From Employees to Business Partners – As Published in The Progressive Dentist Magazine

There are actually two key factors to transitioning your role from employee to business partner or colleague. One has everything to do with you and your attitude, and the other comes from your doctor/employer. When I compare practices that I’ve worked with or know, the most successful practices have a different mindset about the office, the team, and how to care for their patients. As a colleague of mine, Katherine Eitel Belt, recently pointed out most of us go work every day because we “have to.” We have to provide for ourselves and our families. Those that truly succeed though are the ones who also recognize that they “get to” go to work. How do you embrace that mindset of loving what you do, being part of a team, and contributing to the success of your practice?

We all know or may even be one of those team members who comes in, clocks in, counts the hours until it’s time to go, and gets their job done…but nothing more. They may be the team member that balks at change or education because they only want to do what their position requires and thinks learning something different is a waste of time.

How different is it for a doctor for his/her team to be emotionally and professionally invested in his/her practice? How different is it to have a team of “business partners” who not only contribute to and celebrate the success of the practice but bring individual talents to the table? The most successful practices I’ve seen are those built upon a team who views their position as a career not a “job.”

When you look at your position within your practice as a career, you think ahead.

  • How can I grow?
  • What can I do to set myself apart?
  • What talents do I have that will benefit this practice?
  • How can we be more successful?

The more successful the practice is, potentially the more success I will have. I have always personally approached my implant treatment coordinator position within my practice as my career and full of opportunity. When I started, I observed as I was learning my position. We had a lot of great systems in place, but we were growing. I asked questions.

  • Why do we do it like this?
  • Have you ever tried this?
  • Do you think if we did this, that might happen?

I started to develop and implement protocols for consults, forms, referral interactions, office flow, team training, and tracking for example. I had conversations with my doctor, our team, and our referrals on how we might do things even better. We didn’t try everything I suggested, and not everything we tried worked. But by looking at my position in my practice as a business partner, conversations were started and many positive changes were made. I also try to soak up everything I can from my doctor, our other talented teammates and professional meetings to grow both personally and professionally and bring that back to the practice. There are so many good educational opportunities, and so often team members aren’t interested or unable to take advantage.

Look for what is coming up, what is interesting and valuable to you and your practice, and lobby to be the liaison for learning within your practice. Take notes and bring back ideas to present to your doctor and your team. Sometimes it’s as simple as your mindset toward your position. Be a partner in your practice, career-driven, and a contributor. Don’t just go to your job because you “have to,” go because of the pride in what you do and how you help others and the value you bring to your team.

The flip side of this is the mindset of your employer/doctor. They have to be willing to empower their team members to become colleagues or partners in the practice. It’s hard to do so when they have a team who doesn’t offer productive ideas, think outside the box, or one who doesn’t naturally go above and beyond for the good of the practice. It’s much easier when they have a treatment coordinator and team who are invested in a successful practice.

When both of these are in place, the doctor can empower team members to offer ideas, guide decisions, and grow both personally and professionally. It frees up the doctor to focus on surgery and taking care of the patient knowing he has business partners to collaborate with.

A treatment coordinator who is a partner in the practice tends to look at numbers and question why and how if the numbers are up or down. An empowered treatment coordinator is knowledgeable about a patient’s treatment because they’ve been in the consult with the doctor and have been instrumental in asking questions of the patient to determine their needs and wants and build value. An empowered team member in the front office would know to make adjustments in the schedule for productivity or for an “A” referral for example and would be conscious of the communication skills with both patients and referrals.

What might an empowered team member in the back look like? One who is looking ahead in the schedule and anticipates a certain need or change in treatment plan and can make adjustments accordingly. Empowered team members can make the day easier and more enjoyable for everyone in the office.

What gets you to the point of empowerment?   Knowledge and trust – the doctor and practice needs to invest the time and energy into the education of its team members to expand their knowledge. Then these “business partners” become the practice’s best walking talking marketing promotors.

You can’t really have one of these ideas without the other. That doctor who can’t/isn’t empowering the team and encouraging growth through education may in reality be deterred by a team of “employees” rather than “business partners.” One of my favorite quotes states, “Someone who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.” The doctor, the treatment coordinator, and team members need to transition their mindset from employee to business partner, and be open and willing to learn and try new ideas. When you have an alignment of ideas where someone values their team and the team in turn feels valued, the practice is always going to do more and be more than expected.  

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