One year in, Dr. Balutowicz has increased revenue by 32%, and her profitability after doctor pay is up 46.67%.
preventative care, case acceptance, leadership, systems, growth
In 2015, after five years of practicing dentistry, Dr. Kristen Balutowicz bought an existing practice in North Troy, Michigan. “From day one I felt like this was perfect,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “The previous owner stayed on for one year after I bought the practice, and we had a nice transition. It was your typical office. He was working a single column of dentistry with two hygienists and doing between $500,000 and $600,000 a year.”
But she quickly realized that there were differences between her and her predecessor that caused problems. For the first few years, she was not profitable and was carrying astronomical debt. “It was so much blood, sweat, and tears and I realized I was a different profile from the previous owner,” she said. “He didn’t have any school debt. He didn’t have a business loan. I had both.”
On top of that, she was a female doctor taking over a practice with a female team from an older gentleman. “They didn’t want to do new things or do things differently,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “I have found the predominantly female environment of dentistry particularly challenging, mainly because I’m a lot younger than a lot of the staff as well.”
With a new baby and a second young child at home, it was a lot to take on. Her husband, an HR specialist, quit his job to help her with payroll, accounting, and HR. She also found herself leaning on him with management issues to avoid confrontation. She questioned whether it was worth it, but she knew the practice had a lot of potential. For starters, the previous owner did zero periodontal work, so she hired a consultant. “Perio was non-existent, and I thought, ‘We’ve got to get this fixed!’” Dr. Balutowicz said.
While the consultant, a husband-and-wife team, did help her get a periodontal protocol in place, it left her with an unpleasant taste in her mouth. “I did not have a good experience,” she said. “They did not have a clear-cut plan and were not systematic in their approach. So, I didn’t stay on with them. I grew the practice through sheer will. But I could still see there was a lot more we could do, and I didn’t know how to get from point A to point B. We had all these talented people; I just didn’t know how to unleash their potential. I felt like I needed someone to back me up and say this is how it’s being done in dentistry today.”
In 2021, peers in the American Academy of Clear Aligners recommended The Team Training Institute. After a less-than-stellar month and a feeling that she was missing out on life, she pulled the trigger and signed up for The Team Training Institute in July 2021. “It was a Monday morning and my daughter said to me, ‘We’ll see you Friday.’ I thought that’s just not right. I should be around more. I should be able to enjoy this more. I must be missing something. I thought The Team Training Institute (TTI) could help me figure this out because they came so highly recommended by a peer group I really trust and felt would not steer me wrong that I decided to give them a shot and go all in for a year. It was the best decision I've made."
One year in and Dr. Balutowicz has increased revenue by 32% and her profitability after doctor pay is up 46.67%. Her confidence has soared, and her team is on board. “It has really helped to have The Team Training Institute back me up,” she said. “This gave me the confidence to say, ‘This is the new way we are doing things, and it’s got to be done this way. You’re either with us or you’re not.”
Here's what has made the biggest impact on Dr. Balutowicz's practice and what you can do to improve your results as well:
Tackle The Low-Hanging Fruit First
Dr. Balutowicz’s team began by working with their hygiene coach to identify the areas that could be easily and quickly improved. “I love that they attacked hygiene right away,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “TTI said, ‘Let’s not make this hard. Let’s go after the low-hanging fruit and get that done. Then we can start working on the harder stuff. It’s amazing–the numbers show it. We saw a bump right after they came out and we started implementing their systems.”
Although they still have room for improvement, Dr. Balutowicz and her team have increased preventative care, case acceptance, and periodontal care. At the halfway mark in 2022, they’d already increased the number of teeth protected by 82.56% over 2021. They are also seeing a huge improvement in perio. “If I were to rate our performance on a scale of one to ten for perio, before The Team Training Institute, we were at about a one,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “Now we are at about an eight.”
Best of all, her patients are getting treatment previously absent from their offering, and her hygienists are on board. “My hygienists really have embraced their role a lot,” she said. “They are also doing treatment advocacy and helping the doctors close treatment. Preventative is extremely big. We are now offering what was missing to our patients.”
The doctors are also working on optimizing their production and will be attending the High-Impact Dentist Bootcamp with Dr. John Meis in October. Case acceptance and same-day treatment are two areas that are currently contributing to their success. “Case acceptance helped us realize we were not getting people to accept what we were presenting, so that was a big eye-opener,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “Same-day treatment has given us the mindset that you can do more. I’ve found you really can. You just have to be focused and have that same mindset that this is going to get done today for the patient. I love The Team Training Institute’s philosophy of ‘It’s a win for the patient, it’s a win for the team, and it’s a win for the business.’ It really is great when you think of it that way and it can simplify decisions.”
Patients feel like their care is more comprehensive now too. She does zero marketing, but still gets referrals from her Google reviews and patients. “They feel like we’re more thorough,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “A patient referral just said to me, ‘My old dentist didn’t do any of these things.”
Get Your Staff On Board
Dr. Balutowicz found that most of her old hygiene team didn’t have the same mindset when she went to make changes, so she hired new staff. “My hygiene team weeded themselves out before I started with TTI,” she said. “One is still from before. She took a little longer to turn around, but by the third meeting it was like something clicked and she’s really become a superstar. We’re so proud of her.”
Whenever a team member has a negative attitude or doesn’t believe they can do what is being asked of them, having an experienced hygiene coach who is a hygienist has made all the difference in getting her people on board. “I find that for any pushback from anybody, TTI has a response,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “They’ve been there, and they know it can be done. They can prove this works. They are amazing with any issue I take them–whether it’s that we’re exploding with hygiene patients, and I have nowhere to put them or how do we get this done in an hour, they’ve got an answer. Having all that information from working with all these different dental practices and what other dental practices have done, that’s invaluable.”
Her team likes the new pay structure and that they are doing a lot more for their patients now. “They like that there is a lot more earning potential for them,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “And they feel really good about how much we offer the patient and that we are really providing total care now.”
One hygienist that also works at another office has expressed how much better the care is at Dr. Balutowicz’s office. “There is none of what we are doing at this other office,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “My hygienist said she feels the patients there could benefit from the things we do at my office. It was great to hear that she believes we are doing the best for the patient and offering the best dental care.”
Improve Your Leadership Skills
The biggest impact has come from having a separate business coach in addition to a hygiene coach. This has helped give a fresh perspective on the business side. A key discovery for Dr. Balutowicz was her leadership style and what she can do to improve. “For me to have a business coach, that’s been huge. It’s helpful to have someone to bounce things off. Plus, it’s valuable to have someone on the outside point things out that when you are in the thick of it you might not realize or be aware of half the time. TTI pointed out that my own personal management style was to let the staff do what they wanted and that this was not the best for my business.”
Her TTI business coach has also provided her an ally when handling leadership issues as a woman leading women. “My TTI Coach Sherrie says all the time, the dynamic is so different for women,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “You can either get walked all over or you’re seen as evil and there’s not a whole lot in between. I feel like women must tread carefully and handle things delicately sometimes too.”
Put Systems and Tools In Place
Systems have provided the structure she needs for appointments, communication, and efficiency. This has included tools that have improved their results and made it helpful for efficiency and repetition. For example, their appointment system includes how much time doctors should spend with patients and guidelines on how to stick to those times and get in and out in a timely fashion. “Their systems are the best,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “I am a systematic person. I like procedures that provide consistency because you must be able to predict in this business. To have a hygiene system that got my team on the same page and tell them this is our protocol, this is what we are doing now, that was just phenomenal. TTI is also great at showing me what benchmarks I need to worry about. There are so many numbers to sift through in a practice, but they show the ones that really matter. They also give a straightforward method for tracking these numbers and percentages. The number of tools they offer really sets them apart from other groups. They have a tool for everything!”
Make Your Team Responsible For More
Dr. Balutowicz’s office is currently building the management team. She has an office manager, lead hygienist, and lead assistant. While the roles aren’t brand new, what their roles encompass is. Prior to The Team Training Institute, it was unclear who was responsible for what. After meeting with Dr. John Meis, she began assigning roles and clarified who was responsible for each task. She’s also working on getting her husband away from working in the practice too. “We just did a vision day with Dr. John,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “That was extremely huge. I’ve got my nose into way too much and I’ve got to get out and let the team handle it and run it. There’s been a big handing over the reins to let the team do a lot more and be accountable for that.”
Dr. John helped her create a hierarchy so that her team knows who to report to with any issues. They’ve also engaged the team so that they are solving more problems on their own versus putting them on her shoulders and requiring her to fix them.
“Having the roles defined and that clarity has really helped me,” she said. “I tend to be a problem solver, so if somebody comes to me with a problem, I want to solve it. To hear Dr. John say, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be doing that’ and then have him tell my office manager, ‘You need to get those things off her plate, those are things you should take care of’, has helped me to take a step back. Now with the team coming to me with solutions instead of problems, I’m a lot less fatigued and enjoy working a lot more.”
Create A Plan For Where You Want To Go
Dr. Balutowicz created a five-year plan with Dr. John’s help that includes tiger-proofing and opening a second location. This has alleviated her worries. She’s hired a second associate to expand the services they offer as well as help with capacity. “It is valuable to have a working dentist coach me,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “We now have a plan to be tiger-proofed in five years. I also went into the Vision Day thinking my space was limited and that we were just going to get rid of it and build a massive new practice. We came out deciding that we will keep this space and open another practice that is bigger. I thought that was a brilliant suggestion. I was worried about paying rent versus owning a building and that became not such a crucial thing. If you would have asked me when I first purchased the practice, there is no way I would have considered a second practice, but after talking it through with Dr. John, I can see that bigger is not harder and that this is totally doable. I feel like it’s a natural progression. We need it, we are busting at the seams, and we can treat more people and offer all our services. It’s really exciting.”
The Team Training Institute not only has given Dr. Balutowicz the tools to grow, but it’s also made her a better leader and given her a glimpse into her future.
“Before TTI, I considered taking some B classes because I felt so insufficient for the business part of the practice, plus I hate confrontation,” Dr. Balutowicz said. “Having TTI in my corner and getting guidance on what I need to change about my leadership to get my staff on board is huge. Honestly, after the Vision Day, I walked into the office and felt like I had a different confidence about myself. Even when I got some pushback about expanding hours, I was able to say with a calm confidence, ‘This is what’s happening, it’ll be okay, and we’ll figure it out.’ I didn’t waver or get upset. I realize now I must be more established in the management role. It’s required and you must be good at it if you’re going to own a practice. Before I didn’t know where to start and I’d pass things off to my husband. Now I realize I must deal with it and master it to a certain level, even when I pass it to my office manager. That’s been really big for me personally. I’ve noticed as I go to TTI retreats that you don’t even know what you’re capable of and what you can do.. I watch these other dentists who were in the same place I was a year ago saying, ‘I thought I’d only own one practice and now they own three, four, or five.’ It makes me realize that I don’t even know what’s possible. The Team Training Institute has really helped us see what is possible and how to get there. They’re helping us secure our future because dentistry is not the same as it was in the golden ages. It’s much more difficult and they are helping us achieve things we didn’t even know were possible. Most importantly, The Team Training Institute is fun and personable. Personality is a big thing for me, and both of our coaches are amazing people! We love them."