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Could Increasing Speed and Patient Count Hurt Your Production? – Episode 141

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What’s the relationship between patient volume and practice growth? In this episode of Dentist Money™ Reese interviews Dr. Bruce Baird, practicing dentist and Founder and President of the Productive Dentist Academy. If you think being more productive means increasing your speed and adding more patients, you need to hear Dr. Baird’s practical advice. He’s helped thousands of dentists improve their productivity—and they’ve done it while working fewer hours. Listen as Reese gets Dr. Baird to share his recipe for increasing collections without working yourself into the ground.

Podcast Transcript:

Reese Harper: Welcome to the Dentist Money™ Show, where we help dentists make smart financial decisions. I’m your host, Reese Harper, with Dr. Bruce Baird. Welcome to the show, Bruce!

Dr. Bruce Baird: Hey, thank you! I am really excited.

Reese Harper: Yeah man, you have a really unique background to be able to address both the life of a dentist and how difficult and challenging that can be sometimes, and how rewarding it can be, as well as the owner of a variety of companies in the coaching and consulting industry relating to dentists. I am just really excited for this, man!

Dr. Bruce Baird: I appreciate it. Yeah, you know, one of the fun things for me being a dentist has always been finding things that dentists need. And when I need something, I try to create something that would be helpful, and then we move it through the entire industry. So, it has been fun. Somebody told me years ago, if you want to be successful, be really really good at what you do, and then help other people be successful. So that has kind of been my mantra over the last 35 years.

Reese Harper: Where are you doing the call from this morning? Are you in Texas this morning, or where are you at?

Dr. Bruce Baird: I am actually in Texas on the 21st floor of the Omni Hotel. I am here for a meeting, and I am looking out over downtown Dallas!

Reese Harper: It is warm right now!

Dr. Bruce Baird: 109 degrees yesterday with about 50%-60% humidity, so… yeah. It is typical Texas July and August, so it is perfect.

Reese Harper: Thanks for being willing to deal with that and survive so we can have a beautiful city. We need people there in order to enjoy it in the off-July months (laughs).

Dr. Bruce Baird: Yep, you got it.

Reese Harper: So let’s talk about— I kind of had a few questions that I thought would really be helpful today for our listeners. I want to talk a little bit about the dental technology you have invented and how that came about; I do want to talk about your consulting role, and I want to talk a little bit about your background, moving from practice to being more of an industry leader. I guess I want to hit a lot of different topics, but I want to start by one that I think is really going to be applicable to dentists and focus on them as much as we can, which is, what do you think, in your experience, is the main thing that prevents dentists from really being as successful as they can be in achieving their highest level of financial success?

Dr. Bruce Baird: I mean, that is a great question. It is the same thing that prevents people from being successful and great in any business, you know? A lot of times, people focus on a lot of the negatives, and they don’t focus on the positive. Truthfully, it takes hard work; it takes dedication; it takes commitment; it takes some personal sacrifice if you want to be massively successful. And I think the thing that holds people up is they kind of (laughs) hem and haw around, and they say, “well, I’d like to have a great office, but…” you know? And, “I’d like to do this, but…” That is human nature in many places, but when I look at successful dentists, successful business people, they are people who don’t say “but” a lot, you know? They actually get out and do it, and they will have more failures than most people will ever have successes, and they learn from it, and they keep growing at their business. I have certainly had plenty of failures, but I look at that as— you know, without those, you don’t really get the experience that you need to be able to keep moving forward and to grow whatever kind of business it is, whether it is a dental practice, whether it is a consulting company, whether it is a finance company, whatever it is. So, those are the things that I see.

Reese Harper: So you would say it has to do with persistence to some degree? It has to do with an attitude that some people carry?

Dr. Bruce Baird: That is exactly it. I mean, I am down with a bunch of successful dentists at this meeting that I am at now, and you just know who is successful, you know? They are excited; they wear it on their sleeve; they are excited about what they do; they don’t have all the answers, but they are trying to get in to get the answers that they need, and they are just constantly seeking continual improvement. That is the thing that I see with successful dentists, and we have worked with a ton of dentists over the years, and I am not going to say that I can talk to somebody in two minutes and tell you who is going to be successful, but I will tell you what, it is not that far from the truth. You can visit with somebody and go, “man. This kid is a go-getter.” And so, you have to get off your butt and do what you want to do and learn, and I think that that is a big thing.

