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Adapting to the Changing Hygienist Market – Episode #383


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Is it time to reevaluate how your practice approaches its hygiene department? Labor shortages and demand for higher wages are changing the hygienist market. So what can you do to stabilize hygiene and ensure it’s not merely a loss-leader? On this episode of the Dentist Money™ Show, Ryan welcomes Wendy Briggs of Hygiene Diamonds to talk about why there’s a need to rethink the role of the hygienist.

Show notes:
HygieneDiamonds.com
TheTeamTrainingInstitute.com

 

 


Podcast Transcript

Ryan Issac:
Hello everybody, welcome back to another episode of the Dentist Money show, brought to you by Dentists Advisors, a no commission, fiduciary comprehensive financial advisor just for dentists. Check us out at dentistadvisors.com. Today on the show, we have a long time friend, Wendy Briggs, started Hygiene Diamonds a long time ago. Now, part of the bigger picture in the Team Training Institute, and this is a great conversation and kind of a very timely subject about hygiene in a practice, getting everybody on the same page, building a culture, building compensation plans, teaching people and incentivizing them with fulfilling purpose-driven roles in the practice, how to get everyone on the same page, and especially in today’s environment with labor shortages and high costs of people in a practice. So, many thanks to Wendy, she’s been in this business for so long and just really, really understand this stuff, so, very helpful conversation, I’m sure we’ll be doing more with her in the future. Thanks to all of you for joining us as always. If you have any questions, we love answering your money questions, and it’s easy to do, to get an answer to your money question, you just go to dentistadvisors.com, click the book free consultation link and let’s have a chat. We can point you in the right direction. Thanks for being here. Enjoy the show.

Jess Reynolds:
Hey there. It’s Jess with Dentist Advisors. Did you know we recently launched a new service called the Dentist Money Membership? It’s an affordable way to support your personal financial strategy with cutting edge technology and guidance from dental-focused CFP advisors. The Dentist Money Membership includes the Elements financial monitoring app, an annual financial check-up, CE courses, an automated investment platform, and more. To learn more about the Dentist Money Membership and to get started, go visit dentistadvisors.com/money.

Announcer:
Consult an advisor or conduct you own due diligence when making financial decisions. General principles discussed during this program do not constitute personal advice. This program is furnished by Dentist Advisors, a registered investment advisor. This is Dentist Money. Now, here’s your host, Ryan Isaac.

Ryan Issac:
Welcome to the Dentist Money show, where we help dentists make smart financial decisions. I am your host, Ryan, and I’m here with, actually a long time friend of the show, it’s been quite a while, Wendy Briggs. Welcome, Wendy, thanks for being here.

Wendy Briggs:
Hey. Yeah, thanks so much for having me, it’s good to be able to catch up.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, so it has been… It’s so funny. It’s been a while, and I think the last time I saw you actually, besides all the stuff you do online and all the training you guys do is in an airport randomly once. Do you remember this?

Wendy Briggs:
That’s right. Yep.

Ryan Issac:
We were like passing in an airport in Denver maybe, I don’t remember what city was, it could have been.

Wendy Briggs:
Oh yeah. Probably both of us spend an inordinate amount of time in airports, probably more than we plan to at some point.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, that’s fair. So I was just asking you, but we’ll just dive right into this, I knew you from Hygiene Diamonds from… You’ve been doing that for a very, very long time, and Hygiene Diamonds is still very much up and running and doing its thing, also kind of integrated into… I don’t know if it’s fair to say like a bigger picture kind of scenario with a Team Training Institute, but how about… Explain what those are, how those began, where those kind of started, what they’ve evolved into over the years?

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, absolutely. So obviously, I began at dentistry when I was a teenager in high school, helping out a family friend after school and was in the role of a dental assistant at that time, and trained on the job, right? And then as I went into college, I had some opportunity work in the front desk practices, ended up going to hygiene school, became a hygienist, and it didn’t take me long to realize there are a lot of voices in our industry telling hygienist what we should be doing, and I personally felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of great information on how. How to elevate patient care, how to… I got tired of being the only provider in my practice and have the consultant or the doctor or the team member say, “Hey, if hygiene would just hit a goal, maybe we could get bonus us now and again,” and like, I have no idea how to elevate my own services. Patients come to the door and say, “I don’t want anything that’s not covered by insurance,” and I was practicing and living in a very low socio-economic area, a lot of farming, a lot of agriculture in the area.

