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The Case of the Aggressive Associate


Dear Sharyn,

I run a three-dentist practice in a rural, blue-collar area. My patients typically don’t have the best dental IQ or a high commitment to their oral health. So that they don’t get overwhelmed, I create smaller treatment plans where they come in for the highest priorities and then we spread the rest of the treatment out – sometimes over years.

My new associate has transferred to us from a more expensive area. I have learned from my office manager that he has been creating large, complex treatment plans, typically costing thousands of dollars. He then chastises my front desk team for not closing these patients, telling them they need to take CE to learn how to do this.  My staff are angry and I’m concerned that my practice will get a negative reputation in my community. What do I do?

L.S., CA

Dear LS,

Houston, you have a failure to communicate. When the associate first came on board, you should have had a philosophy of care conversation, but it’s not too late to do that now. You will need to agree on two points regarding your mutual expectations. The first is how best to communicate with your patient population. Your expectation is that the associate understands your reluctant patient population while his expectation may be on providing comprehensive treatment plans. You are motivated by wanting to retain your patients while he may be at least partly motivated by his compensation needs. Both of you need to understand the other’s perspective.

The next point of agreement is on what to expect from your team. Personally, I don’t agree that front desk team members should be “closing” patients but, in any case, he needs to know what is reasonable to expect from them and how best to communicate with them.

After your conversation, I recommend you document your agreements. This can provide further clarity and can be helpful if this issue re-surfaces.

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Inspired Us to Dream Bigger, and it Works

“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

Last year, in August we produced $88,000. This year we’re on track to produce $111,000 this month. I know it’s because we learned how to follow through with patients and communicate our expectations while building our systems.

Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

–Sharon St Pierre, Sperbeck Dental Care

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