A few weeks ago, my wife and I went on a “bucket list” trip to Berlin and Normandy. We traveled to Berlin to view the transformation of the city from the horrific times of Hitler and Natzi Germany to the welcoming and passionately transparent atmosphere that exists today. Beautifully designed memorials to the Holocaust, built in the most prominent areas of the city, insure that the sins of the past will never be forgotten. We traveled to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and the American cemetery. When you actually view the 80 foot cliffs above the beaches that were heavily fortified by the entrenched German soldiers, it is hard to believe how these brave Americans – part of the “greatest generation” as described by Tom Brokaw – were able to advance.
What we didn’t know about were the hedgerows. A hedgerow is a fence or barrier formed by a row of closely planted shrubs or bushes. In Normandy, these hedgerows separated one small farm from another. Many of these shrubs were very think and dense and often 20 to 30 feet in height. The American war machine was ill-suited to this maze of tiny enclosed fields and sunken lanes. The Germans turned the hedgerow complexes into deathtraps by covering every road and trail with machine gun, mortar, and anti-tank artillery fire. Eventually the allied forces prevailed, but the hedgerows were a major impediment to the eventual success of the invasion.
For some reason, as I was viewing all of this, it occurred to me that,metaphorically speaking, we as dentists create our own hedgerows, our own obstacles, that prevent or certainly interfere with our ability to grow and prosper. Five examples immediately come to mind.
1. Patient unfriendly hours of operation – 8:30 to 5 Monday through Thursday is what I see more often than not. You will exponentially increase your income by offering some early and some late options for appointments. The needs of the patients need to be balanced with your own personal life. It is not a one way street.
2. Limited payment options – people love and understand budgets. That is how they live their lives. The need is more necessary than ever to employ a dedicated, talented, and compassionate staff member who can sit down with a patient and navigate the intricacies of out-sourced financing while coordinating payments with sequenced treatment plans.
3. Failure to delegate – doctors are always complaining to me that they “don’t have enough time”. I realize that there are only so many hours in a day. In my experience, the most successful doctors are the ones who have figured out how to absolutely delegate EVERYTHING possible in order to have the time to pursue what only they can do. You may have to leave your comfort zone on this.
4. Consistently running behind schedule – a favorite topic of mine. You have to figure this out. There is no compromise position. It is not an acceptable level of customer service to keep patients waiting.
5. Weak or zero Internet presence – In this day and age, successful practices attract 30-35% of new patients from Google or Facebook. It must be a top priority to create or upgrade your website so that it positions prominently in your geographic area, is current, informative, and conveys the distinctive personality of the practice.
As you can see, none of these five suggestions requires changing or enhancing your clinical expertise. There is no need in this case for expensive continuing education courses. These are basic principles that apply to any business. So cut down your hedgerows! Eliminate these easy- to -overcome obstacles that are unwittingly preventing your practice from reaching the next level of productivity and profitability.