Wendy Briggs:
And it was really challenging for me. So I began a quest, and I’ve always been an avid student, and certainly I’d had experience in multiple practices by that point, and I always felt that hygiene could be more of a partner, if you will, with the doctor and helping you really grow the business. And I knew that a hygiene driven practice really was an essential ingredient for a successful practice long-term, because we know the statistics. Today, even say 75% of the restorative work that’s done in the practices are from patients through hygiene recare, so I knew there was more. I didn’t know what that looked like. And so I began my own quest, if you will, to try and figure out, “Okay, what are the truly excellent practices doing differently than the masses? How can I learn from those people? How can I study them?” And I found, once I started really applying some of these things that we’re working outside of my four walls in our practice, and I also met an avid reader, so I read a ton of sales books and influence books and things like that.

Wendy Briggs:
I also studied other world class organizations like Disney and Southwest and a lot of those things, and took some of those principles and applied them to how I was treating my patients, and ultimately, long story short, seems like it’s a longer story, but ultimately, I was challenged by friends and peers and colleagues to share what was working so well for me, and so that’s literally how this whole crazy train got started. I would go in and I would have kind of like a mini lunch session, these practices, and I’d helped their hygienists tweak things here and there, and ultimately the response was enormous, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, we doubled what we were doing in hygiene overnight,” and I got… I guess I kind of wised up to the fact that this was a niche, this was an opportunity within our profession. I wasn’t the only hygienist seeking how to elevate the services that I was providing to patients, and so we started Hygiene Diamonds. This is more than 20 years ago now, and started working with other practices in my miniature network, right?

Wendy Briggs:
And all it took was for one of those dentists to go on Dentaltown and make a post, and overnight, we were national, had dentists and practices calling me from all over the country. And so what I had to do is I had to evolve. What worked well for me didn’t always work well for them, and there was so many different practice styles and models, and so I had to adapt some of the systems and strategies that I had implemented to be scalable and replicable, and ultimately that’s kind of why I ended up with the Team Training Institute. So I had a good friend and client that said, “Hey, you should really come and speak to another mastermind group I’m involved with, it’s called the Apogee Group,” and so I did that. I was invited to go speak, and I went and spoke, and all of those practices hired me and my team at that time. And ultimately about a year later, the owner/director of that mastermind group was like, “Hey, you know what? This is really interesting, your best clients and my best clients are the same people.”

Wendy Briggs:
There was a really incredible synergy that occurred when we put the systems that they were teaching and the systems that I was teaching together, and ultimately that was the genesis of the Team Training Institute. And I realized, I would get practices to a certain place, establishing a standard of care for service and hygiene, implementing better systems, looking at efficiencies, looking at maximizing opportunities with patients, and all of those things would take practices to a certain point, and then when hygiene really ramped up in that way, other systems would break and the practice would need help in other areas. “Oh gosh, now you’ve got an AR problem, got a collections challenge.” Doctors would come to me and say, “How do I increase my production per visit or production per hour?”

Wendy Briggs:
And I’m like, “I’m not a dentist, never have been one. I can tell you what other dentists do,” but ultimately it was really awesome timing to be able to partner with Dr. John Meis and the Team Training Institute, because he is a dentist, he is a highly successful high-performing dentist himself, and so together, we felt this really incredible opportunity for practices to have coaching simultaneously in two to three different tracks at the same time. So we have a hygiene focus, we have a business focus, we have a leadership, doctor, CEO focus, all happening at the same time, which really accelerates the progression of practices in a powerful way. So that’s ultimately where we are today.

Ryan Issac:
Awesome.

Wendy Briggs:
And it’s great. Yeah.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, so I’m just thinking back to when you were I’m assuming full-time hygiene and you’re trying to explore this stuff, how did you make that work with the [0:08:51.0] ____ cure? ‘Cause you said you would start exploring other people’s practices, seeing what was working… That’s a lot of time and commitment, and you just really wanted to learn. How did you swing that? Were you just going to friend’s practices and shadowing or travel, like how are you exploring that?

Wendy Briggs:
Like, all of the above, right?

