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Guide to “Going Paperless”


2016 is the year to “Go Paperless”

Stop putting it off, going paperless can save you tens of thousands of dollars. Make it a New Year’s goal – paperless in 2016.

My comprehensive technology guide, “How to go paperless in the dental office” will answer the basic question…Why bother?  It then provides step by step help in setting up a paperless office, including the eight essentials that need to be in place before you get started, four ways to digitize stuff, and front deskless workflow. There is even a budget and financial analysis that shows how your current paper system is costing you over $40,000!

“How to go paperless in the dental office” will answer all your questions, provide a plan and show you how to save money… all delivered in a fun and easy to understand style.

Follow the link to order your copy today >

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The Price of a Collegial Atmosphere


In the U.S. we do not discuss politics at work. And if somebody expresses an opinionated position, we simply smile, nod and move on to the next topic. Why? Because politics polarizes people and we want to maintain a collegial atmosphere at work. I grew up in India and I have spent a fair amount of time in Europe and Asia. Political discussions are not considered to be as polarizing in those regions of the world; they are viewed simply as a healthy debate.

Does a collegial atmosphere require lack of disagreement?

In a collegial atmosphere, can people disagree, express their opinions with passion and conviction, and close the conversation agreeing to disagree? We tend to believe that discussions must end in agreement or some sort of resolution. This tendency results in inauthentic conclusions to discussions.

Diffuse speakers relax their convictions and specific speakers dig in their heels for an argument. (Read article: Are You Specific or Diffuse?) Do all disagreements have to be resolved one way or the other? Can people maintain healthy relationships knowing full well that they disagree on certain important matters?

Healthy relationships are not measured by the number of hugs, but rather by the number of fights that end in hugs.

It is the ending in hugs that is important, not the lack of fights. Healthy relationships should foster healthy debates. Lack of debates might well be an indicator to the relationship not being healthy.

In creating an intentional corporate culture, you might strive to create a collegial atmosphere. The shadow side of this strength is fear of conflict – where people are reluctant to express their opinion because it is not aligned with the opinion being otherwise aired.

Fear of conflict leads to the loud and obnoxious shouting out the quiet and thoughtful. It leads to the multitude of subordinate opinions deferring to the single opinion of the superior. It leads to the new and different ideas being overwhelmed by the status quo of tried and true practices. In a culture of collegial atmosphere, it is important that you empower, encourage and enable people to face conflict and have healthy debates.

How do you teach people to have a healthy debate?

We offer three common causes for debates to turn ugly, and from it, three ways you can turn debates healthy.

The first cause is Aristotle’s principle of the excluded middle. The belief that there is a right and wrong. Something is good or bad. It is either true or false. Either you are on my side or you are with the enemy. This polarization of thought causes debates to become personal. What is the solution? Try throwing in expressions like, “I believe…” The more you use the term “I believe,” the easier it is for the other person to receive your opinion. So, do you turn everything into a belief?

That naturally leads us to the next reason debates turn ugly – facts versus interpretations.

In a wonderful book called The Communications Catalyst, my good friends and colleagues Mickey Connelly and Richard Rianoshek explain how people co-mingle facts and interpretations. By separating facts (that can be observed and measured) from interpretations (that are your way of looking at the facts and drawing conclusions from them), they argue that you can have more “accurate” and more “authentic” conversations. Instead people pursue “sincere” conversations where, by co-mingling facts and interpretations, they pursue “their truth,” convinced that it is the truth. So separate facts and interpretations and preface your statements with those labels.

Finally, ignoring the old adage, people fail to seek to understand before they seek to be understood. In our opinion, the most important aspect of a healthy debate is the ability to understand and advocate the other person’s point of view. (See our January 2013 Food for Thought, Coaching through Advocacy.) Showing that you can argue the other point of view demonstrates mutual respect for the individual(s), concedes the existence of multiple points of views, acknowledges an appreciation of the strengths of the other side, and in the process, expresses a recognition that the parties at play are not good or bad, right or wrong, based on which position they hold. It leads to hugs at the end of fights.

Following the practice started last month, we will be holding a telecon on this topic.

