The Naked Dentist: Small wins add up

2015 03 10 14 43 22 538 Marshall Curtis 200

This coming August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the next edition of the Summer Olympics will be a showcase of the world's best athletes competing at the top of their chosen sport. The difference between being a champion and going home without a medal is sometimes only a fraction of a second.

How do athletes, such as swimmer Michael Phelps, tip the odds in their favor and become the world's best? More relevantly, how can you duplicate this success in your dental office?

Small wins

Curtis Marshall is the vice president of marketing at Dental Intel.Curtis Marshall is the vice president of marketing at Dental Intel.

I am the Naked Dentist. While I'm not a dentist, I help dentists discover the action items that their offices need to focus on to see success and happiness. Your practice may look great with "clothes," "makeup," and "accessories," but what does your practice look like when stripped to its essence? Which parts of your practice do you need to shape up or maybe even remove? With our analytical tool, I am able to look at the data within your office and show you what to focus on to maximize success.

Michael Phelps has 22 Olympic medals to his name, most of them gold. His coach, Bob Bowman, said that small wins were how Michael was able to set himself apart from other competitors to become victorious in a sport in which milliseconds matter.

Before bed each night and again each morning, Bowman would have Michael mentally visualize the next race -- they called it "the videotape." When Bowman would shout "Put in the videotape!" Michael would focus on nothing but the race, and he would visualize himself performing at higher levels. This became a small win. Other wins included things such as diet, daily routines, stretching, and sleep.

“Small wins were how Michael Phelps was able to set himself apart from other competitors.”

Bowman didn't realize it at the time, but these tiny wins turned into habits. What was hard to do at first became second nature, just like breathing. If you asked Michael what he was thinking about before a race, he would say, "Nothing, I'm just following the program." The habits he created put him on a higher level than the other swimmers. He put the odds of success in his favor.

At the last Summer Games in Beijing, Phelps started a race and knew that something was wrong. His vision was getting blurry. By the last lap, his goggles were completely filled with water, and he couldn't see. But he was calm, because he knew how many strokes were needed to finish the race. He had all the habits required to finish. As he put in "the videotape" and switched to habits, he not only successfully finished the race, but when he ripped off the faulty goggles he saw the scoreboard had the letters "WR" next to his name. Not only did he win, he set a new world record.

Office wins

What type of small wins are you doing within your office? Dental offices that focus on small wins such as morning huddles, reappointment, case acceptance, cancellations, and visits, are creating habits that are, in turn, putting the odds for success in their favor. These offices are the ones that exceed their yearly goal, have a happy staff, and have patients who refer other patients.

To become one of these few offices, you need to strip down your practice. Find the small actionable numbers that the team can celebrate when improved. Rather than going off of feelings or momentary emotions, try to infuse a data-driven culture within your practice that promotes small wins. Every morning during your practice's huddle, discover some areas to celebrate and discuss areas of opportunity. This culture will put the odds in your favor.


A successful dentist in Washington state -- we'll call him Dr. Washington -- works with his staff in a beautiful office. All his patients receive optimal treatment, and they refer friends and family to the office. The staff work well together and the doctor knows that they are performing to expectation.

Just like Michael Phelps' record of success, this type of practice transformation did not happen overnight. Seven months ago, Dr. Washington was frustrated and not sleeping well because his current patients weren't referring new ones and his staff wasn't working well together.

Dr. Washington started with his first small win: a morning huddle. The first few days it was easy, but then things became difficult. Staff members sometimes were showing up late, and Dr. Washington didn't know what to focus on as it seemed like something "more important" would crop up. But he didn't give up.

He added more small wins suchas "minute-to-win-it" games, celebrating team accomplishments, sharing goals and expectations, regularly reviewing the office's performance, and focusing on creating a healthy team culture. With those small wins, this dentist now has a morning huddle every morning, and his team is excited to participate.

He knows this is true, because recently he was away attending a conference and the team stayed in the office while he was gone. The team had an effective huddle without him asking them to do so.

The small win that started with morning huddle has spread through the office like a tidal wave. This team loves the doctor and works harder than any other team in the state.

Curtis Marshall serves as the vice president of marketing at Dental Intel. If you would like your practice to be in the next Naked Dentist column and have your practice undressed, contact him at [email protected] or 801-380-7070.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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