Episode 184 – Get Your Dental Practice 500 5-Star Google Reviews
“Instead of just being productive myself as a doctor, we needed to be productive as a whole team.” -Dr. Austin Whetten
You’re losing team members. You’re working way too hard. You’re exhausted.
So what can you do?
“I was stressing myself out to the max, micromanaging everything, my team hated me,” says Dr. Austin Whetten.
Two years later, he has a happy, engaged team, is hiring an associate, and has 500, 5-star Google reviews! How did he do it? You may be surprised at the answer…and that you can use the same principles to achieve your goals in your dental practice.
We love to make your life easy! Join Regan Robertson today as she and Dr. Whetten break down the pieces of:
- How to change your mindset from micromanaging to empowering your team
- Making lasting improvements to your dental practice and life
- How Dr. Whetten got 500, 5-star Google reviews in 6 months
Welcome to another episode of the Everyday Practices Dental Podcast. I am your host, Regan Robertson. Today we have a very special guest Dr. Austin Wetton of Amarillo, Texas. In just a short two and a half years, Dr. Whetten has massively grown his practice and generated almost 500, Five-Star Google reviews. He’s going to tell you how he did it and how you can achieve the same level of success in your practice, no matter where you’re at. If you wish that you could rise above micromanaging, team turnover and the fatigue that comes with dental practice ownership, you are going to enjoy hearing from Dr. Whetten, let’s dive right in. That really relates to everybody, the stress of doing the hustle, putting it all in, and then having it start to pay off. How long have you been in dentistry?
Dr. Austin Whetten 2:04
Well, I graduated from UNLB in 2017.
Okay, so you’re fairly new. I mean, I would say fairly new, and your journey, 17. So coming up on what five years?
Dr. Austin Whetten 2:20
Well, I’ll be honest, 2017 UNLB, hated every moment of it, but also loved every moment of it at the same time. It’s weird how dental schools kind of do that too. Then I tried to do an acquisition right out of school, that fell apart and so I was then forced to be an associate for a while. I built Windmill Dental, my wife, and I, as a scratch startup. We opened the doors on October 19 and now we’re doing really good, like, like what we talked about earlier and we’re looking for an associate and we’re doing some different consulting deals and just trying to now get to where it’s less hustle, hustle, work, work work, spend every living moment trying to make Windmill Dental success and get it to where Windmill Dental is a success and let’s kind of feed off of that a little bit.
And I relate to that. So well-being in the startup environment. I’ve been in a corporate environment throughout my 20 years, where it’s very established and the goals are very different and then I’ve jumped into the hustle of the startup. So I’ve owned my own company, I’ve been in startups, multiple startups, and it’s a totally different animal and I think the game becomes really fun when you start to see that work pay off and you feel like you’re up-leveling. Dr. Bruce loves gamification, anytime he can make a game of something, he’s all for it and that mindset, I see that in a lot of entrepreneurs, how can I make this fun even though it’s hard?
Dr. Austin Whetten 4:00
You know, it’s so funny Reagan, because I was talking to my wife the other day, and I was telling her how I think there are two types of people. I think there’s one group that they always think they know best, right, nothing is good enough. They Tinker here, they Tinker there, they reinvent the wheel, they’re always got to be thinking and stressing about some and taking risks and then there’s another group that they research to nauseam. I need somebody who’s done it before them, somebody to guide them, maybe take the risks together as a group with proven systems, that’s where I’ll go off all those. I think both people can be successful, right? I mean, we’ve seen models where we’re both or practice owners, both are incredibly successful but that tinker type, but that Tinker type has a really high ceiling and a super deep floor and me doing a startup I think I’m the ideal tinkerer personality, where it was scratched everything. I was taking this idea, this idea of PDA ideas, stressing myself out to the max, micromanaging everything. My initial staff hated me, without a doubt. Bruce talks about that all the time, how he was a terrible boss, and I relate to that, not because I felt like I was mean but because I was just so watching every word that was said. He gives one example where he heard laughing in the hallway. Yes, I didn’t get mad at laughing in the hallway but I would hear that laughing or doing something like that and be like, “Well, does the patient like that laughing?”, and I kind of think about it, and then you know, you formulate thoughts and go coach that.
