Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Find the Silver Lining

On Saturday I emerged from 2 weeks of family isolation – my daughter had a persistent cough, which didn’t appear to come to anything – and took a trip to Tesco. I have to admit I was slightly apprehensive about what it would be like. This was my first experience of “lockdown”! However, my concerns were unfounded. There was a small queue outside the shop; there was a one-way system with markings on the floor to assist maintenance of 2 metre distancing; the shelves were mostly well filled.
Later that day Gillian, our girls: Rachel and Chloe and I headed out for our daily exercise. Again, the first since lockdown and again our worries were unfounded. It was relatively quiet and maintaining social distance was not too challenging.
However, upon reflection the main thing I thought about the day was that despite, and maybe even because of, everything that is going on, the world seemed a NICER place!! The staff in Tesco were fantastic. From the guy welcoming us to the shop and letting us in at the appropriate time after the person in front; to the staff tirelessly restocking the shelves; the person organising the queues at the checkouts; the chatty checkout operator and finally the lady opening the fire exit to allow customers to exit away from those customers arriving. Every one of them with a smile and ready to assist. But in addition the other shoppers were generally friendly and courteous as well: patiently waiting while I searched for smoked paprika (which I never did find!); allowing me to nip back against the one way system to pick up the “essential” Coco Pops I had missed; thanking me when I suggested they go past. Obviously, there was the odd exception: the guy who was clearly just wanting to pick up a couple of things and couldn’t be doing with all the new rules, but he was definitely in the minority. Similarly, when we were out for a walk everyone said hello and smiled as we passed, despite the social distance between us. The number of houses with rainbows and teddy bears in their windows, expressing thanks to the front-line staff who are working so hard.

It is like all of a sudden everyone is conscious and aware again. As opposed to being caught up in our own little bubble of existence, rushing from one place to another, checking our phones and generally being oblivious to the world around us, people are paying attention to the world around them and living in the moment. Granted, there is a degree of self preservation to these actions, but I found it nice. For once our problem is everyone’s problem and we are all in it together and with that comes a collective spirit.
So, whilst it is easy to focus on the few idiots that flout the rules or don’t seem able to socially distance themselves, they do seem to be in the minority. So instead, lets focus on the majority. The people that are doing the right thing.
 And maybe, just maybe, when this is all over – and it will be all over – some of us will remember how nice it was to slow down, lift our heads up and be aware of the world and people around us. And maybe the post COVID 19 world will be a slightly nicer world to live in.

Friday, 6 March 2020

My Kids Call It Nagging, I Call It Motivational Speaking

So this week I had to be a nag - I don't like doing it but someone's got to!  To be fair with one teenage daughter and one tween at home, most days I'm a nag, however this week I had to be a nag at work, which I really don't like doing.  

I knew at the end of this week our monthly newsletter was due but when I sat down the other day to get together all the content for it I suddenly realised there really wasn't very much.  Internal marketing: relying on our existing patients to help generate our new patients is something we rely on very heavily and it's something that we put a huge amount of work into.  About 95% of our patients come to us through word of mouth referral – either a recommendation from a family member or friend or because of reviews they've read about us online. If you're a patient you may notice that we'll often give you some business cards to take away with you to give to your family and friends and you may receive an email request for some feedback.  

A huge part of this is also our social media presence.  However, keeping the motivation going for the team to be on the look out for great things to post on social media and for our newsletter can be difficult, particularly when our team are so busy doing dentistry all of the time.  It's hard to keep an eye out for new opportunities, it's nerve-wracking asking patients to pose for a photo or to give a review, and it's difficult to find the time to take the photo once you've generated the opportunity.  BUT it's something that really builds a business.  So every few months when things start to flag we have a good old motivational meeting (nag!) and just remind the team how important this is to our business and consequently also to them.  That is the key to the meeting – what's in it for them.  More nice patients, more patients looking for the sort of treatment that's fun to do, a happier work environment, and a more successful business which leads to better training opportunities and reinvestment in the team and the business. 

