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Retention Through Communication

You can’t have a great practice without a great team, so how do you keep the one you have? If you can’t afford to give everyone raises, don’t worry—you can still keep your team. I recently interviewed Kevin Henry, co-founder of IgniteDA, and he spoke of the impact good communication has on keeping your team happy and your practice strong.

Let Them Go

When you have a team member that expresses a desire to leave, first ask yourself, “Do I want them to stay?” Is your practice better with them in it, or are they holding back the rest of your team? If they don’t fit the values and the culture you’ve created for the practice, then it’s worth it to let them go, because it’s better to have your culture intact than have someone that everyone rolls their eyes at. Like I say, “Nothing drives a great team member crazier than when you tolerate a bad one.”

Stay vs. Exit Interviews

If it’s a team member you value, then you need to have a conversation with them. Ask them what’s important—compensation, or opportunities to grow? They may find someone who will pay a couple extra dollars per hour, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good fit for them, so ask them if they’ve done their research first. When you communicate, you can find out why they’re leaving, and then you can work on a solution.

Having an exit interview with an unhappy employee can be an unpleasant experience, so Kevin recommends having stay interviews instead. When we have open, honest conversations with team members it lets us fix and tweak issues before they become larger problems. It shows the team member that you want them to be a part of the plan to move things forward, and that changes the dynamic in the practice completely. This needs to be a one-on-one conversation, so set aside some time where you can both truly focus. Put aside your phones, and go beyond simple “yes” or “no” questions, instead going deeper to gain more insight:

  • What can we do to make each other better?
  • What can we both do together to make the business better?
  • Where do you see yourself in six months?
  • What’s something you don’t like about working here?
  • What gets you up in the morning?
  • Is this what you love to do? If not, why?

Not everyone may be comfortable with sharing their potential unhappiness, but when you establish that your meetings are a safe space and that what happens there will stay there, it’s a huge motivation for team members to talk openly and freely. They need to understand that in two weeks you’re not going to hold what they’ve said against them. It’s not about criticism, but about building honesty, openness, and an atmosphere of trust with your team.   

Mutual Respect

Respect is crucial for a productive team because no one wants to work in a business where they’re looked down on. People must respect their coworkers and see them as valuable components to the practice, not as “just” an assistant or a sterilization technician. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you must respect them.

Happy Leads to Productive

Money is always nice, but your favorite team members want to feel like they’re valued and appreciated more than anything. Kevin surveyed a thousand dental assistants and asked them the nicest thing a dentist ever said to them, and the overwhelming response was “Thank you.” It’s important to take the time to recognize hard work and express your gratitude, even if it’s just with those two simple words. It’s such powerful motivation to keep providing their best work to the practice.

A big component to keeping your team happy is creating an atmosphere of fun. Like I always say, “If it isn’t fun, it won’t last.” When the only thing they look forward to is the end of the day, you’re not getting the best out of them, so find ways to incorporate fun into every day. I’ve seen some practices who have a cocktail every Thursday, and it’s not about the actual drink for them, but it’s a scheduled celebration where they can feel appreciated.


When we improve our communication, we improve our business. Having open conversations with your team is often the difference between leaving and staying, because people want to be heard. You’re going through battles together, so learn to communicate and improve your team’s alignment. When you learn what you can do better, you learn how to help your team reach their potential, and in doing so, elevate your practice.

To learn how to improve your ability to communicate, schedule a consult with the ACT coaches today. You’ll learn the skills to keep your great team members, and in doing so, build a Better Practice, and a Better Life!

Kirk Behrendt is the CEO and Founder of ACT Dental


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