Reese Harper: So, did you grow up in Texas, or where did you grow up?

Dr. Bruce Baird: I did. I grew up about 60 miles from here, west of here in a small town called Mineral Wells, a population of about 20,000. I practice now in a town Granbury which is about 6,000 people, but you know, our average new patient comes about 60-70 miles to our office.

Reese Harper: In order to publish books like you have, in order to be a lecturer, an honor fellow, in order to come up with revolutionary dental technology and own a finance company, a consulting company, I mean, you have had to go through this thing you are describing: the persistence, the failure… I mean, doing, to some degree, a similar level of overcoming challenges in my own life, I just know what it takes to have success, and there is a lot of failure you have to go through to get there, but was there something in your past that you felt like really conditioned you growing up or throughout your childhood or in your early years, or was it something that you felt like you had a normal life just like everyone else?

Dr. Bruce Baird: Well, I grew up son of a Marine aviator, so you know, “it’s my way or the highway.” I learned that early on, and it served me well until— I always joke that God has a sense of humor, because he gave me four daughters, and so I had to learn to speak a whole new language, and that helped me to be able to communicate better. Because I was not a really good boss when I first started; it was more the marine mentality. Which there is nothing wrong with it, don’t get me wrong, but I had to learn to compromise. When I would go, “alright girls, this is the way we’re gonna do it,” and they would start crying, I would go, “no, baby doll! I didn’t mean it like that.” I had to learn to speak differently, you know? And so that helped me. And I think the work ethic was a natural for me growing up in the environment I did. My dad— we didn’t have a lot— he lost his job about three months before I graduated from high school and said, “good luck!” And I was like, “okay!” And so, (laughs), you know.

Reese Harper: So you had an opportunity to have some of that conditioned in you. I guess that is kind of one of the things— it is not an uncommon thing for people to say that persistence and overcoming adversity is a huge part of being successful. I think what is challenging sometimes is if the first time you have ever had to address that is the first time your collections declines… but you think about it, and some people, it hits them in school. Sometimes school is the first time there is significant adversity in their life, but it seems like some people never quite get there, where there is just not enough… and I don’t know how to help people on the other side of that saying, “you know, I don’t know if I’m that resilient,” or “I don’t know if I’m pushing through adversity. Maybe I do give up easily. Maybe I’m falling short and not pushing hard enough.” What advice would you have for people who are trying to develop those characteristics?

Dr. Bruce Baird: Well I think discipline is a big part of it. I mean, you have to be disciplined. Bottom line is, I don’t think most people want to be average, you know? I think people would like to be at the top of their game and everything else, but they are not willing to put the effort forward to do that. But I think— my goal when I first opened my practice 35 years ago was, I would like to have a model practice. What is a model practice? I had no idea 35 years ago, and I’m still not sure I know, but I have always been working to have that type of practice where great team, great service mix, great— it is really easy to look at someone who has been doing something for 35 years and go, “well, I could never do that.” Well, you know, the truth is, I could never have done it if I was just looking 35 years in the future, but it is each day, each month, and you just get better every month. And you are going to make little wins, little gains, you are going to win some battles, you are going to lose a few. When you lose, you take that, and you learn, “how am I going to be better at doing this or that? My collections suck, my—” You know, one of the things in our office, which is kind of interesting, and I always internalize what I see with numbers, and so let’s say production goes down and collections are going down. It would be easy for me to go start talking to the people who do collections and say, “come on, guys! We need to produce more. We need to do that.” I don’t do that. What I do is I look and I go, “who were the new patients that I saw the last two weeks? Do I know their names? Do I really know who they are?” In other words, is this about relationships? It is not about the money, because the money always takes care of itself, so it is always about taking great care of the patients. And you know, I fall into it just like everybody else! “I don’t even know who I saw last week! New patients? Yeah, they were new, but I couldn’t tell you their name or anything about them.” That is when I refocus and say, “you know, could I enjoy sitting in with people, and learning what they’ve got going on, and helping them make decisions on what they’re gonna do with their mouth?” And if I get a little lackadaisical, then production goes down! And so those are things that I look at and say, “you know? It’s me.” People always say, “well we always have bad Julys,” you know, or “December is always a slow month for us.” And I go, “you know what? July is not a bad month, it is just, I want to do other stuff! I’m not focused in July. Maybe December, I’m thinking about holidays, and I’m just not focused.” So, I don’t think there is any bad month or bad day. Now, if I was in an area where I had snowbirds coming in and out, yes, there is going to be cyclical behavior with the patients, but the truth is, most of us don’t have that. And it usually has to do with our focus.

