“If we can articulate our vision clearly to ourselves then we can articulate it to our team.”
As Drs. Andy and Natalie Droel settled into the dental practice post-COVID shutdown, they realized the business couldn’t support what they wanted to build. Juggling two locations, hiring new team members, and the desire to hone in on specific procedures was making it difficult to see a clear path forward.
“There were a lot of things with the team and with our processes that needed to be cleaned up and organized,” explains Andy. “The practice was doing well financially, but we were driving around in the dark.”
Listen in on today’s Everyday Practices podcast episode as the Droels share how incorporating PDA methodology has shined a light on their path to success by illuminating:
- How to craft and effectively communicate their vision
- How to leverage data analytics
- An effective and fun hiring process that has been wildly successful
Drs. Andy and Natalie Droel
Since 2004, Drs. Natalie and Andy Droel have been the mom-and-pop owner/operators of their Minnesota general dentistry practice, currently with two suburban locations near the Twin Cities. Each year has brought new changes, challenges, and adventures. Throughout this journey, they have slowly become wiser; at least that is the hope. They have also gotten to know each other very, very well.
Chad: Hey everybody, it’s Chad Johnson here with Regan Robertson. Regan. How you doing?
Regan: I’m doing exceptional. Chad, how are you?
Chad: Excellent. Welcome to everyday practices to all of our listeners. today. We have the drills on the drills are from Minnesota, and Natalie and Andy, how are you guys doing today?
Andy: Great, great.
Chad: Yeah, so recently, you recently you guys, we’re in the foundation’s course, which is kind of an online group that meets together. And what is that? Is it eight weeks? Is that sound about right? Is it 10? It’s a it’s a dish. So just just to give reference for, you know, people that are listening. So tell us about your experience with that. That foundations course that you guys took
Andy: It’s sort of funny, we wandered in a little bit, because we’re also working directly with PDA. Kelly, and in coaching, it was offered to us. But I was aware of it too. And we were for us, we needed to make space in our life for all of this stuff. Because until the man until until December of 2020, it was still like we felt like we were reopening. And we didn’t have time to deal with much else. Right? Besides the excitement of that. So it felt like time to take a step back from the day to day and the week to week and think more strategy. And that did seem to be what this course was all about, like long term vision strategy.
Chad: And Natalie, can you guys can you tell us, you know, but both of your dentist? And can you tell us kind of what your practice looks like?
Natalie: Sure. So we have a practice that we started together back in 2004. I was fresh out of residency, he was one year ahead of me in school. And we did a scratch start. So we had zero patients and we built it up into something that’s much larger today than it was back then. We ended up expanding our practice to two locations about six years ago. And we are you know, both general dentists, we we sort of job share, I would say so that we were able to, you know, raise our daughters and never have to rely on too much outside help in that regard. Anyways, we’re a general practice, we historically have done a lot of bread and butter dentistry.
And as we’ve matured and grown through the years, we have started to hone in on certain things that we love to do. I am becoming really interested in building up my Invisalign practice. Dr. Andy is really interested in paying more full mouth rehabs, and helping people that have really significant damage. So that’s kind of our practice. In a nutshell, we practice together over two locations, we’ve got one team that goes back and forth between both locations.
Andy: So that to further fill in the picture, the parts of our practice where people turn their head and look at me funny. It’s like the dog turning its head and like, right, we’re like, wait, you have two locations? Is there another doctor and your practice? Like? No, you’re both at both know, where we don’t use both locations throughout the week. We just don’t. And we also haven’t really sought out, like, gotten serious about finding another dentist to work in the office. We’re kind of for your exposure for more patient. Yeah, we’re reaching a different area.
And so we’re using I guess the one that we use less is kind of a satellite, we see opportunities in both, and we’ll probably change our locations around as opportunities come up with different real estate and stuff later on. But those are that’s like the bewildering part of our practice. And the bewildering part to me is that they’re both parts of dentistry that are necessary to do somebody’s got to do them, like people need things done. There are things that Natalie and I don’t do, and we’re not completely all under one roof service.
