Episode 135: Intentional Hiring and Training Matters in Your Dental Practice

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

Below, we’ve compiled some of the key points discussed in the Jameson Files Episode 135. To enjoy the full conversation with our very own Carrie Webber and Dr. Robinson, you can watch on YouTube or listen to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify.

Carrie Webber:

Hello, welcome to the Jameson Files. I’m Carrie Webber. It’s an absolute pleasure to have an amazing dentist as a guest with us, from Lubbock, Texas, Dr. Kelly Robinson. I have been a Kelly Robinson fan for, I think it’s 20 years now. You are a tremendously accomplished dentist and clinician who has led a fabulous team and practice over the years, and I am just grateful that you will share some of your wisdom and experience with us. 

Training New Teammates in Your Dental Practice

Today our topic is about how to successfully bring an associate into your practice for your patient family and for your team. But first, Dr. Robinson, I would love it if you would share a little bit about your dental story and how you find yourself where you are today as a practice and as a professional.

Dr. Robinson:

My dad is a dentist, and he recently retired at 82. So I was born into a dental family, and it has just been an amazing ride. We lived in a small town in west Texas, and my parents hooked up with a management company that had them do comprehensive exams and full mouth, new patient exams and consultations, and full mouth reconstructions—all in a small town of 4,000. 

I was raised with that, so when I came into the practice, I knew that’s the kind of model and principles that were before me, and I was able to carry that on. And when I took over the practice and dad and I basically switched roles in 1999, he became my associate and I bought the practice.

Implementing Systems

Carrie Webber:

And I know you’ve been successful in the implementation of systems and skills over the years. So as you’ve brought on associates, what have been some of the most important steps in continuing to honor the values and the culture of your practice as well as the systems you’ve worked so hard to incorporate?

Dr. Robinson:

Well, I’ve had multiple associates over the years, and each and every one has been absolutely awesome. We had great relationships and formed good friendships. And each time I learned something. But I’ll tell you the number one thing that we have put into practice is the Jameson management rules. I have everybody that comes on new train through Jameson. I have them review what we are doing and how we do it and why we do it. And the wonderful thing about the training is that you always take care of the patient first. Everything else will come if your heart and integrity are in the right place. 

So that is my guiding principle. 

Then I want to refine everything else based on the integrity of our practice. And so we have a philosophy: dentistry with a smile. We want to enjoy and love those patients and make them feel like they are part of the family. But everything else has to be absolutely working beautifully for us to concentrate on loving the patients. And so all these systems that I have, that Jameson has taught us, help us stay focused on our goals every day. Take care of those patients and love them and provide the highest quality service that we can provide. 

Having Conversations

Each one of my team members, when I hire them, I talk about that when we’re interviewing. And particularly when I’m interviewing for an associate, we go through personality testing and we have time to just visit with each other. Then they know full well when they come into this practice what type of family heritage I’m passing on, what type of systems I have in place, the philosophy of the practice.

If the associates have really learned about the foundational principles of how to make a practice stand out and, even though things may not go smoothly, you’ll survive and thrive.

Carrie Webber:

You know, what I love about that, Dr. Robinson, is that before you ever move forward, you have a very clear conversation about the values of your practice. You give clarity on how you function and how you need to be in agreement and on board as an associate in my practice, because these are the non-negotiables. I love that. And I feel like sometimes that’s a missing piece. I feel like I hear these horror stories or very sad stories of this isn’t working, because we moved too quickly without having the right conversations first. Do you agree with that?

Number One Guiding Principle

Dr. Robinson:

Totally agree with that. And I also feel like with the associate, it’s kind of like a marriage in that at the very first it’s all the honeymoon stage. And then as time goes on, you find these little things that bother you. But one of the things that I always tell my associates is that our integrity and systems have to be the guiding principle. So many are young, and they’re concerned about money, and they’ve got big debt. And I understand that. But one of the reasons that Jameson has been so wonderfully successful in my practice is the systems. You know, dentistry is a hard way to make money if you don’t manage it well.

Systems and integrity. If you’re doing dentistry because you have a passion and you love it and you want to take care of that patient and you want to make this world a better place to live through dentistry, then the money will come. If money is the driving principle, it truly affects how you practice dentistry.

Associate Example

My associate, right now, Dr. Milan, is a young dentist who has two young children. And so starting out, when he came and shadowed in my practice, he said, “I have no idea how you’ve made all this work like this.” And so the first time we had our review with Jameson, he was like, “Ah, now I know how this works and how you attract a certain kind of person when you have these foundational principles.”

