Interview with Claire Dickinson on getting the entire dental team onboard with annual planning

Claire Dickinson, MS
Claire Dickinson, MS

Claire is an Executive Level Dental Coach, Operator and Consultant.  Her experience has been gleaned over a 25 year career spanning clinical, administrative and business functions on a dental team.

Dayna Johnson  0:39 

So welcome everyone. I am here today with my good friend and colleague Claire Dickinson, who is an executive level coach, Operations Director for a periodontal group and consultant. But mostly she is my one of my bestest buddies in the dental industry. We’ve been friends for a very long time, and now live super close to each other in Colorado. You know, we’ve both had dental careers that span over 25 years. And we’re here today to talk about annual planning. So welcome, Claire.

Claire Dickinson  1:56 

Hi, Dayna. How are you?

Dayna Johnson  1:58 

I’m good. It’s finally starting to warm up here in Colorado after you know, we have super long winters. So it’s awesome. It’s nice not to have any snow today.

Claire Dickinson  2:07 

For sure. I agree with that. Thank you for letting me join you today.

Dayna Johnson  2:15 

We’re going to talk about annual planning and at the time of this podcast going out, we’re probably I don’t know, six months before the new year. So I know a lot of dental teams might not even be thinking about annual planning yet. We’re still kind of right in the middle of the year. I know the dental practices that I’ve worked in, I don’t remember us doing annual planning in the middle of the year. So tell me why. Why you think that’s important. Why should we start to think about next year already? When you know, we’re still kind of right in the middle of, of the current year?

Claire Dickinson  2:57 

Yeah, that’s a great question. The reason why I instruct teams that I work with to consider or to start their annual planning, and let’s say June or July, is because as we know, based on like our recare cycle of our patients, come June, come July, we’re starting to schedule into January. And then you know, as the month goes through the year, we’re already starting to schedule into the next year. So having a clearer understanding about what our annual plan is, let’s say for 2023. And in order to meet those benchmarks, we have to know that prior to so then when we’re scheduling our patients, and we’re planning our schedules, like vacation, etc, we know all those things, before we’re right on top of it.

Dayna Johnson  3:45 

That’s true. That’s, so true. You know, I think about you know, trying to schedule your recare patients into January, February, and you don’t even really know what your vacation plan is. Or if you have hygenist that are going to be gone or even what your daily production goal is. How do you do that without even having a plan? Exactly.

Claire Dickinson  4:11 

Yeah, it’s it. I call I refer to it as it’s our opportunity to future pace with the idea of like, nothing is set in stone, but it gives us some kind of roadmap or guidance towards where we’re going

Dayna Johnson  4:26 

and where we want to be. Agreed. Yeah, so we can make little tweaks in the schedule, you know, come next year, but it really is ideal to have that roadmap already laid out when we start to put our our next year’s schedule together. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, definitely. So when we when we’re talking about annual planning, you know, sometimes the, the the rest of the team, especially the clinical team, they’re like, you know, I am I just work in the back ACC, you know, why should I be involved with this annual planning session? How do you deal with the team members that might not think that it’s really kind of their jam, you know, this isn’t anything that I need to be a part of this, you know, should be the doctor and the financial planner, and, and they can just tell me what I need to do. Why do I need to be involved with all of that? How do you? What’s your reaction to that?

Claire Dickinson  5:27 

I have heard that before. But generally speaking, when I introduce the idea of annual planning as a full team event, yes, we get into the numbers surrounding, you know, profitability, and productivity and goals, and etc. And that’s where sometimes that, you know, bridging that gap for the clinical teams can get a little bit difficult, but I try not to focus as much on that, but more so that we’re a team. And as a team, there’s individually there’s things that we can and we cannot do that will contribute to the final, like how the practice runs what we’re capable of such as like, who’s taking vacation? Is somebody getting married? Are people planning on having children? Is someone going to go like an assistant is going to go to hygiene school? From their perspective, clinically, what things did they see this last year? As far as like interactions with patients? Like? Is the doctor running ragged from room to room are like all the things that go into a fully functioning, Team participation? Group Practice, like how all these different key items play into the bottom line? And the bottom line is? Are we profitable? Are we making money? Are we able to produce the amount of money that we need to in order to have the best patient care? Right, and so having their input in their feedback about what’s worked in the past what they’d like to see in the future? Who’s available? Who’s not available? It all plays into this annual financial plan.

Dayna Johnson  7:09 

Agreed. Agreed. So I think it’s good. Like what you’re saying is, we kind of start off our annual planning session, looking at how has the last six months gone? Are there things that went really well that we should continue? Or is there anything that kind of went in the wrong direction? And and that we maybe need to forecast a little bit better for next year?

Yeah. And do you feel that I’m looking ahead into next year, if you think the annual planning session is a good time where we start to think about like staffing, and, you know, looking ahead at maybe a new bonus program, or staff salaries or adding on a new hygenist? Or things like that? Do we start to look at those kinds of things during our annual planning sessions?

Claire Dickinson  8:05 

Absolutely. All that stuff is part of the annual planning process. And then capital expenditures? Do you know when you’re talking to your clinical team, and we’re talking about, okay, what got in the way of meeting these goals, and they tell you, well, we just don’t have enough rooms, or we just don’t have enough people, or we need better computer systems, or we need another camera, or all those things, all these capital expenditures, that all goes into the conversation as well. Okay, so in order to do that, what do we need to do to be able to obtain or to gather or to purchase or to add or whatever, whatever the situation is? And then, okay, so in order to do that, if this is what we produced, and then this is what we know, things are going to cost? What do we do? What do we need to do to increase that? How do we bridge that gap? So yes, all of that is very, very important in the conversation of annual planning.