So they’re now we’re talking about things that we would talk about in Foundations actually, like, take take your practice that tiny little picture that though presents itself to the world on the website and like look, the doctors work together and this and that and then start picking at it like Wait, is it does anyone do endo in your practice? Does anybody place implants? Well, no. Those are the areas of opportunity that we tend to ignore on a day to day basis and we started talking about those in Foundation. Like, where, where are we headed? What’s missing? What What do we want to add? What do we want to take away? Which is really fun to think about big picture?
Chad: Well, that might be something that you discovered while you were in the class trying to think about, you know, different mitigation, risk mitigation for your practice. But what was your pressure point going into the course? I mean, where were you a year ago that you were like, when you first heard about this course, from Cali, that you were like, yeah, we need to make this happen?
Andy: Well, two answers, because we sort of wandered in, because we knew we had time. And we know that’s true, sooner or later, and it’s part of coaching. So, okay, like we were going to take this opportunity that was available to us, but we’re glad we did it. A year ago, we were, well, we’ll just keep speaking as coaching plans to we were all set to engage with PDA as coaching clients, then COVID, we were getting ready and putting more puzzle pieces in place. Like we knew we needed to switch to open dental because we were using this cheesy old software. And it was we knew it was gonna work better. Like let’s let’s do our homework. So we’re not just doing so coaching isn’t a babysitting job for PDA for the first six months. And we’re just getting to that point, then COVID happened and the year just got really exciting. And we just dealt with the excitement for six months. And then we were ready.
Chad: Did you kind of feel like if you were getting someone to clean your house that you were trying to clean up the house before you had someone clean your house?
Andy: Yes. Maybe
Natalie: I did. Yeah. That way. Well,
Andy: Yeah. True. Yes.
Chad: For the listeners, just you know, we’re doing video, but you might be listening on your car drive. And Natalie pointed into the cabin was like, Yes, exactly. So Natalie, tell us about that. What What did what did that? You know, what did that look like as far as the accountability? The you know, because we’re ever evolving in a dental practice. And all of a sudden, you’re just like, Well, why why waste time on that? That low hanging fruit? Let’s get it organized first, and then, you know, it’ll be maybe minimally acceptable to get someone to come in. So
Natalie: Yeah, I mean, well, to back it up a little bit further, we did actually go to a couple of the PDA productivity seminars. And then we also participated in a program called jumpstart. And I think we really ramped up our production quite a bit to the point where we realize that we couldn’t really support the foundation of what we had going on, until we kind of looked behind the curtains a little bit, and had a little bit more organization behind the scenes. There’s a lot of things administratively and team wise that just needed to be cleaned up and organized. I feel like and, you know, coaching is great. The business impact course, kind of sped us along, I would say and forced us to really take a hard look at what’s going on behind the scenes.
Andy: Like Patti from PDA helped us directly with jumpstart, and it was just kind of like coating light, but with nice results in terms of productivity. But that’s like you’re driving around in the desert in the dark and some highway and you don’t even have headlights, and you step on the gas, and just start going faster. Like Wait, where are you going? And we felt that way by this the spring of? Well, by the time we had to close for COVID the practice was doing well financially, but we were driving around in the dark and with the pedal to the metal, and like, Okay, this is getting a little crazy. We need help. We need headlights, we need to find out we need a roadmap.
And now we’re back to strategic thinking. As far as the back to Chad, you’re saying about Yeah, we’re gonna clean our house and then someone’s gonna come and clean it for us. I think I contributed to this and just the way I do things, I can’t help it. I like to try and DIY everything said to Natalie a number of times, like let’s get as far as we can without their help, and then we’ll be that much more ready for their help.
Andy: Listen to that for a minute, you know, get into trouble that way.