On February 20, we will hold a complimentary webinar at 8 a.m. (PST) where we will discuss this article and the fear of conflict shadow side of a collegial, friendly work environment. We encourage you to sign up and attend; please visit our event registration page here for more details.

We welcome your comments and encourage you to explore the Food for Thought archive. We hope your business is doing well. We’re happy to chat about the content in this article or anything else with which you’d like assistance.

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Employee Performance is not just about Results


Happy New Year! I hope you had a relaxing holiday and are back to an exciting start for 2016. For some of you this might also be the start of a fiscal year and you might be considering employee performance appraisals.

This topic is a logical, structured way to approach performance appraisals.

In appraising an employee’s performance over a period of time, say over the past year, we tend to focus on what the individual accomplished – the results. Yes, results are important, but equally important is how much the employee has grown during the year, and how positioned the individual is to produce even better results the next year.

To drive home this point, let me recall the definition of stewardship, as framed by my friend, Glenn Mangurian.

Stewardship is the responsibility to protect, preserve and enhance assets that do not belong to you, but have been temporarily entrusted to you.

One of the biggest assets a company has is its human capital. You, as a manager, have been asked to be a steward of your employees. You have a stewardship responsibility to leave behind a richer set of assets at the end of the year than what you inherited at the beginning of the year. Your assessment of the employee’s performance over the past year should clearly reflect your collective success – the success of you and your employee – in accomplishing that.

With that as the backdrop, I offer the following model for writing performance appraisals:

1. Results: The employee’s accomplishments over the past year.

This is like the employee’s individual income statement. That is, the employee cost the company a certain amount and, in return, they produced certain results. It is the manager’s assessment of the balance between the benefit received and the cost incurred, in this period of time.

This assessment makes no claim about their past or future contributions or their ability to make such contributions. It only speaks to this period’s contributions. That is why I view this as an income statement.

Results should be assessed in both the “what” and “how” dimensions.

Not only should you comment on what the employee did, but also how the individual achieved those results. This is an opportunity to communicate to the employee the consequence of their conduct on others around them. So, compliment the employee who rallied the group to achieve that goal that the team had resigned to being impossible. Likewise, comment on the value destroyed by the employee that trampled on everybody in their path to achieve their individual goal.

Both the “what” and the “how” speak to what happened, not what the individual is capable of.

2. Skills: An assessment of the employee’s natural skills and abilities, as related to the employee’s assigned job or potential future assignments.

This is like the tangible items on the employee’s balance sheet, both the assets and liabilities – just the tangible items that can be seen and evidenced.

These would include assessments like being a good salesperson or having good analytical skills. It would also include liabilities like not being able to write well or have difficulty in public speaking. These skills are intrinsic to the individual and are unlikely to change overnight. They can be improved, but it takes time, work and a commitment to doing so.

These skills move with the individual and are likely to be present if the employee undertakes a different assignment – although how useful the skill is in the other assignment is a different matter.

This is where you should reflect on your stewardship of this individual. How much has this balance sheet grown in the last year?

Has the employee increased their assets or reduced their liabilities? Both the manager and the employee must take ownership for this assessment.

3. Style: An assessment of the employee’s interactions with the environment.

This is like the intangible items on the employee’s balance sheet. Unlike skills, which can be demonstrated, evidenced and clearly shown, style is a bit more amorphous and difficult to establish unequivocally.

Style can be broken up into Attributes, which are intrinsic, and Conduct, which is circumstantial.

Attributes would include such things as an employee’s integrity or compassion. A compassionate employee is likely to be so in the workplace, on the sports field and drinking beer with their friends. Attributes of an individual, like skills, move with the employee. They are a statement of the employee, not of the environment. Attributes, like skills, cannot be changed overnight. One might even argue that they are very difficult to change in mature individuals.

In contrast, conduct is the result of the interaction between the employee and the environment. Examples would include an employee’s attitude, their ability to get along with their co-workers, their commitment to the company’s goals, etc. An employee might be dismissive of another individual because of a relationship they have built with that individual. An employee might be a naysayer to all ideas because of their lack of confidence in management.