Ryan Issac:
Okay, yeah. [chuckle]

Wendy Briggs:
____ And so as a hygienist, I had a great opportunity to be able to do temp, right? But when my babies were young, I would go in and temp and be able to bring value. So my goal was to always find enough extra and preventive services to pay for my daily wage in my idea of temping, and I learned that that was completely outside the box, nobody ever really thought about how to basically pay for themselves as a temp, and so almost every time I end the day of temping, I was offered a position and I got really good at saying, “You know, I’m not looking for a job, I’m very happy where I am, but I can teach your hygiene team to approach patient care the way we do,” and that’s probably one of the most powerful ways. And certainly then when I was hired to coach, I would go in to these amazing practices all over the country and be able to see what they did differently than the masses. And I’d pick up Jim, I’d be delivering my diamonds, if you will, acres of diamonds, beneath their feet, how do they maximize the asset that they have, which is a steady flow of hygiene patients. And ultimately what I realized early on, one of the most powerful lessons I learned was it for me, production was never the driver or the goal, and I know that’s interesting for me to say that on the Dentist Money show, right?

Wendy Briggs:
But I realized that production was the result that came when I took really great care of the patient. So that was kind of a driving force for me. The patient always comes first. How can we elevate patient care, help them see why these services would benefit them long-term? And once we could help the patient see why these services mattered, then they were very willing to accept that care, which ultimately was how I was able to produce enough ancillary services, extra services to cover my daily wage for the day.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah. Was that a hard transition going from, I mean, what I assume was a steady full-time, really great career as a hygienist to then saying, “I’m now gonna be entrepreneurial myself and go take the leap?” Or was there so much demand it just kind of was a situation there’s so much demand it wasn’t scary? But there’s no way it wasn’t scary, it had to be that.

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, I call myself an accidental entrepreneur, because I never had a moment where I’m like, “I’d like to be a speaker when I grow up,” or, “I’m gonna take the speaker training to learn how to do that.” I never did that. It was all by experience and trial and error, and by trying to figure out, “Okay, every practice is different. What’s your vision? What’s your values? What are you trying to accomplish? What are your core objectives?” And then shifting the content and the systems that we teach to suit their objectives. It became very widely apparent, in what area is the biggest opportunity lie in the majority of dental practices. We’d like to say all practices are very different, but many of them share the same challenges and frustrations. And so we’re able to create a process, a pathway, if you will, for practices to instantly, like the next day, see as a powerful ROI from implementing some of the systems that we taught. Because my job, our job was to come in and provide the biggest opportunity with the least amount of chaos or disruption, right? So once we started doing that, literally word-of-mouth spread, Ryan, I mean, I never marketed myself, I never had to, in the early years. Now we do marketing and things now because there’s…

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, it is.

Wendy Briggs:
It’s leave your pathway, right? And I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and I would say our super power is providing that powerful ROI, and still today, our weakness is probably that many practices don’t know about what we can do for them. The practices that do, it’s pretty awesome when we see the journey. And I say many practices don’t know, even though literally in 2009, we were one of the four consulting partners for all of Henry Schein, nationwide.

Ryan Issac:
Wow.

Wendy Briggs:
So we’ve had a lot of really great opportunities to get our word out there, but there’s still… Dentistry can be a very isolating profession, so. Yeah.

Ryan Issac:
It can be. And it’s huge. Yeah, it’s a huge space. Even though statistically 200,000 people tops isn’t the biggest market, but…

Wendy Briggs:
I don’t wanna diminish the work that we’ve done, we do have… We have our own podcast as well, and we have downloads in 58 countries…

Ryan Issac:
Amazing.

Wendy Briggs:
And actually consulted with practices, and last count, I think it was 18 countries around the world. So it’s been a really great ride.

Ryan Issac:
So cool.

Wendy Briggs:
And again, I say, an accidental entrepreneur because it was never really an intentional thing that I did. So initially, again, hygienists have a lot of flexibility. So when I started really doing more consulting, I was able to cut to 10 days a month in patient care, and then it was eight days a month, and then it was four days a month, then it was two days a month, and so I was afforded the luxury of being able to slowly adjust my days with patients as the demand for services in other areas grew.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, nice. So these days, fast forward to today, and I have some questions about the environment of hiring and working as a hygienist, it seems like it’s a pretty different time, but these days, most people interact with you and the Training Institute in what, like seminars or one-on-one courses or in-office visits or what’s typical?

