Peak Performance

I remember the days when being told “you have such great potential” warmed my heart and propelled me to take the necessary steps to turn that potential into success.  The word “potential” held such hope, major ambition and even pride.  Now some 25 years later, I look back and think about that same “potential” on the flip side as “lost potential.”  No matter how much success I achieve, no matter how many people I help reach their dreams, no matter how much I achieve in reputation or in wealth… too much “potential” is squandered and left on the cutting room floor of my life.

 I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way when it comes to reaching one’s “potential.”  How many clients do I have who after building the $2,000,000+ practice still long to fulfill their “potential.”   And what about the staff member who aspires to bigger and better things, yet finds herself feeling a bit wasted in the use of her talents and abilities?

Few of us will ever come close to reaching our God given “potential” in this life, but what we can do is to focus ourselves on trying to harness that “potential” with Peak Performance.  Peak performance is not perfectionism, but rather the idea that everything I do is done with excellence and to the best of my ability; assuming a healthy balance within the important things that tug at me each day.  It is the recognition that the search for excellence is a lifetime of caring, competence and consistency in all that one does, with the attitude that anything less than quality is not acceptable. 

I have been in the business of orthodontic management for more than 20 years and have devoted much of my career to helping offices reach out to achieve their fullest potential.  One of the most critical components for this challenge is to systematize the practice in such a way that it truly can deliver on the customer service and quality promises that are implicitly made to each New Patient as they walk into the practice for a first visit.  The entire New Patient Enrollment Process is honed in such a way as to entice the patient to be excited about the possibility of “a beautiful smile that will give a lifetime of satisfaction.”  Not only is the end result dangled like the “apple from Eden,” but also flows the promises of comfort, caring and fun for the patient with each and every visit into the practice.  The proper balance between quality and fun is the benchmark on which many of my successful clients have built mega-practices.   

In order to achieve Quality and Fun each practice must lay down, layer upon layer, the proper systems and ideas to achieve these goals.  Without a strong scheduling system that properly allocates doctor, assistant and chair time, there is neither little hope of achieving peak performance nor many goals. 

What do you believe is the single greatest limiting factor for the average orthodontic practice in both practice growth and treatment quality?  You guessed it… the scheduling system.

Practices tend to grow to their level of maximum competence, or should I say slight incompetence and then stop growing.   This should not surprise us as the “Peter Principle” is alive in well in almost every area of the business world and in our personal lives.  If you do not have any room in your scheduling templates for growth each day, your practice becomes like a fish trying to outgrow the aquarium.  Making sure to have extra NP exam spots and start spots each day is a huge step towards achieving growth, but many practices are so concerned about “filling up the day” that they never grow.  Practices that stay on time give the impression to their patients that they can handle more growth, yet those who fail in the timeliness of each appointment make an implicit statement to their clients that they are at their maximum capacity.  Seeing patients on time has innumerable benefits for practices, not the least of which are happy, stress free days for doctor and staff, while leaving room for smiles as you take good care of the customer.

Although in many practices headgear is on its way out, and even the use of elastics minimized, the need to gain patient cooperation with treatment remains the single greatest impact on the quality of the results.  If the patient is responsible for the braces 99.9% of the time, must we not expend significant energy to properly communicate with and motivate the patient?  The system of patient cooperation cannot be left to a few instructions.  It must have a basis in understanding what motivates people, especially children, and then applying solid systems to communicate and excite the patient to action.  Too often this important area is relegated so little time, energy and motivation, that it is no wonder the patients perceive from our body language that we are not serious about their cooperation.

If peak performance demands an outstanding Marketing, New Patient Enrollment Process, Scheduling and Patient Cooperation, then we must have outstanding staff to carry us forward.  Proper staff organization, management and motivation creates an outstanding crew that could carry any NASCAR driver to victory. 

Imagine that you as the doctor are the owner of a race car and desire to consistently finish in the top 10% of each race.  You surround yourself with the best crew possible and organize your staff into logical areas of responsibility with a leader of each major area.  Perhaps for your racing team you have some who deal with the public and with sponsors; receptionist, Treatment Coordinator and Public Relations Coordinator.  Then you need a technical crew that can deal with the fine tuning of the engine and fixing whatever is broken.  Our clinical assistants do this job for us as they seek to maintain a machine that will allow the drivers to get to the finish line each and every time as fast as possible.  Other support crew are also necessary, but when the race is on, everyone is on the track doing their part to gain Peak Performance so that you can win the race.

Each day that you race you ask different drivers to step into your car and experience the Peak Performance you have to offer.  These drivers are analogous to our patients as they walk into our office for a pit stop and are put back out on the track with all that is necessary for Peak Performance.   Every effort must converge on the patient at one time as they pull into pit row, and in 10-20-30 minutes get the driver back out on the road with all that they need to compete through the next segment of the race.  If something breaks, or tires get worn, the patient must make an unscheduled pit stop to get back on the track to race for the finish line. 

You can picture it can’t you?  It is 4:00 p.m. in your office and all your drivers are dropping in for their pit stop.  Are you focused on the fact that if you do not give Peak Performance the patient is not going to win the race?  Do you have your systems set like clockwork and your staff all trained, moving with grace and speed as they change the O-rings, make sure the teeth are clean and even change the suspension if necessary? 

Everything that has been accomplished in life has been achieved by making things simple through system and then applying those systems in a systematic way through the management of personnel.  It is our job to make sure that our team is functioning at Peak Performance in order to produce winning patients for each and every race.

All we can control in the race of orthodontics is the car (our systems), the crew (our staff) and how we perform when the driver (the patient) arrives for their visit.  The rest of the race is left up to the patient as they compete with purpose towards the finish line with their heavy foot on the gas, or get caught in a lack of focus and meander, or worse yet, end up in a crash.  No breakdown is of grave significance to the practice at Peak Performance, as without blame we go out to rescue the driver and repair the car as quickly as possible to return it to the race.

I have found that it is only when we seek after Peak Performance can we truly get the most out of our practices.  For some offices I must recommend dropping in a new engine (treatment approaches) and for others a new transmission (scheduling systems and quality controls).  For some, the right crew or the necessary crew leaders are missing.  For many it is simply the fact that their vision does not include Peak Performance and they are not striving to get their cars out of the pit as soon as possible, nor desire to finish treatment with speed and quality. 

Do you feel like you are not on the right track, or you feel like you squander too much of your potential each and every day?  Then take a good look in the mirror and realize, that until you, the owner of the Driving Team, sets the standards for Peak Performance, hires the right crew and trains them well, and ultimately gives this crew the best systems to win the race, your patients will be coming in second, third or last place.  But, if you, like many of my clients decide that you truly want your patients to win, then you will seek the answers that will turn your practice into a Peak Performer and allow you to experience the fabulous benefits that come when your drivers cross the checkered flag in first place. 

Keep in mind that no one says you have to build the biggest or the best practice in town.  Satisfaction and fulfillment come from doing a great job and living a balanced life that puts relationships at the top.  So in reality, helping others get to their dreams through peak performance is the way to get you to your dreams. 

Ken Alexander, Founder