When you began your technical career, you lucked into an amazing front office team member. She has been with you for 15 years, she began her career with you at a young age and grew alongside you. You have never worried about things getting done at the front desk, and you have never learned how to do them yourself, you relied solely on this incredible team member, and the institutional knowledge she holds of all of the practice workings.
If you’ve experienced this, you are one of the lucky ones, sort of.
Since things have run so smoothly on the administrative front, you’ve likely made the fatal assumption in believing you’ve got it all covered, and understanding the technical side of dentistry translates to understanding the business side of dentistry. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This long term employee, with complete knowledge of the workings of your practice solely in her head, for a time, has been your greatest asset, yet soon, she will become your greatest weakness.
Like so many dentists, you have unintentionally set up your practice to be “people dependent” when it needs to be “systems dependent” and if this long term team member leaves before you’ve translated her knowledge into written systems, you are in serious trouble my friend.
If you are telling yourself, “But my dental practice is different….I don’t need all of that.” Warning - a plateau is definitely on the horizon for you and your team.
Systems dependent versus people dependent; what’s the big difference?
Let’s break this down to the most basic idea that we can.
A systems dependent organization can survive change without excess disruption, maintaining consistency, and growth.
A people dependent organization will be forced to start over, and over, and over again with each new person.
Without great systems, knowledge is lost, growth is halted or even reversed, newly hired and talented people are compromised in their roles, and they are exhausted. Everything you do in your practice, every expectation you have, and policy you follow must be documented.
Michael Gerber may have said it best in his bestseller The E-Myth Revisited when stating “Organize around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go but the systems remain constant.”
What’s in a system?
At the most basic definition, a system is an organized or established procedure.
In your practice, a system is the documentation of EVERYTHING that you and your team do on a day to day basis. This means the how-to no longer lives in just one individual’s mind but is recorded and understood by all team members.
This process may sound simple, yet these “simple” systems help us to excel in much more than simple replicated tasks; they are the key to long term success and the best way to survive without loss of institutional knowledge. Don’t believe me? According to the ADA “The top10 percent of dental practices understand that their internal systems are essential to their success.” This is true without fail, across all specialties, and all regions.
With systems created and documented in writing (and on video for bonus points,) team members can consistently follow procedures, can easily learn new procedures, and have a reference to go to when they are struggling.Systems also allow you to track and monitor for growth by establishing a baseline way of operating that can be improved as you become more and more efficient.
A consistent process delivers consistent results. Cases are sold, money is collected, schedules are full. People are happy. You are happy.
Does this whole “systems” thing sound daunting? We know, we’ve been there as we created our own systems for the ACT Dental Team- but it is worth it! We know it takes work, but we also know it’s not out of reach. We help teams work through the process of creating these instrumental policies and systems every day.
I promise, if you take the time to establish good systems now, it will save time, knowledge, and hassle as your team changes, and allows the business to continue to grow and thrive. When you lose that one key team member, you won’t have to worry about losing your business too.