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, it’s a really great question. So I would say the majority of practices we work with, there’s really kind of two pathways, right? So, we can go in and we typically will begin the relationship with a year program, a one-year program, and it’s a combination of in-person events, we send a coach to the office, they come to see us at quarterly Practice Growth retreats, we have one, four of those every year. And they have a business coach and a hygiene coach that are as a partnership working on helping them accomplish their vision within that first year. We always say, our vision for them is often a long-term relationship, but every journey begins with the first step, and so with us, that first year often is our Blue Diamond Program. Blue diamonds are the most rare and the most highly sought in all of the world, so that’s why we call it that. And as I mentioned before, Earl Nightingale is the first one to talk about Acres of Diamonds and how many of us, we already have what we are looking for, we just don’t know how to cultivate that or turn what it is that we have into what it is that we’re looking for, so that’s ultimately what we do.

Wendy Briggs:
And that flagship program is a combination of in offices plus events, we have an entire virtual portfolio as well, so if they have a new hygienist, for example, join them after they’ve just had their in-office training, no panic, no stress, we can catch them up to speed very quickly and easily. And that’s typically how we engage with most of our members. Now, to on a broader scale, to get the word out there to dental community, we do a lot of lecturing and speaking at events, we do a lot of study clubs, we are the consulting partner for the AACA, and that’s been a great partnership over the last few years. The American Academy for Clear Aligners, so these are all practices that are trying to grow clear aligners, Invisalign type services there in their practice, so we find they’re a great fit for what we do simply because they’re seeking to grow.

Wendy Briggs:
And a lot of our partnerships in the past will say, “Okay, the practices that need coaching are the ones that are struggling,” and in our world, really those aren’t the ones who typically benefit the most from coaching. Interestingly enough, it’s the practices that are already doing things well, that are seeking to attain the next level next, that they feel like they’ve hit the ceiling and they can’t break through, those are the ones that usually they come to us. And sometimes they have a history of consulting and they’ll say, “I’ve worked with these people in the past, these people in the past,” and then they’re ready to work with us to see what we can do, how can we level up with the systems they’ve already built. Those are the practices that really score when they learn, what we’ve found works really, really well for the masses as well.

Ryan Issac:
That’s cool. Thanks for sharing that.

Wendy Briggs:
So I would say, I don’t know if that answers your question.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah.

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, podcast and meetings, we do a lot of that, but certainly when we start working with people, it’s a combination of in-person and events.

Ryan Issac:
So I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of listeners, and I assume there’s probably a lot of dentists who aren’t sure if they have hygiene problems or they have hygiene success, they’re kind of just like, “I don’t know, we open and we do business and we close for the day, and then we just do it again tomorrow.” What are some… I mean, are there like red flags that are common to look for, certain things that aren’t being met that a dentist would be able to recognize, “Oh, there’s some problems in hygiene right now?”

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, certainly, I can talk some of those common challenges that we hear about often day in and day out. I would say right now, the big stressors that we hear about are practices that are looking at a heavy PPO environment. Year after year, their reimbursement rates are declining, they’re getting slashed even further and they feel hopeless and helpless to do something about that, and those are the ones that are typically like, “We can’t afford to have a hygienist,” or, “Our hygiene department is a lost leader. We know that we’re losing money and hygiene is just something we gotta take on the chin in order to function.” And for those practices, I want to suggest that there is a better way, there’s another way. The majority of the practices that we work with are participating in PPOs, but you don’t have to accept that an exam, prophy and bite wings all day long, every day is all that your hygiene department is capable of, right? So what we look at is, what are you doing as a broader service mix, and we help the hygienist themselves, plus the doctors know that there’s a whole list of services on your menu that if you had a greater awareness and understanding and better systems in place, your patients would be thanking you for providing. And that those services, just a few of those, can take them into an entirely different level of profitability.

Wendy Briggs:
So I would say that’s probably the most common frustration that we hear is it’s not possible to have a hygienist, especially in today’s world with the shortage of providers and the high demand for wages. The other thing is hygienists, it’s unsustainable, the salaries that they’re asking for. And one of the unique things that we do is we set up hygienists on a production-based compensation model, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds for hygienists. They get an hourly, but they also have an incentive once they hit a profitability threshold, and we help them know how to hit that profitability threshold every single day by doing things the right way. See, a lot of hygienists don’t want to work with consultants because they feel like they’re having to sacrifice their personal code of ethics in order to be more productive and profitable.

