Interview with Claire Dickinson on the foundational elements of annual planning in the dental practice

Claire Dickinson
Claire Dickinson

Claire Dickinson,

Claire is an Executive Level Dental Coach, Operator and Consultant.  Her experience has been gleaned over a 28 year career spanning clinical, administrative and business functions on a dental team. 

Claire is the co-founder of Vityl Management and lives part-time in Colorado with her husband and two sons, and part-time in Seattle. In her free time she loves to coach Crossfit, bike in the Colorado Rockies, and travel with her family.

Today, Claire and I sit down to kick off third quarter with talking about annual planning in the dental practice. Annual planning should be on your calendar just like any holiday or special event. In our episode today we talk about the top three foundational elements of the annual planning event. The transcript below was translated by so please ignore any and all grammar errors.

Dayna Johnson 0:08 

We are super excited you have found Novonee on the Go, the Premier Dentrix community’s free podcast. I’m Dayna Johnson, the founder of Novonee and my goal is to give you about 15 minutes of juicy content to take back to your practice and help your team have a more productive and less stressful day. Enjoy! Hey, my friend, welcome to a new episode of Novonee on the Go, where we how dental team optimize their workflow and master their software. And so, we are kicking off third quarter. And I know that you know we try and be a little bit systematic with our with our content and our podcasts and our all of our blogs and everything. And so many of you may have heard that we are talking about annual planning during the third quarter. And so today I am joined today with my good friend and dental colleague, Claire Dickinson. She is the Operations Director for Puget Sound perio up in the state of Washington. And, consultant and co-founder of Vityl Management.  And we are going to talk today about the three foundational elements of annual planning. And so, Claire, welcome, welcome. Welcome. Thank you. Are we for setting it in? Yeah. So just to like, kind of kickoff. Since this recording, we actually got to spend a little bit of time with Claire and Tony last week. And we had some personal time but also a little bit of work time while we were up in Washington. My husband and I were up there for just kind of a little mini six-day vacation. And we went on an awesome hike with Claire and Tony. We just about killed my husband. But once we got to the top of the top of the height, the view was well worth it. Halo and so it was really great to spend time with Claire at the All-Star game and my husband was at the All Star game as part of the press and and we got to go on a beautiful hike. So. So how did you how’d you feel last week when we were up there visiting with you guys.

Claire Dickinson 2:59 

It was great. We always love having you. You’re probably shouldn’t say this publicly. Now everyone knows. But Dayna and Kevin are the easiest guests to have. You get your own coffee. It’s great. I know.

Dayna Johnson 3:16 

And I’ve kind of adopted I’ve kind of adopted Claire’s dog Annie as the Novonee mascot. Because whenever we come up and say with Claire Tony, Annie is just a sweetheart and she’s so photogenic. Yes, yes. I love taking photos. And I love taking selfies with Annie. So, if you ever get on the Novonee, Facebook or Instagram page, you’ll probably see pictures of me and Annie.

Claire Dickinson 3:49 

There’s more to come. I’ll just keep sending them to you. So she will become the official Novonee dog.

Dayna Johnson 3:56 

I think so too. I think so too. Yeah, so we had, we had some time to spend together, and we also said, we were going to try and record the podcast while we were up with you, but we had to. We had too many other personal things going on. So we’re recording today. Okay, so let’s get started. Um, so we want to talk about the foundational elements of annual planning. And, and so, you know, before we started the recording, we were kind of brainstorming about what that look really looks like. And, you know, from what we talked about last year, you know, those foundational elements really don’t change too much. And, but we do want to kind of dive into what practice owners can and what the team really should be thinking about this time of year because And I get that it’s still we’re still in the middle of summer, you know, it’s only July. And offices are like, well, we’re still on vacation. And no, we’re not even thinking about next year. But offices really do have to start thinking about next year because you’re already booking an appointment into next year. You know, we’re in July, so you’re already booking hygiene visits into January. And so how can we? So let’s first start off by how do we get the practice into that frame of mind?

Claire Dickinson 5:36 

Um, I guess I have a question. Do you mean like, how do we get them? Like excited about the thought process of speaking so far ahead?

Dayna Johnson 5:47 

Yeah. Yeah. Like, how do we okay, you know, you really need to, yes, you’re you might be on vacation. Or you might be we might be in the middle of summer and sun shining out by? But how do we get them? You know, excited and thinking about next year already? Yeah.

