Turnover: A Punch to the Gut

Turnover in Dental Business
Dental Marketing and Dental Consulting

It’s Thursday afternoon and you get a call. Your employee that called in sick is experiencing mental health issues. She’s going to need to take a medical leave. You support her, so decide to pay her for some time off. She tells you that she should be fine to return in a week. One week turns to two. Two to three. On the fourth week she quits.

Friday morning you hear that another team member is taking the opportunity to take over a family business. He is giving you two weeks notice. This decision comes after losing the team member above, when workload increases while hiring process begins. It seems like a domino effect.

Friday afternoon, you find out a third employee is relocating for her husband’s job in 2 weeks. Unfortunately, you just introduced her to all of your patients / clients after she assured you a move was not even a remote possibility.

Monday morning, a new hire decides she doesn’t like the type of work she is doing. She quits without notice. Her stifling perfectionism had her paralyzed and her contribution was minimal to begin with, but now the turnover hurts the morale of the rest of the team. More dominos fall.

Even for a well-organized, positive leader, this 2 month span felt like a gut punch. That’s right. This happened to me last year. It happened right after I let go of a couple people that I felt were no longer a fit.  We were almost completely restaffing overnight.

At this time, I did have a couple amazing team members who have been with me for years and my husband, whose work experience is in recruiting. These three people stuck by my side and helped me make sure all the work was done and done well. Each of us had complimentary skills and worked together like I didn’t believe possible. We carried the workload and overcame one of the most stressful obstacles of business ownership. 

Maybe it happened because of karma. When I let go of a few people, maybe I should have invested more time in their development instead of letting them go. I definitely should have become more comfortable with difficult conversations sooner. I used to put off tough talks until I was beyond the point of return.  Maybe it happened because I wanted to give even the most unqualified applicant an opportunity and hired with my heart instead of my head. (Thankfully, I’m no longer in charge of hiring.)

Regardless, this time spurred intense introspection and growth. In the following weeks, we completely restaffed.

With our systems, training and leadership team already in place, we made for a quick transition to building an amazing team.

Not a task was forgotten or dropped and 4 people did the work of 10, and we did it very well. That doesn’t mean we loved life in those moments, but we got through it. Yes, the turnover was stressful. The restaffing was challenging, as some new team members were a fit and some were not.

However, it was the most powerful time of growth I’ve ever experienced as a leader. It also made it clear that when you have loyal people who truly have the best interest of the business and your clients’ businesses in place, that you can get through anything.

Perfection is not attainable. Growth has to be a daily pursuit. There’s opportunity in every situation, even those that feel like a crisis. If you can roll up your sleeves, make a plan and hire the missing support pieces, you’ll be strong and able to weather any storm. If you’ve never been through something like this, that’s wonderful. I don’t wish it upon anyone. I can say however, I wouldn’t go back and change it.

When a person leaves, opportunities to improve surface, leaving your organization even stronger and ready for its next challenge.

If you need assistance with staffing, recruiting, team training or system creation, please contact me at grace@identitydental.com. I can connect you with the right fit resource for you. I’ve had a couple business coaches that I adore and would be more than happy to connect you. 

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Parenting and Business Leadership Parallels

Parenting and Business
Business Leadership Dental Marketing and Parenting

More than 5 years ago when I first became a parent, I remember feeling a great deal of pressure to choose between business and family. I chose both and I’m so glad I did. As my family was growing, so was my business and I found that all too often the lessons learned at home actually made me a much stronger leader at work, and vice versa.

When my eldest daughter needs to get dressed for school, get ready for bed, clean up toys, or do just about anything, I have to convince her. Sometimes she even says, “okay” and then goes back to playing. It can be frustrating, however, convincing my stubborn daughter to do what she needs to do has made my verbal persuasion skills strong. I’ve learned that if I don’t share a compelling reason as to why she needs to get something done, she won’t take action. This is very similar to interactions with employees. Once a person understands on a strong level why a (sometimes seemingly insignificant) step must be completed fully, they begin to deem it as important. Sharing your “why” can be enough for some children and employees. However, thanks to my first daughter, I’ve also learned that others may need more. Hearing what would happen if the given task is not completed turned out to be that “more”.

Now, in business and at home I don’t like utilizing fear tactics. With my daughter, however, I would have never been able to get her to brush her teeth without showing her photos of rotten teeth. She had to see for herself what would happen if her teeth were not brushed. This holds true for some employees too.

