Protecting Your Practice In a Market Turndown Key #5 – Make Your Meetings Productive

This article, written by Dr. Agatha Bis, Founder of UPB Dental Academy is the last in a five-part series on how to protect your dental practice from a slowing economy. Find the previous posts on our blog.  

Protecting Your Practice In a Market Turndown Key #5 – Make Your Meetings Productive

As the stock markets continue to fall in the wake of fears over the coronavirus pandemic and falling crude oil prices, no one can truly predict where this crisis is headed. I remember the last two major stock market crashes which resulted in a 34% drop in the markets in 2000, and the 2007-2008 recession when the markets plummeted by 49%. In 2008, dental practices experienced close to a 50% drop in their revenue and it took about 4 years to recover from it. In my last four blogs have discussed the five things I learned from the past two recessions to help me protect my dental practice and thrive even in the toughest times.  

Key #5 – Make Your Meetings Productive

I am absolutely convinced that one of the biggest influences on the health of a dental practice today, the business of it, is communication.  An office where there is strong and clear communication gets smarter and stronger with time. That’s because the people in that office learn from one another, identify critical challenges, and recover quickly from errors or issues, without drama, politics or confusion.  If you have ever worked in an office filled with drama, politics, dysfunction, and confusion, you know the emotional AND the financial cost of having poor communication. Those offices waste time and resources have lower productivity, loss of revenue, high staff turnover, and high levels of client attrition.  These offices also fall apart in tough economic times and then blame the economy for their failure.  

Now, you CAN have an office where people get along and work well together so the turnover is low, but still RARELY achieve their goals.  In situations like this, if the office rarely achieves its goals, then it’s simply NOT a good team. AND… the responsibility lies with the leader.  There is NO way that your employees can be empowered to fulfill all their responsibilities if they don’t receive clear and consistent messages about what is important from their leader.  

In good economic times, you can get away with letting things slide and think everything is going well.  But when a recession hits and everyone is scared, it comes down to leadership and how you communicate what needs to be, how it needs to be done, why it needs to be done, and who needs to do it and to motivate your team to follow your vision.  

So how do we go about achieving crystal clear communication?  The answer lies in having great meetings. Let me give you an analogy.  Imagine you are getting ready to make dinner for 6 of your friends. What do you do first?  What do you do next? Do you prepare or do you wing it? Imagine if your friends just arrived and you had nothing prepared so you decided to go into the kitchen and take out a little bit of everything from your fridge and your pantry, throw it all together, and bake it.  How would that turn out? Not too well, you might say. Especially when times are tough and there is not a lot in your fridge to begin with. But that is what most dentists do when it comes to their staff meetings. They don’t prepare, and when everyone is present in the room, they just pull out every issue from the fridge, and every idea from the pantry, and throw it out there to discuss, with no resolution, no decisions made, no plan of action, and then wonder why, at the end of two hours, nothing good came out of that meeting.  

Meetings are like dinner parties.  There are the formal ones where you plan for weeks in advance, with a specific menu and theme, then the less formal ones, that take less preparation but still have a specific idea behind the menu, then there are the casual ones where everyone stands around the kitchen counter and snacks.  But even the snacks were planned. Even the snacks were prepared ahead of time. In order to have greater clarity and focus, and in order to improve communication and ensure that your staff knows exactly what is expected of them and when, we need to rethink our meetings, and rethink what we talk about at those meetings.  What we need is the right kind of meetings, and then we need to make these effective. We need to plan the menu for those meetings and make sure our staff knows what is expected of them at each one.

There is no escaping the fact that the single biggest factor in determining whether an office is going to communicate clearly, or not, is the true and absolute commitment AND active involvement of the person in charge.  At every step in the process, the owner MUST be in front, not as a cheerleader, or an audience, but as an active leader. The leader must be the driving force behind demanding clear answers to questions, even when everyone wants to end a discussion or ignore an issue.  

So how do we accomplish this, you ask? We create a clear vision and structure around what needs to be done and when.  If you would like to learn more about how to do this, how to hold effective meetings and win in this unpredictable time where everyone is scared and uncertain, check out our Effective Meetings program, and an intro video on our YouTube channel to learn how to be a leader that communicates with a crystal clear message of your vision, what you want done, and how it should be accomplished.  

Be sure to check out the 4 other articles in this series  The 5 Key Elements to Protecting Your Dental Practice In a Market Turndown