Regan: Andy, I still relate to that. Because my own dentist who I adore, I was talking to him about implementing, like new bacterial testing, I think it was and he’s super passionate about it. And he was like, Well, yes, I want to do this. But I’m going to do this first and then I’m going to do this first and we’ll see how much time I have. And you could see, like physically I thought this is way expanding out where he kind of wants to go. And it felt like you said I felt like he’s kind of driving and not really exactly sure he had an idea but it wasn’t it wasn’t as clear as it could have been. Do you think that was Foundation’s? The the beacon for you? Is that the light did that start it or was it COVID? How did you start to get your headlights turned on and figure out where your kind of North Star was? I do think?
Natalie: Well both both the start of coaching and business impact, they really did happen at almost the same time for us. I think we started coaching at the end of November, and by mid January, we were thrown into business impact. And what I think it really helped us with was analytics, the power of analytics, right? We, up until this point really had not been tracking as well as we could have been part of that, honestly, was that we used to be paper charts up until COVID. Actually, that was a very big push for us as when COVID hit, we finally decided, Alright, it’s time to get rid of these paper charts and move on to something electronic. So we I think once we switched everything over to an electronic database, it was much easier to track all those analytics, but then to really be able to know what to look for. Um, I don’t think I would have known without the help of the business impact course, what things to look for, in terms of KPIs key practice indicators.
Regan: Absolutely. And does that does it inform you for because if you said earlier, you were talking about how and do you like to do more full mouth rehab? And not you want to go into the more Invisalign pieces? Does that how does that fit into your puzzle? Did you use KPIs and kind of plan that in, in your education in the services that you continue to expand? How do those two link for you?
Andy: We’ve been working on that? And I alluded that earlier, like, Wait, is there another dentist that comes? And does these other things that you don’t want to do? is a question somebody, I think somebody was sort of asking me that today, or it’s something I would ask me, the way we’re addressing that is, we’re trying to be more precise with marketing.
And the just little things like the things that are on our website, we’re focusing on the team, so they know what we’re up to, and the kind of patients that we’re targeting so that our team is ready to take really good care of them when they call. And we are not particularly on the lookout for them, say the most plain vanilla like, Hey, I just moved to the area need a checkup. We’re happy to see those kinds of patients, but we’re doing some targeting. And I think it just comes all the way from marketing all the way through to Good for you aim and everything else, then the struggle that comes with that is that there are some people who don’t fit our profiles of the kind of patients we’re looking for. And we don’t have somebody else to just like, help out with them. So, we’re running around doing that stuff ourselves, too. That’s General Dentistry for you, I think. So there’s a focus, but not a laser focus. We’re not specialists and we don’t want to be and I remember this
Chad: About six months ago, you were wanting to know more about the hiring, and you know, team retention, and culture and stuff like that. Do you feel like foundations kind of helped guide you the right way for that? What was your experience with that?
Andy: I feel like 20 was the year of like, 20 1920 2019 was the year of learning to be more productive. 2020 was the year we discovered the team really, for the first time like, wait, there’s a team, we don’t have to do everything ourselves, they’ll help us we can like just to discover that. And now we’re continuing to like, there was a lot of emphasis on the team in foundations, too. And man, if we can articulate our vision to ourselves and each other, then we can start to articulate it to the team. And we start to see how important it is, if it’s important to us, and it gets us out of bed every day, our vision or like a reason that we go in?
What is their purpose in that? or What purpose does their practice serve? If we can articulate that clearly, because we understand it ourselves, we can articulate it to our team, and then it’s gonna be a lot easier to make it to bring it into existence in real life. So foundations was really helpful to force us to be like, Okay, what are we all about? Actually, what Where are we headed?
Natalie: Well, and I can add to that, too, there was one of the weeks of business impact, we focused on the team. That was kind of one of our focuses for the week. And man, I got a lot out of that topic, came at a perfect time, because we needed to hire another person for the front desk. And there is some content in our course about how to do behavioral interviewing, I think it was called, and it was so useful down to like, you know, I tailored the ad that we posted when, you know, reaching out to the public for help. And then also, during the interview process, there were some really wonderful questions that I was able to pull from that content to ask during an interview.