Reese Harper: When was the first time you hired a consultant, or did you just start Productive Dentist Academy never having hired anyone? (laughs)

Dr. Bruce Baird: No, I had nine different consultants. I always—

Reese Harper: See, and that’s the thing, though. I want to highlight that, because I don’t think that that is a typical— the average dentist will not make that choice. The average dentist, or the average person, in my experience— the average team member, the average employee, the average dentist, the average person— they will resist having that status quo questioned. They will resist having their own life put under a microscope. It is not comfortable, you know? You had to get uncomfortable to have nine consultants! I mean, you are getting beat up nine times (laughs), you know?

Dr. Bruce Baird: That is exactly right. You know, I always wanted to look at it, or another set of eyes. I would say, “I want someone else to tell me what they think.” Now that doesn’t mean I followed everything they said, but they all brought something different to the table.

Reese Harper: Not all of it was 100% valuable, right? But I mean, there was some nugget in each of those interactions that was really helpful!

Dr. Bruce Baird: Massively massively helpful. And yeah, you are spending money doing it, but the truth is, if you are doing— oh, the average dentist is doing $400 an hour, but if all of a sudden you are doing 1,000 an hour, you will pay for it pretty quick (laughs), no matter what it is. So, you know. From a productivity standpoint, that is really the thing that— if I am going to be there, I want to be busy, and I want to be productive, and I want to take care of people, so that has always been my focus. And the productivity part is always taken care of by the relationships, and that is just part of the deal. I would say it is exciting, you know? It is exciting when you can start to communicate with people who you weren’t able to communicate with before, and it opens up a lot of opportunities. It opens up doors. And it really comes down to, it is all about the relationships, you know? It is all about enjoying what you do. When I am lecturing, I talk about, you know, be happy! Enjoy. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, then change! You have to get to that point, because we are only on the planet for a short period of time, and you might as well have a really a lot of fun. And while you are at it, be productive, you know? And be successful financially, be successful being able to communicate with family friends and all of that. So, and I was not very good at it when I first started out, no question. I had the work ethic, and I had all those things, but I was beating my head against the wall. And the more consultants I had come in, the more I learned. And I made little changes here and there, and that is where we are.

Reese Harper: Well, I don’t mean to put your— I used that as an analogy with you and the girls, obviously—

Dr. Bruce Baird: Oh, I used it too (laughs).

Reese Harper: I just feel like it is really fun to experience that transformative change in whatever area of your life you are trying to experience that in, and sometimes that requires an outside consultant, which leads me to kind of me next set of questions here. I am curious about your experience in the Productive Dentist Academy and what you have learned there. What I would say is, let’s pretend I am a dentist that is five to seven years in. I feel like I have gotten established fairly well; I am not losing money. Maybe I am not the self-starter hyper growth person that is looking for my fourth consultant. I am kind of at the point where I am trying to decide, “do I even need this stuff? I mean, I am going to have to spend 50 grand on this, or it’s going to cost me ten grand a month for a while, or five grand for a while… like, I don’t know what I’m going to spend, but it is gonna be expensive.” I want to know from your perspective, if you were just talking to me for the first time and I said, “what’s wrong with my practice, Bruce? What should I do?” What would you need from me, and how would you start diagnosing it, you know? What would you want to look at? If you just didn’t know anything and you had to start getting information.

