How creating a cooperative culture bettered our dental practice
A dental practice culture develops naturally, whether it's planned or not. It's important to make sure that the culture is properly developed through the effort of the entire team.
During my three and a half years as the chief operating officer of Smile Dental Clinics, I’ve learned that a work culture will develop in a practice regardless of whether or not you plan it. A dental practice’s culture can alter the trajectory of your business for better or worse, which is why dentists and their employees should start molding and creating their practice culture today.
When I started working at Smile Dental Clinics, we had a team of 15 people and our company culture was one of survival. This cost us hours of productivity and left a lot of problems unsolved. In 2016 we hired a business coach and thought long and hard about the values we wanted our practice to live by. We settled on a list of eight values and defined what they meant to our practice specifically. Those values were accountability, commitment, communication, consistency, integrity, leadership, teamwork, and most important, being coachable.
Implementing these core values in our office was one of the best things we ever did. Here are a few reasons why creating this culture has positively affected not only our production numbers but our practice leadership, team, and patients.
A positive culture fosters team empowerment and accountability
Before outlining a company culture, it was difficult for us to consistently hold employees accountable and help them learn from their mistakes. This is because each person had a different definition of how they were supposed to work in the dental practice, and yet another definition of what the practice’s core values were. Taking the time to write down and define our culture created clear and non-subjective ways to let team members know what was expected of them. Once they had this roadmap, everyone understood that accountability is accepting that everyone is truly responsible for their actions.
When we created our core values, we placed an emphasis on empowering employees to ask questions and hold their leaders accountable to the same clinical values. The team is now more willing to speak up and ask questions about their jobs or talk to leadership if they feel something is wrong or can be done better.
These established values give employees a better sense of trust going into their jobs, and a sense of relief knowing their performances are based on a comprehensible set of standards.
Creating a guide for leadership
Implementing a clearly defined practice culture has been a huge benefit to the leadership of the office, from the office managers to the dentists. I now manage nearly 40 people, and our core values have served as an excellent foundation for me and the other leaders in the practice.
Leaders use the framework to coach employees, or to motivate employees to find solutions to problems. Also, having a culture helps prepare and train employees who move up to leadership positions.
Our practice prides itself on developing talented employees into successful leaders; however, that evolution can be hard if there is no clear direction on how to get to the next step. By establishing a strong corporate culture, we were able to integrate our employees into leadership roles because they understood the practice’s values and goals.
Patient peace of mind
We started to notice an increase in happy patients very quickly after implementing our dental practice’s cultural push. Patients felt like we were running a tighter ship. Staff were friendlier, and patients were accompanied at all times from one person to the next. We were receiving more positive reviews for implementing those extra steps. Two of our values are commitment and communication, and having those written values really gives the staff something to fall back on to help them engage with patients. Patients understand that we are doing everything possible to accommodate them.
It is an exciting and wonderful thing to experience when you see happy patients as the result of a commitment to a happy and positive culture in a dental practice.
Toni Allen is the chief operating officer of Smile Dental Clinics in Phoenix, Arizona.