Ryan Issac:
In order to sell stuff, yeah.

Wendy Briggs:
Right. And it doesn’t have to be that way. So I would say that’s another thing that we bring to the market place is, “If your hygienists are wanting to earn more, let’s show them how to do that in an environment that makes sense for both the practice and the providers.” So that’s something that we’re hearing about a lot right now as well. And then of course, there’s always the struggle. There’s a lot of loud voices in online that are saying, “Hey, a hygienist-free model is the way to go, and…

Ryan Issac:
I don’t think I’ve heard that loud voice yet. No, wow, hygienist free-model. No hygiene?

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah. So it’s all over.

Ryan Issac:
Okay. And that’s in response, to just because it’s expensive and hard to find people now that that’s not, okay.

Wendy Briggs:
Well some doctors would prefer that as a model, right? They do hygienists [0:20:05.8] ____. I get it. But in my experience, they’re like, “Yeah, I ran a million dollar of year practice, and I did just fine.” I’m like, “Yeah, you can do that without a hygienist, you can have a million dollar year practice, but you can’t have a 10 million year practice. And we have plenty of people to do that.” Right? So it just depends on your vision and where you wanna grow and all of that. But I would say the conversation about hygiene in your practice, most of the time, Ryan, dentists who are wondering if they have an issue in hygiene, they already know. And it’s the stress, and the strain, and the chaos, and conflict that might be coming if they have a continuous churn of team and they can’t retain anybody, most likely that’s a culture issue, core values issue, a systems issue, so all of those things are what we help practices uncover. And it’s really quite easy to figure out if we can provide impact in a practice, we need about 10 procedure codes, and we can create what we call a road map and identify, and we can tell you in less than a half hour what the opportunity might look like working with us in that first year.

Ryan Issac:
What prevents someone from knowing they’ve got a problem and then just not doing something about it?

Wendy Briggs:
Well, we don’t know, we don’t know. And myself and my team of coaches, what we bring to the table is more than 20 years of experience of what’s working in dentistry and what’s not. We don’t teach theory, we don’t have a room full of people that say, “Hey, that sounds really good.” And then they go back and they apply it and it’s an abject failure. I can tell you that there’s often doctors, they come to us and say, “Hey, I tried to get my hygienist to do X for years,” but from the hygienist perspective, they’re like, “Yeah, every time we have a team meeting they’re throwing more stuff at me, but no one’s actually showing me how to do that.”

Ryan Issac:
Or why.

Wendy Briggs:
[0:21:55.3] ____ acceptance. Or why. Right. Why should we. So we lead… Everything, everything, everything we do is all about why we should. So we lead with all the science, the research, patients of today are dramatically different than they were even in five years ago, we’ve got a prescription medication usage growing by leaps and bounds, we’ve got more processed food, we’ve got poor health in the majority of patients that we serve, and we have solutions for a lot of these things that can happen on the preventive side, so that’s typically where we start, and I would say it’s so much easier to hire somebody that’s been there, done that, knows how to do it. And even those doctors says I’ve been trying to get my hygienist to do X, Y and Z for years, we go in there. And I think those practices actually do have more success because these things aren’t unfamiliar to the team, but then we do is we provide that road map, it very specifically, “If you see this, we do this,” we teach them a simple way to perform risk assessment, for example.

Wendy Briggs:
So when you have a risk assessment on every single patient and you identify their higher risk, then that means that they have different needs. So then we teach them how to meet those needs and how to explain that to the patient. Nine times out of 10, that’s our Achilles heel is helping the patients understand why these services matter for them. So, we spend a day with a practice and walk them through, just maximizing that preventive therapist’s role. And often, I know it sounds too good to be true, but often we’ll see hygiene revenue production double or triple after just that one day. And it’s not by cramming more patients into the schedule, it’s not by having to buy all this these expensive equipment and offer these extra services, it’s just about creating a systematic process to become very consistent and helping patients see the value, and we help the hygiene providers know how to get it in, we teach the anatomy of an appointment. How do you actually do that in the context of a 45, 50, 60 minute appointment, whatever the practice is running in that moment. So we look at all of those things. Let’s say we have a hygienist going out on maternity leave, some practices will say, “We’ve gotta hire a temp,” well, let’s look at maybe running an assisted model in that interim time period. So again, we bring decades of knowledge that simplifies it.