Dr. Bruce Baird: That is a very very good question, and it is something that, when we go in— you know, there are consultants out there who almost have a cookie-cutter approach. They are like, “this is how we do things, this is how we do things.” But one of the things when I started Productive Dentist Academy I guess almost fifteen years ago, it was about— I would have a coach come in, and it would be maybe a former hygienist, or a former office manager, or whatever it was who was my consultant, and I always felt like, “you know, but you don’t know what’s going on here… but you don’t know what’s going on there…” You know, they have experience in this cookie-cutter approach, and I really wanted it to be more like a football team, meaning you have a head coach, you have a quarterback coach, you have a wide receiver coach, you have a defensive back coach, whatever it is. And so, that is really the way we built our consulting was— you know, we have a head coach, so you do work with one consultant, but if I am looking at your practice, everybody’s practice is different, and so everybody really deserves a different solution, you know? And so we would look at it and we would say— you know, and it starts with productivity, in my opinion…

Reese Harper: Doctor productivity?

Dr. Bruce Baird: Yeah, doctor productivity. I mean, most of our issues, really, (laughs) oh, I hear it all the time. “Oh, my team does this,” or “my staff does this.” But the truth is, it is right between our ears. It is the doc, and we are the leaders, and we have to become a leader. My team, if you come into my office, you will notice that, oh my gosh! They know what they are doing. I don’t do a lot. I don’t have to pack cord; I don’t have to make temps. I don’t do that stuff, because they are better at it than I am! They do it every day, and why would I want to do it? Because I can do it better? No. I want them to enjoy what they are doing and feel like they are a valuable asset. But it really does come down to productivity. And if a doc is doing 300 an hour or 350 an hour and I can get him to 500 an hour or 600 an hour, all of a sudden, that is an extra half million dollars a year. Now I bring in different coaches; I bring in different people. I begin to evaluate my business differently, because now I feel like, “man, I am really getting successful at this!”

Reese Harper: Well I want to keep going on these topics, but let’s pause real quick on productivity. You just said you can go from 300-500, or 350-600. What typically has to happen for someone to increase productivity? What are the main gaps that you find?

Dr. Bruce Baird: It is communication skills, it really is. When I say that, you know, do you have to work faster? The truth is, all of us could do a thousand an hour. I mean, all of us could do two thousand an hour. We just need more patients, and we need more people to say yes to our treatment, so you need to have those options. But you know, when I am sitting and talking to a patient, I am not really asking them about their teeth, I want to know about them. You know, where did you grow up? I go through a whole process; I call it linking. For every link, there is something we have in common. Whether, “hey, I notice you live on Pebble Beach Drive over by so-and-so. Do you play golf?” “Oh yeah! I play at Harbor Lakes.” “Oh great!” And we start talking about stuff like that. And obviously not if they are swollen and came in on an emergency exam, but I am talking about the new patient, and the new patient, I sit down, and I find out where they grew up, and we find common ground doing that. And I try to build a chain that can be broken. Three links is my minimum; I want to have three links to a chain that can’t be broken. And when you do that, all of a sudden, you have somebody— I’m saying, instead of Mr. Wilson, it is, “Bob, so how can I help you?” Where as I used to walk into the operatory and go, “Hi! Bruce Baird, how can I help you?” Well, it is a whole different animal, and you are missing a whole lot of opportunities. I am really not talking about teeth when I first start out. So increasing productivity has more to do with relationships and being comfortable. If you trust somebody, you are going to follow their advice. If you are not sure, you don’t! And so, it is really not about how fast you cut a crown prep. Everybody thinks productive dentist means you have to cut a crown faster, or a thirty-second crown prep… that is bull! (laughs) most dentists, I mean, yeah, you can cut a crown! How long does it take? I don’t know, ten minutes? I mean, if you have a bur turning at 300,000-400,000 RPMs, you can’t be on there very long, you know? And so if you are doing it, it is not about speed. It is about relationships; it is about visiting with patients.

Reese Harper: I think that is a misunderstanding. Do you think that some dentists assume that productivity is based on speed? Is that why you are saying that to some level?

Dr. Bruce Baird: Yep. 100%. Yeah, people say, “well I’ve gotta work faster. I’ve gotta see more people. I’ve gotta do this.”

Reese Harper: “I’ve gotta get my hand speed up.”