So that was me and then also, when we first started, I did everything. I was, I mean, there were two other team members, and they were fantastic but I was the dentist, I was the hygienist. I broke down room, setup rooms, called, scheduled patients, did insurance verification, insurance payments, I mean, everything. So, so micromanaging was just just a part of it because I had a hand in every single aspect of the practice. I don’t know what team meeting it was but we had a team meeting where a team member said something said, “Keep Dr. Whetten busy, because if he’s not with a patient, he will start micromanaging,” and that’s true, is if I’m not in the back, and I’m not doing dentistry, I’m probably going to be up in the front and talking about how this is how we could perfect the checkout process, you know, or I might be with my assistants and saying, “Let’s go ahead and scan each other’s mouths and we’ll perfect how fast we can do that with the scanner,” and so I think that’s that tinkering personality that you were kind of talking about how there are different levels and, and, and that’s where we’re at,
what do you think, change your mindset from the, because I understand the need to micromanage and control that and especially, I almost think it’s necessary, especially in a startup environment to have your hand in everything like understand from that perspective, it helps you relate to your team better, it helps you understand it and then the other side of that coin, is you have a certain way that you’ve done these things. So therefore you expect them done that way, for you what changed your perspective from going towards the micromanaging side to instead empowering your team and trusting your team so that you could relieve some of that stress from yourself?
Dr. Austin Whetten 7:33
Oh, I think that last comment you made about relieving stress from yourself is probably the biggest and another thing that will really hit hard for anybody who is doing an acquisition or a startup, and when you start losing staff members, and those relationships with them just kind of like disintegrate and it’s really weird because you feel like they’re really strong and then you just, they just start to kind of fall apart. You start thinking of ways, how could I have done this better, you know, and then and then another great thing is, I went to PDA real early. Let’s see, it was it was months, it was the February before October that we opened our doors and so I took a lot of those aspects from PDA so I could start that day one but I didn’t have a team or anything like that, and I definitely didn’t have a schedule that could be productive scheduling but our hours like they are now with seven to seven. So we’d have five patients show up and out of those five, on two of them, in addition to the exam, and the cleaning, and all that kind of stuff, we knock out an entire quad, right crowns, fillings, extractions, stuff like that and that’s because of PDA. I need to look for that, I need to convince the patient you know, it’s easier to get numb now. I’d say things like, “I know you don’t like to go to the dentist, so let’s not make it to where you have to your to here. Let’s just go ahead and finish everything, you know,” stuff like that. Well, now, fast forward to 2.5 later, five years later, and you’re asking a question about how did I stop being micromanaging? I went to PDA again and I took my whole team and just let’s empower everybody, let’s now we’re taking different aspects from that, that conference and instead of, of being productive, just myself as a doctor, now, it’s let’s be productive as a whole team and I think that’s kind of the biggest switch is if I’ve always wanted to ease into that, but I haven’t been able to, because my practice hasn’t been to the point that it’s allowed it to where it’s allowed me to step back and now I have a team that can feed off it a little bit.
I love how you’ve shared that this is a journey that has taken a few years and I know from myself, especially with my own entrepreneurial spirit, that I want things to happen right now and I know that it’s a process, and boy, is it frustrating. I think I take up personally a lot of mind power, being frustrated at my own ignorance and being like if I just could figure out this piece, or this piece or this piece and I think it’s actually of all of that one of the biggest gems is understanding it’s a process and being forgiving to yourself along the way, is massive to that let’s break down what it is specifically at these workshops, that PDA what are some of the things that you felt you’ve really taken away that we could share with listeners so if they’re in the same spot where you were a few years ago, and they’re losing team members, they’re working too hard, and they’re getting a little exhausted?
Dr. Austin Whetten 10:56
Um, well, I think the first thing is, obviously PDA has a ton of stuff that you can gather from it, okay. I mean, it would take the whole podcast to really break down everything that I myself have gathered from them, and even right now I’m, I’m even using them as consultants, so, so a lot of those things, I’m going to have help kind of pushing forward and instituting, but I would say that, that it’s, it’s got to be that desire, you’ve got to have that desire, you can go to PDA, and you can get all that information but unless you actually have that desire to work hard to strive to make it better, then it’s not going to do anything. It’s going to pump you up for a week and then you’re gonna be right back in that same position, yeah, so.
You were talking about the hustle and the drive and wanting, tell me more about that urge. Do you think it’s just intuitive to you like you just pick it up naturally, some people have it, some people don’t?
