Unprecedented Times Require Unprecedented Action from Dental Practices

Robert M. Pick, DDS, MS


My new favorite word is unprecedented, as we all are living through an unprecedented time in human history. Though our current difficulties are unprecedented, tremendous positives can emerge too. As Albert Einstein once said, in the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.

The Purple-Cow-Wow

We aren’t taught practice management in dental school, which is there to educate us as dentists and dental specialists. But the business end of the practice is extremely important and possibly more important than ever.

Years ago, I was being interviewed for a webinar. The host asked me about a purple book behind me. It was Seth Gordon’s Purple Cow. It’s a must read, an easy read, and key to super-success. It’s also one of my so-called Bible books, which are key to my success.


If you’re driving in Wisconsin, all the cows are black and white Holsteins. After a while they become boring, and you quit looking. But if all of a sudden you saw a purple cow in great shape, you would slam on your brakes, take pictures and videos, and send them to everyone you know.


Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth noticing, exceptional, interesting, and new. Routine stuff is boring and invisible. With all that is going on right now, more than ever, you must do everything at a remarkable “purple-cow-wow!” level.

Take Your Staff Meetings Online

Keep in mind that you always must do what is ethically right for your patient, and you must perform your procedures correctly and with awesome clinical skill. But remember, you’re also running your dental business. That’s why you must surround yourself with an amazing team. I call that team a “5-Star-Purple-Cow-Wow-Team!

No matter where you are on the returning curve (closed, partially open, or fully operational), you must keep in constant contact with your team. Even if you’re back, many of your employees might not feel comfortable attending a meeting with their coworkers.

If you aren’t already using them, learn how to use video conferencing platforms like Zoom to meet with members of your team who aren’t back in the office. Schedule meetings within a certain timeframe, such as every five days or once a week. Have an agenda for each meeting, and make them productive, fun, organized, stimulating, and exciting. Let your team know how much you appreciate, care, and are concerned about them.

At the beginning of each meeting, set aside the first few minutes for social interaction and catching up with one another. For example, ask what everybody did over the weekend. Also, designate one meeting or part of a meeting to be a virtual office party. Send “care packages” to each of your team members in advance so they can open and enjoy them simultaneously. Allow your team to share stories and encourage participation. All of this builds amazing trust.

Also depending on what you are doing, you can have breakout rooms during a video session. At the end of each meeting, tell your team members that you’re thinking of a number from one to 10. Do a round-robin, and whoever guesses the number could win a $25 Amazon gift card. It ends the meeting on a fun note and puts a smile on everybody’s face, which is so important during this unprecedented time. Take a snapshot of the meeting, which makes for a great social media post too (Figure 1). Zoom in particular can be used to facilitate many of these ideas until we can return to some form of normality.

We also normally hold Pick Business-Team-Building-Retreats! or PBR! retreats twice a year,  starting out at one day each. They usually are held away from the office in places like hotel conference rooms. During this unprecedented time, though, Zoom can become your conference room. Also, instead of a whole-day meeting, use Zoom to schedule multiple one-hour sessions, breaking up the PBR! into needed subsections.

Other Communication

Team group texts are another wonderful communication tool that can be used now and once the pandemic is over. There may be a time when some members of your team will have specific questions that are important to them. Or, there may be a time when you need to give your team important information between video calls. The group text should not be abused, though, and rules should be established, such as no texting before 7 am or after 8:30 pm, or limited texting on weekends.

Social media is important right now too. You must communicate with your patients often and effectively through social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are particularly popular. Each time you meet with your team, decide what you will post next and when you will post it.

If you haven’t done so already, designate someone as your office rep extraordinaire and social media coordinator (ORE/SMC). Often, the same person can handle both roles. The ORE/SMC can manage your social media while acquiring and achieving new and useful opportunities. For example, you could speak at senior homes, schools, or businesses. You could even give these talks via video conferencing.

Go live on social media as often as you can, too. When you do go live, use belive.tv, which allows you to use your office logo, include the name of your post, create a scrolling message, and bring in guests. For example, include your infection control coordinator to discuss your new COVID-19 precautions. Live posts like this are definitely “Purple-Cow-Wow!” (Figure 2)

Social media is so awesome. It is an amazing form of both internal and external marketing. It also allows for instant communication and contact. Great posts, especially live posts, also allow for better relationship building. Relationships are one of the major keys to success. We didn’t have social media during the Great Depression, so let’s use it now to our advantage.

You should set up a video station or studio in your home or home office where you can coordinate these live social media posts. Shoot for business casual in your wardrobe from the waist up, which is what people will see. Many desktop and laptop computers include a built-in camera and microphone. Or, you can use your smartphone.

This could be a good time to purchase appropriate lighting, external cameras, and microphones as well. Adjust your blinds and shades. Make sure you’re shooting in a quiet area with little background noise. And, your surroundings should look professional. Do some practice runs and test shorts to evaluate how everything will look and sound, and adjust as needed.

If you don’t have an infection control coordinator, now is a good time to appoint one. During and after the pandemic, this position will be paramount. The infection control coordinator will ensure your practice is meeting the high standards required by the practice guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the ADA.

