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Episode 82 – Setting the Standard for Success

“The number one job of a leader is to provide clarity.”  ~ Dr. Victoria Peterson

In this episode of the Investment Grade Practices podcast, your host Dr. Victoria Peterson recaps her conversation with the remarkable Dr. Jonathan Ehlers from the previous episode, and provides listeners with some exceptional takeaways. Dr. Peterson begins with setting the standard for your practice, and ways to communicate your mission to your team so it serves as a guiding light and aligns everyone’s efforts towards a common objective. 

Dr. Peterson also highlights the three stages in the life of a business: viability, predictability, and durability, and how to approach each stage strategically. And finally, we explore the significance of taking breaks and avoiding burnout to allow yourself time to recharge and maintain a healthy work/life balance. 

As you listen to this episode, we want you to think about:

  • In what ways can you set the standard in your practice?
  • What are the three stages in the life of a business and how should you approach each stage?
  • What should you focus on before bringing on an associate?


Regan 0:00
Hi, Doctor. Regan Robertson, CCO of Productive Dentist Academy here and I have a question for you. Are you finding it hard to get your team aligned to your vision, but you know, you deserve growth just like everybody else? That’s why we’ve created the PDA productivity workshop. For nearly 20 years PDA workshops have helped dentists just like you align their teams, get control of scheduling, and create productive practices that they love walking into every day. Just imagine how you will feel when you know your schedule is productive, your systems are humming, and your team is aligned to your vision. It’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. We can help visit that’s to secure your seats now.

Victoria Peterson 0:46
If everyone showed up with these key characteristics, our day would run smoother, our patients would be happier, our business would be more productive and profitable. That’s really all about setting the standard.

Narrator 1:04
Welcome to Investment Grade Practices podcast where we believe private practice dentists deserve to get the lifestyle today, while building an asset for tomorrow. Join your host, Victoria Peterson, who designed the practice of your dreams and secure your financial independence. Let’s get started.

