Dr. McCullough more than doubled his practice in just 8 months and then added 6 ops and an associate.
hygiene care, systems, developing leaders, adding an associate
In the rural town of Greenville, Illinois, population 6,665, Dr. Matthew McCullough built a thriving dental practice named Greenville Family Dentistry. Purchasing the two-operatory, 900 square foot practice straight out of college in 2000, he started with just one employee who worked as an assistant and front desk person.
After one year, he hired a hygienist and quickly realized he needed to grow. In 2003, his bank approached him about buying their building. Looking to get into a larger facility, he agreed. Unfortunately, it was two years before he could start the total renovation of the bank due to the bank dragging its feet. When the renovations were complete, he’d increased to five operatories. He hired another assistant, a second front desk, and a part-time hygienist and within two years, he’d doubled his production.
During this time, Dr. McCullough worked with a couple of consultants who helped him change his way of thinking about scheduling and be more productive. By 2016, he had grown to eight employees, and while he was doing his best, he realized he needed an office manager. In 2017, Dr. McCullough hired an office manager, Whitney, and began working with another consultant. While the consultant “kind of helped,” he credits Whitney for shaping up the practice.
Always looking to improve, Dr. McCullough realized he needed a hygiene program and was having issues with staff members who were reluctant to change. “We didn’t have a perio and hygiene program in place, which meant we were not doing what we should be doing for patients,” Dr. McCullough said. “We were not doing a lot of perio. We were not doing a lot of patient education. We were doing very few adult preventative procedures. And I just knew we needed to do better for our patients.”
After hearing Wendy Briggs and Dr. John Meis speak at a dental conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dr. McCullough was convinced The Team Training Institute could help him.
“I was really drawn to them, especially with what Wendy had to say regarding hygiene,” Dr. McCullough said. “I had not heard anything like that anywhere, and the way she presented it just made sense to me. I knew that Team Training Institute’s hygiene program is what we really needed for our practice.”
Initially, Dr. McCullough signed up for the Hygiene Explosion Training with The Team Training Institute in early 2021, but he quickly transferred into the Blue Diamond program when he realized there was much more he could learn to improve patient care and grow his practice and profit. Within only eight months, he more than doubled his production, escalated, and was accepted into the CEO Mastermind Group led by Dr. John Meis. “It’s been an extremely good fit and experience for us,” Dr. McCullough said. “We transitioned fairly quickly because we got our systems in place and were ready to work towards multiple practices.”
Here are six discoveries Dr. McCullough made that helped him more than double his production in under a year.
#1: Put a True Hygiene System in Place
Despite having a successful, thriving practice, Dr. McCullough knew their patient care could be better. Before The Team Training Institute, Dr. McCullough’s team wasn’t doing any adult sealants. They did fluoride treatments, but only when insurance covered them. Their patient retention has increased because they are now paying attention to their hygiene reappointments, which have increased over 30% after Hygiene
Explosion Training. The office manager now stays on top of the follow-up and talks about it during the morning huddles to keep it top of mind for everyone on his team. Production has more than doubled, too.
“We didn’t have a hygiene system in place,” Dr. McCullough said. “Now our patients are getting the preventative care they need. Before we weren’t monitoring our hygiene reappointments. Prior our hygiene reappointment percentage was 65%. Now our hygiene reappointment is close to 98% because it’s something that we monitor and follow up on each day. If someone doesn’t get scheduled, we follow up with that patient within two days. So, we’re making sure that we retain our patients which we weren’t doing before.”
Dr. McCullough says The Team Training Institute’s (TTI) training approach had a big impact and is one of the main reasons for the success he’s experienced.
“The TTI education and how they present the hygiene program to the hygienists and to us as a group is extremely beneficial,” Dr. McCullough said. “That way everybody is educated and knows the language. They explain everything. If an assistant is talking to a patient, they are going to be saying the same thing that the hygienist is saying in the hygiene room. It helps with our tribal language throughout the office. Everybody understands why we’re doing what we’re doing.
That’s also helpful to the people up front who are collecting money. They understand the value because they understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and that it helps the patients. Everything flows so much better throughout the office.”
Dr. McCullough says having a hygiene system just “makes sense” and “brought everything together in one concise model” that his team could easily follow. “Our patients need to have these preventative services, especially with the amount of sugar in our diet, the amount of soda people drink, and the dry mouth a lot of patients experience from medications they’re on. We were able to implement it immediately and see results. TTI Coach Laurie has been great. Our hygienists connected with her, and she’s done an exceedingly good job training us and getting us in line.”
While before Dr. McCullough had hygienists that were reluctant to change the way they did things, now everyone is on board. “They’re excited because they can offer the patients the best care possible by providing preventive treatment,” Dr. McCullough said. “And we now have a bonus system in place as far as their compensation based on production, too. So, they’re seeing the benefits of that as well.”
#2: Get Outside Perspective to Overcome Your Practice Blindspots
Even though he’s already more than doubled production, he expects it will go much higher after he gets his capacity blockages resolved.
During the very first hot seat he did at a Blue Diamond Retreat, he discovered he was capacity blocked. He’s currently adding six additional operatories and looking to hire an associate. “Dr. John asks all these questions about your practice,” Dr. McCullough said. “The result of that hot seat was that I needed to call my contractor and add on. People had kind of been telling me this, but I’d been reluctant. Dr. John opened my eyes and once he, The Team Training Institute, and the other doctors talked to me about the possibilities for growth moving forward, that’s when the expansion started to take shape. I’m hoping it is complete by February at the latest. We haven’t found an associate doctor yet either, so I’m capacity blocked on my side right now. But our hygiene numbers have been unbelievable. Our hygienists went from $90 an hour production and now they are at $200 per hour or more. It’s been a remarkable change.”