Claire Dickinson 6:06 

So, you know, it’s, a lot of times, it’s not an exciting topic for people in a dental office, because, you know, we said this several times in different podcasts, we’re all natural caregivers, you know, and I think it sometimes can be a complex for us, because we just want to take care of patients, we don’t want to talk about money, or we don’t want to talk, you know about the stuff that it takes to run our small businesses. And so that said, you know, what needs to happen is we need to set the same time every single year. So it becomes something that is, it’s like, you brush your teeth, let’s say you brush your teeth every day, first in the morning, you brush at night, right? It’s just something that we do. So it’s not a oh, we have to plan it, oh, when are we going to do it, it’s just already set in stone. And then too, I’m a firm believer that your team members want to be part of the solution, they don’t want to be told what to do to solve an issue or to be a part of the solution, right.

So giving them the opportunity to feel like they have a voice and that they have their contribution really does matter in the business. You know, they may not want to be entrepreneurial, and they don’t want to own a business or, or whatever. But I do think that you will get more out of your team members, if they feel like, you know, they are stakeholders, So involving them in the annual planning process versus just telling them, Hey, these are the goals, this is what we’re working, you’re gonna like it right. And so being I like to do half day, or even full day annual planning meetings with the whole entire team, including the after. And, you know, there is some conversation that is had with the doctor prior to about personal goals, you know, for their business that they like, but generally speaking, this is a group annual planning. So yeah, that’s right.

Dayna Johnson 7:58 

Yeah, I agree. And I think it’s good that I liked what you said about the team just needs to kind of get it in their head that this happens every year, this time of year. And like it should be on the calendar. You know, I see when I go into offices, I see those big, you know, calendars, those yearly calendars. And as soon as you put that calendar up, you though you should already be blocking out your annual planning on that calendar. And it’s just becomes part of the culture of the practice. Exactly. Yeah.

Claire Dickinson 8:37 

When I learned how to do this, we usually did it November, December, which I felt like was really late. And so when I heard nothing faulting, I started shifting it towards June and July, because like you said, we several six months out, right, so that, you know, instead of inconveniencing patients and calling them later after we’ve scheduled them and said hey, oh, we have to move you. Yeah, we just set it in advance. It’s done. It’s future pacing. Exactly.

Dayna Johnson 9:03 

I think. Yeah, I think October, November, it’s just way too late. And then you get caught up in the holidays, and then everything gets it everything gets pushed out. Oh, you know, we’ll do it next week. Oh, we’ll do it next week and just gets pushed out pushed out. Yeah. And okay, so. So when we talk about the foundational elements of annual planning, the first thing I think of is you know, the historical data or past performance helps you to kind of plan for the future. So, so let’s kind of talk about what uh, what do offices? What should they be kind of diving into when they think about historical data or past performance is going to help us guide us into our next our next stage or our next year? Yeah. So I look at things I With, with each producible provider on the team. And we talk about Okay, so what have we done this last year? What can? What?

Claire Dickinson 10:18 

Going up the first six months? What’s our average production per day? And then we talk about where do we fall short of the goals that we had set before? Is this a goal that we even want to have?

Is the practice is where we’re going with the practice. What we want, do we want more? Or do we want less, all these little pieces of, of historical data are important, knowing what we’re going to achieve in the future? It never feels good for people when we just say, Okay, we’re going to add $200. You know, let’s, let’s say hygiene. And, you know, just for the sake of the conversation, these numbers do not apply for anything. But let’s say we, okay, a hygienist has $1,000 a day production goal, but just for the sake of growth and setting goals we’re discussing, okay, so now, Dana, this year, you’re going to do 1200, there’s nothing behind it. And people can’t subscribe to that. And so you really have to have, you know, some good dialogue about. Okay, so where did we finish? We finished on $1,000? How did that feel? Good, we feel like we were able to achieve it. Did we feel like, you know, did what was the psychological effect of because we can set these goals, but if we’re never achieving them, it actually is counter to what we’re trying to achieve. And the fact that people, they quit trying, or they get defeated by the situation, they feel like they can never succeed. So having those conversation about what do we think we can do more? Do we want to do more? What are the needs of the practice financially, like, do we have to do more, and if we didn’t meet our roles, what got in the way of that is, what processes and policies do we need to change because some of the stuff we do can be outdated and archaic and actually cause us problems with efficiencies. So this part of annual planning becomes probably the most critical part of the whole conversation. And it takes the doctor, the assistants, the hygienist, because all of these people in the dental office all contribute to the outcome of what the vision is, and the bullets that were setting in without complete buy on buy in understanding, you know, emotional engagement in it. We’re just setting goals to set goals, right. So, you know, knowing what the visioning of the practice is for the coming year, and what doesn’t historical data, because that’s really, really important to evaluate. Putting that like having those, like, really, in depth conversation is really important.

