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Episode #533: Growth in Dentistry, with Katie Poulsen & Jessica Lamers

What does growth in dentistry mean to you? In this episode, Kirk Behrendt joins Katie Poulsen and Jessica Lamers from the Growth in Dentistry podcast to talk about how growing your practice starts with you and your team. Figure out how to attract the right people for your team, and you will create a great culture that attracts more of the patients you want! For the best advice to help your practice grow, listen to episode 533 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Dental Intel:

Voices of Dentistry:

Traction by Gino Wickman:

Atomic Habits by James Clear:

Main Takeaways:

Always think ahead and create a plan.

Learn how to think bigger and to think better.

Focus your energy on the things that matter most.

Invest in your team — your most important resource.

Get people to want, value, and spend money on dentistry.


“As a dentist, or anybody, you’ve always got to be thinking the best is ahead. That’s a fundamental thing. It’s called the Future Pull. It’s very important for all of us, psychologically. So, I love the idea of being a quarter ahead, but I also like the idea of next year, the year after. That’s why we have each one of our clients do a 10-year, three-year, two-year, one-year plan. It’s to think better.” (6:48—7:08) -Kirk

“You always have to have a bigger plan because it helps you make better decisions. So, if you have a 10-year plan, you might not know all the details, but you can be calm enough in the moment to say, ‘Okay, listen. This is how this is all going to come together, and it’s not going to be perfect.’” (7:10—7:23) -Kirk

“Get out of that pattern of, ‘Oh, we’ve just got to capitalize and somehow finish strong.’ I would tell you every quarter is the best quarter. And I don’t subscribe to the whole, ‘Oh, that’s a slow month.’ Get rid of that right away. If you have a slow month, that’s a pattern in your brain. That is not a pattern in your practice. You’ve created that self-fulfilling prophecy.” (8:37—8:58) -Kirk

“My son goes to this new baseball club team, and the coach said, ‘Don’t ever say you suck. Don’t ever tell yourself, I suck. Because the second you tell yourself you suck, you do. We don’t do that here.’ And I was like, I love this. Don’t put yourself down or tell yourself patterns.” (8:59—9:18) -Kirk

“If you’re looking to capitalize on insurance benefits, I get it. But you’re also building more of that. You’re building more of, ‘What can insurance pay for?’ Now, there’s a certain truth to that. But that shouldn’t be the focus of all your phone calls. It shouldn’t be the focus of all your energy. The focus of your energy should be, ‘How do we do our best for our patients all the time?’ And we’re building these annuities that mature, maybe not at our own speed, but they mature eventually. I think that’s a better, healthier way to think about it.” (9:41—10:11) -Kirk

“I have young dentists that are like, ‘I’ve got so many people in the queue right now, and we’re taking really good care of them. They decide, ultimately, on these treatment plans. And when they do, it keeps us crazy busy.’ And that speaks to your systems. So, I’m a big fan of thinking bigger than that, and then also taking it to an operating system that’s 13 weeks.” (10:11—10:34) -Kirk

“I’m going to give you the whole secret. It’s so cool, because every human being can get around 13 weeks. I do the same thing with my team. We figure out what we want to do for the year, and we break it down into quarters. I have 18 people on my team. 18 people can get around getting three things done. 18 people can get their brain around achieving five metrics, which are leading indicators, which lend itself to the lagging indicators. You can’t get your brain around everybody trying to do everything and finish strong. That’s too hard. And it’s really cool, once you get into this pattern, which is a better pattern for everybody that’s listening, you start to teach yourself a story. You’re like, ‘Wow, we actually did all that last quarter.’ And then, you sit with your team and you go, ‘So, what’s that mean to you guys?’ ‘Well, I think we could do more.’ And you, as a leader, go, ‘What? What did you guys just say?’ ‘I think we could do better.’ And you’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy. What do you think we could do?’ And it becomes their idea. That’s the fun part of being a leader.” (10:40—11:33) -Kirk

“Businesses that do $180 million a year use this exact system. So, don’t tell yourself, ‘Well, I’m a dental practice. It’s different.’ That’s the ultimate lie. Use a simple operating system like Gino Wickman’s.” (11:41—11:54) -Kirk