Dr. Bruce Baird: Yeah! It is not— I mean our docs, as a matter of fact, I mean, most of the docs that we work with, they are working four-and-a-half days, they are busting their butt all day long, and they run behind all day… they work through lunch, they work late in the day, and they are doing $305 an hour! What I want to do is I want to be off twenty minutes before my lunch hour, and I want to get off at five o’clock every day that I work, and I don’t want to work late. And I produce, you know, over 3,000 an hour. But I don’t run late, and my patients aren’t waiting in the waiting room, and my hygienists aren’t waiting for me. And it is all part of how we schedule; we schedule for productivity, not for time, and that is a whole nother conversation, for sure.

Reese Harper: Well, let’s go to subject two. So we have kind of talked about communication skills to develop a relationship that allows you to be able to essentially recommend dentistry that is appropriate for a patient and have high case acceptance.

Dr. Bruce Baird: Absolutely.

Reese Harper: I mean, it is all about communication. Plan two, though, sometimes our service mix is not going to allow us to push our production hire. Let’s talk about that a little bit. I am getting a sense that that is a huge part of what you are— you know, maybe the second area that you would look at once you get past communication skills.
Dr. Bruce Baird: Yeah, the thing that I look at is, you know, service mix is a big thing. I mean, do what you enjoy doing. You can do buckle pits, and if you found a way to market it, you would be the expert on buckle pits, and you would probably be pretty darn productive. But I tell people, I could be the Diagno dentist and little Johnny doesn’t have to have any anesthetic because we use a little laser to find out if you have decay. I mean, there are ways of marketing whatever it is you want to do. But the truth is— I mean, when I first got out, I spent four years in the military as a dentist and then got out, and then I opened up my private practice, but I was constantly wanting to learn new stuff, and you know, I think you don’t have to go through all the programs, do everything in the first year, but set up a game plan! Set up a game plan for education. Go do things you want to do or think you might want to do, and learn it! You may say, “oh, that’s not for me.” That’s okay! You are getting better. You only see what you know in the mouth, you know? It’s funny. You look in there, and if you don’t know how to do connective tissue grafts, then you are not going to ever see recession as something that can be treated, you are just going to go, “okay, we can put a facial composite in there,” or whatever. And every time I go to a course, I leave that course hopefully never looking at the mouth the same way again. So it is always increasing my view of the mouth, and all of a sudden, now I’m saying, “you know? We can do this! We can help you there. We can do a crown like that. We can do—” you know, all of us know how to do fillings and crowns, but it is more about the service mix. It is an additional bonus for you, no question.

Reese Harper: So a lot of people, I guess from the outside— I mean, I want to know how you view this, because from a patient’s perspective, on one hand, you have a dentist that is producing let’s say 2,000 an hour to somebody that is incredibly efficient like you producing more, but then you have people producing 200-300, and I know a lot of patients say—you know, they almost take it as a badge of honor that their dentist doesn’t always tell them they have work to do. They like going in and not hearing anything. It’s like, “well, he doesn’t over-diagnose me. He doesn’t tell me I get a lot of cavities.” And a lot of it is really subjective, because it is like, well, why does one guy produce 2,000 an hour and someone else produces 300 an hour? It is the same people! I mean, it is kind of the same people, but it is not— you are attracting implants differently than someone who doesn’t even do them, but I am just saying, we are still dealing with average— I am assuming your practice isn’t composed of the billionaires that are around the country, right? I mean, this is a community practice that just produces a lot of dentistry! I mean, that is the patient psychology, it is the same people… I mean, are you just selling a lot of dentistry that you don’t need to sell, and someone else isn’t? Explain that, because I think that is a psychological gap, right?

Dr. Bruce Baird: It is a big deal, yeah. You know, the bottom line is, I look in the mouth, and what I tell people— I do this every single exam—after I link and after I get to know them, I will say, “you know, I can have ten of my buddies come in here and we will give you fifteen opinions. I mean, there is no black and white here. So what my recommendation is, what I like to do is look in the mouth and I’ll just kind of tell you if I was in this situation what I would do if it was me. And then if we need to make a change, there’s always options.” And I have never had a patient say, “no, I really don’t want you to do that.” They all say, “yeah! I want—” because you are building that relationship, they go, “yeah! I really wanna know, doc. I wanna know what you would do!” And being in a relationship is about having crucial conversations, you know? It is about telling somebody, “this is what’s happening! You’ve got decay issues.” I go through John Kois’ risk factors every time I do an exam. I have added a couple of risk factors of my own, but it the bottom line is, I am up front. By building a relationship, I have the opportunity to tell people exactly what I believe and what I would do in my own mouth. And when I do that, people don’t ever say, “oh, well you know, you’re just trying to—” they just don’t do that. Now, if I run in there in two seconds and go, “hey, how are you? Yeah, you need five fillings and six crowns. Alright, good. You got any questions? No? Bye.” Then yeah, they are going to go, “this guy is a jerk,” or “he’s just trying to make money.” No one ever looks at it that way.