Whereas the skills and attributes are likely to transport with the employee to any other job, the conduct is a reflection of the employee’s connection to the environment. Neither the good nor the bad will move to another job they take. So a disengaged employee at your workplace could well become very engaged at the next job.

The conduct is a product of the individual employee and the surrounding environment. To change the conduct, one or both of those have to change.

The individual can choose to change. Or you can change the environment surrounding the individual. Unlike skills and qualities, conduct can change practically overnight. It is often a matter of an individual’s attitude and desire, or a matter of something in their environment that is eliciting that behavior. This part of the assessment should include the changes you plan to make for any conduct deficiencies identified.

So results, skills and style. An income statement view and a balance sheet view, with the balance sheet broken up into the tangible and intangible items.

employee performance

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Dentist Marketing Ideas: New Way to Track ROI

As a consultant, one of the first things I normally do with a new client is to work with the front desk team to set up a system to track new patient referral sources. This often requires making sure the health history includes a question about referring, the front desk team asks new patients on their initial call – and we set up a report at end of month to look at every new patient missing a referral so we can fill in the blanks. It works, but as you can see, it requires some effort.

Recently, I was introduced to a new company that has developed technology that allows you to track your marketing efforts and skip the heavy lifting by the administrative team. They shared some ideas on marketing tracking that I thought you may find helpful.

Dental Marketing ROI (Return On Investment) – How Marketing Tracking Can Help Grow Your Practice

The only real way to keep your marketing budget in check, while increasing your new patient flow and growing your practice, is to make smart, fact-based marketing decisions. Making these decisions requires good data.

The key to having good data is meticulously tracking your marketing ROI. But before you can track your marketing ROI you have to understand what marketing ROI is and how it is measured.

Marketing ROI is made up of 3 components

  1. Incoming leads
  2. New patients
  3. Revenues

It is important to remember that incoming leads that do not turn into patients may seem like failures which should not be included in your measurement of ROI, but they can be very useful as indicators of other problems.

For example, the yellow pages ad you have been running for years may seem like it is not generating any revenue if you only measure it by surveying patients who come in and pay for service. If no one reports that the ad brought them in then your inclination would be to discontinue the ad. What this method of reporting doesn’t account for is that perhaps many potential patients saw the ad, called, and were turned away by an underperforming staff member at the front desk.

So, how do you track this marketing ROI?

How do you track the leads, the patients and the revenue?

How do you track the callers to be sure your staff is converting leads?

Some dental practices work to track ROI, for example:

  • Surveying patients on the phone and in person
  • Google reports
  • Reports from the practice management system
  • Spreadsheets
  • Paper files
  • The dreaded and ever growing pile of sticky notes

The problem with these methods is that now your staff has even more work to worry about, they may forget, or they may write something down incorrectly. Even more importantly, patient responses are in the moment and are often incorrect. You don’t really know where the patients are coming from.

A great example is pay per click online marketing. A patient may have clicked one of your pay per click ads online, made their way to your website, and then called your front desk to schedule an appointment. When they call in they may tell your staff that they found you “online” or “through your website.” Through no fault of your staff, or the patient, you will never know that it was really your pay per click ad that drew the patient to you.

A new solution to accurately track marketing ROI is an automated tracking software like Local Patient ROI.

Local Patient ROI is a fully automated system that connects to your dental practice management system and tracks your new patient leads, new patients, and revenues from each of your individual marketing campaigns. ROI can track virtually any form of marketing that you may be using at your practice. Direct mail, newspaper, TV, radio, PPC, SEO, SEM, blog posts, webinars, patient referrals, etc.

Through the use of tracking numbers and form tracking on your website Local Patient ROI is able to match new patients against records in your practice management system and produce a live, easy to read dashboard that will finally allow you make smart, efficient marketing decisions for your practice. Even better, your staff doesn’t need to manually input ANY information once the tracking is up and running. This leaves you and your team free to focus on the patient.


You can see a sample of the Local Patient ROI dashboard here. This shows that $1.1 million in revenue has been tracked from the variety of marketing programs this practice has invested in. It also shows the number of leads and new patients.