Victoria Peterson 1:27
Welcome to another edition of Investment Grade Practices and I want to recap our call with Dr. Jonathan Ehlers and I’m going to go back to the style where I interview an interesting client or guests in the industry and then break it down for you a little bit more. So we’re gonna go old school here back to one of our original formats, because that conversation with Dr. Ehlers was so packed, full of genuine goodness for all business owners and I’m going to start with the conversation about setting the standard and how do you do that? You know, when we went talk to Jonathan about it, he said, you know, trial and error, a bumped my knees and then I found out that I just can’t put up with this and there’s a great process that we take our clients through a nod to Donald Miller and BMS practices here, but understanding how to communicate your mission to the team and by mission, I mean, Expedition mode, what is it that we’re all here to accomplish, let’s say over the course of the next 12 months, and how do we milestone that the number one job of a leader is to prevent, is to provide clarity. So of course, you’ve got a big vision for your career and the type of practice that you want and we’re going to be about sleep or all on fours or this or that most doctors have this sense of the type of dentistry they want to do, their time horizon for how they want to in their career, what that might look like financially, but how do we bring that down to the team? And that’s what I call expedition mode. So we will accomplish this by this date, we will accomplish x by this date, because and you could hear Jonathan’s core values throughout that entire podcast, because we’re a member of the community, because our small town of Sedalia deserves to have the high technology resources found in the bigger cities. You know, he cares deeply for the community and he loves technology, he loves surgery, and I heard it over and over again, because our patients deserve the best. That was the core driver of why he grows his business, why he served the community of a town of 25,000. He’s now adding a third doctor, small town, not the highest economics, yet a booming practice and I think it all centered around this as a standard. It’s not about insurance, it’s not about payment, it’s not about reimbursements. In fact, in that whole conversation, we didn’t touch on fee schedules or pricing or treatment planning, it’s how do I do the right thing for the patient. Once he,I heard, again it really centered on that. Then it went into the marketing. So let’s open the doors. Let’s invite people in at a rate of 100 new patients a month. That is an incredible growth rate, I’m sure and he said after the first year or two, he realized, you know we’re going to need to get some help in here. So we started organizing around that principle and organizing around that same standard of what do I want to bring to the community. So he was ready when he found Dr. Erin, so it wasn’t he had a vision of what he wanted to attract. And then he got ready for it. So that’s, that’s my first takeaway is, how do you set the standard? Oftentimes doctors will struggle with setting the standard for their team. So regardless of whether you have an associate doctor or not, let’s break that down to what’s the standard for my office managers, hygenists, assistants? How do I expect them to communicate with each other, show respect to each other support, collaborate? And here’s the exercise you can do. I want you to probably jump up and down, get some emotion in your body get really excited, take some deep breaths, and then close your eyes and think about who do I really love working with, either currently or in past it doesn’t even have to be in dentistry but if you do have an ideal teammate, you know, they say don’t play favorites. I say play favorites, play favorites with everybody on your team. So let’s identify your favorite team member and what behaviors do they come, do they show up with each and every day? So are they the first one in the parking lot every morning? Are they the last one to leave? Are they the one that has a smile on their face as they greet the patient? Are they detail-oriented and you never have to be concerned about their patient notes? Are they, are they advocates for your patients, they deeply listen to their concerns? Are they compassionate? What are the behaviors and the characteristics of that ideal team person and write it down, take the time really brainstorm as many key characteristics as you can, you might list 3, 4, 5, 10, and sit with that and start seeing how often it shows up in your practice and refine that until you get down to the core three, that if everyone showed up with these key characteristics, our day would run smoother, our patients would be happier, our business would be more productive and profitable. That’s really all about setting the standard. You can also, once you do that, the world loves contrast, you’ll start noticing when people are not living that. So it sounded like Jonathan found a few things he’s like, “Well, that’s not working.” So identify the things that aren’t working. And take those as training opportunities. Bruce often says, “If it’s stressing you, the patient or the team, it’s a training opportunity.” Be willing to have the tough conversations. And that was part two of Jonathan’s advice was set the standard and then be willing to uphold the standard, which means noticing when it’s not in place, and having the care and having the conversations. If you’ve never read the book, “Crucial Conversations”, now is a great time to get that on audio, put your audibles in jump on a treadmill, take a long run and start listening to that type of communication skill-building materials, there’s plenty of it out there. So that’s my first takeaway on how he’s built an Investment Grade Practice. I also want to put a pin on some of the great examples he gave of the three stages of a business lifestyle. We talk about that a lot and IGP like where are you? Are you in a stage of viability, predictability or durability, and the viability he gave you a huge clue. If you’re scratch starting a practice, if you’re bringing on a new service like airway implants, Invisalign, some of those things, create a budget for that. This is either a product launch, or a whole new business launch, if I’m bringing on an associate that’s launching an entirely new business. So think of, put your business hat on put the terminology around it and the gravity and the weight that it deserves. It’s not like, “Yeah, we brought on an associate. Yeah, they’re gonna do some composites.” you’re going to get what you put into it. So make sure that you are geared up with a business plan before you bring on the associate. You’ve got a marketing budget that goes behind it. If you’re rolling out sleep apnea, an airway. I see this happen a lot with doctors, you go to a class, you get certified and you go, “We are