Wendy Briggs:
We often look at the best performers in the world and whatever they do, Tiger Woods even, for example, even the best golfers have coaches, and that’s why, because they bring a level of knowledge and depth of knowledge that provides value. And that’s what we strive to do.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, I liked the talk about compensation plans and the why behind things. I love the idea of educating team to change behavior so that a business grows and not make it just about revenue. But then we all wanted to get paid from the work we do, and we wanna get paid for the growth that we contribute to is implementing… I know that stresses people out too, how to implement, how to pay people in bonus and incentivize people with their salaries. Is that tough to do? Does it very widely practice-to-practice, region-to-region, or is there a pretty systematic way to implement a financial incentive system for hygiene?

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, I think it’s really tough for doctors to figure out on their own. Often because they’ve been burned in the past, right? We knew a practice that was producing $10 million a year, but the owners weren’t making any money, because their bonus structure had been set up in such a way that all of the profit went to the team. And that’s not sustainable, over time. So we’ve seen a variety of mis-steps, and that’s why it can be difficult in language-ing it. And I have so many screenshots, Ryan, of team members saying, “Here was the bonus that was promised and then right when we hit it, it was taken away or it was changed,” so a lot of the team becomes demoralized, right?

Ryan Issac:
Yeah.

Wendy Briggs:
So it’s a very important thing to change. Difficult for doctors to do on their own, but not difficult for us, because we have four or five different formulas, we can just take the key statistics that we need, plug it in and we come up with a transition formula that really does work well. And in our view, we want a principle that’s right, what we’ve called a success sweep spot, so the patients first, the practice has to benefit and the team. So we got the patients, the team and the practice, and when all three of those benefit from whatever the implementation is or the system is, or the bonus structure is, then everybody wins, right? So we want a triple win, we want a win for the patient, a win for the team and a win for the practice.

Wendy Briggs:
And if one of those areas isn’t winning, then it’s not sustainable in the long term, and it’s gonna cause more harm than good. So that’s something that we can do very, very quickly and easily. And frankly, when we send a coach in, that’s what they do, day one, they’ll have that conversation with the hygienist before we even begin any training, because it changes the perspective. And of course, we don’t just go off wild and say, “Well, we talk to the doctor, we’ve gotten consensus, we all understand the math, and it works.” But that’s something that is really unique about our program is that we make sure we’ve got that established day one, and then the hygienists do listing differently. By lunchtime, the excitement in the room is palpable. And I think all dentists that we’ve worked with have good intents and they certainly want their team to earn a bigger future. We want all of our team members to have the opportunity to earn more, but we don’t really appreciate it when they demand more.

Wendy Briggs:
So we’ve gotta figure out how to make it so that it is a win, win-win, so that especially in the days of hygiene wages going out of control, we’ve gotta reframe the conversation about how we can help them accomplish a bigger future, what that might look like… And then systematically help them get there, we want our providers, we have plenty of six figure a year hygienists, and we wish there were more of them in our program, we certainly help them get there. That’s for sure.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, I like the example of the screen shots with frustrated team getting their bonuses taken away, that just happens, we hear this on our site too, where they get advices on pay structure and bonusing from Facebook groups, from friends, they randomly come up with it, they implement it, it becomes an expectation, it’s not tied to metrics, it’s not actionable for people, it’s random, and then it has to be pulled back and everyone’s frustrated.

Wendy Briggs:
I can tell you one other thing, I meant to say is, I’m glad you brought that up because, when I said it’s not easy, I would say that’s probably the most common thing that we have to deal with still in today’s world, even with all of our careful explanations, is the panic or the fear that exists once the hygienists are earning more, a tactical mistake is often that the doctors make a change, or it’s often up to the doctors, it’s the office managers that say, “Uh-Uh, that’s not fair, they can’t be paid that much extra whatever.” We run into that a lot. So, we have to be very, very careful how we position that and how we explain it. So, yeah, it’s a common challenge. But the way we structure it, the practice is winning when the hygienists are earning that incentive.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, I didn’t even think about that.

Wendy Briggs:
Patients too.

Ryan Issac:
Yeah, totally, I didn’t even think about that when you position a poorly planned bonus or comp structure and then you’re pitting different sections of the team against each other, having to monitor or control or that, it’s kind of chaos.

