By Dr. Matt Bynum
Much like most or all of you, I was experiencing a fantastic 2020. The economy was up and patients were once again spending money in the dental office. Elective procedures such as smile changes were coming in like it was 1997! My surgical practice was continuing to schedule procedures ranging from single-tooth replacement to full-arch hybrid bridges. Yep, 2020 seemed to be everything my team and I planned... then BOOM! COVID-19 hits and puts the fear of God into not only the patients and my team but also the world. Life as we knew it was about to change. Dentistry as we knew it was about to change.
Well, it’s been five weeks that my practice has been shut down for emergency patient care only. I feel somewhat lost in that I miss doing dentistry. I miss seeing my patients. I miss being with my team. I have been asked by friends and colleagues from all over many questions regarding my practice and what I am doing, but one seems to come up consistently: “What are you doing about your team?” It's a question I found myself having to answer immediately.
As the leader, your team is looking to you to respond in a way that provides them safety, security, and care. I found myself having to make decisions—hard decisions—right away. The first was closing the doors of the practice to everyone but emergency patients. I tried that first week to push some limits with the unknowns of this virus, but saw in my team’s eyes the look of uncertainty and the beginnings of fear. They wanted their leader to step in and protect them and their families. So I did.
The next step I took was one to illustrate strength and perseverance. I made a video for social media and sent a letter to all patients explaining that we would only be open for emergency care, but that while maintaining social distancing, we would engage in continued consultations to further develop our care. Little did I know this would continue for as long as it has. Again, in a bold move, I had a FaceTime meeting with my team about being one of the first offices to offer virtual consultations via computer and phone. Everyone thought it was a great idea and agreed to participate however they were needed. This illustrated that we were not "throwing in the towel," but that I was going to lead them in a fight to protect what we had built.
All of this participation in maintaining some semblance of dental practice and a life to return to is crucial for the mental aspect of cohesiveness and our unwillingness to give up. These types of acts are crucial in the initial bonding of the team together. But there is so much more to this. Below are some things I am doing to tie everyone together, maintain a sense of togetherness, and keep our pursuits and eyes upon the prize of when we return.
Weekly FaceTime Call
Each week for the past 5 weeks, I have maintained individual conversations with all of my team. However, when you are used to spending the majority of your week together, you find yourself missing that sense of family with each other. So what I have done is to schedule a group FaceTime call with everyone each week. It is refreshing and comforting to see familiar faces and share how we are all feeling and what is happening in our families and circles. This also gives us time to discuss any pertinent office related issues that need to be buttoned up. We also use this time to discuss our learning points and things from our study materials.
Weekly Readings and Group Learning
Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, my team and I started to read a non-dental, business/self-development book together called The 10X Rule by a real go-getter and ultra-successful businessman, Grant Cardone. Once a week, during our only lunch hour together for the week, we would have lunch brought into the office and we would discuss the three chapters we had read for the week. While the first couple of weeks took us by surprise, we have regathered to discuss our readings and learnings from this book and discuss them on our weekly call. It is here that we can provide life lessons and strategies for home and for work now and when we resume. This is the time you need to give your team something to occupy time and stay stimulated in growth, not only for them, but for your office as well. Please note this does not have to be a business book, a dental book, or even a book at all! Maybe you take an audiobook and listen to it. The important point here is that you do something together to keep you grounded in each other.
Right now, there are so many avenues to receive free continuing education. Doctors, I encourage you to take on learning for at least a couple of hours a day. Take your learnings and share them with your appropriate team members, if not all of them. Encourage them to participate with you. Find courses that you feel would benefit each team member in his/her position and send them links directly to the particular sites. Make recommendations on courses that inspire and encourage growth and learning. Choose topics of interest and topics of procedures and materials you want to learn and try. Use the strengths in the power of numbers with your team and find a way to discuss them individually and all together when it seems appropriate.
Contact, Text Messaging, E-Mail
Regardless of your method of contact, it is crucial to the cohesiveness of your team that the leader continues to lead. Doctors, that means YOU! Just because you are not working in your office does not mean you shouldn’t be working on your office! Just as your patients love to hear and see you reach out to connect with them, your team does as well. As a matter of fact, they need it. Take this time to send a note, a text, or an email letting each one of them know how much you care and how valuable they are to you and your organization. Take time to check on them individually. Use this time and this method to send inspiring quotes or verses to lift your team’s spirits and possibly encourage them to push themselves to be a little bit better. What you’ll find amazing is that you, yourself, will be the one who benefits from this. You will become more inspired!
Virtual Happy Hour
My team and I have always scheduled nights out each quarter. We utilize this time to step away from the practice and just enjoy each other’s company as friends and what we call our “work family.” We usually start our evening out with a happy hour cocktail then move to dinner somewhere in our fabulous city of Greenville, SC. We like to call it G’Vegas! The venue switches each time and we do this without loved ones. This is our time to just be! We laugh, we joke, we tell stories, and we catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives. This time out together is critical to the growth and stability of our team. During this time of social distancing, do not forget to nurture this valuable time together. Schedule a FaceTime call or a Zoom meeting.
Everyone bring their favorite drink and even a snack. Talk about what you made, how you made it, and just catch up on life not pertaining to office stuff at all. Everyone is having their own struggle with this lockdown and this gives the ones you care deeply about a time to share.
We are all in this together and, to be quite honest, there is no magic bullet to set everything right for you and/or your team. However, there are a few things I do know that have come from this lockdown. I’ve heard it said on many different webinars and Zoom calls, but it sticks when it comes from my wife, Ann, and that is: “If you don’t emerge from this time provided by this virus shutdown a different, more improved person, then you have wasted all your time!” The truth is that time is the one thing we simply cannot get back. However, it is your responsibility to use it as wisely as you can. If you haven’t started, start! Take time to re-invent who you are. Take this time to re-invent your dental practice and business, and be and do what you have always wanted to be and do! Take this time to learn and grow, in your knowledge, in your relationships, and most importantly, in yourself! You cannot come out on the other side of this the same, and neither can your team. Invest in them while you invest in yourself and watch how it plays out when this is all over. Remember, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you respond to it that matters.” May God bless you and keep you safe and healthy until we once again can continue to do what we were put on this earth to do!
Dr. Matt Bynum graduated from The University of Iowa College of Dentistry in 1995. He maintains a private practice in Simpsonville, SC, with emphasis on Aesthetic, restorative, physiologic, and implant dentistry. He is the co-author of the acclaimed book The Boomerang Effect. Dr. Bynum is an educator, a mentor and an international lecturer, speaking on topics of restorative dentistry, practice success and development, goal setting, motivation and helping everyone become the very best version of themselves possible. He is an active member of the American Dental Association (ADA), the South Carolina Dental Association (SCDA), the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the International College of Craniomandibular Orthopedics (ICCMO), the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI).