Production is up 39% over where it was last year. Dr. Swick is more confident and the team is all on the same page.
increasing production, systems, team development, preventative services
“We didn’t want to be the ones that came in, changed the practice, and caused it to fail.”
That was what was going through Dr. Jenny Swick and her husband Dan Swick’s minds as they prepared to take over Van Wert Family Dentistry. Neither had ever run a business before. Dan, a schoolteacher, committed to helping in addition to his full-time job.
Dr. Swick started her career as a dental hygienist straight out of high school. In her thirties, while working as a hygienist and raising her four children (4, 5, 7 & 12 years old at the time), she commuted from their home in Northwest Ohio to Indianapolis to earn her DDS degree from Indiana University. “She went to college two and half hours away during the week, and on the weekends she either came home or the kids and I would go visit her,” Dan Swick said. “It was crazy. The number of miles we put in and the sacrifices and effort it took, I don’t know how we did it.”
“I had it in the back of my mind I wanted to be a dentist, but I didn’t know if I could do it because I was torn in many different directions,” Dr. Swick said. “Dan said to me, ‘If you’re going to do it, do it now.’”
In 2017, Dr. Swick joined the practice with Dr. Jerry Burgei and became a 50/50 owner in April of 2018. While Dr. Swick had come a long way, she and her husband were inexperienced when it came to business ownership. Dr. Burgei eventually began discussing retirement and wanted Dr. Swick to buy him out. “Before buying the practice, our stress level wasn’t very high because Dr. Burgei and his wife, Jeana, took care of everything,” Dr. Swick said. “As part owners, they always included us in the decision making, but because they’d run the practice for over 25 years, there really was not a lot of decision-making stress.”
To prepare for sole ownership, two years prior to taking over the practice, Dr. Swick brought her husband Dan in to help her with the business side of the front office, handling the bookkeeping.
Dan sat with Jeana, learning how to do the books. “I wanted him involved as much as possible,” Dr. Swick said. “Dr. Burgei created such a great practice. We have great employees and people rely on the practice. We didn’t want to be the ones that caused it to fail. We wanted to make sure not only to maintain it but to grow it.”
Learning how to run the business wasn’t the only concern. New ownership and growing the practice required change.
“We knew there would be bumps in the road,” Dr. Swick said. “Not everyone likes change. Some of the key staff members had worked there for 20-plus years. They were so used to it being one way that my concern was that they wouldn’t be open to something different.”
While preparing for the transition, Dr. Burgei became aware of The Team Training Institute (TTI) after reading some books by Dr. John Meis. While he’d never worked with TTI before, he asked Dr. Swick her opinion about the hygiene-based approach he’d read about in Dr. John’s books. “I started reading the books and agreed with everything Dr. John wrote,” Dr. Swick said. In January 2022, 11 months prior to her purchasing the practice from Dr. Burgei, the Swicks joined The Team Training Institute to help guide them and make the transition smoother.
“The Team Training Institute has certain steps they use, and I was like I’ll try anything,” Dr. Swick said. “Because at that point we thought we were good, but I was open to just see what else could happen. Dr. Burgei and Jeana were pretty much running the show, and we were along for the ride. They were teaching us, but we were still pretty green, and we knew we were going to be purchasing the practice eventually. So, when Dr. Burgei suggested this, we thought it would be a great idea to have somebody on our side to help us with everything. I’d never owned a business before. And so, I have a lot of questions. Plus, it’s a business. You try to maximize your profits. You try to make sure you’re streamlining things when you can, and just the fact that coming in new and fresh, it was a new beginning. We wanted new creative ideas and ways to generate excitement around the new ownership.”
On December 9, 2022, Dr. Swick bought out Dr. Burgei and became the sole owner of Van Wert Family Dentistry. During their first year with The Team Training Institute, production increased by 17%, despite Dr. Swick having to take four weeks off to have surgery. By the end of the first quarter in their second year (2023), production is up 39% over where it was last year. Dr. Swick is more confident and the team is all on the same page.
“We were already involved with TTI, so when we were in the process of transitioning to my being the full owner, our TTI business coach, Kellie, said she would help us through it,” Dr. Swick said. “There were some bumps in the road, but it’s been a pretty easy transition.”
Here are nine ways Dr. Swick created a smooth transition while also growing the practice.
While apprehensive at first, the staff found it helpful and comforting to have other people to bounce ideas off and learn how to do things the best way possible. Both their TTI business coach and TTI hygiene coach made suggestions that helped improve their practice, such as a more cost-effective way to increase capacity and setting up the rooms differently so that the team was prepared to do any treatment scenario from any room. “We can do same day dentistry in any room,” Dr. Swick said. “And we’ve talked about our capacity issues and were trying to figure out a way to get more ops into our practice or the building. They helped us find ways we could do that which are a cost-effective alternative.”
“Before the first training, we didn’t want the team to think that someone was going to come in and tell them how to do their job,” Dan said. “We told them that is not the case. The training cleared up questions, not only procedure-wise but also about coding for treatment and what worked as far as products for things like teeth sensitivity.”
“I knew what was going to happen and I couldn’t wait to see their reaction at the end of the first meeting,” Dr. Swick added. “Afterwards, they realized that instead of throwing extra things on their plate, we arranged things better. It confirmed that we were doing the right things, it was just a matter of how we arranged them so we can do it more efficiently.”
Get The Entire Team Up to Date & On the Same Page
Before training, patients weren’t being offered certain treatments, such as fluoride. Dr. Swick wanted to bring the practice standards up and provide the best care possible. “Every hygienist is doing the same thing now,” Dr. Swick said. “Before, the practice was set up to follow the same protocol. But it was set up many years ago and things have changed. Now the girls are up to date on everything. We’re offering fluoride to everyone. I’m a hygienist at heart, even though I’m a dentist, so I get it. Before I became a dentist, I worked in multiple offices. Some offices we did fluoride, and some we didn’t. It’s the doctor’s discretion. The team was surprised at first, but I explained it to them. I said, ‘I want fluoride. Do you want fluoride? It’s not a bad thing to offer it to someone. If they don’t want it, they don’t want it, but at least offer it.’ Providing the best care feels amazing. Everyone was nervous at first, but then they realized it wasn’t changes that were awful. These are a standard of care. Looking back from that first TTI meeting with everyone to the last meeting with TTI, they get it. Everyone understands. They’re more open to change, and they see a difference.”
Capitalize On Your Resources
During the transition, there were growing pains, so the Swicks were not shy about asking questions often. Working with TTI gave the couple confidence to know they were going in the right direction, while also knowing they could rely on TTI coaches Laurie and Kellie for quick answers and advice whenever they needed. They found TTI coaches highly responsive, never felt rushed, and discovered that TTI could provide answers for everything on both the clinical and business side, so they always know the best way to handle a situation.
“Laurie is extremely good at getting back to me with an answer quickly,” Dan said. “Things would come up during the day, and I could text, and they would give an answer. It’s nice to have that backup reference. With Kellie on the business end, I’ll text her and ask if she has a minute for a phone call. There are times we will spend 1 ½ hours on the phone hashing out what’s going on and she’ll give me advice or get back to me. At first, I didn’t know where the walls were in the realm of what we can and can’t ask. Then I realized you can ask anything. There is always somebody that has the answer.”
They also take full advantage of ALL the resources The Team Training Institute provides. Upon attending their first TTI meeting in Phoenix, Dr. Swick and Dan noticed that the atmosphere was different compared to other consulting companies. During the meeting, they had the opportunity to interact with other dentists and build connections with them. When they were getting ready to purchase the practice, they even received offers from other TTI members to help.
“It was clear that TTI not only cared about their clients’ success on a professional level but also on a personal one as well,” Dan said. “The comfort level people have, it’s obvious there is a trusting relationship with TTI. You hear stuff about different consulting practices, but TTI is different. What really stood out was the camaraderie. A dentist we’ve kept in touch with even told us, ‘Call anytime you need something, and I’ll help you through it.’ They want you to succeed.”
Involve Your Team
Dr. Swick used the transition as an opportunity to make changes to out-of-date systems. But rather than dictating changes to the team, the Swicks hosted an informal gathering at their house and asked the team to design the systems the way they wanted them. “Initially, we got our front office staff together, and we set up systems,” Dan said. “We defined roles and positions, and then we determined who would be best for each role. Jenny and I didn’t do this. The entire office staff went through the roles and told us what position should do what role, how often it needs to be done, and whether it can be done virtually. Then we had them define what they do. We told them, ‘If something makes sense for you to do it in a different way than what’s been done in the last 20 years, by all means, let’s adapt. Let’s make these systems ours. We let them design it, we were just there to make sure it got done. When they left, they all had a better idea of what was being done.”
Systems Will Save You
The positive impact of the new systems that organized the front office was felt immediately. Then, only two weeks after designing their new systems, and one month into Dr. Swick taking over the practice, their office manager of 25 years announced she was moving and leaving the practice.
“At first you go into that, ‘Oh crap!’ mode, but I can tell you TTI helped us through that,” Dr. Swick said. “Plus, we already had things in order, thanks to recommendations from TTI and their members. Setting up these systems, it kind of makes the practice run itself where you don’t have to worry about every little thing.”
Systems are also helping to improve clinical procedures and reinforce team effort. “We had good clinical systems before, but we are improving those,” Dr. Swick said. “We are lessening the load on some things and spreading out the responsibilities. We are letting our team know that it’s okay to spread out a job. We are cross training the front to help with some of the back and showing them that it doesn’t have to be just one or two people doing it all. It’s a team effort.”
