Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Hodgepodge


I am working two days next week. I decided that if I am going to take a vacation I might as well do it right. I know I am going to be bored at home but that is what being on vacation is really about.

I am second-guessing myself now because all the college kids are going to be home and wanting that last minute appointment and I won't be here. I am looking at the bank account and it is not looking that pretty. But I guess this is the kind of thing that we all have to deal with. If we take a vacation, nobody is making any money.

But for me, I get the added pressure of my wife spending money likes it is water. Don't get me wrong - I know we have to buy presents for the family and I like a good sale too, but I AM STRESSING OUT HERE!!! (I love you honey and I think you are a great shopper. And I love that you saved $27 dollars at Publix using coupons and the Publix card.)

I love this time of year, and I am so moved by my patients. I get Christmas cards from my patients and I just love that. I love having a relationship with them. I love that they think enough of us here to put us on their Christmas card list. Some even bring cookies, some bring cakes (oh, I love a good rum cake), and some will even bring presents. I am so blessed.

The staff lounge table is getting filled with goodies and it makes me warm inside. Fat inside but also warm. Speaking of fat, I downloaded this app on my phone called Lose It. Have you seen this?

You tell it how fat you are presently (or how much you weigh), you tell it how pudgey you are (or your height) and then you tell it your desired weight and how long you want to take to lose the weight. Then it gives you a daily amount of calories you can have.

You enter all your calories per day. It has almost every restaurant in its database and almost every brand of food from the grocery store. (But what it doesn't have is Mrs. Brown's rum cake that she brought me, so I didn't enter the three pieces of that I whoofed down.) After every meal, you enter what you ate and try to stay under your allowed calories. I mean this is not rocket science but it is fun. I have been under every day so, tall, dark and handsome here I come (okay, maybe average height, dark and handsome).

Let's talk about The Christmas Letter for a second. Have you started getting them? I don't want to tick you off because I know a lot of you write the letter. In fact, my wife wrote a letter. Here are some Gammichia guidelines to the letter (and I gave my wife the same shpeel).

This letter is about information - not bragging. Tell me about your kids. Everyone thinks their kid is the best, so don't go over board with this. Tell me your kid was on the debate team and loves it. Don't tell me that she is the only 8 year old on the high school team.

Successes are great, you being rich is also good - for you. Tell me your job is going great and you are so passionate your work. Don't tell me that you went from a Mercedes Convertible to an Aston Martin.

Laugh at yourself. Yy wife told everyone I ran in a marathon and she added my little trip to the medical tent.

This could be my last blog for the year. I don't remember if I told you that I am going north for the week after Christmas. Remember the mountain home we went to in the summer?

We got the same house for a week after Christmas. So, on Christmas day afternoon, we are getting in the family truckster and driving to North Carolina. My kids have never really seen snow so it should be great. This week, they got 8 inches of snow.
We are going to try to get in a little snow skiing and some tubing. The kids are so excited they can't even stand it.

We have invited our two cousins and their families so it is going to be a crowded house this time. I will take lots of pictures. Hopefully this trip won't involve a trip to the hospital, but you just never know. Maybe if it does, I can put it in next year's Christmas letter.

But listen, all my babbling shouldn't take away from what this season means. We lose the meaning of Christmas in all the BS that we have created. If you are Bible-believing person, Christmas should be about celebrating Jesus coming to Earth for the redemption of man. That is, Jesus coming to earth to show us the way then to die for us.

But that is what is so crazy about the Christmas story: the King of Kings coming to earth to save us (from ourselves) but he came and was born in barn and placed in a pig's trough. Not really the way we thought it was going to happen, but that is a conversation for another day. But you know what? He did it for me and He did it for you and I am really glad He did.

Merry Christmas and have a blessed New Year. We have a lot to be merry about.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What is wrong with people?

Hey all,

First, I wanted to show you the family photo that is going to go out in our reception area. I thought it turned out nicely.

My mom, her husband, my dad, his wife, my brothers and sisters, my wife and my kids. Like I said, I am going to put this picture out in the reception area with others around it to let people know me more.