Your social media, then, should show your patients what you and your infection control coordinator are doing to ensure their safety. Explain how your practice is meeting the CDC and ADA guidelines. Walk your patients through the new protocols, such as waiting in their cars and taking temperatures upon arrival, since they probably won’t be familiar with them.

Plus, send your patients letters or emails telling them that you are committed to providing safe and high-quality care for their entire well-being.

The Bottom Line

You’ll need to see heavy production for the next several months. Aside from established payments from accounts receivable, you probably haven’t been seeing any production coming in. Even if you have Payment Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan funding, you need to ramp up production.

Have your admin team analytically look at the first three months of your return to operation to see if you can increase production each day and push exams and other less productive procedures to the end of that time frame. Also, look at each exam and determine what it’s for. Make sure you’re prioritizing those who need urgent care, too. Consider working an extra day per week or extending your office hours once a week until you catch up.

Additionally, consider bringing on an extra dental hygienist either part-time or full-time. If you have one hygienist, consider using two hygienists until you catch up. Networking is important here, along with knowing the right people and having amazing verbal skills so you can explain these changes to your patients.

Many business owners have a tough time delegating, and they often like to be in control. If you have the right team, learn to delegate responsibilities to the correct team members. You may discover that they do some things better than you, and you’ll have less to do yourself, freeing yourself up for more important activities. So when you’re on a video conference, if something comes up, see if it can be delegated to the right person. Now is the time to change.

Time for Self-Examination

Now also is the time to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (called a business SWOT). You can do so during your next video conference, assigning a different person to handle each category.

Begin with strengths, which are positive and come from within. Write “STRENGTHS” on top of a piece of white paper, draw a line under it, and then go around the call to have your team list what your strengths are. The designated person will write down each strength you come up with until you run out of them. Then, look at each strength and discuss what you can do to make each one even stronger.

Next, move on to weaknesses, which also come from within but are negative. Do the same thing, discussing what you can do to eliminate your weaknesses or make them stronger. Opportunities come from within and without, and they are positive. How can you expand them? List and discuss them. Finally, do threats, which are external and negative. What are your threats, and how can you neutralize or eliminate them? Make sure everyone gets a copy of the SWOT.   

Many offices don’t have a mission, vision, and culture statement. Without one, how do you and your team know where you’re going, and what your plan is? You can use one of your video conferences to develop one. Spend 40 minutes to an hour on it. At the following meeting, read it aloud to make sure it all sounds correct, and make changes as needed.

If you haven’t done so yet, develop something the amazing Simon Sinek came up with: your why. Most dentists know what they do and how they do it. But they don’t know why they do what they do. Businesses also should have a unique selling proposition, or USP. It’s the one thing that makes your practice better and stand out from other dental offices in your market.

Spend a video session with your team developing your why and what you do better than everyone else at a “Purple-Cow-Wow!” level. If you know these two things, most patients will never say no to treatment.

When is the last time you analytically looked at your website? Many websites need updating and modernization. Do you have a video banner on your homepage? Do you have video testimonials? Is there a video about you? Have a videographer create a super video about what you and your team are doing about the pandemic. It could separate you from your competitors and help attract patients to your practice. Schedule it now!

Now also is a perfect time for you and your team to work on your verbal skills in asking patients for referrals, making sure you ask the right patients, and asking for five-star Google reviews.

It’s a great time to work with your team on creating, setting, and developing goals for the immediate timeframe, the near future, and the distant future too. Make sure your goals are realistic, discuss them with your team, and determine how you’re going to achieve them. Not having a method for achieving your goals is one of the biggest reasons why they are never accomplished. Create awesome habits that go along with these goals, too.

Finally, now is the time to develop your “Purple-Cow-Wows!” What can you do, and what should you be doing in a wonderful and remarkable, ethical way to blow your patients away and separate yourself from your competition? For example, do you call your patients the night after a procedure such as veneer placement, scaling and root planing, bite adjustments, or extractions? Or send them a video check the next day? How do you greet your patients? Who answers your phone? Do you have an amazing morning huddle? Develop these plans now.

If you can afford to do it, pay your team each time they join a video conference with you to develop these strategies.

Your Turn

These days, I’m often asked if I’m scared or fearful. Actually, I’m full of hope and hopeful about the new innovations that will result from the pandemic. I’m also hopeful about the new, wonderful bonds that the crisis seems to be creating on a personal level and locally and globally as well.

With the pandemic upon us, now is the time for you to lead your practice proactively and with honesty and courage. You also will need to be resilient and able to adapt and pivot. If you approach the crisis with optimism, confidence, hope, passion, positivity, and a sense of opportunity, you not only will survive the crisis, but also thrive!

In this unprecedented time, we will see new leaders and dental entrepreneurs step up out of necessity and lead the pack. What will you choose to do?

Dr. Pick received his dental degree, certificate of residency in periodontics, and master’s degree all from Northwestern University. He maintains a full-time private practice and is in the trenches just like you. He is also an associate professor of surgery, division of dentistry, at Northwestern University’s Feinberg school of medicine and an attending clinician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He is the CEO of the Pick Group, a practice management firm designed to make your practice unstoppable as well. He can be reached at (773) 402-8933 or via email at drpick@thepickgroup.com.

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