“All of this is really done in the huddle, for the most part. Having an incredible huddle is 90% of it. And let me give you an example. A great huddle run very well, you have somebody who is a champion of certain things . . . So, let’s start with past-due balances. I would love to come work the front desk of one of your offices. It would be so fun. I would have so much fun. I would take control of that. I would pull everyone’s past balance, and I want to start in the schedule today. I would tell everybody in the huddle, ‘Okay, guys. Listen. Before she goes back, she comes to see me. She owes us $1,700. I’m going to collect it all before we start. Are we good?’ And once you start to do that, everyone goes, ‘Wow, you collected $1,700 before we started?’ ‘Yeah.’ Because if you don’t do that, you start to repeat patterns, and the balances grow, and people don’t show. You’ve got to have somebody who’s like, ‘No, I want to win in this department.’” (12:12—13:03) -Kirk

“A lot of dentists get stuck on the money. Listen, money is to your practice what oxygen is to your body. Without it, both die. And you’re giving it all away. So, you have to have somebody who feels — they’re not mean. They’re not aggressive. They just go, ‘No, we’ve got to get paid for what we do.’” (13:07—13:25) -Kirk

“It’s not about the money. We’re going to stop the behavior. We’re going to stop the behavior of people showing up, getting free dentistry, and then we kind of ask for it, maybe. No — you should be paid for what you do.” (13:41—13:50) -Kirk

“I think money spent on dentistry is one of the best investments a human being could ever make. Everyone in your practice has to believe that. It is a tragedy if anyone in your practice thinks, ‘What we do is expensive. It’s not really worth it.’ That is failure at the highest level.” (13:54—14:10) -Kirk

“You’ve got to get your team immersed in education. You’ve got to get them involved. I could show you, statistically, that money spent on your oral health is going to improve your life. It’s going to improve the quality of your life, possibly the length of your life. You will be a so-happy person if you make this investment in your oral health. That’s what I believe, so that’s going to translate in how I communicate, how I talk, how I make eye contact. And I think the person who does that — it should be everybody, including the dentist.” (14:14—14:42) -Kirk

“Every business needs two people. It needs a visionary, and it needs an integrator, somebody who is all about details, somebody who says no, somebody who organizes the money. And when you put those two together, it’s magical. It’s absolutely magical.” (16:29—16:41) -Kirk

“Dentistry, [depending on] who you’re listening to, is a $350 billion industry. It’s not going to dry up. Everyone is like, ‘It’s going to dry up.’ No, it’s not. That’s silly. Every expert believes and agrees that by 2030, it’ll be $700 billion. Billion. And I did say billion. So, if you’re sitting there going, ‘Nobody’s coming to my office,’ that’s a problem. First of all, you’ve got to believe that what you do is great. And everybody has got to understand that money spent on dentistry is one of the best investments. Let’s start there. So, that’s number one.” (18:23—18:57) -Kirk

“If you’re in a game where you’re just trying to get people to say yes, how pitiful is that? I wouldn’t come to your practice because you’re just trying to get me to say yes. My whole thinking is this: how do we build a system in which we find out who people are, find out what they want, and we build it, so they ultimately say, ‘I want to do this,’ and they value it?” (19:09—19:27) Kirk

“This is sales training 101. Any time the price is too high, the value is too low. Period, exclamation point. So, if people aren’t saying yes, your fee is too high, and you have not created any value for human beings. When you start to create more value, people will go, ‘I thought it was going to be about that much, and I want to do this.’ And you go, ‘What’d you say?’ And you’re like, ‘Wow, you actually said yes.’” (19:28—19:52) -Kirk

“Your job as a dental care provider is, how do we get people to want what we do?” (20:44—20:48) -Kirk

“I think you should actually take the word “need” out of your vocabulary. Nobody needs dentistry. They don’t need it. You say, ‘You need a crown here,’ I would go, ‘Excuse me? People have demonstrated they don’t even need teeth. People can eat chicken on bone. They don’t need teeth. You can actually live without teeth. How dare you say you need teeth?’ You don’t need teeth. That is a lie. How about we think like this? I’m going to figure out what these people want, and I’m going to be the provider. I’m going to help solve problems, and I’m going to think wants.” (20:52—21:20) -Kirk

“I will spend every penny, gladly, on things that I want because I want them.” (22:05—22:09) -Kirk

“The first phone call to your office, people should hang up and go, ‘Damn, that was good. That’s going to be expensive because she was good.’ No one, ever, should hang up the phone and go, ‘Man, that’s going to be cheap. I hope I get out of there and only pay $50.’ They should go, ‘She’s good. She’s really good.’ And then, all these little touch points, you should say to yourself as a patient, ‘I’ve never had this level of care. I’ve never met a group of people that are so in-tune with their customers. They ask great questions, and I like them, and they like each other. And I think it’s great.’” (22:38—23:09) -Kirk