On to today's topic -

I have gotten to be good friends with another small business owner. We are in the same Bible study and afterwards we usually get together to have a piece of pizza and hang out. Well, he was telling me about how it is going with his business, and I'd like to share that story with you.

It was 5:45pm and it was getting close to closing time (6pm) when he got a call from a regular customer asking if he could swing by because he is looking for a very special Christmas gift for someone.

"We close at 6pm."

"I know, can you please just keep the store open for me?"

"Sure, come on over."

The customer showed up at 6pm and started to look around. Knowing they were staying late, you think he would get in and out. It turns out that he stayed and shopped for quite a long time - 45 minutes.

My friend was staying afterwards for this man and he knew it and didn't even hurry. Finally, he chose something and it was a whopping $40. A $40 item for staying after for 45 minutes. My friend wrapped it up nice and made it really special for him. He said he made a $40 gift look like $80 (he takes pride in his work). He was telling me this story and I was just shaking my head.

If you're shaking yours, wait, it gets better. The next day, he returned it for a FULL refund because he found another present he liked better. Now you are officially ticked off for my friend. The icing on the cake - this customer was a dentist. There are so many things wrong with this story.

A DENTIST?!?! Someone who knows what a bad patient looks like. Someone who must have a family and know what it is like to want to get home to them. Someone who knows what is like to stay open for someone and not feel appreciated. This guy should know.

What would you do? In these times, we all are doing things that we normally don't do. If someone calls at the end of the day, do you stay open for them? Are you staying late to squeeze in one more patient?

I have to admit that in my younger days I would agree without even thinking twice about it. Now, I don't do it. Let me rephrase that - I rarely do it. I see patients until 3:30, knowing that I usually BS too much and run late with the last patient, and this allows me to get out at 4pm and not go over.

I am a people-pleaser. I want to make people happy, but this attitude has lost out to a couple of other things. The number one reason I don't stay late is the staff.
They are all mothers and wives and a lot of other things, and they have lives outside of here and to hold them hostage makes for a very angry staff. And two, the patient that does this to us is never the A+ patient. It usually is the person we don't know or the D- patient. The ones that do this to us usually don't appreciate it and/or don't care about us anyway.

I understand the occasional "front crown came off," or the "I know you were here to do a filling but this tooth really needs a crown, can you do it now?" We do what we have to do but...

The "can you stay open for me? I need to get a Christmas gift for a friend" (see above story) doesn't fly here. It never pays off. It is never the cost/reward ratio that works out. They are never so happy that they told 12 of their friends how well you took care of them. They don't send some homemade brownies for you telling you how much that meant to them.

"No good deed goes unpunished." That is just how I feel about it. Do you feel the same way? What would you do? Is it an age thing? Do younger dentists tend to stay later? Or, are you that guy? The guy that calls people at the end of the day?

I would like to know your thoughts.

Have a great Wednesday,
See you Friday,

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Gift of giving

Hey all,
Its Friday. Today is my Christmas party.
For the last couple of years we have been doing the same thing.
We have been starting with a "happy hour". This is a place where everyone can get together and meet. It is usually a place in or close to the mall.
We have some appetizers and a drink and then we send the staff into the mall all with $100.
They have an hour and a half to spend every dollar....ON THEMSELVES.
No presents for their family allowed. These people are so trained to doing for others, here at work and at home it is such a rarity that they only think of themselves.
Then we all get together for dinner and show each other what we bought for ourselves.
Now if they don't spend the $100, I get it back.
It is a fun time and they love it because they don't get a toaster or a blender or a coffee maker, or something they have to return, from me.

Just a light blog today....
I am thinking because it is the holiday season I wanted to talk to you about giving.
My wife does this online devotional every morning and thought this one was particularly powerful.
(this is only part of it)

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NCV): "Each one should give as you have decided in your heart to give. You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily."

One of my favorite authors, Richard Foster, writes, "Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed." God loves to see us give for no other reason than the joy of giving.