#3: Improve What You Measure
Dr. McCullough discovered how to use his data more effectively to inspire better performance. While he was using Dental Intel prior to joining The Team Training Institute, he wasn’t sharing the information with his team. His TTI coach had him tracking and monitoring their fluoride percentage, sealants, and so on and made sure team members could see the results daily. “Anything that we can measure and see results, we’ll continue to improve,” Dr. McCullough said. “We have the data from Dental Intel at our morning huddle every morning and go over the previous day’s numbers. It is so helpful and so motivating for the hygienists and for the entire team. The “aha moment” came when we started seeing the results continue to improve and get better and better and better, very quickly. Tracking and monitoring the results feeds on itself. It’s self-motivation.”
#4: Systems Make Everything Better
Implementing The Team Training Institute systems has helped Dr. McCullough improve patient retention, keep their schedule full, and make the office more efficient. Following up retains patients better, keeps them from “escaping out the back door easily and gets them coming back. “We’ve done a lot,” Dr. McCullough said. “We’ve put in a follow-up system for patients with unscheduled treatment,” Dr. McCullough explained. “They receive a follow-up call within two days. Dental Intel flags that patient and then we follow up with them to get them scheduled. We also have a recall system in place that we’ve developed with Team Training Institute and we’re working on a better handoff system between hygiene and the doctor and assistant doctor–and all the handoffs that occur in the office.”
Systems also help everyone understand who is responsible for what which reduces drama in the office. “Overall, having systems in place, everyone knows what the expectations are and how to do things,” Dr. McCullough said. “That causes less conflict between the front and the back. It makes the day go smoother and there is less stress and a better culture which benefits everyone.”
#5: Find a Great Office Manager and Figure Out How to Keep Them
Dr. McCullough confesses he took too long to hire an office manager, hiring Whitney is 2017. “Looking back, I really needed an office manager much sooner, and it was a bad decision to wait,” Dr. McCullough said. “I made mistakes, and we didn’t have a very good culture. There were a couple of employees that were butting heads and resistant to changes I wanted to implement. Whitney had no dental experience, but she absorbed information like a sponge and started putting systems in place.” She also helped improve his culture and let go problem employees. Things were going well, but eighteen months after Dr. McCullough hired Whitney, she left, moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where she took another job and was looking for more career growth.
To keep a good office manager in his rural setting, he has gotten creative with unusual arrangements that he says are “totally worth it.” Back when Whitney left to work in Nashville, Dr. McCullough hired another office manager, but she was “a bad hire,” so he approached Whitney about coming back by designing a way for her to work remotely. Not only did she say yes, but she’s also excited about the growth opportunities now that Dr. McCullough plans to expand and buy additional practices.
She spends 25% of her time in person at the office in Greenville and the rest of the time she works remotely from Nashville. She flies in for two days every other week and is available via Zoom all day long the days she is not in the office physically. “As I’ve gotten older and matured in my career, I’ve just understood the benefit of letting other people do their job, as long as you train them and show them your expectations and equip them for that. It takes things off your plate that you don’t have to worry or stress about. Finding a good office manager is such a huge, huge part of that.”
To help train Whitney, Dr. McCullough relies on The Team Training Institute. “TTI Coach Karleen has been very, very helpful,” he said. “She has been right there for Whitney whenever she has any questions. She’s given us great recommendations and advice as far as improving our systems. I just can’t say enough good things about Karleen.”
#6: Side-Step Mistakes by Doing Things in the Right Order
Dr. McCullough hired an associate in the past, but because he didn’t have the groundwork in place, things didn’t work out. “I thought I was ready,” Dr. McCullough said. “But I didn’t have an office manager, and I didn’t have systems in place. It was a great fit as far as doctors go, but I didn’t have things in place, so it didn’t work out.”
Working with The Team Training Institute helped him get the systems he needs in place to expand properly. “We’re renovating our existing facility from the business side of things to help increase patient flow,” Dr. McCullough said. “After we hire an associate, I will look at having multiple locations in the future.”
Dr. McCullough graduated to the CEO program in June 2021 where he’ll work directly with Team Training Institute co-Founder Dr. John Meis to shortcut the process for expansion. “Dr. John has given me advice about hiring an associate,” Dr. McCullough said. “I wanted to have Dr. John as a mentor and have access to him and other doctors with experience with the multi-practice option who can kind of hand-hold me and walk me through that process. There are so many mistakes you can make along that way and having a group like this allows you to avoid all the headaches that go along with expansion because they’ve already made them or they know how to avoid them, especially Dr. John and his wisdom on the matter.”
“If it weren’t for The Team Training Institute, I don’t think our patients would be getting as good of care as they are now,” Dr. McCullough said. “We’ve improved significantly. Our hygienists are happier and more eager to work and treat patients. The biggest thing I’ve realized is that patients are patients whether you are in a large city or a rural area, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where you are, The Team Training Institute systems and processes work regardless of where you are.
I am extremely surprised by patients’ willingness to accept preventative services. I think as dentists we’ve been told that patients don’t want that, but whenever you educate them and give them their options, patients want that. I’m glad that because of The Team Training Institute we’re able to provide that preventative care for patients moving forward.”