April 25, 2017

Dental Marketing in 2016: Dental Practice Leadership

If you and your team are moving in oppostite directions, you likely have a leadership problem


My job is to help you grow your dental practice. As such, I have become well versed in many areas of business development including but not limited to marketing and sales. However, the biggest problem that I have seen companies of all sizes have as it pertains to growth, is poor leadership.

It is very difficult to know that you have a leadership problem. In fact, in most cases, you won’t know until it is too late. So, I decided to put together a list of signals that might indicate that you have a leadership problem that you need to address.

This is not an exhaustive list, but a list that is meant to get you to start thinking about acquiring the skills to become a better leader.

You Don’t Have Staff Meetings

Staff meetings, if done well, is the essential tool in the leaders tool box, particularly as it pertains to dental practices. There are many reasons staff meetings are so important, but one of them, if not the most important reasons is, that the meetings put you and your team on the same page, and everyone in the practice knows what is expected of them. 

Staff Meetings You Have Are Bitch Fests

Well run staff meetings are the opposite of bitch fests. Meeting time should be used to address problems in a productive way, but mostly, the discussion should center around doing the things needed to perform at a high level, as a team.

If you have staff meetings that are bitch fests there is a good chance you will not want to have staff meetings, which is a problem of itself. Worse, the time will be wasted when you do meet, and the objective of the meeting lost. 

You Hate Staff Meetings

If you hate staff meetings it is largely due to the fact that you don’t know how to conduct an effective staff meeting. As a result, your staff meetings become a major source of aggravation for you, and ultimately, you either avoid them, or you lose your hair over them. Neither is a good thing.

You View Your Staff as Adversaries

I have spoken to dentists who, when I mention their staff, roll their eyes. When I ask why they rolled their eyes, either the dentist or the dentists wife chime in that the staff is a collection of do nothings who want nothing but more money, more time off with little to no effort in return.

Your staff might in fact be a problem,  but I can assure you, the bigger problem is you. You either hire the wrong people, or you don’t lead the right people properly. Both result in the perpetuation of loathing from the staff to you and you to the staff.

Office Manager Quits Out of the Blue

You are shocked when it happens, but out of the blue, your office manager, who may have been with you for years, quits. No notice. No good bye. No tears. No nothing. They just quit.

Now, absent a complete mental breakdown, most people just don’t function that way. And in fact, the bigger truth is that the office manager likely checked out months ago, and just now decided it was time to make it official. My point is, if your office manager quits unexpectedly, it is a sign that you might be doing something wrong from a leadership perspective.

Different Office Managers Over Short Period of Time

If you have had more than one office manager over the course of a three to five year period, there is a good chance that you are the problem. One, you are hiring the wrong person for the job. Two, you are a major jerk to work for and people would rather be out of work than stick around.

In some cases, the third option is that you are just going through a bad phase, but don’t bet on this option. More often than not, you are the problem.

High Staff Turnover

Every business has turnover. Every savvy business owner knows that high turnover is not good for the bottom line. More importantly, if people keep quitting on you, once again, you either have a hiring problem or a management problem and both are a reflection of poor leadership.

Staff Asks you to Fire Another Staff Member

If your staff together or separately are constantly complaining about the same staff member, to a point they want you to fire that person, you have a major leadership problem. 

It is possible that you hired the wrong person. It is also possible that you turned the person bad post hire because of bad leadership. In either case, you have let the problems of one become the problems of many.

You Don’t Fire the Staff Member

Hire slow, fire fast. Hiring is important and is not something you should take lightly or rush. Firing is equally important and not something you should procrastinate if you become aware of a problematic member of your team.

Higher New Staff too Quickly

Family members and friends are not always the best hires. Often though, they become the easy way out, allowing you to fill a gap with little to no effort. In some cases, a perfect stranger comes along to fill the same gap.

No matter who it is, you cannot hire people without a thorough vetting process. If you do, all you are asking for is a more painful headache than the one that lead you to hire too quickly in the first place.

Team Members Fail to Meet Your Expectations

Bad hires will never perform. Good hires will only perform if you train them properly starting with setting the right expectations. No matter the case, bad performance is your problem and is a direct result of not having your finger on the pulse of your practice. 


Staff Doesn’t Refer Patients

Your staff should be a major source of new patient acquisition for you. They typically are when they are happy working for you. They are typically happy working for you when you lead them properly. 

Staff members will often not reveal their dissatisfaction openly, but one way to determine their level of satisfaction is to see if they are happy referring patients to your office. Actually, the same holds true for helping you find replacements to fill gaps in your team. 

Patient Acquisition Rate is too Low

New patient acquisition, if it is too low, could be a pure marketing problem, but more often than not, it is a leadership problem. 

When you are good, people talk. When people talk, other people find out and want to be part of the fun. if you are not getting your fair share of patients it may be because the people you serve are not happy enough to talk about you, or, the people who come via external marketing are not pleased with what they find. 

Something as simple as the way your front desk answers the phone could be a sign that you have a leadership problem, because it is surely something that will keep new patients away.

Get More Patients from Advertising than Referrals

If you get more patients from the coupon ad you placed in the local newspaper than you do from referrals, you have a leadership problem.

If you think about it, advertising reaches people who do not know you. Referrals come from people who do know you. If they don’t like you, they likely will not give a referral to you. If you are not well liked, whether it is you or your team, or just your practice in general, you likely have a leadership problem.

Too Many Negative Reviews

Obviously the negative reviews are a result of literally everything else I have listed here. In fact, patients will hate your practice with much greater intensity if the vibe you and your staff give off is negative. Positive vibe comes from effective leadership.

Negative dental reviews are going to happen. There is no way to avoid them because you cannot make everyone happy. However, too many negative reviews, or negative reviews that are exceedingly hostile might be a sign that you have a leadership issue.


If you got this far and are thinking you might have a leadership problem, the biggest mistake you can make is to try to fix it yourself or not fix it at all. My suggestion would be to hire a qualified expert in the area of dental practice leadership in your area or otherwise.

In my view, there are a lot of superb experts in this area, none are more qualified than Nancy Kagan. I have experienced Nancy enough to know that she knows the business of dentistry inside, outside and sideways. She also has an approach that is values-centric, meaning, she knows how good leaders get it done by treating the people around them with respect. 

Nancy Kagan



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