Getting to Know Your Clients Before Anyone Signs the Papers

In Print Issues, She's Enjoying the Journey by Jennifer Pearce

In any relationship, including coaching, setting it up for success requires open and honest communication regarding expectations, desired outcomes and how those outcomes are to be achieved. Spending some time getting to know one another is of paramount importance before deciding to begin a coaching-business relationship.

I prefer to be called a coach.

I’ll share my “why” I feel this way and how it ties into getting to know my clients before we mutually decide we are a good fit.

When I am approached by a dentist to coach their team, this begins the getting-to-know-one-another process. It also provides the opportunity to see if a coaching relationship can be helpful in reaching the dentist’s desired changes in his practice. Open and candid discussions will cover outcomes, how long it will take to get to the desired outcomes from the current state of the business, the doctor and team mindsets and the path to get to the desired vision of the practice.

I have been in dentistry for 24 years, coming into it as a practice manager and enjoyed the position for 18 years. Then I became a practice co-owner for four years. I am forever grateful for all my experiences in dental practices as each experience was a stepping stone to making me the coach I am today. Throughout my journey in dentistry, I was an avid learner. I wanted to understand the “why” behind things to be a better leader to my teams and to my dentists with whom I worked. Therefore, I say I am a coach.

There isn’t much with which I haven’t personally been involved in running a dental practice. Because of this, I believe coaching requires getting into the practices I coach, seeing the flow and flaws of the office as well as feeling the culture of the practice. It involves seeing what is working and what needs help. It is important to determine how much hands-on will be needed to create sustainable systems in the practices I coach.

I’ve come up with some points to consider when considering a coach:

  1. Are you hiring a coach to fix your team or the whole team including you? If you are hiring a coach to primarily come in and fix the team and you believe the team is the primary problem, you are more than likely going to be disappointed; the business owner is usually the biggest part of the puzzle that must be delved into.
  2. Systems and processes are instrumental. Be ready to be the leader; the doctor ensures the systems the coach recommends are kept in place. I find integrative change to be the game-changer as well as the hardest implementation if not managed daily. Notice I say managed and not micromanaged. Training, trusting and empowering your employees is a big part of the practice’s success.
  3. Is your team open for growth? Not all teams and doctors are open to growth. Have a candid discussion with your team about “why” you are considering a coach. Don’t be secretive about it. Don’t surprise your team with a coach. Sometimes the team will be the one desiring a coach. I see this quite frequently. Commit to the process together to create a pathway for coachable moments and a more engaged team perspective.
  4. Is coaching being brought in just to increase the numbers and profitability of the practice? This is a slippery slope. A practice focused solely on the numbers usually has a culture or vision problem. Again, what’s the “why” behind the doctor’s vision for the practice? When the team is creating and living for the “why” of the practice, the numbers will be there!
  5. The culture of the practice is extremely important. “No culture” means “no heart” behind the business. Just like the body needs its heart to run, your business needs a heart as well. If you are the leader of your practice and this befuddles you, talk to your team and co-create your vision statement for the “why” of your practice, whom you wish to serve and how you intend to deliver the dentistry. I create the Prosperity Genius model with the teams I coach. This is their vision statement brought to life in a model. Again, hire a coach to help with this if it resonates with you.
  6. Coaching is a contact sport. Everyone on the team will need to be coached. The dysfunction of a dental practice didn’t happen overnight, and it will take some time to fix. There will be ups and downs. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, the dysfunction will take time to fix.

Coachable Spirit

We often hear the phrase ”coachable spirit.” Ask yourself if you have one. If you do not, why not? If you think you do but the idea of having a coach in your practice makes your heart race and your palms sweat, I believe that makes you normal. The anticipated personal involvement in the process is the unknown. However, beautiful things happen when people trust the process of a coach. You’ll learn to work smarter not harder. Have a fully engaged, higher functioning team and a less stressed doctor with the benefit of having systems and guidelines to support more predictable outcomes.

Isn’t that ultimately what we all desire in the day-to-day teamwork of a practice? Get in on time, serve our patients to the best of our abilities, have a lunch, get paid for our services and get home on time to enjoy our families. The elusive work-life balance is ultimately what a coach is trying to move you toward. This requires a fully engaged team, rowing the boat in the same direction…TOGETHER!

“Excellence Wins.”

As a coach I love a saying from one of my favorite books, “Excellence Wins.” We must remember we are “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” To maintain that mindset is of paramount importance to attract, retain and serve the level of patient and team members we each desire. When we keep the patient the focus of the practice, the patient feels this, and we all win by creating a culture of happy, paying and referring patients. Being from Texas, another phrase I love is, “There is a saddle for every ass!” I hope you are laughing! What do I mean by this phrase? I mean choose your business model for your practice or it will choose you.

What level of ladies and gentlemen do you desire to serve?

  1. Fee for service/out-of-network
  2. PPO
  3. HMO
  4. Medicaid or government-assisted
  5. Some combination of two of these

These are the current business models in dentistry. The reason I discuss these is the coach needs to understand and be familiar with the model you choose to serve. The coach also needs to agree with the model you have chosen. Business philosophies must be congruent to create a successful coaching relationship. Sometimes coaches are brought in to facilitate a change in another business direction. As an example, leading a practice to be less insurance dependent. Starting a relationship with a coach who understands this as well as how to coach the mindset of the team and coach the doctor to shift directions is of paramount importance.

With all the above said, coaching is needed by many dental practices. As a business, a dental practice goes through many life cycles in its existence. Coaching in each of the life cycles ensures the practice stays viable and healthy for many years. Knowing what life cycle the business is in and what is required to help it in each phase is where a coach can greatly benefit the doctor and the team as they journey down the path of practicing dentistry. The right coach at the right time can be the game-changer. But again, make sure the relationship is built on understanding, proper expectations and a good fit with the vision of the practice long-term before signing on any lines.