Reese Harper: But these are real relationships. They are real relationships, and you are just presenting the optimal solution for these relationships, and it is up to them to decide, but ultimately, that is what you are presenting is the optimal solution.

Dr. Bruce Baird: I am going to present that because that is what I would want somebody to do for me. If I go in, I am coming in here to find out what is wrong. I don’t want my heart specialist to go, “ah, Bruce, why don’t we just watch that valve. It is regurgitating a little, but let’s just keep an eye on it for a couple of years and see how you’re doing. Yeah, your blood pressure is a little high, but it’s not that high.” I don’t want that, you know?

Reese Harper: (laughs) you don’t want a yes man, you know? You want someone to shoot you straight.

Dr. Bruce Baird: And that happens in hygiene a lot. You have a patient who is three months late for their recall and they go, “oh, your mouth’s not looking that bad!” Well to me, that means I am on nine-month recall! If it’s not that bad, well, to hell! Let’s do twelve months recall. I am going to wait for a year next time and see if you say it looks good. So, it is just being honest with people, and being up front. There is so much dentistry to be done; you don’t have to make up anything anymore. I mean, if you are marketing– market for train wrecks; I market for people who need dentistry, and that is why I am more productive. Because I have people that walk in who are a train wreck! They have decay, and cavities, and everything else. Now, I don’t look at a new patient as a new family that moved in town with four kids; that is not my kind of practice. Now, is that a bad practice? Absolutely not. I mean, you can be very successful doing whatever it is. I just chose, because of my service mix— I mean, if you are doing implants, and doing reconstruction stuff, you don’t need to see 22-year-olds, you know? It is just who you market to and how you market, and those are important things.

Reese Harper: Well, tell me of the top requests that you get at the academy for help. What are kind of the top areas that you think come in? This is my pain, what is it? Kind of list those.

Dr. Bruce Baird: Uh, high stress. You know, I’m stressed out, I’m not making— I’m doing okay financially, but I’m just stress. I run behind—

Reese Harper: Yeah, when they mean stressed, what are they talking about? Is it their schedule? What is stressful?

Dr. Bruce Baird: It is scheduling, it is team… you know, “my team doesn’t understand. They’re not on board.” They come to the seminar, and they go, “well I only brought three team members. The other ones, I’m not sure if I’m keeping them.” You know, I only work with people— now I can’t say this was the way it started 35 years ago— but the people who are there today are the people I want to be there, and they want to be there. We enjoy working together; we have fun. But the stress usually circles around the schedule. They are not producing much, but they are seeing patients all day long, and they are running behind, and their hygienists are waiting, and that leads to complaints from patients. You know, “I have to wait 30 minutes.” I run on time 95% of the time. Why? Because of the way we schedule. So, we work with docs—I mean, if you can be productive and have less stress, you have hit it, you know? I mean, you are going to hit a home run. That is really what we work on. And what we find is, to set a doc’s work in four and a half days a week, now they are working three, and they are doing more dentistry in three days than they used to do in four and a half. And when I say doing more, they are doing 50% more in three and a half days. I have been working two days a week producing more than I used to do in five days for the last fourteen years. And so, you have choices, and it is very low stress. You know, yeah, you are going to have stress when you have a patient who has a problem or that kind of stuff; that is inherent in what we do. But the truth is, if day to day to day you can decrease your stress and increase your productivity, it solves a lot of issues.

Reese Harper: Where do the bulk of your clients end up coming from, in terms of around the country?

