How to fly above the profit line in your dental business

July 6, 2010

By Karen Cortell Reisman, MS

Last week I met with Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest Airlines. He spoke to our group, the CEO Club, about Southwest’s flight plan, so to speak.

Southwest Airlines (SWA) has had 37 years of profitability, even with the doubling of fuel costs. Here’s why — people first, low cost, great service.

People first
SWA puts their people first. Who are their most important customers? The answer is SWA EMPLOYEES. “If your employees are not happy, then the customers who use your services will not be happy,” Kelly said. “You HAVE to have a team that is thrilled to be working with you.” The SWA culture is wrapped around this principle. Employees are recognized via awards, banquets, parties, certificates, and EMPOWERMENT. Everyone at SWA has the power to make suggestions, make changes, and have fun.

Low cost
SWA knows that consumers want value at a reasonable cost. SWA also realizes people are tired of being charged for everything from a pillow to an exit row seat. Their decision NOT to charge an extra fee for checked bags has become a huge selling factor and an even greater ad campaign — “Bags Fly Free.”

Great service

Gary explained the SWA “foreverism” concept — how they aspire to create a positive, lasting impression with everyone who flies with them. Sometimes things do go wrong, but every challenging situation is handled with a personal touch. Unhappy flyers get a personal letter and a follow-up connection with SWA. Every e-mail is handled with a “servant heart.”

I live in Dallas, and I’ve flown SWA many times. They’ve grown from a fleet of three to 540 airplanes, and from 100 employees to 35,000. Even after all these years and their tremendous growth, I see why this business has succeeded.

Your dental business can have this same type of “flight plan.” Put your people first, make sure your patients understand the value behind your dental fees, and give great service with foreverisms.

Ms. Reisman, author of two books, speaks to dental associations about how to communicate so your prospects/patients will listen, trust, and buy from you. She also presents “Letters From Einstein,” using personal letters from Einstein, her cousin, in a message about turning tough times into productive and positive times. Watch Karen “live” at