Dayna Johnson 12:53 

I agree. I agree. And I really liked what you said about looking at the production per day. Because, you know, what I want the listeners to know is that you can pull all this historical data out of your software. And this is what you you really should be looking at this data, daily and monthly with your team already, you know, I think looking at practice numbers with your team is so important because they the team is is actively participating in improving the numbers or, you know, maintaining the numbers. And and so looking at those, those practice numbers on a regular basis is important. But now you’re doing the annual planning, you want to look at that historical data and see, okay, what did we do over the last year? What were we producing per day, and when you’re looking at production per day, it’s also really important that you’re looking at net production per day. Because if you are a PPO office, and you’re posting and you’re doing you know, full fee, you’re posting full fee and taking adjustments, when you’re looking at your reports, like if you’re looking at report and you’re looking at the practice advisor report, it’s going to show that production in gross production, you have to make sure that you are looking at the adjusted production per day you so that is really really important. I know that we’re kind of getting into the weeds but no, I do think important to discuss in in which

Claire Dickinson 14:38 

which I want to elaborate on just a little bit more. I have worked with CFPs that actually don’t look at production. They just look at collections. When it’s hard for offices to I have found it’s hard for offices to set annual goal off of collections. But let’s just for the sake of the conversation let’s say you know the practice financial advisors like, you know, you need to collect $200,000 a year, or $2,000 a month. Okay, so now we have to reverse engineer what that looks like. Yeah, right, exactly. And so, and it’s totally fine to do that. But if you know that your collection ratio is typically, you know, your PPO practice and you collect anywhere, like 80% of your, you know, gross production, then now you’re going to come up with your annual planning, right? So there’s a couple of ways to go around about it. And so I just wanted to drop that, because I have seen that and where they’re like, well are, they’re telling us we need to collect this. Okay, so now we have to figure out what that we need to relate that back to what that means?

Dayna Johnson 15:43 

Well, you do it, I mean, I agree that goal should be set on what you collect. Because what you put in the bank, is how you pay the bills, you don’t pay the bill on production. So you, you definitely have to have to build goals and off of what are you collecting, but then we just have to reverse the math, to figure out what the let the production goal is, because we are, we are scheduling to production, we’re not scheduling to collections. So you know, we do have to, we do have to collect everything that we produce, which is, which is critical. But it’s important that we are looking at those regular reports, whether you’re, you’re running the practice advisor report in Dentrix, or you’re, you’re you have an online analytics, like Jarvis analytics, where you know, you can get online and look at your dashboard, you know, however, you’re looking at your practice numbers, that also should be a team meeting. And, and then, and making sure that those those numbers are, are accurate, and up to date, and all of that. And not only that, that’s a whole nother topic. We’re not going to get into data and stuff like that. But you know, we definitely can talk about that in a in another in another podcast, talk about understanding your KPIs and all of that. Okay, so let’s, let’s jump into number two, which is, now we’ve kind of looked at that historical data we were, we’re have had conversations about, you know, do we want to do more? Do you know, what is the vision now? Now we’re looking at the future. And so, you know, kind of the element number two is the vision of the practice for the future? And so talk a little bit about a little bit about that.

