Chief Executive Dentists
Ehab Heikal | BDS, FICD, MBA, DBA
Author of the books: “Business Administration for the Dental profession” & “Think outside the Bo2”
Middle East Area Manager for Morita Corporation
Practice management consultant
Lecturer at MSA University - Egypt
What is the job description of a dentist? Obviously, a dentist is a provider of excellent care for patients. However, there is another job description that also applies to the dentist: that of chief executive officer (CEO).
A CEO ultimately is responsible for the vision, direction and goals of a company. However, unlike CEOs in other fields, dentists are the principal producers in their business. They have the challenge of handling dental diagnosis and treatment on a daily basis while also acting as the CEO.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A SUCCESSFUL CEO:
The job of the CEO dentist is not easy. There always are pressing issues that must be addressed. Where will dentistry be in five years? Should a specific marketing plan be implemented? Is it time to bring an associate into the practice? Should a new office be built or the current one expanded? The list goes on and on. To handle these issues, the clinic owner must:
• Be the hero of change;
• Be a leader who can drive strategic planning;
• Know how to delegate responsibility;
• Eliminate what is not working;
• Hold team members accountable;
• Know how to make firm decisions.
BE THE HERO OF CHANGE
Change is constant, whether it is new technologies, new materials or evolving marketing plans. Trying to cope with a lot of issues can be overwhelming. As a consequence, many dentists resist change. Effective change requires
• Limiting yourself to the key information needed to make decisions;
• Understanding how a decision will be implemented;
• Determining who will be accountable for getting it done.
Change is standard in all businesses, including dental clinics, and it is important to implement change successfully.
BE A LEADER WHO CAN DRIVE STRATEGIC PLANNING
The strategic choices that a clinic owner makes will determine the future of the clinic. Where should it be located? What services should it offer? What technology should we buy? How should we set fees? Each choice represents a great deal of work in terms of creation and implementation. One suggestion is that the doctor, as a CEO, should select only two or three major strategic initiatives per year. Given the fact that dentists also are primarily involved in patient care, they should select the number of strategic choices carefully and make sure that implementing those choices is within the clinic’s capability.
KNOW HOW TO DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY
As the team develops new skills and capabilities and becomes more accountable, the job of the dentist becomes easier from both a clinical and a managerial standpoint. It goes down to these essential elements:
• Breaking down the responsibilities of the office into specific tasks;
• Identifying who is responsible for each task and defining what qualifies as successful completion of the task;
• Being sure the team understands the entire process and follows through on a regular basis.
Many dentists are closely involved with operational activities that easily can be handled by a well-trained dental team. Ultimately, this situation results in the dentist’s having less time for patient care and increasing his or her frustration. Learning how to let go and delegate responsibilities to the appropriate team member is critical for the long-term success of the clinic.
ELIMINATE WHAT IS NOT WORKING
Many clinic owners have developed habits that are no longer in their own best interest. CEO-minded dentists should spend time reviewing clinic protocols and identifying activities that should be eliminated. They should ask questions such as these:
• What are the major activities in which we engage on a weekly, a monthly and an annual basis?
• Who performs these activities?
• If these activities are performed by one of the staff, can they be outsourced?
• How do these activities benefit the clinic?
• Is there a faster and more efficient way to perform these activities?
Laying out clear responsibilities for team members and holding them accountable for results is entirely reasonable.
Answering these questions throughout the year will identify several clinic behaviors that no longer are valid. Some need to be modified, eliminated or outsourced. The choice will be obvious once the dentist places a stronger focus on revising overall clinic activities.
HOLD TEAM MEMBERS ACCOUNTABLE
Everyone holds the dentist accountable for what he or she does chairside. Therefore, laying out clear responsibilities for team members and holding them accountable for results is entirely reasonable. The dentist should provide or arrange for regular coaching and education for all members of the dental team. In the course of this instruction, it must be emphasized that accountability is a critical element of the practice.
KNOW HOW TO MAKE FIRM DECISIONS
Being a CEO is not an easy job, if for no other reason than that the CEO has to make the final—sometimes difficult—decisions. Dentists often put off decisions and avoid challenging situations rather than make a firm commitment. In some cases, such procrastination can waste years and keep clinics from reaching their potential. The directive for the dentist is clear: gather the facts, set a timeline, make a decision and take action. Dentists who become effective decision makers early on have a greater chance of maintaining their enjoyment of dentistry throughout their careers.
Dentists do not necessarily view themselves as CEOs. They should. As clinic owners, dentists are in charge of their own companies.
The six characteristics of leadership discussed above are the hallmarks of a successful CEO. Take a tip from the final characteristic—make firm decisions—and decide how you are going to reach your true potential.