12 Mistakes I Made – Growing Too Fast

Some of the most valuable advice you’ll ever get is from people who are willing to tell you about their experiences including their mistakes and failures. This article is the third in a series of blogs written by Dr. Agatha Bis, sharing her experiences and learnings throughout 25 years in dentistry.

Problems From Other Problems

Anyone who first reads it is like, what?  Growing too fast is NOT a mistake! I’d kill to grow too fast!  But let me tell you first hand, growing too fast is a problem that creates tons of other problems.  When I applied my strategic plan and communicated it to my team and implemented it, yes, even during the crazy bad times in 2008, we grew fast.  We grew so fast, I went from one hygienist to three within a few months. Our hygiene was booming and so I was booked solid with tons of restorative work. 

Mistake #3 – Growing Too Fast

We were booked so far out that patients were complaining that they couldn’t get in to see me for three months and well, that’s a problem if you just prepped a bunch of crowns and couldn’t insert them for three months. Our customer service started to suffer and patients were really complaining. We started to feel like we were on top of the world, our ego got inflated, and we started to believe that since we were doing them a favour, they should put up with our behaviour.  

We were growing too fast, got cocky and arrogant, and our expectations, MY expectations, got way too high. I’d get pissy when someone didn’t want to do a bunch of onlays that I recommended instead of fillings; I’d walk out if someone said they needed to break up the treatment over time due to money; I’d get mad at my hygienist when she recommended more frequent periodontal therapy appointments to a patient but they didn’t schedule. Temper tantrum after temper tantrum and not one team member said anything to me. I don’t know if they were scared of me or just were used to my shitty behaviour but it took my patients leaving the office for me to realize that I did this to myself.  My ego got in the way and was ruining what I had worked so hard to achieve. What they all had worked so hard to achieve.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Ungrateful of All?  

I was staring at myself and I didn’t like what I saw.  It was June and my daughter was going to Whistler in 2 days for a 2-week ski camp. Since she was little, I had booked myself off for those 2 weeks so I could go with her and stay in a hotel next to the camp in case she needed me. So it was perfect timing. I needed to go away to think, and my staff really needed a break from me.  

So we got on the plane to Vancouver, I had a new book in my bag that I had just purchased and was excited to read, and we had 2 hours at the airport and a 5-hour flight ahead where I could just read, uninterrupted, and think about how to move forward next. I read the entire book on that flight.  It was a book about human behaviour and cited a ton of different research done to test what people do, why they do it, and what shapes and impacts their behaviour. That started me to think if they can change or impact human behaviour through certain actions or words, can I do that to myself and, more importantly, can I do that to others? Can I learn to influence people, and myself, to be better, to have an impact, and do so with a long-term vision and perspective rather than what I’ve been doing, short-term, instant gratification thinking?

When we got to Whistler and my daughter went off with the kids from camp, I had 2 weeks of uninterrupted time to develop this idea. So I researched and researched, and read up on motivation, rewards, and how to motivate people. And I built out a system.  Since I have always been a ‘systems-girl’, I now had a step-by-step plan of how to shift the way we do things in the office so I can improve my customer service, improve my team and how they work with me, and most importantly, I now had a positive and strong system for improving myself – for making myself a better person, a better dentist, and a better leader.  

Slow But Steady Change

I can’t tell you exactly when the shift occurred in my office.  It wasn’t overnight. But one after another, it’s like a switch that was turned on, one staff member after another, all started to have my back and support me in my vision.  Our clients were growing, some even came back, and people were saying how our office was amazing, how the atmosphere in the office was so warm and friendly, and how incredibly we had improved. Our customer service surveys were coming back with incredible reviews. I would constantly hear laughter coming from treatment rooms and my staff were working together as a team, helping each other.  But the one thing that I did notice, for the first time in my life, is that they finally saw me as part of their team.

Becoming a Team

The one thing that I did notice, for the first time in my life, is that they finally saw me as part of their team. They would come to me with stories, they would include me in the chatter (rather than talk behind my back like they did in the past) and they would genuinely offer help when I needed something, like someone to stay late to accommodate a client, or to go get me lunch when I was running behind.  They started to care about me the way a family cares about each other. From then on, we really grew. But this time, we grew smart, not fast.  

If you want to learn more about how I made these changes and the system I built to create true teamwork, check out our Ultimate Team Culture program, which outlines, step-by-step, what I did to shift the culture in my office.    

Dr. Agatha Bis is the founder of UPB Dental Academy and practices general dentistry in her clinic in Oakville, Ontario. In this series of blogs, Dr. Bis shares her what she has learned as a result of the mistakes she made along the way, such as growing too fast.  Instead of giving up dentistry, she met the challenges head-on and overcame them to find success. She then developed UPB Dental Academy and the online training courses that help dentists realize their potential to achieve their ultimate goals. Learn more about Dr. Bis and UPB Dental Academy Courses on our website.