Podcast: How to build influence and grow your dental practice


Hello and welcome to Ascent Dental Radio. A program dedicated to the balance between the clinical aspect of health care and the business of health care. And now here is your host, Dr. Kevin Coughlin.

Kevin: Welcome. You’re listening to Ascent Dental Radio. This is Ascent Dental Solutions with a focus on knowledge, consultation, development and training.

Although we’ve done many podcasts, this podcast, in my opinion, is extremely special. Chris Widener is widely recognized as one of the top speakers in the world today. He’s spoken all over the world in places like Germany, Spain, Russia, China, Egypt, Singapore and Australia. Of course, he’s spoken all over the United States and Canada. Chris speaks to groups as small as 100 and as large as 25,000.

His focus is on coaching right now and he’s willing to take dentists, dental leaders, dental hygienists, assistants, small organizations and large managed service organizations and show them how through influence and leadership they can improve their bottom line and just overall, besides money, just make the practice, the service and care they provide better.

Chris has clients as large as General Electric, Cisco, Microsoft and Harvard Business. His mentors were Mr. Jim Rohn, considered as one of the most successful speakers in the last 50 years and Zig Ziglar, considered one of the greatest motivational, personal development and leadership experts of the 20th century.

Both of those leaders selected Chris and Chris has taken their programs, their information and knowledge and brought it to an even higher level.

Chris, welcome so much to Ascent Dental Radio. Thanks so much for taking your time. In regards to health care and dentistry in particular, can you explain in your experience how important influence and leadership is in building a business, small or large?

Chris: One of mentors was a guy named John Maxwell. Jim Rohn was also one of my mentors, but John always said that everything rises and falls on leadership. And I think that that’s a great quote because whether it’s a large business, a multinational corporation or a small mom and pop grocery store or, of course, a dental practice, I do believe that everything rises and falls on leadership. How you grow your business, how efficiently you run your business, the satisfaction of the employees that work there.

And so it’s been my focus for the last 20 years or so to focus on leadership and helping people, whether they are in a large corporation, or they’re running a small business, which most dental practice are a small business. They might make a lot of money, but it’s a relatively small group of people in a one location.

Obviously some have multi-locations, but helping people expand their business, make their businesses more efficient, make it more profitable and it always starts with the leader. It always starts and rises and falls with the person who’s setting the strategy, who’s casting the vision and who’s responsible for the execution of the game plan.

So it’s imperative that dentists become better leaders. Those who are running their practices can drastically improve their business by becoming better leaders.

Kevin: In your 20 years of experience in this particular area, are there specific traits that you’ve noticed that make some leaders more successful than other leaders?

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, one of the things that I teach on, in fact, it’s the primary thing that I teach one, comes from my book called The Art of Influence and it’s how to gain trust, respect, admiration and loyalty.

So those four things. How do you gain trust, respect, admiration and loyalty? Whether it’s from your employees or it’s from your patients if you can gain trust, respect, admiration and loyalty, you’re going to build a bigger business. People are going to be dedicated to coming back to that business. They’re going to refer other people to that business.

And those four things come from four traits and if you’d like, we can just talk about those four traits. How do you build trust, respect, admiration and loyalty?

I’ll start with the first one: Trust. Every relationship between a leader and a follower or a seller and a buyer is predicated upon trust. For example, does the person coming into your practice trust that you really need what it is that they’re saying that you need? Are you really charging them the going rate or do they trust that you are highly skilled in your practice?

And so it’s imperative for us to build trust with those who we’re either selling to or employing. And the way that you build trust is through integrity. And so I find that the number one, and I always say integrity is number one, you can put the rest in whatever order you want to put them in, but integrity is the foundation to building strong leadership that last over years.

You can’t see me because we’re on a podcast, but I always hold my palm out like I’m holding up a mirror and I always ask the people, my audiences, to just look in the mirror.

Am I the type of person that other people trust? Am I the type of person that operates out of a single set of morals, ethics and values or am I duplicitous? Do I operate out of a dual set or sometimes even three sets of morals, ethics and values? Those who operate out of a single set of morals, ethics and values, who operate out of integrity are going to have trust from those who they either lead or they sell to.

And so that’s the number one trait of a successful leader, is to be a person of integrity and to make sure that your practice is a practice of integrity.

