found that it’s about having trust in other people. As dentists, because we are in our offices often by ourselves, we’re on these little islands and we start thinking that we know better and that we’re better than we really are. But there are other people out there who can do tasks in the office much better than we can, which allows you to focus more on dentistry. That’s a mindset that I think is very hard for dentists to overcome, but when we can do that, we can get out of our own way. That’s what The Team Training Institute and especially working with Karleen, going to events, and listening to Dr. John Meis and Wendy Briggs speak has helped me do. It’s been tremendously beneficial for me. Now we’re really poised, once we find a third doctor, to really take off because we’ve got a more solid team with better systems.”
#4: Remember, There’s No “I” in Team
Developing a leadership team was a key factor in moving Dr. Fink’s practice in the right direction. He admits being guilty of micro-managing, which was creating a bottleneck in his practice. The Team Training Institute not only gave him the structure he needed, but helped him to identify who would best fill those leadership roles.
“The previous leadership structure was me and then all the employees,” Dr. Fink said. “When coach Karleen came in, she said you need an office manager and a clinic manager— without those things, you cannot really move forward. After a discussion about my team, The Team Training Institute was able to help identify who those people should be, how they would be elevated, and how Dr. Appleman and I would need to support them so that it was understood what their roles were to the rest of the team to ensure there was buy- in from them. We followed that advice in December 2020 and since that point, it’s been tremendously more enjoyable to go to work. It used to be that the staff would come to me with every little issue which would just lead to annoyance. Now that we have a management team, I can say go talk to the office manager, or the office manager will step in and say, ‘I don’t think that is something you should be dealing with anymore, send that person to me.’ Because of this, the office has run better and there’s been better staff cohesion and harmony. There has been a significant improvement and we’re poised and ready to take a big step forward.”
#5: Get Coaching for Your Leadership Team
When Dr. Fink and Dr. Appleman promoted team members into leadership roles, The Team Training Institute advised them to communicate clearly what was expected and what was not expected. When they offered the positions, among their discussion was to let their new leaders know that they were not expected to do things one hundred percent perfectly right away and that they could grow into their new roles. They also let them know that this was an opportunity for them to advance their careers. Dr. Fink takes his new leaders to the The Team Training Institute’s trainings. He’s found it beneficial that his new leaders are coachable and mature enough to take criticism without taking it personally.
“We let them know that they would have our support and they are willing to accept advice and criticism to improve either what they are doing, or the office is doing,” Dr. Fink said. “So, the people that were elevated have really stepped up and are growing into their roles better and faster than I anticipated which has taken a significant burden of administrative work and headaches off my desk,” Dr. Fink said. “They’ve needed some of their own coaching and being reassured along the way as they’re growing into these positions, but 95% of what they’re doing has been beneficial for everyone and worked out extremely well.”
#6: Create Better Systems
Better systems have led to better communication and more consistent care, which has created a better patient experience overall.
“Improving our systems has improved our communication,” Dr. Fink said. “There are way fewer negative patient experiences. Not that we had a lot before, but even from the few negative patient experiences we had before, it was usually a communication issue between the staff. As we’ve gotten better systems, there are fewer communication issues and disruptions, so everything just runs smoother.”
The main systems that have made an impact include how patients check out, how the treatment is entered, how the doctors diagnose, and a system that standardized all the rooms, which has made it much easier to do same-day treatment. But the system for how hygienists hand off a patient to the doctors when they come in for hygiene has had the biggest impact as it’s increased the acceptance rate for treatment. “This was another area where I had to really back off from what I had been doing and let the hygienists direct the patient visit,” Dr. Fink said. “It allowed them to do their job better and the patients are more willing to accept care. We standardized that and we have three of our four hygienists doing this 100% of the time and the fourth hygienist is getting up to speed. This has improved our acceptance rate because patients are getting a consistent story repeatedly and understanding better what the issue is, what will happen if nothing is done, and what can be done to help them.”
#7: Hold Regular Meetings
The Team Training Institute advised Dr. Fink to hold more regular meetings has helped him to discuss issues before they spiral out of control.
“Before issues turned into the telephone game and people weren’t sure what they were supposed to be doing or what was said originally,” Dr. Fink said. “Now that we have regular meetings, it helps get everyone on the same page so that little things are taken care of when they’re little. And if there’s something that needs to be addressed because it’s not clear, or it’s not well standardized, we can do that before it becomes a major issue.”
#8: Fix Your Capacity Problems
In 2021, Dr. Fink added an additional operatory, bringing his count to nine operatories with room to expand to eleven operatories. He’s also well-staffed with the exception of needing one more doctor which he’s searching for right now.
There are two doctors, Dr. Fink and Dr. Appleman, four full-time upfront, four full- time assistants, four full-time hygienists plus, one part-time hygienist and one part-time assistant. “Our capacity blockage while we find a third doctor is limiting us right now, but once we can hire another doctor, we’re going to be ready for some monster growth,” Dr. Fink said. Dr. Fink believes that had he not found The Team training Institute, he’d “probably still be stressed and miserable and slowly burning out.” While he’d likely continue pushing forward on his own, he says, it would not have been “in any sort of meaningful way that could be sustained.”
“Before The Team Training Institute, I knew that we needed better business structures, better leadership, and better systems,” Dr. Fink said. “I just did not know how to get us there, but I did know that we needed help in getting there. The Team Training Institute has been instrumental in helping us identify our problems. They are extremely good at helping you see where problems are, even when that problem is you, the doctor. Having that sort of self-awareness is rare, so having someone else come in and say, ‘You’re the problem’ is good and necessary. The biggest thing The Team Training Institute has done for me is helped me to get out of my own way. They helped me to trust other people. Also, the whole Team Training Institute team as well as their training programs have an extremely positive outlook on dentistry, on teamwork, and on life. I also appreciate that and believe that’s very significant for happiness in the workplace. Even for a doctor’s own happiness, being able to appreciate people, being able to trust people, having a positive outlook on your business and the business in general leads to a much better day to day world for you and everyone around you.”