Use Retreats to Become a Fortune 500 Dental Business

Robert M. Pick, DDS, MS


In the wonderful high-tech world that we live in, one thing can lead you to another. Several years ago I was doing a YouTube search on business success and landed on a Steve Martin interview regarding advice on how to be successful. 

He concluded, from an entertainer’s point of view, “so many want to know, here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script, but I always say, be so good they can’t ignore you.” 

Bingo! His conclusion hit home big time, and it is now part of my practice and consulting firm’s vision statement. It says it all, and it should apply to your dental practice or, more importantly, your dental business.

I always believe in imitating those who are successful and then doing it better with your own spin on it, relative to your own business. As I want everyone to have a super successful dental business, you need to pretend that you are a Fortune 500 business.

We also must wear two hats daily in our dental business—the clinical practitioner, and the CEO of your business. The hats are often worn interchangeably, knowing that the clinical hat must come on first so you always do what is ethically correct for your patient with the most state-of-the-art procedures. But in today’s dental world, the CEO hat is more important than ever. 

My Own Story

Twenty-five years ago. I realized my practice partnership was not working for me. So I bought out my practice partner, only to realize I was on my own with no business management knowledge or skills. It was either sink or swim, and I was in very deep water. At that point, I made one of the most important decisions of my career.

I hired an amazing business management consultant consistent with my goals and practice vision. After several years of intensive immersion learning business principles and systems, absorbing key performance indicators (KPIs), getting my overhead under control, and developing the beginnings of a great team in a great team environment, we were off and running.

The result is that I became the CEO of my dental business and developed a biannual, business team-building retreat that my team affectionately called the “PBR!” or the Pick Business-Team-Building Retreat!

The PBR! is a solution for the dental business entrepreneur wanting to achieve success and increase production. After several years, most practices are so impressed by the success of their PBRs! that they extend them to a two-day biannual retreat. Let’s look at what’s involved so you can do the same.

How to Run a PBR!

PBRs! are held away from the office to avoid all distractions that would normally occur there. For example, rent a conference room at a hotel near you and make sure you cater breakfast and lunch. The dress should be business casual. If you have shirts with your team logo, they should be worn. If not, this is a good time to get them.

Everyone gets a binder with their picture, their name, the practice name and logo, and the date of the PPR! in the front sleeve. Inside the binder is the outline for the day or days, all-important information, and assigned articles, relative to the day, that will be reported on.

Also at the beginning of each day, so each team member feels important, everyone is given a lightbulb. The members of your team use the bulb when they have a great idea that cannot wait. They raise up the lightbulb, the meeting stops, and they present their idea. 

At the premier PBR! you must develop your office mission, vision, and culture statements. Without them, you and your team do not know where you are going. Also developed at this time is your practice’s brand or, as it’s known in the business world, your unique selling proposition (USP). What do you and your team do better than anybody else? You can and should develop a tag line and logo for your practice as well.

So many dental practices try to be everything to everybody while trying to compete with or compare themselves to the practice down the street. Find out what you do better than anybody else, and you will rise above the rest. Also, most dental practices know how and what they do, but very few know why they do what they do.

Every dental website brags about how the practice has the newest and best equipment such as CEREC, lasers, and CBCT, how it has Invisalign and sedation, and how its dentist(s) went to the best dental schools. But very few explain why they do what they do. At the premier PPR, this is where you figure your why out. Again, it will separate you from the rest, and you will go vertical. 

To motivate the team and spark some excitement, start the day with a raffle. Have several raffles throughout the day, especially during lulls.

The Topics of the PBR!

Here are the elements that should be covered in every PBR! Most of these things are never taught in dental school but are important in business, so they must be applied to your practice.