Kevin: I can tell you that when I listen to you speak, I get actually a little chill. I can’t concur more. I’m sure I didn’t coin the phrase, but I heard it somewhere and it’s called BLT. You want your service and your product, you want people to Believe, Like and Trust in you.

So really this trust, actually in my opinion, and maybe you can help me with this, it’s really your core values. Those core values, in my opinion, are developed at a young age and they’re reinforced over time. Would you concur with that?

Chris: Parents can instill it in us or we can come to a conclusion later on in life that this is something that we have to adhere to.

Kevin: Your second point was admiration?

Chris: Yeah. Admire. To be admired by people. And that doesn’t mean celebrity status or anything like that, but it does mean and probably falls in that likeability that you talked about as well. But people who admire people who are optimists, who are friendly, who are happy people.

If you got to go to the dentist, I got to tell you, I’m 50 years old, never had a cavity. But if you got to go to the dentist, wouldn’t it be better to go to a friendly dentist who you like, somebody who’s optimistic and happy? If they’re going to stick a drill in your mouth and charge you hundreds of dollars, you ought to at least make them feel good. And the way that you make them feel good is by being an optimistic, positive, happy person.

People admire people like that. People want to be around people they like and they like people who are optimists and happy people.

Kevin: Terrific. Your third and fourth points?

Chris: Respect: respect comes from excellence. When somebody walks into your practice, do they see excellence? Do they see average? Do they see poor? What do they see?

I’m talking about the quality of the carpets, the artwork on the walls, the smell of the room, the people behind the counter, the way that they’re treated by the dentist. I’ll give you an example as it regards to excellence.

I went to a naturopath for a while and she was great. She was really great. In addition to doing naturopathic medicine, they sold things like weight loss plans and things like that.

I moved to Seattle down to Scottsdale, Arizona about five months ago. And my last meeting with this woman, who is my naturopath, who I really liked, I said, “Can I talk to you about something?” And she said yeah.

I said, “You sell lots of health products, you sell a lot of weight loss products,” they have a map at their front counter and all that. And I said, “I don’t mean to be a jerk, but everybody that works your front desk is really overweight, but you’re a health place. And look, I’m no skinny person, but I don’t know that that says what you want it to say about your practice.”

She said, “Oh yeah, I was just talking to my husband about that last night.” And she said, “I can’t hire people based on their weight.” And I said, “Yeah, I get that. But wouldn’t it be great if the people who were working your front desk actually were excelling at health?”

And so what do people think when they come into your office? Everything they look at, whether the first impression or their lasting impression, what are they thinking about as it relates to excellence?

Because when they’re going out and they’re sitting to have coffee with somebody and somebody says, “Hey, I’m looking for a dentist,” you want them to say, “Oh, you’ve got to go to my dentist. I totally trust him, he’s an amazing guy, he’s so happy, he makes me feel good all the time and you know what, every part of their practice is just topnotch.”

That’s what you want them to say. You don’t want to say, “I kind of like my dentist, but the office kind of smells a little bit.” So every single level you want to excel and to do the best that you can and that breeds respect from people.

Kevin: I couldn’t agree more. I can tell you our organization sees over 100,000 patients in a year and day in and day out, in my opinion, the general public doesn’t actually understand what the actual dental needs are. They’re really like a lamb waiting to be slaughtered.

And it’s easy to take advantage of our patients. And once they feel, whether it’s correct or incorrect, that that trust has been lost, that respect of admiration, they’re gone. And as I like to tell when I do my training, you never lose one patient or a client. You lose the husband and the wife, the kids, the neighbors, the friends, family and relatives.

Chris: Absolutely. Let me tell you a story. I moved from New Jersey in 1991 to Seattle and right before I moved to New Jersey, I went into a car mechanic and he said, “Oh, you need all new brakes.” I didn’t make much money at the time and I go, “Okay, I’m going to push this off until I move to Seattle.” I said, “Thanks a lot.”

Came to Seattle, moved to a little town called Issaquah, and I pulled my car into an auto mechanic and I gave him carte blanche, “I need new brakes. Just fix my brakes, call me when they’re done. He said, “Okay, will do.”