The true story is told of a self-made millionaire who had lived in New York City his entire life. Born and raised in a ghetto, he worked hard and achieved much. Anyone who knew this man would testify to the fact that he was generous--to a fault, some would say. One year, the man was disturbed by an attitude of selfishness and greed that seemed to pervade the Christmas holiday season and everyone around him. Not one to condemn, the millionaire decided that since he had been given so much, it was up to him to do his part in combating greed and came up with an unusual plan. Wearing a disguise, this man stuffed his pockets with $100 dollar bills and set out for a walk on the streets of New York City. When he saw someone in need, he whipped out one of the bills, pressed it into that person's hands and with a "Merry Christmas," made his way down the street. "It was the most wonderful part of my holiday season," the man reported, and he has been doing it every since.

God is much more interested in our motive for giving than in the gift itself. If that motive is tainted with greed, the gift simply does not count. A powerful way to guard against greed is to choose joy over greed. Giving with joy is Kingdom giving! Before you give, ask yourself, "What's in it for me?" If the answer is "nothing," then go ahead and give the gift.

There is a couple at our church that are two very special people. See I go to this white upper middle class church (and if you asked the pastor he would say the same thing....we want diversity but the general theme seems to be very WASP) and what makes them very special is that they are black and they have both have been homeless at one point in their life (the woman claims she has been homeless for 25 years of her life).
So the two of them started something that is starting to get traction at our church.
The woman has started collecting clothes to give to the homeless. Now I am talking homeless. Like she is going into the woods that she knows, from experience, where they sleep.
And in the winter this seems to be an even more needed ministry (it was 28 degrees here on Tuesday morning).

But one of the things that the men are getting behind is what her husband is doing.
He understands day labor. You know the place where you go if you are looking to do some work for a day. If you are an employer and you need a couple of laborers for the day, you just drive up and get a couple of workers (I am over simplifying it but you get what I mean).
Now the Day Labor place might only need 5 people that day and it is first come first serve. So the men will start to line up at 4am.
So you will have a crowd of people standing around the Day Labor place at 4am.
These are the men that this guy has chose to love on.
He will go to the local doughnut shop and has worked out a deal to buy a ton of doughnuts. Then they brew about 4 tanks of coffee.
Then he takes his doughnuts and coffee and sets up a table to serve...and oh yeah, he does it at 4am.
And that is what he does. He recognizes they are probably homeless and don't have food.
There are no stipulations, no questions, no strings attached.
He spends about a half an hour at each Labor Ready place and can usually hit four of them before the morning is over.
So a couple of my friends are jumping on board and going downtown with him and serving.
Now think about this for a second. A couple of very sheltered white guys going into some very different areas that they are use when it is pitch black out.
Talk about coming out of your comfort zone.
That is the type of giving and love Jesus talked about.

Like I said this kind of stuff is gaining traction. My family has been talking about how we can help.
We recognize that these men are hungry during the day as well and they unfortunately have to spend some of their money on lunch that day or choose not to eat.
My family is thinking about making the men lunches. Now this is something everyone in my family can do. We can make 60 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, put in a bag of chips and a bag of cookies, an apple and viola....lunch.
I imagine my kids having hearts for others and not just themselves. I know that is crazy talk.
But the more the world tells them it is all about them, I just try to show them there is more out there. A lot of need. A lot of pain.
So maybe you not getting an itouch for Christmas is not the end of the world.
And I don't want to make it a Christmas thing. I want to do this all the time, to continue to remind them, continue to show them.

Something to think about this weekend (as you are out shopping for that itouch).
Have a great weekend.

ps My father and I have done some talking about me buying the rest of the practice.
Can you imagine talking about selling or buying this large in these times. It is definitely a tough time to do this.
These talks have a tendency to get sensitive but this time it has been good.
I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Firing the Lawn Guy

Hey all,

Man, it is December 8th. It is really close to Christmas!

I have to beg you to go out this weekend and buy your stuff. Next weekend is going to get really crazy, and if you are like me, and usually wait until the last minute, you are going to go crazy again. Now I know some of you are saying, "I am going to do most of my shopping online." Well, it is time. If you do regular shipping you are getting dangerously close to the time.

Once I ordered something online on the 15th of December and it was supposed to be delivered on the 23rd, at least that is what the salesman said. The package arrived - and I am not kidding about this - on February 10th. I called the company and they no longer existed. I called my credit card company and got my money back and waited for a couple of months before I gave it away. Don't get into online trouble this year. Do it early.