It's exactly like when you come to see us every 3 or 6 months for your motivational meeting with your dentist or hygienist!  Usually at your last visit you've set off all enthusiastic with cleaned teeth and a head full of instructions on how to keep things in good shape.  You think to yourself this time I'm going to keep my teeth like this, nice and smooth, with no plaque or tartare build up.  (I know I do exactly the same!) 

You do great for the first few weeks, maybe even the first month, and then life gets in the way.  Just one more Netflix boxset episode and then you're so tired before you go to bed, you can't be bothered brushing or flossing.  In the morning, you've slept in and there's only time for a quick whizz round with your brush and then you promise yourself I'll do it properly tonight, and so it goes on...!  

Coming to the dentist and hygienist isn't just about us checking that everything's healthy.  A huge part of our job is to motivate you to keep things clean and healthy yourself and that's why it's so important to visit us regularly.

If it's been a while since your last motivational meeting with us, give us a call, we promise not to nag!

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

You Never Regret A Run

According to the health app on my iphone I took an average of 1,232 fewer steps every day last year than I did in 2018! Over the course of the year that is nearly half a million fewer steps!! 

That seems a huge amount, but I only have myself to blame. In the first half of last year my excuses were reasonable: a combination of work, exam preparation, case presentations led to a loss of free time and as a result cessation of any exercise of running that I usually try to do. However, in the second half of the year my excuses are less robust. I allowed myself to drift along and not regain any focus or motivation in terms of exercising. I basically never really got back on it! 

So, the plan for this year was to hit the ground running, but the combination of a cold over the new year and the bad weather nearly derailed all attempts before they had even begun. But the other week, in the middle of Storm Brendan I took the bull by the horns. I got out there and just did it. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was a start. Yes, it was cold, wet and windy. There were even some hailstones! But after I was back, I got the endorphin hit that comes with completing any exercise. You never regret a run; you only regret not doing it. 

Like so many other things it is often easier to not do them. Bad habits are easy to fall into and hard to break. Once the time has been filled by something else it can often be hard to see where you can fit it in. Yesterday was an extremely small dent in the attempt to regain those missing steps, but it’s a start. Maybe I’ll sign up for an event in the summer to add some extra motivation. 

In addition, I have now matched my 2019 blog total! Maybe 2020 will be the year of action after all!!

Friday, 10 January 2020

Stop Focusing On How Stressed You Are And Remember How Blessed You Are.

Keith and I are very different.  I'm the anxious one.  I'm the one who worries about every little thing we do in the practice: our staff; our patients; what new techniques we should offer;  what new equipment we should buy; do we have enough money to buy them; what should our new website look like; should we do a new video for it; what wallpaper should we put up in the waiting room; what training courses we should all go on; it goes on and on.  Keith on the other hand is like the eye in the middle of my storm of worry and indecision.  He's my calm side!

As a result I find myself reading a lot about how to calm this anxiety and worry - mainly just so my brain is distracted from what I'm supposed to be worrying about!  And the thing I keep coming across again and again is thankfulness and gratitude - spending time reflecting on what has happened in a day, what you've achieved and what you have to be thankful for.  

This week in the practice we've launched full steam ahead straight into the New Year.  We're filming on the 24th January with Keith's brother Niall to create some new content for the new website we're planning, so it's been all go for the team and it feels like we're already making big decisions about what's happening for the rest of 2020.  

Perhaps though we need to just take a breath for a moment and reflect on what we've achieved and what we have, so this morning I'm going to do just that, here with you.  Sometimes all we can think about is what we've got on our to do list, what it is we've got to get done, and we forget to stop and think about everything we've achieved.  Things just get accepted and we don't give ourselves the recognition or the thanks we deserve.  That's when it all just starts to feel like a constant cycle of underachievement and insufficient time: the hamster wheel of life.  Take a step off it for a moment with me, find some space and just think.

Photo by João  Jesus

Last year, 2019, what were my greatest achievements and what am I thankful for?