Dayna Johnson  8:59 

And, and, you know, you and I both have been involved with annual planning sessions, in our previous practices that we’ve worked in. And sometimes these annual planning sessions happen off site, like maybe we’ll go and do like a team retreat, where it kind of involves the whole team and it might be off site where we might be doing some team building and activities along with the annual planning. And then some offices will do it in house, you know, maybe they just they do it in a team meeting inside the office. Do you feel like there’s a any one way is better than the other or just as long as they’re doing it?

Claire Dickinson  9:39 

You know, I, I really, I think I’ve been indifferent to location. But what is very important, I feel like is making sure that it’s not rushed. So it’s a dedicated time where we say we’re going to take half of half of a day, out of practice and We’re going to reroute our phone calls. So there’s no interruptions. It’s just dedicated to this annual planning.

I feel like it can’t be done in an hour, it does take time. And everyone, you know, if you want to encourage your team, you know, a culture of inclusion and where everyone feels like they have a voice, then you need to take the time to go through the process of it, versus trying to rush it to get to the bottom of what the bottom line is saying, these are how many days we’re going to work. This is our total production goal. This is what we have to produce every day. It’s just if you do you will not get the same outcome unless you take the time to give each one of your team members the opportunity to participate.

Dayna Johnson  10:45 

Yeah, yeah, maybe like doing like a team survey or something where they fill out maybe a little questionnaire or some change before the annual planning session, and then whoever’s moderating the session, like if it’s the doctor, or maybe it’s a consultant, who is moderating the annual planning session, maybe they go through that, that survey or questionnaire just to kind of see what what’s on everybody’s mind.

Claire Dickinson  11:10 

Yeah, I have never done that before in the past. However, I do think that that’s a great idea. When I do annual planning meetings with teams, I, I am really good at getting people to talk. And so I make it an open forum, and I push a lot and I read the spoken signals that I get, and I’m not afraid to open up those the conversations like Dayna, I see something’s going on there. Tell me what’s on your mind. Let’s talk about it. Right. So then people feel like they’re part of the bigger plan instead of just working in the office.

Dayna Johnson  11:47  

Yeah. And I think when you do that, you definitely have to agree that it’s a very safe split safe space to to have those conversations because I think a lot of people do shut down. Yeah, because they feel like their idea is not important enough, or, you know, their their personal views might, you know, get laughed out or things like that. So you definitely want to make a safe space. And then everybody understands this is an open forum. And for conversation.

Claire Dickinson  12:17 

Absolutely. Which we should probably have another podcast on that. Because that is a whole nother thing that’s super important to instill and on teams.

Dayna Johnson  12:31 

All right, awesome. Well, this was, this was great. This was so informative. I know you and I both have been involved with annual planning. And I think it’s really good to get our teams to think about scheduling that annual planning session right now. Because now we’re halfway through the year, we’re going into q3. And we really need to start thinking about mapping out our our next year. And now it’s time to do that.

Claire Dickinson  13:00 

Yeah, yeah. And it’s, it’s fun to do as well, it can be very intimidating for offices in the beginning, for a couple of different reasons. One, maybe the doctor is a little apprehensive about sharing financials. Now this meeting, we don’t share the p&l. We don’t talk about the practice financials in detail. But what we do talk about is we know what our basic costs are. And that does get discussed. So that’s one, one challenge or hurdle that we need to get over is being able to feel comfortable to share with our teams. Yeah, but then also having people who are so clinically focused, and we’re all natural caregivers where when we talk about money, it gets a little uncomfortable, because Does that mean we’re not doing? You know, we’re not focused on the patients? Yes, we are. We’re focused on the patients because in order for us to be able to do the things that we want to do for the patient, we have to be able to financially support it. So, you know, just those little references and those beliefs, maybe mindset shifts help and, and then once you get through that, then it becomes less intimidating, and it does become really fun.

Dayna Johnson  14:06 

Yeah, I agree. I agree. I think we definitely have to build in those fun team activities along with your, with your sit down, look at numbers, types of conversations as well definitely make it fun. You know, bring in lunch or, or go out to your favorite restaurant, you know, definitely make it a team building event. But it is focused on you know, looking at the practice numbers and metrics and planning out for the next year. Yeah, 1,000% Yes. Oh, okay. Great. Well, welcome to q3 everyone. Claire and I will be back on with future podcast talking about how to get team the team involved with different aspects of the dental practice.

Claire Dickinson  14:59 

If anybody has any questions, I’m sure you will contact Dayna and you can also contact me.

Dayna Johnson  15:15 

You can always reach out to Claire or I about any questions that you have about your dental practice. We will always get you to the right person. If, if we are not the right person to answer your question, we will definitely get you to the right people. Absolutely. Yeah, definitely. All right. This topic if this topic today, resonated with you, and you know other doctors or other dental teams that would benefit from this podcast, please share it, rate it, review it, wherever you listen to your podcasts. This really helps us get the word out about our resources, our Novonee family of resources, and I look forward to watching your journey of becoming a Dentrix superuser. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Connect with us. We’d love to hear from you. So hope you have an awesome rest of your day.

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