Dr. Bruce Baird: That is an interesting question, because we have people who are in their 60s like me, and we have people who are in dental school and coming to our productivity courses. So it is really a broad range. Some of the dentists are in their 60s; they have not been productive; they finally say, “good grief. I am going to have to retire, and I don’t have the money that I really should have put aside. How can I increase my production?” We work with them. Or young dentists, who obviously don’t have a lot of bad habits; those are fun to work with, because you can get them working and being more productive within three months or six months. Instead of doing 200 an hour or 250 an hour, now all of the sudden, we work with their marketing, and we get their marketing mix correct of what they like to do, and all of sudden they are doing 500 or 600 or 700 an hour. And the difference between 700 and 300, like I say, is like $600,000- $700,000 dollars a year. That can solve some issues, for sure.

Reese Harper: Where is the headquarters of Productive Dentist Academy?

Dr. Bruce Baird: We are located up in Anacortes, Washington. Up in the San Juan Islands.

Reese Harper: Yeah, I was going to say, it is clear up in Northwest Washington (laughs).

Dr. Bruce Baird: Yeah, it is.

Reese Harper: My initial question was just like, how did we end up there? Like, why not Seattle at least, or something?

Dr. Bruce Baird: I know. My partner with PDA, I started it about 3 years in. I had Vicki McManus. She was one of my coaches, and she was a hygiene coach for me, and I said, “Vicki, why don’t you come to this course? What I’m teaching, I’d like for you to hear it and see what you think.” And she came, and she was like, “man, I love this stuff!” And I said—well, you know, all I was doing was working with dentists. I didn’t have team members or anything else coming to the program, because I really wanted to change the dentists’ thought process. But the dentists were saying, “man, I really would like to have my team come to this, or hear this,” and so I said, “Vick, if you can do a program for the team and work with me, let’s just be partners.” And so the next year we shook hands, and she has been the managing partner. She kind of runs the day-to-day operations, from the coaching, from the seminar business, from the—we have an entire marketing department that has like 40 employees. She runs the day-to-day operations, and she lives in Anacortes, and it is a great place to work.

Reese Harper: Yeah, that is where she was living, I was assuming. It is beautiful, you know? So…

Dr. Bruce Baird: It is amazing. I like to go up there in July and August, because that is when the sun is shining, and it is perfect weather. And other than that, I am not going to go (laughs).

Reese Harper: (laughs) yeah, exactly. That is a good time to get out of Dallas, too.

Dr. Bruce Baird: Good Lord, it is (laughs).

Reese Harper: So, the bulk of your clients, do they end up— geographically, is it just really spread out and pretty even across, you know, just a reflection of the population, or is it concentrated in places where you guys are marketing more?

Dr. Bruce Baird: You know, what is interesting is we have been doing the seminar— we have done a few in outlying areas– but we do the seminars, three or four a year, and we do them hear in Dallas—Fort Worth. And it is close for people to come to for pretty much anywhere, you know, big hub. So we have clients from Alaska to Florida, and from Maine to Southern California. There are some pockets where— you know, we have a lot from Texas. They will tell their friends, “hey man, you’ve gotta go to this,” and so you start seeing a group from an area, but we are all across the country. We have had docs from seventeen different countries come to the program, from New Zealand, from Australia, from the UAE, to France, Britain, you know, Bermuda (laughs), so it is a broad spectrum. And everybody has different things going on with their business. It is not common just to put everybody in one box and say, “oh yeah, this is the way we do things.” We look at it, we evaluate it, and we say, “these are some things that you could think about to help you.”

Reese Harper: So, what I am understanding, though, from your service model: you have seminars, you have private coaching, and you have marketing. That is what I understand. Is that kind of the mix of products that you guys interact with dentists with?

Dr. Bruce Baird: Yeah, it really is. We always kind of jokingly say we are member-built and driven, because we never intended to do coaching until people continually asked for it, and then we said, “okay, we’re going to do it.”

Reese Harper: Because you were just doing seminars primarily, right?