When I think of 2019 I think "Oh man what a stressful year, thank God it's over," but in reality as a team we achieved so much:
  • Welcomed 562 new patients to the practice
  • Converted and redecorated the upstairs into office and staff space so we finally have a staff room again!
  • Converted Mrs Rankin's old kitchen into a room for our Patient Care Coordinator and new CBCT scanner.
  • Installed a brand new dental chair in John's surgery
  • Installed a brand new Digital Intra Oral Scanner meaning Keith's patients and our Invisalign patients don't need impressions anymore
  • Installed a brand new CBCT scanner meaning our implant patients don't need to travel to Glasgow 
  • Installed a new reception desk
  • Reorganised our staffing, bringing in new team members to create a stable, enthusiastic team with the right people in the right seats on the bus.
  • Promoted Jill to Practice Manager and Patient Care Coordinator and developed her role.
  • Keith passed his Diploma in Implant Dentistry
  • Keith did training to allow us to deliver courses to other dentists
  • Trained for a year with Chris Barrow, one of dentistry's top coaches
  • Introduced a new facial aesthetics clinic and ran a successful open night.
  • Introduced a new sedation referral service with Ainsley our associate dentist.
  • Wrote 8 monthly blogs
  • Wrote and sent 9 monthly newsletters
  • Raised £300 for Cancer Research and donated a trolley of food to Coatbridge Foodbank
  • Looked after our thousands of patients every day in the same way as we would like to be treated ourselves.
And we have so much to be thankful for. That our team are all healthy, enthusiastic and caring.  That our building work didn't take too long  😬.  That our patients are so loyal that they recommend us to their friends and family and write us lovely reviews online.  That we have the energy and drive to always be moving forwards and a desire to always be the best we can be.

Looking back like this allows me to think "2019, what a year!  Our best so far!  Bring on 2020!".  I feel a sense of achievement and gratefulness and I'm excited to see what this year coming will bring.  

Go on try it, you'll realise just how much you have and how much you've achieved.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Go On Take A Step Out of Your Comfort Zone!

Earlier this year, I found myself taking a dip in the North Sea. This was my way of celebrating passing my Diploma in Implant Dentistry, awarded by the Royal College of Surgeons. 
It was a process that began nearly 3 years ago. In dentistry, as with many things in life, it is easy to keep well within the safe, stable environment of your comfort zone. However, sometimes you decide to take a chance and break out.
It started with a 6-page application form and a gigantic leap of faith. I thought I was well prepared: a few trips away over a couple of years along with the odd assignment and a few patient cases. What I hadn’t anticipated was the volume of work; the long days flying to London; the transfers from airport to hotels; trips to Germany, Spain and Italy but not seeing anything beyond a few lecture rooms and a couple of clinical areas; the work and time required to complete the assignments; the time required to identify, write up, treat and present patient cases; the stress of the build up to an exam; the exam itself and of course the waiting for the result; not to mention the financial investment as well as the time away from my family. At many times through the process I questioned what I was doing.
However, looking back now, the positives and the gains well outweigh the stress and sacrifice. In applying to do the course I knew I’d learn a bit about implants. What I hadn’t anticipated were the many other positives that I would gain: new friends, colleagues and contacts; increased knowledge and understanding in all aspects of dentistry, not just implants; an ability to balance and juggle work, course and family commitments (sometimes more successfully than others!); new skills such as critical reading and assignment writing as well as the sense of accomplishment that comes with setting yourself a seemingly improbable task and then achieving it.  
So, looking back, am I glad I stepped out of my comfort zone? Of course! Ultimately, I have ended up where I thought I would, but I have gained so much more along the way. 
Every day I meet new patients who, by coming to see us are stepping well outside their comfort zone. Whether it is embarrassment about the condition of their teeth; the belief that nothing can be done or the anxiety or fear of coming to the dentist, by making that first step they are taking their own gigantic leap of faith. However, by doing so, as I found with my diploma course, they often gain much more than what they were originally hoping for. It goes beyond just fixing teeth, providing patients with increased confidence and self-esteem, not to mention the smile they have always wanted!

Friday, 8 November 2019

Why Keith is the Best Husband! (Well this week anyway!)

This month I really need to give Keith a massive pat on the back and a big thank you!  I've been saving up with my friends from uni for the last 6 years to do a big trip to celebrate our 40th's.  It's only taken us a year and a half to organise it - none of us are 40 anymore - but last Saturday we finally headed off.  We had an amazing time - Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Rockefeller, Tiffany's, The High Line, Greenwich Village and a show - we did it all in just 4 days!