Wendy Briggs:
It can be, right? So we want for all team members to be able to earn a bigger future, and that’s part of our process and part of what we bring to the table. Certainly.

Ryan Issac:
A quick question here, we can wrap up on this since it’s very topical, is you talked about the shortage of hygienists, the high wages, what seems like un-sustainability of wages right now. What’s going on right now? Where is this… Everyone probably ask you this, where is it headed? What can people do when there’s high wages, demanded shortages of people, competition between jobs, people leaving jobs, what can be done right now and maybe plan ahead for where this is going?

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, I would say the thing that we often lose sight of in times of crisis is our culture, our core values and what’s important to us as a team, I can tell you the practices that have a solid culture are not the ones looking for a team, they have people lining up at the door to work there, right? And so if you have a toxic culture, a culture of un-appreciation, over expectations, if you’re… And that’s why I think some corporate brands get such a bad name is because they feel like they overwork, underpay, under-appreciate, those are the places that are gonna have real stress when times get tough like this. What I’m seeing as far as market adjustment is I’m seeing more and more practices shift towards an assistant model. Assisted is very, very different than accelerated as a hygiene provider myself, I love an assisted model when it’s done well, when it’s done right. And that’s something that we do do. We do teach that. So I think that’s something that practices are having to do to accommodate for the shortage is shift models, because again, putting an ad in isn’t… The typical ads of years gone by saying, “Hey, here’s what we’re looking for in a hygienist,” they aren’t working.

Wendy Briggs:
If you’re looking to hire, or need to attract someone, what you should be doing is painting them a picture of why you’re the perfect team for them to join, what’s so great about being on your team and why should everyone want to join the journey? And people often want to be a part of something larger than themselves, so we’ve got to communicate that at a very high level to patients, future team members themselves, they wanna have purpose.

Ryan Issac:
Vision.

Wendy Briggs:
Plan what they’re doing. And communicating that vision, which is why I say culture and core values are almost right next to one another. They line up and it’s so important. So I think that that sometimes in times of crisis, we lose sight of that. And if you’re in a tough, tough market and you can’t attract or you’re having difficulty attracting, a lot of times we are able to help tweak and add or tweak your offer in just a few ways. And we get messages from doctors, “Hey, I tweaked it, and I’ve got three interviews lined up for Monday.” So there’s things that can be done. I just think approaching, hiring and developing team members today the same way we did 10 years ago, it just doesn’t work, we’ve gotta adjust.

Wendy Briggs:
Darwin said it best, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, it’s the one that’s the most adaptable to change.” So the market place has changed, and we’ve gotta be willing to adapt and to change right along with it. Certainly, we teach a program called The 8 Cs of Hiring a Developing the World-Class Team. We actually have a book on Amazon about that. So hiring and developing a world class team goes hand-in-hand with building a successful practice, so you’ve got to have some of those systems in place. And I would say also one of the core mistakes that Dentists make is not onboarding well. If you think about it from a hygiene perspective, it’s often, “Here’s your room, here’s your instruments, here’s your schedule, go,” and there’s very little conversation about, “Okay, doctor, what dentistry do you enjoy doing, what is your vision, where do you want this practice to be in five years, how can I help you? How do you want your patients to be served? What’s important to you?” So onboarding and developing team is just as important as the hiring side, and it doesn’t get very much attention in our profession at all.

Ryan Issac:
I was gonna say it’d probably get skipped a lot. Just on this topic, for the doctor and the hygienist, is the nature of the role of hygiene and practice, do you see… I guess everything’s always changing, but with the industry consolidating a lot, a big percentage of practice is moving towards group and more corporate buyouts are happening, and is that gonna change the nature of the role of a hygienist in the practice, either from their perspective or the doctor’s perspective?

Wendy Briggs:
Well, I don’t know how much outside influence has had on changing the nature of the hygienist, but man, I’ll tell you what, in my opinion, it’s changed. In years gone by, we were kind of thought of as the cleaning ladies and practices who really get it, help their hygienists maximize what I call the three roles for a world class provider, and that is preventive therapist, periodontal therapist, and patient treatment advocates, so we become partners with the doctor in treatment planning, case acceptance, presentation, preheating the patient for the doctor, all of those things are really important elements in what we bring to a practice and help drive success, a higher rated success in that area, so whether or not the market has shifted to that. We’ve been teaching that for more than 10 years, I think the need in our profession is greater now than ever. Hygienists often want to be challenged. There’s a high level of burnout in our profession with dentists and hygienists are like and I think that stems from not feeling challenged.