Anyway, I am in a quandary. I have this patient that is also my lawn guy. He and I have know each other since I graduated from dental school. I used to play pick-up bball at my church and he was there. I don't think he went to church, but it was a good gym. He has been a patient and our lawn guy for almost 14 years. He does a totally awesome job, but the caveat is that he is very flaky when it comes to showing up.

Now, we have traded all this time. He has four children and it was pretty good even when his wife and kids came in. It gets kind of pricey when the kids get x-rays, cleaning, exam... Sometimes it would be $200 per kid. So a couple of cleanings a year for seven people. I pay $250 per month for his services. Usually, I have to pay him at the end of the year, but not much.

Now he is divorced and his ex-wife and kids are not patients here anymore, and we are really coming out-of-pocket for his services. So now I am paying more attention.

I am also paying more attention because I have more time to pay attention. It seems that in the winter he doesn't really come. As you may know, the grass does not grow in the winter. So he must think he doesn't have anything do and there's no reason to come.

Well, first and foremost I am paying him to come here. Secondly, in the winter, other things need to be done. We have a bunch of oaks that drop their acorns by the thousands. The parking lot gets filled with them, then we drive over them and it becomes a big mess.

(the acorns and the dying grass)

We also have something that looks like a maple tree that drops about a billion leaves. All this is making our property look less than pretty.

(Double-click on the image to make it bigger, but this is the dying grass and the leaves filling up the parking lot.)

As you all know, I am not a big fan of confrontation. But I have been trying to be more of a leader around here. It is my place and if I don't do it, no one will. So I need to buck up and say something to this guy. I need to tell my employees when they are doing something I don't like. It is better for everyone, but it is still hard.

So when my lawn guy was out there the last time, I asked him if he could come every week. I told him that even if he came just to blow off the parking lot and clean the place up, I would be happy. He agreed. I haven't seen him in 15 days.

Now here I am, in a quandary. I know what I have to do. It is time to make a change. But it is 17 days before Christmas. He still has 4 children.

But in these times when the new patients are down and the volume coming through the door is down, you want to impress the ones that do dawn your door. You want them to walk up to the front door saying, "Things are really looking nice around here," or at least not say, "Man, Gammichia is really letting it go around here." And I have to be honest, that is what it is beginning to look like around my place.

He usually comes on Tuesday; it is Wednesday and I haven't seen him. I thought I was going to see him yesterday and read him the riot act. I keep thinking I am going to see him today. But nothing yet. I think I am going to have to make a phone call.

Why can't people just do things right? Why can't he take pride in his work? Why can't he want to treat my office special because we are friends? Why do I have to hound people for good service?

I have a new printer/sign guy now (remember the blog about service?). Well, I started using someone else and it is the same thing. I have to bug him to get things done. I really could go to a website and make the postcards myself faster than he could do it.

I'm so frustrated that my lawn guy has put me in this position. Maybe he just doesn't want the job. I know he lives far away, but if he doesn't want it why doesn't he just say so? Honesty, communication. - what is so hard about that?

I'll let you know how it is goes. Wish me luck.

Now for blog business. It is getting close to the end of the year, and I don't think I have many more blogs in me. I will write a couple, and I have some ghost writer reserves, but this blog is eventually going to take a vacation.

It turns out the ratings system at the end of the blog didn't work out. Some IT issue. But let that not stop you from telling me how you like the blog or what else you want me to talk about.

Talk to you on Friday.


P.S. Just found out the Urban Meyer is resigning. Why don't they just kick me when I am down? I am in so much pain, and right around Christmas time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Gifts

Happy Friday.

My wife is doing her annual girls' weekend this weekend, so it is just me and the four kids. Yeah, it is going to be bad. Heck, I don't even know for sure what time my 14 month old goes for a nap. Wish me luck.

Noah turned 7 a few weeks ago and I told you about the his party at the go-kart place. For about 9 months, he has been talking about his party and how he wanted it to be Monster Trucks. So my assistant made him a Monster Truck cake. I told you she makes specialty cakes, and she really overdid it this time.