Claire Dickinson 17:43 

Yeah. It is as simply as but what’s the vision and the path? And what I mean is, as the doctor owner, where are you at in your career? is, do you want to expand? Are you comfortable with where you are? And that’s totally okay. In in, in dentistry, it seems like a lot of the conversation is how do we grow bigger? How do we get? How do we have more, right, and I feel like I hear that a lot, I see that a lot and posts and stuff like that, which is great. But it’s also okay to be fine with where you’re at, like, do your yabby I’m happy with whoever and happy that my team members, you know, they have what they need, I’m happy with my patient load, it’s totally okay. So you need as a practice owner to really evaluate what is enough for you, as an individual or a multi Doctor practice owner? In the vision of the practice? What do you want it to look like? Because once you have clarity around the vision of what you want us to be, then all these other elements make sense? Because then you can start to figure out okay, so what do I need to do to either sustain, or to grow? And, and, and sometimes it’s hard to have a vision as well. So you know, taking that time to really dive into what do I want this to look like? Do I want it? Yeah, work life balance? Do I want to work a ton? Do I want to add square footage or footprint? Do I want to add an associate? Yes, but that is something that needs to be done prior to your team meeting for your annual plan. So then when you come into your annual planning with the team you share with them, this is my vision for the practice, right? You’re not asking for approval or acceptance of it, but you have clarity, and you can and you can openly express this is where I would like to see us go. So now based on our historical data of what we’ve done before, and what we think we can do in the future, let’s build a plan around making this vision happen. Yeah, so it sounds like the first two core elements is the A doctor, the practice owner, really having those personal conversations with themselves or, and also their CFP or their financial advisors to really look at the data, develop a plan, look at the vision, and another really personal conversation that the practice owner is having either with themselves or their own advisors.

Dayna Johnson 20:32 

Element number three that we’re going to move into is now we are presenting that to the team. And the team that gets involved with how do we execute this vision? You know, how do we help the practice? You know, execute those goals and, you know, bring on an associate or whatever. So, then what is that? That team? Is it a team day? Is it a team week? You know, that, that? Do they go off site? Do we have it in the office? You know, what is that that team? event of annual planning look like?

Claire Dickinson 21:15 

So, either half the year, full day, in office out of office, sometimes it’s nice to do out of office, because you don’t feel the constraint says, of CMC that needs to be done. Obviously, the office is closed, no patients, we can’t have any no interruptions. first started the fate for let’s say it’s a full day event. First part of the day is we talk about all of our historical data, what worked, what didn’t work, how people individually felt about their role. Did they feel defeated by what they were asked to produce, not getting through those references and those beliefs to get us where we need to go, the doctor sharing their vision and what they would like to see. And once we can get through that stuff, then we get to the easy fun stuff. And that’s where we’re at. And so based on what we know where we want to go.

What do we think that we can do for the next year? So people need to come with their calendars? What vacation? Have you plan on having any babies do you is is your plan to retire soon? And it’s okay to have these conversations. It’s okay to be honest about it and say, you know, Dr. Dayna, I, my husband, and I would really love to have a child, and I am going to start trying to get pregnant. But these are good conversations to have. And the reason why is so we can accurately and openly future piece, right. Yeah, and support each other and get it built into the schedule. Exactly. And so once we talk about that, and we have all this information, we literally pull out a calendar, and we just start marking the days that people are available. The days that the office is closed, how we there’s I’ve been in annual plants where we’ve actually completely changed the schedule. So this office was open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, they didn’t like it. And so our in our annual planning, I said, Well, let’s brainstorm various ways that we can meet the needs of the practice. But also it feels good for you, for you as a team and having that work life balance. So they ended up changing to a split shift, where they work Monday through Thursday, Tuesday through Friday, and then they just track the calendar, like throughout the whole year, then base and then once you set the calendar, then you know, either through Jarvis, or if you have handwritten, not handwritten but digital, like Google worksheets that where you create an annual plan type of platform, you just start plugging in numbers. And, and at the end, that’s the fun part.

I don’t And the fun part. Yeah, that’s the easy part. But you have to get through all of the other stuff. To create buy in, to have understanding to have people feel like they’re a part of the solution versus being told what to do. And then you can then from there, you can decide, you know, as a doctor owner,

I either need to build a capacity and have more team members to make this work or we’re totally fine with where we’re at. Or maybe we need to consider changing our footprint like then you can start to pay now that you know what you need to produce. Can you produce that within your space? Or you know, there’s varying questions that come up from it, but it is a