Wendy Briggs:
So we’ve gotta be challenging ourselves and continue to grow, and I guess being willing and available to step up when our patients need it from us, but we also have to have the environment where we feel like we can step up, and we’re not gonna get our hand slapped or we’re not gonna be dealing with a drama triangle or, somebody getting angry, right? I used to have a doctor who would get angry when I out-produced him and I’m like, Literally.

Ryan Issac: [chuckle] Why?

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, I don’t get it. I work for you.

Ryan Issac:
This is your money. [chuckle]

Wendy Briggs:
Yes, so having the right mindset. We talk a lot about mindset, skill set, tool set, and hygienists that are in high demand, or a hygienist who get it, hygienist who can do it, and a hygienist who will do it, if you have those three aspects, you’re gonna be successful and go far, provided that you find the right environment for you to thrive. And we help the doctors and teams know how to create that environment to really maximize all of their team, not just their providers, but we do talk a lot about hygienists. I had somebody tell me one time, we put hygienists on a pedestal, and I’m like, “No, you don’t understand. That’s our mission in life is to develop hygienists into world class providers.” So we do focus a lot on that because you we often talk about doctors and associate production, but our unique skill and ability is to really develop those hygiene providers into world class providers.

Ryan Issac:
So cool, I love this whole concept of culture and environment and painting a picture of vision that everyone can latch on to and everyone knows how to contribute and why to contribute and feels excited about the fulfillment and the purpose of that mission collectively is so hard to do in a business. It’s so hard to do.

Wendy Briggs:
It absolutely is. And I would say too, Ryan, in dentistry, that’s kind of… In my opinion, in my experience, a lot of times practices don’t spend time there because it’s kind of like a warm fuzzy, it’s difficult, it’s not as [0:36:57.4] ____ to get a measurable ROI, and so our strategy is a little bit different, we’ll come in and we’ll provide that, immediate ROI on the clinical side, so the practice can relax a little bit. They’ve got cash flow, to do whatever they need to do. If they need to grow, they need to market, if they need to update technology, if they need to make better investments for their retirement, whatever they need to do, they can relax a little bit and then focus on, “Okay, we’ve got productivity up, we’ve got our system firing on high cylinders in all those areas, and now we can focus on, okay, how can we build this practice so that those images are sustainable in the long-term,” and that’s where core values, and vision and all of that comes in.

Ryan Issac:
Love it. How do people find you? What’s the easiest place to reach out and learn a few… You guys have books and courses and trainings, and podcasts, there’s so many things, where is the best place to start with all this stuff?

Wendy Briggs:
We do. Certainly, you can go to our website, either Hygiene Diamonds or theteamtraininginstitue.com, and there’s a couple of books that we actually will share for free, we just ask that you pay shipping, so there’s a couple of those book offers, if you wanna learn about us, that’s a great place to go, we have our biggest event of the year coming up at the end of April. So those that are listening to this in a timely manner can go to Champions of Dentistry and find out how to join us there.

Ryan Issac:
Cool, so it’s a big annual summit that you put on?

Wendy Briggs:
Yeah, it’s our 18th annual year in Orlando this year is all things patient experience, unlocking the magic in your practice. And our summits are a little bit unique, they’re not typical CE events where it’s listening to how to get those perfect margins, this is all focused on practice, growth, and doctors that are trying to grow an enterprise and all of those things, this is where the key leaders of their organization go for continued light knowledge to continue that forward momentum.

Ryan Issac:
Sounds fun. I bet they’re fun. 18 years you guys, you’ve nailed it. I bet you know how to do that it. Wendy thanks for sharing some time with us, I appreciate it. Thanks for coming back, it’s been too long, so, we’ll have to do this again in the future, but thank you very much. This has been very helpful.

Wendy Briggs:
My pleasure. Thanks for having me Ryan.

Ryan Issac:
Very much, yep. And thanks everyone for listening and tuning in. We’ll catch you next time on another episode with Dentist Money Show. Take care now, bye-bye.

Practice Management

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