Begin each PPR! with motivational quotes and a great motivational video. It is then down to the basics of business:

  • The year in review: This is where you look at your production versus collection, not only for the year to date, but for the previous two years. It allows you to compare and contrast and look at your growth. It also lets you look at trends and what you need to improve. Your team sees the numbers so they can help you to improve as well. Plus, this is where you look at your KPIs. Remember, it is always easier to raise production than to decrease overhead, unless your overhead is way out of control.
  • The departmental review: This is where each department speaks to the team. I have my office manager go first to discuss where we have been, where we are at, problems that we may be having, and where we need to go. Next, the administrative team discusses its issues. I then have my hygiene team report, followed by the assisting team and the social media/marketing coordinator. Each department or division should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes. 
  • A business SWOT and STEW: These tools are vital in business, but they oftentimes are never used by dental businesses. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is a great analysis to help you take stock of the internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) and external factors (opportunities and threats) that affect your business. STEW stands for satisfy the patient, team, extra mile, and the wow factor in all that you do. For each of these factors, go around the room and glean as much information from each other as possible. Assign someone to write each point down on a big tear-off sticky sheet, and then post these sheets on one of the walls in the room until the day is done.
  • The business S curve: As most practices begin, they will usually grow, escalate, and perform. Then there tends to be a period of slight relaxation or stabilization, as we all become somewhat complacent once we see improvement. At this point, most businesses either succeed or fail. Kodak is a classic example of a business that fell off this growth and renewal curve. During the PPR! create a major motivational push and establish a new trajectory path to the next S curve driving future growth. This means looking for new skills, new ideas, and new methods to create business way ahead of the plateau or relaxation phase. If you are successful, you can simply jump from the rise of one S curve to the next. Amazon jumps the S curve continually.
  • Brand and your USP: Review your practice’s brand and USP, and make sure they are always in line with what you and your team are about and that all team members can very easily recite them.
  • Social media: In today’s environment, social media should not be overlooked. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all drive new patients into the practice. There are only so many hours in the day, so every practice should have a dedicated social media/marketing coordinator. Going live and posting videos are phenomenal strategies for using social media.
  • Goal setting: Goals must be examined at every retreat. Interestingly, goals are often established but never achieved. First, write down the goal. Second, set a deadline. Third, establish the method to achieve the goal. Skipping this step is why most goals are never obtained! Fourth, identify those members of your team who will be needed to achieve it. Fifth, make a plan and create a series of tasks from beginning to completion. Sixth, realize there may be failure. Seventh, never give up. Eighth, always visualize the goal. And ninth, once it is achieved, celebrate!
  • Working lunches: Lunches can be a great opportunity for breakout sessions. For example, break your team up into three groups. Give them an assignment such as “I have hired you as a marketing company to help improve our internal marketing efforts.” Brainstorming takes place over lunch. Sometime in the afternoon, each team reports on its strategies. You will be surprised by the greatness of ideas that can be immediately implemented when you return to the practice.
  • Teambuilding exercises: These activities often can take place right after lunch to keep everything exciting. In one fun activity called the Snake, the team is blindfolded and forms a line. The first person in line is given an object. That person then must find a bucket somewhere in the room and place the object in it. The rest of members of the team follow behind the leader, with their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them.
  • Recognizing hard work: The PBR! is also a great opportunity to give awards, such as employee of the year, most improved team member, a going above and beyond award, or milestone years. These awards can be plaques, pins, or trophies. This kind of recognition often is forgotten, and your team will love being appreciated! These honors and other parts of the PPR! are also excellent opportunities for social media posting. Take plenty of pictures, post, and even go live!
  • Choreographing your moves: Use the PBR! to practice choreographing daily duties such as asking for referrals and phone skills.
  • Articles: Each PBR! will develop a theme or particular focus. Each team member should be assigned articles relative to this theme, along with motivational and business articles. Team members then report on their particular assigned article or articles to the team.

Finally, go around and see what everybody’s biggest takeaway was at the end of the PBR! As I want my team to succeed, I personally always give away a book with a motivational note and signature inside. Recently, I gave the members of my team David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire.

There is so much more, but this should give you a pretty good idea of what is involved with a PBR! Most dental businesses will see an immediate increase in their production. Business retreats such as the PBR! pay off, and I guarantee that you and your team will come away charged, motivated, and ready to be so good that you cannot be ignored.

Dr. Pick received his dental degree, certificate of residency in periodontics, and master’s degree all from Northwestern University. He currently is an associate professor of surgery, Division of Dentistry, at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and an attending at Northwestern Hospital. He is in full time practice and in the trenches just like you as well. He also is the CEO of the Pick Group, a practice management firm designed to make your practice unstoppable. He can be reached at (773) 402-8933 or

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