But I have to say I was just a little nervous on the plane home thinking about how Keith would have coped working and looking after the kids, cooking and washing and tidying up!  I had envisioned spending the next week catching up on everything and explaining to the teachers why the kids hadn't done their homework/hadn't made it to gymnastics/dancing last week!  But when I got back he'd done an amazing job of seeing patients, running the kids around, helping with homework, doing the washing!  I did also notice a strategically placed pile of my clothes ironed and left on the floor of our bedroom that I tripped over as I walked into it - I suspect placed there just in case I hadn't noticed he'd done the ironing too!!

He also wallpapered and finished painting our sitting room which we've been trying to get done for weeks! (And because he's a dentist and has great attention to detail it was pretty damn perfect too!)

So I've decided that clearly I'm just a hindrance to him and perhaps I should go away more often...😜

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Why “I don’t know how to do that” is never the right answer.

I had an experience today that no customer ever should have.  

As you may have noticed in our waiting room we have a TV screen which gives mouth hygiene advice, fun facts and information about the services we provide.  We have some great new before and after photos of patients we’ve treated and some new patient experience videos that I wanted to share with all our patients on the screen.  Theoretically this should be a straightforward thing to do – go into the programme, upload the files and voila - new photos and testimonials for the waiting room.  Unfortunately, as we all know, technology more often than not doesn’t play the game and I spent an hour trying to make the system do something it clearly didn’t want to. 

It’s all OK though I thought, I’ll call the support line.  Now I have to say that in the past I’ve had a pretty good experience with this company, Medivision.  They’ve always been quick to answer the phone and helpful with advice.  Today, however, was a whole different kettle of fish.  
“Em, actually I’m not that familiar with this system, I’ve been working with our new system PicBox , which is so much more user friendly.”  Was the initial response accompanied by a little self-indulgent chortle. 
“OK, is there anyone there who does know this system?” (bearing in mind that I’d only upgraded to this version about 18 months ago)  
“Um no, it’s just me that’s here.”
“I suppose I could go onto your system remotely and see if I can work it out.”
“Well that would be helpful.”  I replied.

And so it went on, 15 minutes of I’m not really sure what to do here, I’m not really sure why it’s not doing that, perhaps this will work, oh no it didn’t.

Talk about frustrating!! It wasn’t really what I expect when I call a company’s support line.  When it seemed like we really weren’t getting anywhere and at the point where I would have expected him to say : “Can you leave this with me and I’ll find out for you and call you back to solve the problem”, he turned around and said “ You should really just upgrade to our new system, it’s much better.”

I was so angry!! Here’s a great marketing strategy, lets make our support so unhelpful that it forces people to pay to upgrade to our newest system.  No, that is not a way to win business!  In fact it’s a downright turn off!    Can you guess what I’ve just spent the last half hour doing – that’s right researching other companies that provide the same service – I have a face–to–face meeting with Veronica from one of them in 2 days.

What Medivision have failed to realise is that the way to keep your existing customers is to provide a service that is second-to- none.  Make yourself incomparable and indispensable.  It’s only once you do that that you create a bond of trust with your customer.  As a customer it’s only when you have that trust in a company that you invest in their new techniques and propositions.

It’s the same in any business and thinking about it it’s exactly the same in dentistry.  We, as a business and healthcare provider need to work hard constantly to support and help our patients in order to build a bond that means when we offer new services and treatments they trust us that we have their best interests at heart.  It’s all very well bringing in new technology and new services that we know will make our patients’ experiences easier and improve their oral health but if we haven’t cultivated this bond with them in the first place then they’ll never trust us enough to try new services which will ultimately benefit them and then we’ve created a lose-lose situation. 

If I’m honest it’s only really as I’ve been writing this that I see how much this really applies in dentistry and to our practice.  Keith and I are in the process of the 2 biggest equipment purchases for the practice we’ve ever made.  We know that the advantages they are going to bring to our patients are huge and I’m hopeful that the relationships our team have and continue to build with our patients, will mean that our patients will really benefit from the new techniques this equipment will allow us to share.