Dayna Johnson 24:34 

half faith. Okay. obey is better. I think they had a minor. Yeah, so you’ve got the time and and you don’t you can make it fun too. So then people actually look forward to talking about that business side of dentistry and yeah, yeah, I did. A full day is definitely your optimum. If you try and do a half day, that first part where you’re talking about, you know, how did that feel? You’ll, I think that could go on, you know, I think people really want to have the freedom to talk and really get things out. Because when you, when you feel like you’re being heard, then, you know, being part of the part of the vision is gonna feel a lot better, you know, when first feel like you’re like you’re heard. So it sounds like, then we kind of start off on this 37,000 foot view. In the beginning, more the doctor is identifying the vision, those personal conversations with the their own owners or, or financial advisors. And then, you know, maybe then we get down into tree lying, where we’re looking at more of the team, team vision, you know, how did you feel? What do you think things like that, and then we then we start to get into the weeds, where now we’re plugging in those details, those goals, those days, those, those all those details that go into then mapping out the schedule, and the and everything that’s going to that we need to make sure that we that we execute on the plan? Yes, exactly. Um,

Claire Dickinson 26:20 

I always recommend to teams as well as an annual plan is not a one time event. So, you know, you will set our annual plan six months prior to January one.

But into the first quarter of that next year, we evaluate where we’re at, where were we at for the first quarter? How off target? Were we? How close? Yeah, target? How far over target? Were we oh, so should we reevaluate. So being able to look into that and reevaluate where you are as a practice, I think is really important. And it keeps the continuity of connection and engagement with the team. So then, this does become, you know, like I said, it, we brush our teeth every day, twice a day, it just becomes part of the habit that we have in running a successful dental practice. So we can be able to treat patients the way we want to be able to treat them.

Dayna Johnson 27:17 

Yeah, absolutely. Gosh, this was really good. Anything else? I think we covered a lot. And we covered a lot of really high level stuff. And I want everybody that’s listening. Like if you’re a doctor, and you want to reach out to Claire and say, you know, I’ve never done an annual planning my practice. And I really would love your help and support with that. You know, how would somebody reach out to you directly? Best way to reach me is by email. Or, or you can call me and Dana, I’m sure you’ll put that in the, the podcasts, um, you know, I actually, one of my favorite things to do is annual planning. I love it. I’m a planner, I like to have them out here. So that’s Well, that’s one thing I love about you with that, that you’re a planner. You’re not a procrastinator, you’re always on top of everything. And I would love you know, I will definitely have your contact info in the show note or CO that anybody can reach out to you. Yeah, definitely. I know, I know, I just love the smile on your face. Because we can see each other when we’re doing this podcast, even though you guys only get the audio, Claire and I can see each other. And like, as soon as she said that you should have seen this big smile on her face, she just gets cheeses start glowing when she talks about her annual plan I do. I’m a nerd like that. One thing I’m going to close out with and where I have seen annual planning fail, is when the annual plan is done between the doctor either by the doctor themselves or the doctor with their CFP, or the point being is when they don’t involve the team. And they kind of can they say, this is what we’re doing.

Claire Dickinson 29:18 

You know, we all think, you know, this is our business, we’re going to run our business the way that we want to and either the people there with it or they’re not, you know, but that’s not how it works. You really, really have to invest in engaging in your team and making them part of the conversation. You don’t it typically doesn’t work well. So yeah, Declan I

Dayna Johnson 29:37 

agree. Now I agree. I agree so much and, and then you know, Claire has this this really great high level 37,000 foot view planner and you know, she can help with all of that I’m, I kind of get more in the weeds where, you know, I love to look at numbers and so if you feel that you need help with understanding your numbers, where do those numbers come from? You know, I’m looking at the practice advisor report, I have no idea what it’s telling me. You know, I would love to help I help with that, you know, and so, either reach out to me directly or, you know, join our membership and take our understanding your KPI course, and really dive deeper into your practice numbers. Because that is just so critical that you that you have your thumb on the pulse of the practice. It’s so important. Yeah. Okay. So Claire, that was awesome. I love it. I love seeing you. It was so fun to see you last week and spend time with you. And you’re always my go to person for these high level conversations. And, and I love that, that we can connect on this level. I feel the same. Thank you. All right. Thank you, everyone. If you if you loved this topic, if if you think that some of your colleagues or your study club members or another practice, would, would enjoy our topics, please rate our podcast, rate it, review it, share it with your friends, colleagues, study club members. And because that’s how we are able to get our message out to more people to help you. You know, optimize your software create a better workflow for you and your team. All right, I’m gonna close it out. And I hope that you all have a great rest of your day and Claire until next time, my friend. Have a great weekend. You too. Thank you

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