Dr. Malone came from a place where it was more of a non-relational type of work. They did the dentistry, but they weren’t building long-term relationships with their patients. They were doing the dentistry at a high volume. And so he has been giddy about taking the time to be with the patient, taking time to have a sit-down consultation before we ever start treatment, unless it’s emergency treatment. He’s like, “This is absolutely the way I want to practice dentistry.”

Carrie Webber:

Yes. That’s what gets you through the hard days. That’s what gets you through COVID, because you’re driven by the thing that is truly most important to you. And when you are working with people that align, in terms of working for the same big-picture, that has meaning. And I love how you say that when you build it in that way, the money comes, because you’re going to not only attract teams and associates and partners that want to work in that way, you develop a good reputation.

Continue to Learn

Dr. Robinson:

And it is such a joy to continue to learn and to progress in the practice. Again, mom and dad had great, great foundational, comprehensive principles, and I’ve been able to, through education, add to that. And so I continue to learn. I tell Dr. Malone, we never, ever, ever stop learning. I’m constantly trying to empower our team and myself in order to provide complete dentistry. So we’ve done some bacterial tests in our office. We’ve studied sleep. We’ve studied good health and fitness. All of that so we can provide the very best services to keep people healthy. And we talk as much with patients about how our treatment or our diagnosis can help them live a healthier, longer life as we do about a tooth that’s broken and needs to have a crown.

Carrie Webber:

Yes. So, you know, that continuous learning piece, I do want to dig into that with you just for a little bit, because in this moment right now, there’s a great deal of hiring, finding new team members, that new associate. And, as they are brought into the practice, you are really good about prioritizing time for training. 

Can you share some of the things that you do as a team on a regular basis, whether it’s for a new employee or for the team in general? How do you prioritize time for that kind of training to make sure everyone understands how the systems run, everyone understands their role in bringing their best to the systems?

Dr. Robinson:

Well, one of the things I want to say is it’s been a tricky, tricky time during this pandemic. And I give the credit to the systems of Jameson and to the leadership that we’ve had. But this last year has had more turnover than I’ve had in a long time. And so training new and getting the right person on the bus, and the right person in the right seat on the bus is critical.

So it’s been difficult, but the Jameson Grow online platform has been wonderful—all those videos and the education that each team member has the opportunity to go through. We have our team meetings and trainings, but the Jameson consultant only comes twice a year. So this helps. They get an idea of the systems so that when the consultant does come and they have that opportunity to visit with the consultant, they have an idea of what we’re talking about. So I love that. And I’m thankful that you guys have the platform. It has been a big help.

Watch Out for Tunnel Vision

Another thing I’ve learned through working with Jameson is that you get so good at the system that you forget how you got there. Then it is so easy to get tunnel vision when there is a crisis, or even to get too focused on the day-to-day routine. And you have got to have methods to step back and pull yourself out and remind yourself what the systems are, how they work, why you are doing what you’re doing. 

So I love it that we can take a specific topic and say, okay, we’re having issues with this. Then I run to that video and watch it and remember that’s why we’re not doing these things. There’s so many things, all the way down to writing the thank you letters to the patients, celebrating success. We need those reminders to make sure things aren’t slipping, falling through the cracks.

Carrie Webber:

Yeah, it’s funny. I’ve worked with several people over the last few months, and we were brainstorming things they could do. And I’d ask, are you doing this? And I can’t tell you how many times people say, you know, we used to do that, but I don’t think we do that anymore. And they don’t know why they stopped. 

I think also coming out of the season that we’ve all just survived. You know, like you said, we were all just in survival mode, and now is a great opportunity to take a step back and recall those successful little things that on their own don’t seem like a big deal, but when you add all those together, it can be the difference between being just okay at what you’re doing and being excellent at what you’re doing.

Closing Thoughts

Dr. Robinson:

It has been a year of rebuilding, remembering all the things that we do to make everything work well, and remembering we’re a well-oiled machine. We do all of these things so we can provide the highest quality of care with compassion. And so it’s taken a lot to get all the systems back into place, and I can’t imagine not having what I have in these difficult times. I couldn’t imagine not having you guys and the systems and the things that we’ve had in place to get through this.

Carrie Webber:

And, you know, I think you bring light and joy into your work because you lead with purpose. And again, just a perfect way to drive home what I feel like is the message here. If you’re looking to grow your practice, if you’re looking to bring in other people, if you’re looking to build leaders within your practice that share your philosophy and align with you, you have to know what your purpose, what your culture, what your true reason for practicing is so that you can find people lead people with that. And Dr. Robinson, you do that so well.

You not only communicate it to the people that work with you and to the patients that come to you, but you live it and reflect it. Great leaders do both of those things. Thank you so much for being with me today and for sharing a piece of your story and sharing some of the lessons you’ve learned that have helped you thrive in the best of times and the worst of times.

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