“People have to start paying your full fee, period. Period. If you’re only charging people a fraction of your fee, you are not creating value for human beings. You have patients in your chair, and they are coming to you because you’re on a list and you’re cheap. And that’s hard to hear. But over time, what you can say is, ‘No, I’m getting paid full fee, eventually.’ And I have young dentists that are 34 and they’re like, ‘Holy crap, I just dropped my last insurance. What do I do now?’ I’m like, ‘Now, the training wheels are off. It’s your time. This is your go time.’ And all of them call me and they go, ‘I’m too busy. These people won’t go away.’” (23:57—24:32) -Kirk

“If you have a problem, it’s not the problem. It’s how you think about the problem. You might be thinking, well, I live in PPO land. Well, that’s not the problem. It’s how you think about the problem. You’ve got to think better. And I think the biggest challenge for dental offices and leaders is to think better.” (24:43—24:58) -Kirk

“I think it’s dumb to work after 5:00 p.m. It’s dumb.” (25:09—25:13) -Kirk

“You give up your life to serve a patient base from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. because you’re cheap and you’re easy to get to — of which, these people will leave you in one second. You leave your kids behind to serve people that don’t care. That’s dumb. To work on a Saturday is dumb. To work on a Sunday is dumb.” (25:19—25:35) -Kirk

“You can have a life. If you are not having a life, it means you don’t value what you do.” (25:41—25:44) -Kirk

“I think your team members should be the highest paid, ever, in their industry, in your community. Ever . . . All year long. This is my opinion, and you don’t have to like it. Bonuses don’t work. They just don’t. Some people have figured out a bonus calculator system. And we could argue that’s debatable. Bonuses come and go based on the health of the business. I believe that you should figure out how to take care of a human being, find out what they need from a salary perspective, and say, ‘Let’s up this game.’” (26:06—26:41) -Kirk

“The world doesn’t want to give you anything. You go to the world and be so good at whatever you decide to do that people go, ‘I’ve got to pay you. I need you in my life.’ Do you know how short that list is in the world right now? People don’t understand that the economic ladder in the country, it’s not crowded at the top. It’s crowded at the bottom.” (28:59—29:20) -Kirk

“[Team appreciation] should never be done at the end of the year. That’s sad. That’s just sad. I think you should think bigger than that. I think you should think quarterly, regularly.” (30:34—30:42) -Kirk

“According to the [Bureau] of Labor Statistics, the number-one reason people quit their jobs is they don’t feel appreciated.” (31:55—32:00) -Kirk

“You’ve got to go all-chips-in on building a culture.” (33:00—33:03) -Kirk

“At the end of the day, you want a great team who freaking loves you, and they go, ‘I could probably go across the street and make more money. But I freaking love who I am as a result of working here because these people care.’” (33:42—33:52) -Kirk


0:00 Introduction.

4:04 Kirk’s background.

6:16 Always have a plan.

8:19 Get rid of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

9:28 The secret to achieving more.

12:06 It all starts with the huddle.

13:51 Educate your team and get them involved.

15:20 Every business needs a visionary and an integrator.

17:14 Get patients to want and value dentistry.

21:21 People spend money on what they want.

22:19 Play the long game.

24:41 The problem is not the problem.

25:49 Valuing and showing appreciation to your team.

32:01 Go all-chips-in.

34:12 How to get in touch with Kirk.

Katie Poulsen Bio:

Katie Poulsen is a Registered Dental Hygienist and has a master’s in professional communication from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. She has been a clinical adjunct faculty member for Weber State’s dental hygiene department and is a past-president of the Utah Dental Hygienists Association. Katie’s prior education guided her to study many aspects of communication within dentistry. Her primary research focused on dentist-dental hygienist communication dynamics and its effect on working relationships and patient satisfaction.

Katie now serves as the Director of Customer Marketing for Dental Intelligence, Inc.

Jessica Lamers Bio:

Jessica Lamers has been in the dental industry for over 10 years serving in various roles within the industry, ranging from being the right-hand man to the dentist to helping lead regions and companies to a successful business model.

Her passion is helping others succeed by way of education, training, and team/personal development. Although current dental operations continue to lay the foundation for success in the dental enterprise, Jessica recognizes the necessity to pioneer innovation in our practices.

This drive to engineer innovation has culminated in her accepting a role as the Director of Enterprise Business Development for the world’s #1 software for managing and growing dental practices, Dental Intelligence.


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