Dr. Austin Whetten 11:56
That’s a really good question, let’s see. Dentistry as a kid meant nothing to me, really meant nothing. Except that it just seemed like they always had nice stuff, they had nice houses, cars, and spoiled kids but other than that, it meant nothing. I grew up and I wasn’t prepared, like some of my classmates in dental school. Nobody in my family is a dentist, we’re all agriculture, we’re all ranchers. I remember even in undergrad, Regan, that I was trying to get a job at the mall like all the cool kids do, but my resume was definitely not going to allow me to get that job at the mall. Instead,
Why wait, ranchers are problem solvers, they encounter unique situations everyday
Dr. Austin Whetten 12:57
I wish you were there. I wish you were there to tell Hollister and all those different cool things Abercrombie and Fitch to hire me, but instead, I got a job shoveling manure at a farm where I also handled irrigation and stuff like that. So, so work, I was never afraid to work and like, you know, Regan, that’s a huge part of success is just having that desire and that ability to go to that point that everybody else is going to work and then go a little bit farther. So, so like dental school, I wasn’t prepared for dental school. I was middle of the pack without a doubt but because of my past, I was ready to be a dentist. I was ready to have a career because I was raised to work and I know it’s not glamorous to talk about. Now, Reagan, you probably hear this all the time, too. I know Chad would probably hear this every time he goes to a different CE, but you’re not going to hear the dentist go up and brag about himself saying things like, “I did okay, I collected 1.5 as a solo doc working my butt off, stressing to the absolute max most of the year. Oh, and now that I think of it, I did take three days off to relax but that even stressed me out more, because now I’m behind.” You’re not going to hear that, that dentist is going to say stuff like, “Oh, as a solo drag doctor, I practiced three days a week and produced 1.5, right.” Yeah, the work is always left out of it and I think that’s the biggest thing is, is the work is huge and I think that has to actually be instilled in you as as a child or something has to have developed to where you can work like we talked about work to that point that everybody else is going to work to, and then push yourself a little bit farther, so you do Excel even farther. I don’t know, Regan, this might be a boring story. So I’ll just go on with it but I’m a cowboy turned dentist.
I was gonna ask you why did you become a dentist if ranching is in your family? I mean, it’s so common to follow in your family’s footsteps, right? Yeah. So what led you down the dental path instead?
Dr. Austin Whetten 15:19
So as a cowboy turning dentist, well, now I’m bordering as being a city boy, sadly, because I’ve been a dentist now for however many years, but I grew up on my family’s ranch. It’s about 500,000 acres, beef cattle, riding branding, and fixing windmills from the age of five. It was a childhood that of course produced a good adult but it was a hard childhood. We had two ranch hands always and my dad would always tell my brother and I that we had to work harder than them. If they were required to be outside in the morning at seven, we needed to be outside at 6:30 and we were every morning, my dad would come into our room, he turned on that light and he’d say once, “Get up boys,” and then he walked out and he was going outside at six and at that time I hated it.
Of course, you did, why wouldn’t you and he was forcing you to model the way as a leader
Dr. Austin Whetten 16:19
He was because that’s a lesson that I even use, especially as a boss, you don’t want to ask your team to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself or have or is willing to do now. You got to lead by example and that was what that was teaching us. My mom, a story about her is, we went to school 55 miles away from the ranch. I mean, that was the closest town. So she would drive every morning 55 Miles, drop us off at school, then go back to home, work, and then at the end of the school, she would drive back up to the school pick us up, and drive us back home, and the whole time during the drive, she would make us read out loud books. Just because we didn’t want to waste any time. There’s no time that’s wasted. Again,
Your parents sound amazing.
Dr. Austin Whetten 17:10
They really are, you know, they did a really, really good job. So, but these stories, they sound unique but I’m sure Regan, both you and Chad have these exact same stories that shaped you because you’re both very successful. It’s kind of the reason why for no particular reason, I guess my kids are outside right now three feet inside a hole, dig in it and, you know, once this interview is over, they’ll be instructed to fill it back in
A pro mud parent, I call myself a pro mud parent, get them in the mud, get them outside,
Dr. Austin Whetten 17:50
Get them to dig and get them working for no particular reason. Just have them work to do something, dig that hole, fill it back in but that’s kind of the thing is we worked really hard and but it was all for a purpose. You could tell that they were raising adults and so that was good.
They seemed very clear in their mission, but you didn’t answer the question, why dentistry?
Dr. Austin Whetten 18:16
I don’t know. You know, there was another deal where my dad had told me and my brother one day he said, “This ranch is the family’s but this ranch is your mom and I’s. You and your brother, you will have to find a career and then after you find a career, you can come back but you need to find a career of your own and maybe it relates back to what we talked about earlier where dentistry meant nothing, but they always seem to have a nice house, and so dentistry seemed like a good fit and I’m glad I did because the short attention span that I have, dentistry is great. There’s a cavity, you fix the cavity, the end, it’s a success.ext patient, so
Dr. Austin Whetten 18:58
Well, you’ve clearly done a good job. So how many years have you been it with, Windmill? Like with your own practice?
