Combating the Holiday Doldrums
Six activities to help you finish strong this year
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Welcome to the distraction zone. As the year winds down, it gets harder and harder to focus. The weeks are flying by like scenery outside a train window, but there’s still so much to do. It’s challenging enough to keep your practice on track during the rest of the year, but now with the holidays fast approaching, things just got that much harder. So many of your practice goals are within reach, yet you can feel it all starting to slip away.
OK, let’s take a deep breath. There’s no need to panic. You’ve been here before and so have most, if not all, of your team members. Sure, there’s a lot of extracurricular stuff going on—shopping, parties, family get-togethers, social obligations, etc—but so what? Every season has its own particular challenges, so why should this time of year be any different? If you’re prepared, it doesn’t have to be.
Here’s a list of six key activities that will help your practice crank up performance at the end of the year and get a running start on 2018:
1. Crunch the Numbers
You should be doing this throughout the year, but it’s important to dig deep into the data in order to determine how close you are to reaching your goals for production, overhead, case acceptance, new patients, etc. If you’re on pace to achieve your goals, that’s great news. Continue what you’ve been doing. If you’re off target, it’s time to implement some countermeasures. For example, if you’re struggling to meet your overhead goal, review your upcoming expenditures. Are they all necessary? Can anything be postponed until next year? Are there opportunities for lower-priced alternatives?
As the CEO of your practice, you need to have accurate information on how your office is performing to make the best decisions going forward. This is especially critical as the year comes to a close. You want to put your practice in the best position possible to have a great 2018. Crunching the numbers now will help you do that.
2. Motivate the Troops
You and your team are coming into the homestretch, but this final leg from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve is a tricky one. You can’t escape the holiday madness (the deals, the crowds, the piped-in music, the over-the-top commercials, etc.), which seems to intensify every year.
This is your time to act as practice cheerleader. Acknowledge the challenges. Reinforce what is at stake. Emphasize that your patients are counting on you and your team. Share information about current goal performance. Review the priorities for the rest of the year. And most of all, be positive, appreciative, and inspirational. When you set the example, your team will follow suit.
3. Prioritize Production
How many patients do you have with unused insurance benefits? Most practices have dozens of hygiene patients who either cancelled or failed to show and were never rescheduled. This is a good time to reach out to those patients and let them know that they still have unused insurance benefits. Most patients will schedule if given sufficient notice. Also, contact all patients who have unfinished treatment plans that are fully or partially covered by dental insurance. Remind them that their dental insurance is about to expire, and convey to them the covered amount they’re entitled to receive for the procedure. Emphasize that they will lose this coverage if they don’t act quickly. Your prompting will be enough to motivate many of these patients to finish treatment before year’s end.
4. Prepare for the New Year
It can be difficult to think about 2018 when you’re still trying to get through 2017, but marketing requires planning and preparation to be successful. If you haven’t already done so, set up a meeting with your marketing coordinator and other key personnel to create next year’s marketing calendar. You want to look at what worked and what didn’t work during the current year. Avoid doing a complete cut and paste. Some campaigns and strategies should probably continue, albeit in a modified or updated state, while other marketing activities should be replaced. Don’t feel like you have to knock out the whole 2018 calendar, but you should strive to nail down enough strategies and events to cover the first 6 months.
5. Tie Up Loose Ends
If your office is closing for the holidays, let patients know your schedule as soon as possible. Post it throughout the office as well as on your website and social media. In addition, update your voicemail greeting with your holiday schedule and provide a number to call in the event of a dental emergency.
Prior to leaving for the holidays, submit all insurance claims, process all credit card payments, and deposit all checks and cash. You don’t want any financial matters from 2017 needlessly hanging over the practice at the start of the new year.
In addition, make sure to turn off all lights, lower the thermostat, and shut down computers unless you or the office manager will need to access the office during the break.
6. Celebrate the Season
Take some time to appreciate your team. Throw a party on a day that your office closes early, or take them all out to a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner. Your staff plays a critical role in your practice’s success—make sure they know that you value them.
The end is in sight. All of the hard work that you and your team put in this year is paying off. You’re on the verge of hitting goals that you’ve never hit before, but then you run into this giant obstacle—the holiday season. All of that hard-won progress will come to a standstill unless you do something. Use these six strategies to keep your practice moving forward, navigate the detours and roadblocks, and achieve more than you thought possible.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and chief executive officer of Levin Group, Inc. Visit levingroup.com for training and consulting options..