The yellow thing on the bottom is a bus. Now that is cool.

He was like a pig in poop.

We recently took our family photos. I have to say that my family really did well. One of the real reasons I did the pictures is that I want to put my family in the reception area; I want people to know me. I want them to know that I am a dentist but I am also a son, a brother, a husband and a father. I am going to have a really nice display made of some great photos. I think it makes visitors feel a little more connected to me. And when I get the CD, I will do the same to you guys.

I've got to get my nose back to the grindstone, so I got a ghost writer to take over for today. It is really good stuff. Don't get ticked at me, I am just the messenger.

The holiday season is here. Have the cards started rolling in? This stuff gets me thinking. Every year, I probably get 50 cards from specialists I don’t know. I know they are saying, "I am still in business, so if your specialist starts to tick you off, then give me a shot."

I am good ok that. I actually think it is a good idea. But it is MY specialists that this blog is about. Take my oral surgeon, for instance. I send him ALL my wisdom teeth extractions, probably about 100 patients a year. Let’s say all 100 go to him, and 75 of them get the work done. If I extract a wisdom tooth, it is $250. But when they do it, the total is more like $2000-$3000. I don't know if it is the sedation or what... but this is not the issue. Okay, so 75 patients at the tune of $2-$3k each... carry the one… we are talking $150-$200,000 a year. Maybe I am too full of myself. Maybe I guess too high. Let’s say I only send him 50 patients a year and he works on 40 of them. That still is $80-$120,000 to my friend the Oral Surgeon.

Now what do you think an appropriate gift is for the conductor of this gravy train should be? I am not going to answer this question. I am just throwing it out there. I know this oral surgeon has a ton of referring dentists. But I am not talking about the dentist that is throwing this oral surgeon a bone (4 or 5 patients a year or something like that). I am talking about the loyal general dentist that has been faithfully referring all his wisdom teeth patients for the last 15 years.

How about the orthodontist? Let’s say I send him/her 2 cases a month (I send more); that is about $12,000 a month. That is $144,000 a year to their bottom directly related to ME. Now, what do you think an appropriate gift for someone adding $144,000 to the bottom line? To put it in perspective, last week I got a gift card to a fancy steak house from a specialist I DON'T EVEN REFER TO. It is an awesome gift and it is from a guy I haven’t referred even one patient to.

Now if you are a specialist, I am not mad, I am just thinking out loud. These are not actual numbers and I don't have any specialist in mind when writing this. But I know a lot of general dentists must feel this way. It is the main guys that I am calling out.

We know what kind of cars you drive. We have been to your houses. We sometimes go to your mountain homes. We have been to your hunting leases and driven your 4 wheelers and then you have taken us out on your Air Nautiques. And you send us chocolate covered pretzels for Christmas. Or you send us a basket of crackers and wine that I saw at the grocery store.

Again, I don't think of myself as that everyday guy. I am the one that talks so highly of your office. I am the guy that calls you to give you constructive criticism because I want you to do well. I am the one that likes you for you. I am the guy that is not leaving your practice. I think this kind of loyalty deserves more than your assistant’s trip to the local cookie store. Am I right, general dentists?

Now I know all you general dentists are thinking, "YEAH!” But I am going to through this right back at you. When was the last time you bought your specialist a gift? These guys/gals are cleaning up your messes all the time. They are the guys/gals you call to get you out of a hole that you have dug yourself into. These are the guys/gals that are defending you to your patients, telling your patients not to go to another dentist because the other guy is cheaper.

Oh wait! You don't know they do this. Dude, WAKE UP! Don't give me this "all my patients love me and they never have problems with me" crap. Get your head out of the sand and realize this is a symbiotic relationship. These are the orthodontists that see your kids. These are the oral surgeons that take out your kids’ wisdom teeth.

“NO!!” you are saying, "I send all that work to you, you should feel lucky to see my kids." But that is a slippery slope, my friend.

This year I want all specialists to make their general dentists to feel special. And I want all the general dentists to know how good they have it and send their friends a gift. They deserve it.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Good stuff from this guy. Like I said, don't get mad at me.

Have a good weekend.


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