As leaders, both at home and at the office, we must share not only why a task or responsibility is important, but also that the consequences of neglecting that responsibility go far beyond a simple “time-out”, or professional disciplinary action. Even the smallest of oversights can have a monumental impact on the business

I look back at feeding my firstborn when she was 1-3 and remember begging and pleading for her to eat. I remember bribing, making “fun” looking snacks and food, and implementing countless sales tactics that just didn’t work. It wasn’t until I let her become a part of the process that she would eat. I let her stir the pot of oatmeal or crack the egg. Whatever food she made naturally tasted better to her. She took pride in her work. When I sit down to recreate systems at the office or re-delegate responsibilities, I understand the importance of having each team member take an active role in the decision-making process.

A similar idea comes into play when training employees in a new skill. Just like teaching my children to ride a bike, writing business manuals for seemingly simple tasks must include clear step by step instruction. I know that to truly learn a skill, the trainee must actually take the steps themselves, not just watch others.

Everything we learn in life can be reapplied to everything else, and business is no exception. The next time someone questions how you’ll be able to run your business as a parent or involved grandparent, tell them it’ll only make you better, more compassionate, more loving, more forgiving and more supportive. From experience, I can tell you that these skills are much more important to the success of your business than some may think.


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Crippling Self-Doubt Embraced as Perfectionism

perfectionism grace rizza

In the past 5 years, I’ve made a regular effort to let go of perfectionism. Perfectionism at some level is alive and well in all of us, no matter how much we’ve retrained our brains. Some of our primal instincts have us hardwired to seek approval from others. We’re built to desire inclusion and praise. From the time of early childhood, we have had teachers and parents teaching us how to survive and exist in society. If we didn’t learn to listen to parents, running in the street or playing with power outlets could have threatened our survival. By realizing how our perfectionism is triggered, we become much stronger in moving past it as quickly as possible. This is how rapid growth occurs, both personally and professionally. If you’re a recovering perfectionist like me, you may want to consider the following phrases and how they set you back.

Perfectionism can appear as a feeling. It can be the crippling anxiety that leads you into a quick meeting with your supervisor or an interview. It can be the reason you don’t finish a project or goal. Perfectionism is often sitting on your lap when you’re about to push the “live” button on Facebook. It can be difficult to overcome the feelings associated with perfectionism, however, it’s not impossible.

When you recognize that you’re being held back by the “P-word”, replace it with another P-word. Progress. Every single day I remind myself that progress is most important. The next time I find myself experiencing self-doubt, I simply say, “Progress over Perfectionism,” and it gets me moving.

Here are examples of the thoughts you may think that actually stunt your progress and keep you in a place of self-doubt.

  • “I’ll start doing public speaking once I have 10 years of experience in consulting.”
  • “I’ve learned to place implants but I’m not ready to offer this to patients until I have more experience. I don’t have time to get experience because I’m busy treating patients.”
  • “I’ll go live on Facebook later when my makeup looks better.”
  • “I can’t just switch careers now.”
  • “I’ll start dating when the time is right. Of course, I want to be with someone special, but I’m not ready (for potential rejection).”
  • “I’ll refund all your money because I’m afraid of someone not liking me.”

When you experience perfectionism in your day to day life, remember it’s not a positive attribute. In order to experience progress, we all must recondition ourselves to overcome this part of human nature. If you’re wearing your perfectionism as a badge of honor, it’s time to let it go and get going. If you’ve ever been hesitant to put yourself out there through marketing because you’re afraid of what your colleagues will think, let it go. You deserve to experience life without the shackles of being perfect.

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Scaling with Integrity

growing dental businesAs a small business owner who has grown her business slowly and intentionally in the past decade, I’ve realized a few things that can be powerful to the first time business owner.

The first is that it’s crucial to never outgrow what you can accommodate. I’ve seen companies come and go in the dental world with one goal alone: to scale and sell as quickly as possible. You’ve seen them too. They’re typically backed by investors with deep pockets.

Early on in my career, I must admit that I related “big” with “bad”. After all, in order to feed dozens of hungry salespeople and affiliates, there must be an insane markup, leaving the customer to pay. I’ve personally suffered the pain of being locked into a contract for a service or product that was no longer needed or producing a positive return on investment. It was upsetting every day and I found myself counting down to freedom, with more excitement than the countdown to my next vacation.

