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What we can learn from McDonald's and other wildly successful companies -- Part 1

Feb. 17, 2014
Sasha Burau, MBA, takes a look at McDonald’s and what makes it successful. She says the company’s concepts have a very real application to dentistry and explains how you can directly implement them into your practice.
I am increasingly blown away by the ingenuity of large corporations. Everything is duplicable so that they achieve the same result every time. Just imagine going to a McDonald’s in Miami and ordering a Big Mac only for it to taste differently than the Big Mac at your local McDonald’s. McDonald’s wouldn’t have “served billions” if that was the case. But McDonald’s isn’t alone. There are some commonalities among all of the most successful corporations, and these have a very real dental application.

Fillings and Fillet-o-Fish?

McDonald’s is notorious for its written systems. If you take a look over the counter, where the food preparation is being done, there are laminated pictures that show the step-by-step process for preparing each food item on the menu. Employees are trained to follow each step the same way every time they prepare the food, even if they’ve made the same sandwich hundreds of times before. While repetition can lead to monotonous work, it replicates the outcome.


The top 7 mistakes of high-performing dental practices: Part 1
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The top 7 mistakes of high-performing dental practices: Part 3

So … what does this have to do with dentistry? There is more skill to placing a filling or cutting crown preps than in making a sandwich, but the same ideas can be applied. If you make your procedure repeatable, you are also making the results repeatable. For example, with your crown prep setup, take pictures of your trays and have a list of anything else that should be set up in the room. Write out a step-by-step guide for the procedure. Not only will this help you streamline the procedure to eliminate any waste, but it will also be a tool for acclimating new staff members. Once you have your system written out, you can determine which steps in the procedure you can delegate.

One of the offices that I have worked with became so proficient with its systems that the doctor would not get up from the procedure until he was finished with his part. For example, he wouldn’t check hygiene until he had finished his crown prep so that the assistant could proceed with making the temporary. Not only did this make him extremely productive, it also cut time off of his crown prep appointments, which became extremely profitable.

Drive thru dentistry

Every drive thru is built and designed for efficiency, but the most noticeable aspect of a drive thru is that the window where they collect your money always comes before the window where they hand over your food. This is a very strict but very simple financial arrangements system. The cost is reviewed and agreed upon prior to the food being given to the customer.

Is your office designed to accommodate a strong financial arrangements system? Do patients expect to pay when services are rendered?

Financial arrangements can be uncomfortable to talk about, but they shouldn’t be. An easy policy to adopt should be that the doctor doesn’t touch the tooth until financial arrangements have been made.

Did you know that you could order a grilled cheese at McDonald’s?

Unbeknownst to many, McDonald’s has a “hidden menu” where you can order things that are not on the actual McDonald’s menu. Things that you can order range from a grilled cheese to Neapolitan milkshakes to more inventive combinations such as a McCrepe (pancakes from the Big Breakfast with a fruit and yogurt parfait on it)!

Do you have a “secret menu” at your office? I work with my dad and uncle in their practice, and I was interviewing one of our Six Month Smiles patients for a marketing piece. He recounted his story about how Six Month Smiles changed his life and how pleased he was with the result. He told me that he didn’t know that this type of procedure existed and that he could be a candidate. I was floored because we had been offering Six Month Smiles to our patients for a few years prior to this patient going through treatment. I have discovered that our office was not unique in this; in fact, most of the offices that I visit are guilty of this. Somehow, offices think that by displaying tons of brochures in the reception room, they are notifying patients about these procedures.

How can we get patients to order off of our “secret menu?” Talk to them about the procedures that you offer that they would be candidates for! For example, one of my offices offers Invisalign. Prior to each new patient coming in, this office verifies insurance and always checks for Invisalign coverage. If the patient is a candidate for this procedure, they share this with them.

Next month: Direct TV and its “Refer a Friend” Program … Zappos and same-day service … Frito-Lay: marketing to its audience.

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].

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