One of the most valuable assets of a successful dental practice is its employees. Whether they are front desk personnel, office managers, hygienists, or assistants, a staff member that is responsible, attentive to detail, good with patients, has the ability to listen and learn, and looks for ways to improve office practice or policy is worth much more than what they may represent in terms of production or collections. They are invaluable. In addition to making your practice more successful (and your life much easier), they are part of what will ensure your legacy and reassure your patients when it comes to selling a dental practice.
The question is, how do you hire good people? It’s a difficult question to answer. However, one method is to hire smart people with the intangibles you need and then train them in whatever technical skills they may lack. That is, you look for attributes as much as specific skills. For instance, you may be accustomed to posting want ads that are a list of skills, including a working knowledge of your equipment or software, thinking that you don’t have the time to train a new hire on how to use it. True, training a new hire will take some time. Consider, however, how much longer it will take—if it’s even possible—to teach a new hire appropriate interpersonal skills. Or how to think critically. Or how to understand their role in a team environment. Which would you rather do?
There is no harm in requesting preferences in terms of these skills, such as “proficiency in Acme Software preferred.” But if you make it a requirement, you may be weeding out the best candidate before you’ve even posted the ad. Honestly, if a smart and capable person can learn one software program, or machine, they can learn another. And a few months down the road, you’ll find yourself with an employee that you appreciate and contributes to your practice, as opposed to one who requires less up-front training but may end up creating problems with their personality.
What Qualities Do You Really Want from an Employee?
The first thing you have to determine is what you are looking for. Some of this may be applicable to any dental practice. Good dental office employees often are positive people with upbeat personalities. Let’s be frank, many people dread the dentist and a friendly smile and helpful attitude can go a long way to helping your patients feel comfortable. This kind of employee is often calm, kind, friendly, and wants to help the patient feel comfortable and cared for. In short, these employees are putting patients’ needs first.
Beyond that, however, you need to ask yourself what are your practice’s core values? What is your practice’s identity? What is its image? What do you want to communicate to your patients, and the community you serve, about who you are as a care provider? The answers to these questions will further illuminate the qualities you should look for in your hires.
Having a strong sense of your practice philosophy will be a great aide to you throughout your career. It will help guide how you market your practice, how you grow your practice, and, when it comes to selling a dental practice, which doctor is the right doctor to sell to—the one who reflects your practice’s values and will mesh well with the legacy you have built.
The Ability to Learn
A person who believes they already know everything they need to know will always be at a disadvantage to one who is open to being taught. This applies to everyone, even dentists. An assistant who is open and willing to learn new technologies and techniques will be a much better addition to your practice than one who assumes that how they’ve always done things is simply good enough.
While this might seem simple enough, many people are made uncomfortable by new information or methods. They may see it as a challenge to their abilities or value as an employee. Instead, you want employees who are comfortable with opportunities to expand their knowledge and skill set, who will see it as a chance to make themselves better prepared and more capable at doing their job.
Instrumental to this, however, is that your employees understand how they fit into your organization. That is, they can see how all of the parts mesh, working together for the efficiency and success of the organization. You and all of your staff members should be able to see themselves as parts of a whole, each benefiting the others, not as individuals whose interests are at odds with one another.
The Ability to Listen
The ability to listen within a clinical context takes two forms: the ability to listen to patients and the ability to listen to coworkers.
You need your patients to feel calm. In order to feel calm, they must feel comfortable. To feel comfortable, they need to feel that they are at a friendly and safe pace. This is done when they feel that they are seen as individuals whose concerns are being heard and addressed. And for them to feel heard, they must be listened to.
Also, remember that your patients may not be expressing themselves directly. Sometimes it’s in the idle chit-chat that they reveal themselves. So, when your patients are talking, be sure that your staff is listening. When your patients feel heard, they’ll feel cared for.
Additionally, you need staff members that listen to each other. If there are problems in the office (and there will be problems), you need staff members who can communicate openly about the issue and work together to resolve it. Many disputes between co-workers originate and escalate when they view each other as rivals. This means they are not talking to or listening to each other, but advancing personal goals.
The need to be listened to doesn’t just apply to your patients. Your employees also need to feel that their workplace is one that is calm, comfortable, that values them and their contributions, and where they can also be seen as individuals. An office that functions this way will also be highly attractive to potential buyers when it comes to selling a dental practice.
The Ability to Present Cases
The attributes discussed above lend themselves well to case presentation. This is important because it’s more likely that your assistants, hygienists, or administrative personnel will be regarded as a confidant than you are, as the doctor.
There is no question that what you are prescribing is the best course of treatment for your patients’ needs. Patients, though, may be skeptical about whether there is a difference between what they need and what you may want to earn. This is simply a reality of the dental business.
When you have employees that communicate well with your patients, actively listening to and understanding their concerns, they are well positioned to back you up on treatment plans. They can reinforce the importance of the care being provided, reassuring the patients that it is in their best interests. An ability to hear what is on the patient’s mind and respond, both with empathy toward the patient and an understanding of why the treatment plan is important, is an essential attribute.
DDSmatch Mid-Atlantic Can Help With Selling a Dental Practice
As dental practice transition specialists, we understand that protecting your legacy is an important factor when it comes to selling your dental practice. That means finding the right match to reflect the values you’ve built your practice around. If you are considering transitioning your dental practice, contact us today to find out more about how we can help you find the right buyer.