Dr. Austin Whetten 19:06
Well, since we started in 19, or the end of 19, so about two and a half years.
Are you serious? Yeah. So you know, you have almost 50o five-Star Google reviews.
Dr. Austin Whetten 19:14
Yeah, 500 Google, or five star Google review,
five star. That’s insane and that tells me that you’re clearly running a practice, that’s mission forward. I mean, you must be telling the story of your family and how you were raised makes a lot of sense to me. So without knowing you, really, that tells me that you must be very clear with your team. You must have your eye on the prize, you must do your daily huddles, you must do your morning, huddles, and you must be consistent.
Dr. Austin Whetten 19:44
We do our morning huddle. Yeah.
So listeners listening to this, I want you to take this into account right now. Just close your eyes with me wherever you’re at, in your practice, whether you’ve been in 15 years or two years, success can be defined because success doesn’t have to necessarily be a 10-year stretch, you can get there fairly quickly as long as you’re clear on your goal, and you’re willing to put in that little extra effort. I am so excited that you found not just PDA but what other resources, whatever resources you’ve taken into account to help your team with this journey. So what’s next for you? Where are you looking to go next in your exciting adventure? So do you have acreage now, do you have like, what’s what do you do on your normal time?
Dr. Austin Whetten 20:34
Oh, you’re talking about away from windows?
Yeah away from the dental practice.
Dr. Austin Whetten 20:40
I don’t know what that exists yet but no, away from Windmill Dental, it’s just about spending time with my family. It’s totally being a soccer Dad, where I’m coaching the teams. It’s working outside just to get the kids outside and playing, it’s family time. So that’s, that’s away from Windmill Dental. Now at Windmill Dental, we’re definitely hoping to bring on an associate here as quickly as possible. When we get that good candidate, they are going to be in the door, increase our office open times. Right now we’re doing three days a week but we’re hoping to have it open almost everyday week kind of thing and just keep growing like that.
So you’ve invested in yourself, and you’ve also invested in your team by bringing them to the PDA Productivity Workshop. After you got back from the workshop, did you notice the difference with your team? Have you noticed improvement or refinement or anything like that?
Dr. Austin Whetten 21:40
Yeah. CE is great. Regan, because of that particular reason is that, before CE, you can start to get a little bit bogged down, you can get it to where you start to smile when that last patient of the day cancels, and you’re like, get to go home early.
Your honesty is very good.
Dr. Austin Whetten 22:06
You know, you stopped doing as much same-day treatment, that kind of stuff is easy and I think it circulates throughout the entire team. Everybody starts feeling that a little bit. So what’s great about CE is it instantly, it just gives you like a shot of adrenaline and it pumps you up again and so I don’t know if it’s, it’s what’s being taught, which at PDA, of course, it’s got a lot of great materials. So that’s helping, but it’s just the fact of being around other people that are in the dental field and they’re sharing their stories, and you’re getting yours and maybe your egos kicking out a little bit and you’re like, you know what I could do better than them and I think the whole team feels that. So when everyone came back, we’re just pumped and we’re just ready to rock and so a lot of the systems are really easy to implement because everyone’s wanting to implement them. So I would say that right there, Regan if it’s not PDA which it should be, if it’s another CE event, think about taking at least a couple of members of your team, if not your whole team because that’s probably going to do the best is getting the whole team pumped and ready to go.
That’s the piece that I want to preach over and over again. It’s the, it’s the looking for success in your team. It’s the helping your team grow and I know that when you’re first starting out, or even if you’re a few years in, it can be so hard because of a lack of confidence in my own or your own or whoever their own abilities, so they work on perfecting themselves and I feel like it’s so common to leave the team behind.
Dr. Austin Whetten 23:44
Yeah, I think you’re right and I think another aspect of it is the unknown. You think about, well, do I want to invest this much money in my team because you get you get gun shy, because you have team members that leave you? And you’re like, “Well, I invested this much in them, and do I want to continue to invest because I just lost that money,” but at the same avenue, you have to invest in them, or they’re going to leave because they got burnout because it was boring, it was mundane, and you’ve just got to keep growing and they’ve got to see that their boss or their owner, their dentist, you know, cares about them and wants them to succeed too and hopefully, I’m able to instill that here at Windmill Dental because I do care about the team and I really hope that they care about Windmill Dental.
So how many team members do you have?