We can see that this practice has two specific marketing programs: the website and postcards (old and new). We can see the leads and patients documented clearly – along with the revenue generated by each. Easy to see what is working here!

When you know exactly how many leads, and patients that yellow pages ad produced yesterday, last week, last month, or last year it becomes much easier to decide if you should re-buy the ad or discontinue that spend. Furthermore, as an added advantage, Local Patient ROI provides call recording which gives you a training tool to ensure that you convert your leads into patients. When you see a campaign has generated many leads but very few converted to patients, this is a great time to listen to those calls to get to the root of the problem.

If you are marketing without using call recording to monitor and train your staff then no amount of good marketing will solve your problem. Making your front desk staff an active part of your marketing program by focusing on lead conversion will magnify the results of any marketing campaign you invest in. Automated ROI tracking allows you make confident, accurate decisions that drive revenue and new patients up, while pushing costs down. It also frees up your staff to spend time with patients, and it allows you to market successfully.

Request a Demo

If you’re interested in checking out the Local Patient ROI software that automatically tracks the referral source for each new patient and provides an easy to read dashboard to show you how much each marketing program is producing for you, then request a demo. Local Patient ROI is offering a discount of $96/month for anyone who follows this link: Request a Demo.


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Walking with Socrates


“We need to improve our communication” — it’s a refrain we hear often in our line of work. Sound familiar? Does your company/department/team have this “communication thing” licked? Probably not.

Of course, “improving communication” is a pretty diffuse phrase. It encompasses everything from “please use the ‘reply all’ function in Outlook judiciously” to “have the courage to hold difficult conversations with your boss” and everything in between. I’d like to narrow the focus here to a very simple process that will greatly improve your ability to hold conversations of value. It’s straightforward (but not easy) and applicable across many kinds of conversations. It’s called the Socratic Walk.

A little background: The Socratic Walk is a play on the Socratic Method, an application of critical thinking named after everyone’s favorite Greek Philosopher, Socrates. One of the most influential of the ancient philosophers, Socrates comes to us through the writings of Plato and specifically The Dialogues, a series of stories in which Socrates questions his interlocutor (fancy name for a conversational partner) and, in so doing, helps clarify the issue at hand.

Here’s the thing: Socrates never expresses an opinion or becomes prescriptive in his approach — his questions serve as a clarifying force for thinking through the problem, challenge or position.

Socratic Walks are based on the Socratic Method. It’s a very complicated process so please read the instructions that follow carefully. One person talks (and walks); the other listens and asks questions. I’ll repeat that: One person talks (and walks) and the other listens and asks questions. That’s it. If you’re not real clear on the process, please reread the last three sentences.

Two things become immediately apparent when you undertake this practice. First, there is huge value for the “talker” in being given the space to think without worrying his/her train of thought will be interrupted. The clarity of the role — to think out loud — frees the mind to explore and not feel rushed to make a point ahead of the inevitable interruption or challenge or tangential remark from the other party.

Second, the “asker” receives equal, if not greater, value. By removing the need to respond, by focusing on the speaker’s content only for the purposes of asking clarifying questions, true active listening results. In the words of Steven Covey, the asker “seeks first to understand.” Listening for the sake of reaching a common framework of understanding, and resisting the common need to insert the ego-self by responding, is a very valuable skill in its own right. And there is no better tool to train the mind in this way than by engaging in the practice of the Socratic Method via the Socratic Walk.

And why the walk? This is where it all comes together. By formalizing the process in a walk, it is easier for each person to drop into their respective roles. Further, thinking out loud and away from the usual environment is very clarifying in and of itself. After all, how often do you sit around and think out loud (without being fitted for a white canvas jacket with wrap around sleeves)? And finally, I suspect all great thinkers are natural walkers. There is something in the rhythm and energy of the activity that fosters deeper, richer, more meaningful thinking.

Solvitur ambulando, as the Romans used to say; the solution comes through walking.

It sounds simple and obvious, and it is… which is why it works. It’s a great way to noodle out problems and train the mind to listen better. Socratic Walks are a practical, useful tool to improve communication between two people. Try it and share your experience with us. We’d love to hear your experiences walking with (and channeling) Socrates.

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