Build A Management Team and Organizational Chart
With two staff members eager to jump in and expand their roles, they divvied up the office manager’s responsibilities when she left. “We haven’t missed a beat,” Dr. Swick said. “But if we didn’t have TTI, I’m not sure it would have been that way. I would have been in panic mode. We texted our TTI coaches as soon as it happened. They both texted back and said, ‘We got this. We’ll get through it.’ It’s been constant support. I’ll get random texts from them, they’re our cheerleaders.”
Developing an organizational flow chart with defined roles reduces confusion. “Before, different people were making changes which caused confusion,” Dan said. “By streamlining and defining the positions, now the clinical side knows exactly where to go to handle an issue.”
“It’s given them a process to follow,” Dr. Swick explained. “Now, instead of everybody going directly to the office manager or the doctor for every little thing, the team knows who they need to go to first. If that person can’t handle it, then they go to the office manager. This has meant fewer questions from staff. I can focus on what I’m doing during the day rather than worrying about what is or isn’t getting done. It’s also allowed me to think freely about my career and what I want to learn next.”
Improve Your Leadership Skills
Coaching has helped Dr. Swick improve her leadership skills and increase her confidence in her decision making. Prior to TTI, she would sometimes feel frustrated when team members would question her or push back. Now, not only does she feel more confident, her team and husband recognize it too. “I’ve seen a change since Jenny purchased the practice and became the sole owner,” Dan said. “Her confidence has improved tremendously and so has her ability to handle the everyday challenges that come with owning a practice.”
“I feel more confident in my decisions, even when there is pushback,” Dr. Swick said. “After having been through a year of training with TTI, there is less questioning, we have become a better team, our roles are more defined, there is more clarity and definitely less stress. All of this has helped make me a better, more confident leader.”
Think Outside the Box
The Swicks discovered they don’t have to run a cookie-cutter practice. When their long-time front desk person announced she would be retiring, they hired someone six months before they needed her. But then their office manager also announced she was leaving. By rearranging and replacing the office manager with two people instead of just one, they were able to continue operating smoothly. “TTI has definitely given us a way to think outside the box when trying to solve issues,” Dan said. “For instance, we’re hiring people with multiple skill sets so we can use them in multiple ways, even beyond the skills they need for the job they are hired to do.” One person they hired with good marketing ideas is now taking over their social media marketing. “She’s already establishing connections with other businesses for promotions,” Dan said. “She’s thinking outside the box,” Dr. Swick added.
Protect From the Stress of Potential Team Member Departures
Dr. Swick knew that to protect the practice, she couldn’t just rely on one or two people knowing how to do something, but she wasn’t sure how to create those redundancies. “We didn’t have much of a system,” Dr. Swick said. “Basically, if one person left their job, no one else knew how to do that, and I knew that was wrong. But how do you get there? How do you set up your systems?”
TTI helped her not only set up a plan for systems but also to “tiger-proof” her practice (tiger-proofing is a pillar of TTI strategy). Today, in addition to Dr. Swick and Dan, there are 11 employees. Dr. Swick practices four days a week and Dr. Burgei stayed on practicing one day a week. In January 2023, Dr. Swick brought on a full-time associate that practices four days a week. She also is cross-training employees and working to develop more systems to ensure a seamless transition in the event of a team member’s absence or departure from the practice.
Looking back over the past year, the Swicks feel proud of what they’ve accomplished. “I was more skeptical than anybody when we signed up with The Team Training Institute,” Dan confessed. “I thought, it’s a lot of money and are you going to get it back? It’s paid for itself—the security, the comfort, and the increase in production. Having TTI there, as somebody who’s been there, done that, holding your hand as you’re taking these steps, is great. I don’t know where we would be without them. Doing this interview made us realize, ‘Wow, we’ve done a lot more than we thought!’ In our short time with TTI, we’ve been able to assemble a staff that we feel very comfortable with. We’ve created systems and are developing more systems. And as we get systems down for every area of the practice and get them all smoothed out, Jenny and I will be able to focus more on the bigger picture and growth rather than having to spend all our time and energy concerning ourselves with the daily tasks.”
As far as the future goes, the Swicks aren’t limiting themselves. Within the next three years, their plan is to expand their capacity. “My oldest daughter is in dental school right now,” Dr. Swick said. “She’s in her first year and her plan is to come back and work here. I have a great associate. We really get along and are on the same page. I believe the three of us will work well together, so we’re open-minded about what the future will bring. At minimum, we’ll expand our capacity, but we’re not going to put a maximum on it.
We’re looking at all kinds of things, expanding our tool belt, and more. The thing we’ve realized with TTI is that the sky is the limit.”