This blog entry began as a response to Katie Divine‘s blog in which she asked for advice on hiring staff. By the time I was done writing my response, I had my next blog!
Hiring the right staff is one of the most crucial and difficult parts of running a practice. The importance of who you hire to assistant you and represent your practice cannot be overestimated. It can literally make or break you.
The best piece of advice I ever received on the subject of hiring staff (in any business) is, “You cannot train personality.”
I can teach most anyone to suction for me. I can even train an AGD-member dentist to assist me (and we all know how hard it is to teach them new tricks). But a cheerful, helpful personality is something I cannot teach you.
When I was starting out as an associate dentist, I noticed that a dentist in town had an awesome staff. I asked him he found such great staff. He said, “Simple. Restaurants.”
We’ve all run into waiters and waitresses that just shine. These are the ones that truly do add something to your dining experience. Customers always ask to be seated at whatever table they are assigned to. My friend would approach them and simply ask if they had ever thought about working in a dental office. If they showed interest, he’d arrange a lunch at his office. Again, you can train someone to assist you, but you cannot train personality.
Another aspect to consider is to YOUR personality. A colleague of mine has a very bright and outgoing personality. When you walk into his practice, you know he is the star of the show. He shines and patients love it. One thing you’ll notice about his staff is that they have more reserved personalities. Everyone can’t be the star. He’s shared with me that in the past he had more outgoing staff and it was disastrous for him.
If you are like me, your personality is a bit more reserved. However, when you walk into my office, you’ll meet a very outgoing staff. They shine in areas that I cannot. They know the patient’s kids names, share pictures of pets, and basically keep the laughter going. For my practice, having very reserved assistants would be a mistake.
We’ve all been in the position of having a staff member who is very well-qualified on paper but just doesn’t fit into our practice. I’ve had to tell staff that their skills are not the problem but that they are just in the wrong office. I know that in the right practice they would be exceptional staff, just not in mine.
I’ve also been on the employee side of the equation. A friend arranged an interview with a dentist who was looking for an associate. He had already interviewed several candidates and had grown weary of the interview process. We met for lunch, and the first thing he told me was that he only had half an hour for lunch. I thought it would be quick and painless. We started talking. Then talked some more. An hour and a half later, we were still talking and laughing. At the end of lunch he said, “Well, you already know I want you in my office. When can you start?”
Later, he confessed to me that it was a certain personality he was looking for. Again, he realized he could mentor most young dentists to perform the kind of dentistry he wanted in his practice. He just knew he could not train personality.
Another unexpected place to find staff is within your practice. A few years ago, I hired a patient. She was a very nice young lady who had been a patient for a couple of years. Her dad came in one day to have me sign some papers so she could take X-rays on her family at dental assisting school. I immediately called up the school and offered to have her intern in my office. She interned, and then I offered her a job. She is still with me.
The advantage of looking at your patient pool is that you already know them. You know if you like them and if you think you can work with them. The next time you have a patient showing interest in what you are doing, ask if they have ever thought of working in a dental office.
Well, Katie, I hope I somewhat answered your question.
Andy Alas, DDS