About 20, 30 minutes later, he called me up and he said, “You don’t need new brakes. Who told you you needed new brakes?” And I realized that some scrupulous guy in New Jersey had told me I needed new brakes and this guy said, “No, you got like probably 15,000, 20,000 miles left on these brakes.”

Guess who I went to for an auto mechanic for the next 25 years until I moved to Scottsdale. He showed me that he was trustworthy.

Kevin: And almost more importantly, how many people you referred to that auto mechanic.

Chris: Dozens.

Kevin: Dozens. I can tell you in my own small practice, we receive about 940 new patients a month and the number one reason they left the practice is that trust factor deteriorates. And we’re all at fault.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t make a mistake, but for our listeners, hopefully through your coaching program, you can educate, inform, not just the doctors, but the team members that support that doctor in that organization the importance of trust, admiration and respect. And why don’t you talk about that fourth item now for a little bit.

Chris: The last one is loyalty. Loyalty is what you really want from customers, patients, in the dental world. You want loyalty. People that will come back and come back and come back and they’ll take their kids there and then when their kids graduate, they’ll keep going there.

And like you’ve mentioned a number of times already on the podcast, they tell their friends, they tell their brother, they tell their neighbors, “You got to go to this dentist.”

And the way that you do that is through service. The way I put it is, because everybody says, “We have customer service. We serve customers.” But I don’t just mean doing the actual cleaning of the teeth or doing the root canals, I’m talking about considering their interest more important than your own.

Zig Ziglar, I used to co-host a TV show with him. It was one of the great honors of my life. Zig had one of his most famous quotes. He said, “You can have anything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want out of life.”

What is it that people want when they come to the dentist? They want great service, they want many of them to have their fears calmed, and they want it done at a price that they can afford. And understanding their perspective when they come in and serving to that need that they have is going to make them loyal to you.

I come in, I’m always a little scared, somebody might say, “But you know what, the doctor is so great with me. He’s got great chairside manner. They always give me great service. It doesn’t hurt, it feels better afterwards. They always do the right thing.”

Making sure that their needs are met -- Robert Schuler used to say, “The way to wealth is to find a need and fill it,” and that’s the key. That’s how you build loyalty, people that keep coming back again and again and again and referring other people to the practice.

Kevin: Well, Chris I know how busy you’ve been. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you commenting on trust, admiration, respect and loyalty. Could you spend a few minutes and tell our listeners how they can reach out to your coaching program?

I also think that so many times in healthcare, we focus on the patients, the patients, the patients. But a huge part, the other part of the equation, is your team members, your employees, the people who are working day to day in the trenches.

They really have a huge affect not just on the care and service, but the overall decorum of your practice. And a coaching program such as yours I think could be invaluable, not just to the doctors, but the support team for those doctors. Could you tell us how we can get in touch with you?

Chris: Sure. You know the old saying “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” well, if your dental hygienist ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So it’s so imperative to invest in our employees and especially our key employees and invest in ourselves so that we’re better leaders so that they enjoy working there.

Because if they’re not happy working there and it’s drudgery, then they’re going to give poorer service to the people who are your patients. So it’s not just patient focus, but making sure the employees are happy and growing and well compensated and positive work atmosphere and the like and then at the top, creating yourself as a great leader.

I do an annual coaching program that I only take ten clients at a time. It’s for the full year and work with them on becoming better leaders, growing their life, accomplishing their goals.

You can find out more about it at www.chriswidener.com/private-coaching. You can check that out and it gives some details there. You can fill out the form if you’d like some more information and I’ll give you a call and we can talk it through and see if we’d be a good fit for each other for 2017.

Kevin: I can tell you if we don’t take you up on it, it’s our mistake. Shame on us. I firmly believe people don’t want to work somewhere, they want to be part of something.

And when people are part of something, the trust, the loyalty, the admiration, the respect are all part of the practice. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule. I know you have an additional engagement, an additional talk.

Chris, thank you so much for spending time with Ascent Radio.

We’ve been listening to Ascent Dental Solutions. The focus is on knowledge, consultation, development and training for health care, but dentistry in particular, and experts like Chris are out there to help us take advantage of it.

Chris, thank you so much. I really appreciate your help and expertise.

Chris: Dr. Coughlin, I appreciate you inviting me to join you and your listeners.

Kevin: Thanks so much.