Now, as I look back as a more seasoned (very small) business owner, I realize that I’ve been doing it wrong. My perspective of big business has been jaded by my own personal experiences.  I’m embarrassed to admit instead of seeking out the big businesses doing it right and studying those, I categorized them all as bad. I’ve taken pride in slow growth and personalized attention, but expansion and excellent service can happen in tandem.

Before I jump into sharing all of the amazing things I’ve seen being done by big(ger) dental businesses, I want to start by saying this on the record:

Any business, no matter the size, is going to experience growing pains. Some more damaging than others. With higher risk tolerance, comes bigger mistakes. It also seems that those who fail the most and recover the strongest grow the fastest. 

You may still share my sentiment that bigger isn’t better, but I want to challenge you to think differently on this for a few reasons. Firstly, I want you to be able to experience the joy that comes with ethical, accelerated growth. It can be very fun. Secondly, I want you to be able to serve more people while leading with integrity. Lastly, you deserve to escape the daily nitty-gritty and operate as a true CEO, which can only happen when you grow to the level of having multiple levels of leadership. If you’re like me and have been doing similar work for 10+ years (or perhaps you just came to this realization sooner than me), that last point is exciting.

Here are a few characteristics of those who scale with integrity: 

  1. They know their brand and make sure their team embraces and shares their message, values, and processes. Have you ever met a team and thought to yourself, ” They’re all so (fill in the blank). I can distinctly remember meeting 3-4 people on a team thinking, “They’re all so complimentary.” It was as if they’d been trained in compliment giving and ego-boosting. I say this and it sounds like I was turned off to it or that it seemed insincere, but it didn’t. It was actually quite the opposite. The small compliments, high energy, and professionalism shared by every single employee on this particular team made me want to do business with them.
  2. They evolve. The companies that grow quickly and maintain their integrity have to be investing in improvements. I see some marketing agencies still pushing direct mail and the same templated websites they sold 8 years ago and wonder how they’ve managed to stay in business. If you’re going to grow at a pace that can qualify as “scaling”, you’ll have to be critically evaluating your service offerings, methods, and marketing to ensure you’re the best option for your target market.
  3. They have guts. They don’t sweat the small stuff. They know that part of being in business means they’ll encounter the following: a legal issue, a bad review, two timing employees, unethical competition, and so much more. However, they know each obstacle is just a part of the game. They won’t wallow in the negativity and will focus immediately on how to turn each situation into an opportunity.
  4. They’re willing to invest. I know many business people operating around the 1m-2m in revenue mark who are unwilling to take a risk and grow. Their marketing is minimal and safe. They’ll always remain very small business owners and that’s ok. It can be challenging to change if you’ve operated in this space for many years. After all, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. If you’re happy, that’s ok.
  5. They realize growth and integrity are not mutually exclusive. The theory that bigger is not better may resonate with many of us small business owners. Let’s face it though, that’s something small business owners say because they didn’t like the growing pains listed in number 3. There’s nothing wrong with intentionally staying small if you are happier with a small business. Let’s not chalk it up to big is bad, just because we know of some big, bad entities we’d prefer to avoid.

I fought an internal struggle for a long time about whether or not I’d represent group practices. I knew that 98% of my business is made up of small dental business owners looking to grow, but remain a single doctor, privately owned entity. I also know that many of my amazing clients see DSOs as the enemy. This is because many DSO owned and operated businesses are not integrity focused. When this happens on a large scale, it becomes very obvious to communities and dentists. They see unnecessary dentistry, high-pressure sales tactics, and advertising at a level they feel they could never afford. Unfortunately, what many don’t realize is this:

No matter the size of your organization, you can operate with integrity or without integrity. 

Currently, I work with a few doctor-owned group practices and a couple of true DSOs. So far, I do see a very different need from the group practices. Communication, delivery of service, and solutions offered all change when you reach about six locations. It’s pretty obvious if a business is not patient-centric and employee-centric. In these instances, I will choose not to represent a business. This stands for any size organization.

If you’re like me and growth excites and motivates you, you’ll want to consider how you can grow with integrity. Look for the examples of companies that have scaled and maintain an amazing culture, innovative solutions and help many people. Set your goals as you go and don’t be afraid to choose small or choose big. In life, we have to choose what makes us happy. If integrity is at the core of your every move, you’ll build something beautiful that will benefit many deserving people.

If you’re at a point in your career where you’d like to experience growth that would make an impact on your team and family, contact me at grace@identitydental.com. If you’d like to grow slowly and intentionally, I can help you with that too.

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