And I would say that my interviews went 100% better than they normally do because of just help with some of the key questions to ask. And I feel like the person that we hired is such a perfect fit for us because we knew ahead of time what we were looking for, and so it was so valuable to That’s just from that. I mean, we have this amazing new front desk. person who I don’t know if I would have found her without all these really pointed questions.
Chad: But Natalie, I have to say to Oh, go ahead, Andy.
Andy: Yeah, well, these aren’t tricks. A lot of this came from Renee Lewis from PDA guy. I asked Victoria Peterson, if we could somebody could install a more Renae button on my keyboard, please, because, wow. And these aren’t tricks. These are simply ways to make sure that you’re actually having a really genuine, enduring interviewing experience where both people are going to be happy with the result. But it’s a way to make things more genuine, you know, more details about the questions I don’t remember as well as you do.
But those interviews were fun this time, in a way that they weren’t before. Because we had a vision of like, Okay, well, this is, here’s why we’re even looking for somebody. And here’s what we have in mind a lot more than in the past. Yeah, like, okay, we’re missing a person, we need someone to take their place. It wasn’t like that.
Chad: Regan, I feel like their take home message, you know, is aside from you know, marketing, and them looking at metrics, I hear that they had their vision articulated. And really, in any relationship, whether it’s a business relationship, personal relationship, where if you know better what you want, then you’re going to naturally be able to find that because you know, what you’re looking for. I mean, if if hunters are out looking for just, you know, something in nature, they might be shooting their arrows at the river. I mean, they might be shedding it at the dirt, you know, or a corn stock or something like that. But it’s like, once they know what their target is, they’re able to only shoot at that, which is really cool.
Andy: Yeah. In a Midwest thing, right? Well, I think that Yeah, probably Minnesota and Iowa. Both Yeah. Be familiar up Wisconsin people. Yeah. decoders spray, you know, spray and pray. Never. Yes, right. Yeah, just shoot every which way. Okay, another thing that came from foundations, it’s similar, but different. We are leaders and leaders decide what’s important. That’s my favorite definition of leadership right now. And I don’t know where it came from.
We’re the ones that decide what’s going to be important. And we there are a lot of possible things that could be important in it at this point in our career, we’re not used to being led, we’re used to being maybe told what to do by insurance companies or things like that. But the the experience of being a follower is that it’s a that’s that familiar to me anymore, this far into adulting. But we were led by Victoria and others as as students in the foundation’s course. And I was watching pretty closely how she was able to decide what’s important.
So we’d have this big rambling discussion, I usually go off on a tangent as one of the members of the group. And so everyone kind of makes room for that slightly and waits for me to let it all out. And that’s great. But she she pulls it back together, and she finds the common threads in a really tactful kind of way. I appreciate your kindness, because I can ramble. I’m feeling this. And just that experience of being led helps me understand what it must feel like to be led like to be one of our team members, who’s we’re leading.
Regan: So you, you experienced empathy in that moment. Like there’s that there’s that true relational piece. And I think I think, Andy, your point is so poignant, because as leaders, we can so easily forget that I love that you brought up Renee lewis’s curriculum, because she had she had being our chief of staff and see, oh, she’s actually been transformative to me as a leader in how I give feedback, how I understand the components of leadership. I mean, it’s, it’s not that hard. It’s really not, but you have to unders if you’re not given that foundation, you can really spin your wheels out, I think, unnecessarily.
Andy: You’re so lucky that you get to witness her like what I see in that, that what she does is like the heart of it is that is so genuine and real. Like she’s finding the real stuff that really matters, I think is what it seems like to me.
Regan: Oh, I for me personally, it’s like free consulting for us in our own company. That’s definitely how I feel.
Andy: Yeah, you know, you’re lucky.