By Sally McKenzie, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

December 26, 2017 -- As 2017 is essentially over, it's time to plan for the new year. For some practices, the issue you are facing is the possibility of expanding your staff.

Sally McKenzie
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

While that might seem like a good problem to have, first make sure you actually need new team members. Otherwise, going through the hiring process will just waste a lot of time and money, and perhaps hurt your practice in the long run.

Does this sound familiar? The dentist decides to hire because tasks just aren't getting done, the current team members are stressed, and they are asking for more help. The thought process runs along these lines: If we hire a new person or two, the office will become more efficient and team members will be happier. There will be less conflict, and everyone will be able to focus on what matters most: providing top-notch customer service and patient care.

Unfortunately, it isn't that easy. Many dentists find that even when they bring in someone new, the same tasks still aren't getting done and his team members are just as frustrated as ever -- the only difference is his salary costs are higher.

Focus on training first

So what's the problem? These practices didn't need more employees after all. The dentist owners simply needed to focus on properly training the ones they already had.

“The dentist owners simply needed to focus on properly training the ones they already had.”

Many dentists opt to skip training because they don't want to invest the time or money it takes to train new hires or to teach employees how to use new technologies. Instead, they expect team members to learn on the job, creating a stressful situation that leads to inefficiencies.

Before you start the hiring process, make sure all your employees are properly trained. Provide them with detailed job descriptions that outline performance measurements and your expectations. Give them the guidance they need, and they'll become more confident in their skills, which will make them more productive. If, after all this, it still seems like you could use a few extra hands, then it might be time to hire.

Look at the numbers

Before you put together that help-wanted ad, think about what adding another person to your payroll will do to your overhead. Look at the wages paid in your practice, including the hygienist's (but excluding the doctor's). They should be no more than 20% of gross income, not including payroll taxes and benefits.

Let's say your current gross salary expense is 22%. That new hire could increase gross wages to 27% (well above the benchmark). If you don't know where that extra money is coming from, you probably can't afford a new team member.

Hire a producer

There are times when you actually do need to add someone to your staff. At this point, consider hiring a producer rather than a helper. When you hire a producer, the negative financial impact only lasts about 60 days in my experience. These team members also help improve production, which means the wage percentage of gross income should return to the 19% to 22% range.

A treatment coordinator is a great example of what I'm talking about. This team member handles case presentations for all producers, sitting down with patients to go over treatment and answer any questions they have. The coordinator also should be trained to follow up with patients after the initial presentation to provide more education and address concerns. These coordinators help improve case acceptance, which increases both practice productivity and revenues.

As the new year begins, you're ready to make improvements to your practice and finally meet your full potential. That doesn't necessarily mean hiring a new employee. First, evaluate your systems, make sure your team members are properly trained, and then offer any guidance they need to more efficiently perform their jobs.

You'll likely notice more tasks are getting done and that the stress level in the practice has dropped significantly. If you find you do need to hire, follow the proper process and find someone who will bring benefits to your practice in 2018 and beyond.

Sally McKenzie is the CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service, nationwide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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


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