Mcdonaldslogo Dreamstime

What we can learn from McDonald's and other wildly successful companies -- Part 3

April 11, 2014
In this three-part series, Sasha Burau, MBA, analyzes what dental professionals can learn from McDonald’s and other successful companies, and explains how these concepts can be applied to the dental practice. In this final installment, she looks specifically at the automobile market and the airline industry, and explains how dentists can take advantage of some of the same ideas that help these big businesses thrive.
Read Part 1 of this series: Fillings and Fillet-o-Fish? … Drive thru dentistry … Did you know that you could order a grilled cheese at McDonald’s?

Read Part 2 of this series: Direct TV and its “Refer-A-Friend” Program … Zappos and same-day service … Frito-Lay: marketing to their audience

Staying in front of your audience

The average person buys a new car every five to seven years, but car companies don’t only market to people every five to seven years. Car companies are marketing everywhere, everyday. They send out mailings to existing customers; they are on television, in magazines, and on the radio.

ALSO BY SASHA BURAU |The top 7 mistakes of high-performing practices

I think that dental offices think that they should only market when they need new patients or when they are excited about a new procedure. I find that some of my offices start marketing and get frustrated when they have a website or start a direct mail campaign and don’t get the immediate results that they expect.

Mercedes did a study and found that it takes about five experiences with a product or service before a consumer “buys.” These experiences are created through television ads, magazine ads, test drives, or talking to people who have experienced the product or service.

Selecting a dentist is a big choice for people and getting quality patients takes time. You need to continually market so that when consumers decide they need a dentist, you are on their minds.

Dare to do something differently

Southwest flies people all over the country just like every other airline company. They provide the same service but they do it in a different way. They have truly streamlined their operations. Here are some things that they do differently:

  1. Bags fly for free.
  2. They expedite boarding by allowing open seating (so you can sit wherever you like).
  3. They don’t drag a large beverage cart down the aisles; instead they take orders for drinks and pour them in the back.

By doing things differently, they can provide lower fares and more efficient services.

You’re probably wondering how this applies to dentistry. Are you doing everything as efficiently as possible? By looking at all of your existing systems and seeing how you can streamline them, you can find ways to work in same-day dentistry and even work fewer days or hours and maintain or increase your production level.

Getting a cleaning is just like getting your oil changed

My dad is a dentist in Grand Blanc, Mich., which is just outside of “Buick City,” so we liken our recall system to getting your oil changed. My dad likes to tell a story about a patient he had who worked on the line at Buick. This patient — we’ll call him Rick — was giving my dad a hard time about coming in to get his teeth cleaned. My dad drives a Buick and was complimenting Rick about how great it runs. Rick was telling my dad that the engine in his Buick is one of the best engines on the market and it ran extremely efficiently, to which my dad replied, “Does it run well enough to run without an oil change?”

“Absolutely not! You need to have your oil changed every 3,000 miles to keep it running the way it should!”

You know that it is important to car companies that you have your oil changed, because (if you buy a new car) the car will now tell you when you need your oil changed. If you ignore that, some companies will send you a postcard reminding you to have it changed. They value this service, so they make sure that you, as the consumer, are made aware that you need to have this done.

Your car needs the oil changed every 3,000 miles and your patients need their teeth cleaned every three, four, or six months. I’m not a clinician, so while I understand the health ramifications for why you need a prophy every three, four, or six months, I am looking at the business corollaries to this. As dentists, you have a captive audience of patients who are looking to you for guidance and direction about what they need to do next. From a business perspective, there are few fields where you have an audience that needs to continually “buy” from you multiple times each year. From a patient’s perspective, when you “lose” these people and don’t contact them to come in for these appointments, it would appear that you aren’t valuing these appointments.

The bottom line: Your patients need their “oil changed” to keep their “engines” running smoothly, and you need to make sure that they know that you do place value on these appointments.

Being a medical professional does not isolate you from the same principles that affect all other businesses. While you are not immune to the problems that affect all businesses, you can take advantage of some of the same ideas that make these big businesses so successful.

Not sure where to start? Email me for more FREE business tips! When we figure out the business part, you can get back to focusing on what you should be doing: dentistry!

Sasha Burau, MBA, is a practice coach who has worked with Excellence in Dentistry’s Dr. Woody Oakes, Steve Anderson of the Crown Council, Ralph Laurie of Practice Works and CAESY, Dr. Todd Shatkin of Shatkin F.I.R.S.T., and Dr. Nathan Dallas. She currently coaches offices on systems and implementation. You may contact by phone at (810) 569-9587 or via email at [email protected].

Photo credit: