Roadside Live |14 min read

Proactive Steps You Must Take to Thrive During Economic Crises [Video]


Angela had such an eye-opening conversation with Christi – dental consultant and coach – about the proactive steps you must take to thrive during economic crises. This is about all economic downturns (not just COVID).

In this episode of Roadside Live, you’re going to learn:

  • How to plan and thrive for 2021 and beyond
  • Why you have to be proactive and not reactive to survive any economic recession
  • The 1 conversation all dental office managers must have with their doctors
  • Why open, candid communication isn’t a sign of weakness, but an amazing leadership quality

Watch the video below and stay tuned for future Roadside Live events!

Angela: Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us again on Roadside Live. We’ve got Christi with us.

Christi, thank you so much for being our guest today. I’m going to have you introduce yourself. Tell us: What kind of experience do you have in the dental field? I’ve heard that maybe you’ve been around it for a little bit. Tell us a little bit about your dental history.

Christi: Well, not to say that I’m old or anything, but I have been in the dental field for 35 years. Gosh, now that really does sound old. I have been fortunate enough that through my career, I’ve had two stellar practices that I’ve worked for.  So I’ve gained a lot of my experience that way and also taking the initiative to learn more outside of my scope. I still love it and hanging into it. I’ve been through several economic challenges, nothing quite like what we’re dealing with now. But, having been through it, I know how to navigate through it, even though it’s a little different.

Angela: That’s very true. Before we go on with some of my specific questions, in addition to your history and experience running some very successful dental practices, you’ve also done a lot of dental coaching. So you actually help other dental practices in addition to your main practice. Correct?

Christi: That’s right. Last year, I decided that it was time to take my career and expertise to a different level. I started my own company, Leap 2 Solutions … opens in a new window to Leap 2 Solution’s website… . The word “leap” stands for lead, engage, align, and perform. And those have always been the four keywords that I lean on in managing and in the leadership role that I have. So that was a natural thing for me. I named the business off of the core words of what I do.

I’ve been very fortunate through COVID, where many practices that had never had any coaching at all found themselves in a situation where they needed help. And fortunately, I have been there to help them and get through a closure, a restart, and now pivoting towards 2021. To set them up for success, setting goals, and mapping out where they want to go.

I’m very happy with the way my career is changing. I’m still working as a dental practice manager and coaching. And that’s my two-to-three-year plan to do both for a while.

Angela: Well, that’s why we’re so excited to have you join us. Cause I know that we have a long-standing relationship. We’ve worked together for a long time. But for our audience, we get to grab your expertise, and they all get a little free coaching today. So thank you so much for being willing to help us out. During this economic downturn – throughout your years in dentistry, you’ve seen several of them – can you tell me: When you’re coaching dental practices, what are some proactive steps that you recommend they take now to thrive? Most dental practices survived phase one, but now we’re looking at 2021, and some of them are still a little scared and a little anxious about what the future looks like.

Can you give me a couple of things that they can do to be proactive?

Christi: What’s always worked for me – I got this from one of my bosses who was a long-term mentor for me before where I landed at now – and it’s always to look backwards as to what had happened or what transpired in the 12 months prior to where you’re at now, and start looking at what worked and what didn’t work, and then isolating the things that didn’t work well. What were the key components? What do we need to shift? And that’s what I do, with the people who I’m coaching now and the doctor’s office that I’m working with. We started sitting down in October all the way through November. And we are planning for 2021, but before we even get started, we’re doing the snapshot of the year: 2020.  What went well? What are some things that we need to shift or change so that we don’t get blindsided in 2021? As we’re moving forward.

I think that’s very important because a lot of times we’re looking towards the future that we’re not taking time to look at what really didn’t work. As we navigated through the year and always been key to our success here, we saw that we were doing something that we thought was getting results, and it wasn’t.

So do we want to continue that path and try to change something to make it fit? But sometimes, it’s like trying to take a square and shove it in a circle, and it just doesn’t fit. So you have to know when to say, “Okay, we need to scrap this. We need to move on and do something different.”

Angela: So in the offices that you’ve worked with and coached, I know your practice is very experienced at being proactive. But, I’ve noticed in some of the conversations I’ve had with dental practices, and I’m wondering if you’re getting the same experience, that that’s not necessarily the norm. A lot of practices don’t plan proactively as much as they can. And they’re being reactive throughout the year to whatever’s coming. Do you see that a lot? And what would be your advice to the ones who’re working on reaction mode?

Christi: Yes! That is an obstacle that I am encountering. And because I worked in this a very long time and had a two-year stint in between my dental career, I worked in a medical field, and they were much like that.

They were very reactive to crisis and they were always in crisis management, reacting to the crisis at hand instead of being proactive. You have to plan for success. It’s not going to come easy. It’s not just going to be given to you, and it’s going to be hard to plan, but you’ve got to. You’ve got to put in the time, and you’ve got to develop your roadmap.

So what I’ve found with a lot of practices is they can only do one year. And when I’m trying to say, “Let’s do one, three, five, 10.” They get so overwhelmed. And it’s easy for me because I’ve done it in my personal life. And I do that also with the practice I work with here. That’s how I was trained.

But understand that it’s difficult for people. So I try to gear my enthusiasm because when I walk in, I can see where – I did a skills analysis and my top skill is a strategist – so when I’m coming in, I already see where you can be in three and five years, but you’re not there yet. So I have to kind of gear it back and take the baby steps and say, “Okay, in this year and looking back at last year, what are the things you wanted to accomplish last year that we didn’t do? Let’s carry them over so that we are getting a start point.” Then I work with them from there.

Angela: Yeah. And I think that’s such an important piece that a lot of practices maybe aren’t implementing because they don’t know how. They have the desire, but they’ve never done it. They’ve never been shown. And often, if the doctor is not a strong leader, the team may not know where to begin. Those are great tips to remind all of our administrators that even if they don’t have the doctor who’s taken the leadership role. They can; they can help the doctor work with them and become stronger in the planning, their strategy, and looking forward. Maybe the doctor does need a little bit of coaching to say, “Let’s take the time to sit down and talk this through so that we can strategize.”

It’s nice that you remind everyone – almost to give the admin staff the permission – to have those open conversations, you know, to get it going.

Christi: You perfectly led me into this next thing. So in the practice that I’m at, two years after I got here, there was a transition with the associates becoming the owners. They’re young doctors. They hadn’t been out of school very long there. All of a sudden, they’re saddled with owning a business, running a business. So I was their coach. I’ve been their coach internally for a very long time. And so I had to do the same steps that I’m doing with other offices, easing them into this. And now, now I’m laughing because I hear them coaching their colleagues, and I’m like, “Wait a minute. That’s my gig!”

But it’s important. I’m very fortunate enough that the owners here: We’re different in our mindsets, in our approach, but together we unite, and we’re a united front and leadership. One is stronger than the other. We’ve got three people and our personalities are different. The way we look at things are different. We agree to disagree on things. We agree to compromise at times, and we can certainly say, “You know, I made a bad decision on that. I should’ve listened to you.” And that’s important for all managers: Try to have that trust-based relationship with your doctor. Try to sit down and talk with them one-on-one. Try to figure out where they want to go because you can’t help them if they don’t tell you, “This is my vision.” And a lot of dentists don’t know – a lot of business owners do not know – where they want to be in a year. Let alone three, five, and 10 years from now.

Angela: That’s a very fair point. You can’t work on what you don’t know. So you have to be able to write it down first or at least vocalize it first. If you had one tip that you’ve learned over the years, that you would share with a practice administrator or manager, what would it be? What’s the one takeaway that they could start with so they’re not overwhelmed?

Christi: Developing that communication with your doctor. That is important because we don’t have anybody to vent to except the other managers within AADOM or in our local chapters or friends in dentistry or spouses. But there are things business-related that you need to be able to talk with your doctors about.

It’s important now more than ever because I see it all over the forums. Us managers are burnt out or we’re feeling overwhelmed. We’ve got team members who didn’t come back. We’ve got team members who’re now deciding to leave. We’ve got all this additional work and responsibility – more than it has ever been because of PPP loans. And now they’re looking for the forgiveness part of it. You’re dealing with that part. You have to sit down and talk with your docs and I did it. It’s not a sign of weakness. I just sat down with mine and I’m like, “I’m really trying to be positive, and you see that. But what you’re not seeing is I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed and burnt out a little bit.”

That was happening around September and October, and knowing they were feeling the same, but they got their shield of armor up. We all do! “We’re strong! We got this!” But the reality is we’re going home at night and we’re venting on social media. Well, your doctors don’t know if you don’t tell them.

I think that’s important because your mental well-being is a very key component to how you lead and how you engage and align and perform with your staff. Leap! Did you notice that?

Angela: I caught that!

Christi: It’s wine time, sister! Anyway, it’s very important that you’re physically well, emotionally well, and mentally well. Sometimes you have to talk things out and the doctors need to know that. It’s a safe place within the leadership team for them to talk and say, “I’m feeling overwhelmed. This is going on.” Because when somebody is weak, the other person is strong and they help each other pull each other along. And that’s just the beauty of life. They won’t know unless you talk about it and I’m rambling again.

Angela: I love that you said that it’s not a sign of weakness to have open communication because I think that’s such an important reminder for our practice administrators or managers who are putting on the brave face. They are staying positive. They are the frontline warriors and to remind them that it’s okay to have that open line of communication, that candid conversation with the right team, with the right person. You don’t want to be sharing it with the team members in general who can’t solve the problems, but have those open conversations with your doctors and say, “This is where I’m at. Let’s put all of our minds together and figure out what our solution is and how the practice can continue to grow.”

Because I do think that’s contributing to some of the burnout that we hear about is that they try to take too much on. So I love those reminders for them to keep the lines of communication open and call mercy when you need to. Say:  “We have lots of people on our team, where can we share the load and work? Let’s distribute things so we can stay on path and not burn out.” That’s great advice.

Christi: I hope that a lot of you out there that are watching today have taken this time in the latter part of the year and sat down and did your planning for the upcoming year and checking if you have your three, five, and 10-year plan in place. As you start the new year, if you aren’t having leadership meetings with your doctors, it’s important that you do that every week or every two weeks. Don’t wait a month because things pile up. You need to start having those conversations and reviewing where you’re at with your goals and your business.

Also if you haven’t set your fees for the new year, this is the time you want to start looking at that. Where are you going to raise your fees? And getting all the data to support that. Just be ready to come out of the gate on January 2021 and be on that path to success. Don’t wait to do your fees in February or March. Start out in January and be prepared.

Angela: That’s great advice. Whitney, who’s organizing Roadside Live, will pop your information into the chat. So if anybody wants support on their end, they’ll know who to contact and get some moral support. If they need to throw in the white flag and say, “I need a little more help on our team.” Then they’ll know who to call and get some advice on how to plan better and make 2021 their strongest year.

[Get in touch with Christi here! … Opens in a new window to Christi’s website… ]

But thank you so much for joining us. I love your advice. It’s been very helpful. I hope that all of our administrators and managers who’re listening today and can grab a little nugget from it and plan for 2021 and make it a less stressful year than 2020 was

Christi: That’s right. We have to think positive. And we’re all in this together. And I don’t know about you, but I am just looking forward to a fresh start in 2021 and for it to be successful. Look at it this way: You’ve gotten through all that you thought you would never have to deal with in this year, and you’re still standing and you’re still strong and you’re still a warrior, you’ve got your shield up so you can accomplish anything. So if you need to talk it out, talk it out. We’ve got this.

Angela:  Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us today, Christi.

Christi: Bye, darling!

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