Dr. Austin Whetten 24:39
Oh, that’s a good size, that’s a very nice size. Do you sit down with them individually and kind of talk about what their own growth goals are? Think how they want to grow their career?
Dr. Austin Whetten 24:51
Now grow their career, that’s a good question. I’d hope that if I ever asked, I think I’d be scared Reagan to ask that question because say, “How do you want to grow your career?”, and they say, “Well, I want to be a cosmetologist.”
How can we bring a spa-like experience to Windmill Dental?
Dr. Austin Whetten 25:09
No, but grow your career in the sense of Windmill Dental. Yes, if we can kind of navigate through that, but definitely taken them out to eat just one on one or, or just the front desk or just the hygienist or something like that but yeah, I’m hoping especially since we don’t have an office manager right now and I’m kind of holding that hat a little bit, that we can build a good relationship.
So you have identified your next goal, you don’t have an office manager per se right now other than yourself. My mom’s career was dental assisting, and that’s my only tied to dentistry that and I have a freakish love of teeth, I guess I would say that I’m so disappointed that wasn’t your drive to become a dentist. So, my mom was a dental assistant and she has told me for all of my 43 years, she has said how much pride it gave her to be able to anticipate what the doctor needed, and to have it ready to go and she really worked hard to perfect that relationship between her and the doctor so that she could anticipate and make his role easier and for her that was goals and that sort of like dedication and passion to your role that needs to be respected and celebrated and I feel that so many times especially in business ownership, we get caught up and we forget in the honor in each role and how it’s like a really important puzzle piece to the patient experience. So growth in and of itself doesn’t have to be to another job title, to another area, it can be simply perfecting the role that you’re at, and it is unbeatable. I mean, your team got to be with Summer Carol, which was Dr. Bruce’s assistant, for what 20 years, and I think she’s done an excuse. She’s like, um, I think of her as like a superwoman of assisting, she’s so far beyond what I consider a dental assistant. She amazes me but that’s what’s possible and giving people that hope to that they can get there to that place that comes from exceptional leadership that comes from ownership that’s willing to dig deeper so I’m celebrating you Dr. Whetten and for really digging deep and taking, taking the wherewithal and just really being brave, being brave and leading that and growing your team.
Dr. Austin Whetten 27:30
Well, if I had to give advice Regan to somebody who was wanting to excel in dentistry because I don’t know anything else. I would say one, just like you said, you gotta have a team member that you have a really good relationship, like Bruce has with Summer. Someone that you want to excel and somebody that wants you to excel. I got really lucky, some, a dental assistant that I was with that the associates I was able to bring her all the way from Abilene, Texas to Amarillo, you sneaky and it has really, really blossomed since she got here. Now obviously, because I am talking about advice, and now I’ll get on my soapbox. I would say the other really, really big portion is you have to have a significant other that supports the holy heck out of you. We know Regan, that life is going to reality check you. You don’t need more of that. My wife is amazing. When I slightly was thinking of doing a startup, after multiple failed attempts that act was, you know, acquisition. She pushed me into it. Yeah, any crazy business idea, she’s all behind it. CE, go for it. Huge expenditure for the practice, here’s the checkbook. I feel when I’m around her, that I’m the best darn dentist, and I’m an incredible business owner. That’s huge, okay, life’s gonna get you down, as we said, but you need somebody that every day tells you how amazing you are, keeps that confidence high and supports your decisions. So I’m sure this isn’t, you know, this isn’t some wild thing, Regan and I’m sure it’s the same with you, that that you don’t go to your husband with a serious idea and think it’s gonna fail. Weirdly enough, most of us don’t want to disappoint our significant other. It’s actually very similar to when I was in high school, I want to impress my wife. Now, it’s just with business stuff versus silly stuff, like sports and subwoofers or, you know, something silly like that.
Nothing funny. There’s nothing funny about a subwoofer. Well, that’s another discussion.
Dr. Austin Whetten 29:51
That’s right when you’re outside, and those cars pass and that’s right. I used to be like, oh, I used to like that for some reason.
I still do. Victoria Peterson, she’s always said that success requires support and it is important to have support around you personally and professionally. I couldn’t relate to you more. I think it’s very important to have someone who believes in you kind of unconditionally, almost because that helps give us our lift and our chance to be brave, like you said, that said, if you don’t have someone around you, you can be your own height man and I think that’s just as important. You have to believe in yourself. You have, to nobody is successful, really, especially entrepreneurially unless you believe in yourself and surround yourself with the right support. So this has been an incredible episode. Thank you, Dr. Whetten, for joining us today.