an airway office,” You go, great. Does the team know that? Well, probably not. “I told them,” but have you really blocked time to train the team on what does it mean to be an airway office? What is the role of the administrator? How do they educate the patient? Is there a different type of billing system? Maybe we’re going into medical billing now words that had been only dental billing, so what’s the administrative component of that? How to dental hygiene is to help co-diagnose and screen for airway issues? When they find it, how do they educate them to what we can do about it? What’s the assistance role and the technical parts of delivering on that care? So again, you’re putting your business at least that part, that’s a product launch, that’s a service launch and you go back into the stage of viability, saying, “Can we make this a viable, productive, profitable procedure in our practice?” Without that type of thought process and working towards making new services predictable, they usually die on the vine. That’s how all that technology ends up in the attic. So viability is all about proving the model. It’s about the race to revenue, getting to 1200 patients getting to X number of predictable apnea cases, Invisalign cases, implant cases, whatever that is, second stage predictability, love that piece of advice, get outside help, whether it’s PDA or some other coach, consultant training group, there are so many systems and techniques available to you, you do not have to recreate the wheel, but you cannot grow and become predictable without systems. There should be a workflow and every team members work content is contingent on the previous person. So if the person in taking forms doesn’t get the correct social security numbers or insurance billing numbers, then when our insurance filer files it, it gets rejected. So their systems and quality assurance all throughout the practice, the patient journey, the patient experience, that is a system that can be trained, measured and monitored. So if your systems are not predictable, if you’re producing $8,000, today and $800 tomorrow, if team members are showing up not showing up, if you’ve got a revolving door of employees, if you’re not competitive in the talent wars, then you’re still on the viability stage. Things should be predictable. You should know team members are showing up patients are coming in on time, we have a system for filling the schedule, if we have no shows and cancellations, we’re working on minimizing no shows and cancellations. When the team takes accountability through the systems and processes. Now we’re starting to marry emotion and data. People are happy, and it’s predictable and we’re getting the results we want. The durability challenge didn’t you love that story of being a dad and you know, taking the standard one week off, because we don’t think about the gentleman in this equation of parenthood, moms get six weeks off dad’s good a week and it was right back at it and he had grown this practice to the predictable stage had an associate and the thought were ready and he tested durability. I think is really great to stress test your practice, you don’t have to have twins to do this, you could just consciously say to your team, “I’m taking off the last two weeks of February, and my promises that we’re going to produce and collect the same amount.” So let’s template our schedule, so that my production per hour is higher. We’re seeing bigger, more complex cases in the month of February, so that we don’t crash our business, we don’t inflate our overhead. Their scheduling, if you’re solo practitioner, you’re scheduling templates and looking at it a year in advance and knowing when you’re going to be out when you want to take major breaks. And it’s been my experience that burnout is real. There’s stress and there’s panic and anxiety, if you’re producing 400 an hour, and your practice is under a million dollars. That stress and anxiety. Burnout comes when you’re producing 7, 8, 900 an hour and you’re not cutting back your time, the mental focus is so extreme to to produce quality work because at higher levels of productivity, there are very few remakes you’re spot on to perfection, your systems are working but your brain burns more glucose than other muscles and other organs in your body. So the amount of focus, you really do need a break every six, six weeks, eight weeks. So start stress testing your practice, I promise you that you taking off two days a month, three days a month, three weeks at a time, you’re going to build a better practice, you’re going to become more productive in less time and your team is going to get used to working at a at a different pace in small increments. So durability really is can I can I leave my practice and know that it still runs. It’s not really a business until it can stand on its own without your daily activity. So that’s one of the goals of building an Investment Grade Practice is to get it durable so that you have the personal freedom you so deserve. Otherwise, you stay on the treadmill and the rat race your whole career. So again, I really want to thank Dr. Jonathan Ehlers for all the incredible information he shared, it’s so much more too much to break down in a 15 minute recap, but set the standard, be courageous. Work with your coach and really understand your philosophy of care. This is what I want to take a stand on. This is what I want to build my practice on, and find a way to communicate it to your team and understand that whether you’re in the stage of viability, predictability or durability, there are growing pains in each as he pointed out, but there are also solutions for each and each stage requires a different strategy. There’s a different strategy for marketing, there’s a different strategy for your patient experience and there’s a different strategy for your practice systems. So you may have inadvertently cross or unknowingly cross from viability to predictability and if you’re doing okay, but it’s not smooth, that’s how you know you’re in that stage. If it’s smooth, but you still aren’t taking time off to refresh and replenish, then you’re ready to go into durability. Hey, it’s been great sharing time with you today. Please reach out anytime to If you’ve got questions, I would love to hear feedback from all of you. Who would you like me to bring on the show? What topics would you like to dive into as you continue to grow your Investment Grade Practice? Again, that’s I’d love to hear your questions and comments, particularly around these juicy interviews with some of our clients.

Narrator 17:02
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Investment Grade Practices podcast. If you find value in this episode, help us spread the word by passing it along to a dental friend. Subscribe and give us a Like on iTunes or Spotify. Learn more about building your Investment Grade Practice at Today


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