Dr. Bruce Baird: Yeah. We were doing seminars, and then we started doing the coaching. We had a real robust online programming, but they wanted us to come in office, and so we began developing that. And we believe in a budget; we help the business run like a real business. And so, what would be interesting is, we would tell people they have a budget of x amount of dollars per month based upon their collections to market. And so, we would send them to our buddies that are out there in the marketing arena, and they would upsell them to $100,000 marketing plan, and we would go, “dude! Don’t be dickheads. We’ve got them on a budget!” So we decided, because people said, “well, can’t you do this?” and “can’t you do that?” And so we began about six years ago or so— I can’t remember exactly— but we started with marketing. When we started out, we just did websites. And then, we started doing everything, and so now, we are kind of a full-service agency that can go top to bottom. And we work within a budget; we don’t allow you to spend more than what is in your budget, so… (laughs)

Reese Harper: So let’s say I am collecting a million bucks a year. What is a reasonable marketing budget for me, in your opinion?

Dr. Bruce Baird: 8%. That is what we recommend.

Reese Harper: Okay. And what is included in my marketing budget? What types of things should be in there? Does it include practice management consulting?

Dr. Bruce Baird: You know, we will take three of the 8% and begin using that as part of your overall budget for marketing, but when you get to 8%, you are hitting on all cylinders. Most dentists market at 0.5% or 1%.

Reese Harper: Or no percent (laughs).

Dr. Bruce Baird: Yeah, or nothing! Or they just sign up for a million PPOs and hope that that is where their new patients come from, but they are taking a 40% discount. But to give you a really interesting example, the average person who comes to PDA is marketing at about 1.4%, so their team overhead is averaging about 27.8%. If you combine those two, you are talking about 29.2%. 29.2% is the average combined overhead of those two items. In our office, we market at 8%, but we have a 17.5% team overhead. Now, how do you end up with 17.5% team overhead? You produce more! And so by marketing, we are bringing patients in who need dentistry to increase our productivity, and if you look at our combined, we are at 25.5%, compared to the average dentist who comes to PDA at 29.2, and we are crushing you. If I am in the same town, we will crush you! Because everybody knows where Granbury Dental Center in in Granbury, Texas, because we market! And the more we market, it drives down other costs. Our overhead actually goes down. How does that happen? Well, the cost of my building went down as a percentage of overhead. Any fixed costs drop. And I think most people don’t even realize that that is what marketing does. And, you know, if you were in any other business, you are going to spend a whole lot more than 1.5% to grow a business. So that is really what we do, and what we look at.

Reese Harper: So, this is really important, because I think sometimes when you look at a practice out of the gate, if you say you should do some coaching and consulting but not marketing, or do you always like to see marketing in conjunction with coaching and consulting?

Dr. Bruce Baird: You know, we will look at it; some people are already doing some marketing. We will begin first by increasing productivity on the people that you have. Doing comprehensive examples on the people that you have. Change your behavior, and then we will ramp marketing, and that is when it really changes. Because if you can go from—like I say, if you are doing 700, 800, $900,000 a year and now you are doing 1.6, now I say, “let’s do marketing. Now you are going to market specifically to people who need whatever it is you want to do.”

Reese Harper: What percentage of your coaching clients end up kind of being lifetime clients versus people who are in the program for maybe a year or two?

Dr. Bruce Baird: Probably 85%. And once they start doing marketing with us, they do coaching. You know, they may not do coaching for a while. They may say, “hey, I’m gonna back off on coaching for a while,” but they are still doing marketing with us, and they come back to the seminars. I mean, we have docs who have been five or six times; they have new team members and they come back again. And that is fun! We call them repeat offenders, so… yeah. It is a lot of fun to see people who have grown. You know, they started out at a $900,000 practice, and now they are at 3.7 million with a new office and two associates, and they are working three days a week instead of five, and their stress levels are down, and they are making more money, and they are enjoying life. That, to me, is what it is all about.

Reese Harper: Well this has been a really great conversation, Bruce. I wish we could go for another one, man, but people are getting to work now. I really enjoyed it. You have a great perspective on the industry; I can tell you care a lot about people, and you care a lot about your patients. I always like to see consultants who keep their hands in dentistry and continue to be able to inform their coaching, consulting, and marketing practice with real-life experience. I mean, that is a really great way to keep the academy at a cutting-edge level.

Dr. Bruce Baird: I appreciate that. I sure enjoyed visiting, and any time! Just let me know.

Reese Harper: Yeah man, thanks a lot! We will stay in touch, and I will look forward to catching up with you soon.

Dr. Bruce Baird: Alright, thanks!

Reese Harper: Thanks Bruce.

Practice Management

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