EP09: Superior Team Culture NOW, Interview with Dr. Mitch Friedman.

If you feel that your office needs a culture boost or even a full facelift, This podcast is for you! Dr. John Interviews a long time friend and client and reviews his experience with keeping an extraordinarily upbeat and great team culture where employees love to come to work and patients love to come to the dentist. He copies genius instead of creating mediocrity- and you can too!

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EP09: Change your team culture, Dr. Mitch Friedman Interview Transcript:

S1 00:02.289 [music] Welcome to the Double Your Production podcast with the Team Training Institute, the one place designed for dentists and their staff who want to grow their practices by following in the footsteps of those that have done it, are in the trenches, who know exactly what you’re going through. And now your leaders, the stars of the podcast, Dr. John Meis and Wendy Briggs. [music]

S2 00:29.889 All right. Welcome everybody to another Team Training Institute Podcast. I have the tremendous pleasure to be sitting here with a long-time friend and one of my own mentors, Dr. Mitch Friedman. How are you doing Mitch?

S3 00:42.210 I’m doing great, John. We just finished up another quarterly retreat and charged up, a lot of things to do, and looking forward to going home. My daughter spent eight weeks in Eastern Europe. So she actually just flew in, so I’m very excited to go home and see her.

S2 00:59.961 Fantastic. So the weekend retreat was for our blue diamond or highest-level members. And they’re always lots of great information, lots of people with lots of experience sharing ideas and sharing the things that are working in their practices, and they always energize me as well. One of the reasons why, Mitch, I wanted you to have time with us on this podcast is that you’ve done a very, very good job in your practice building and defining your culture. Do you want to walk through with the listeners kind of how you went about doing that?

S3 01:35.426 Well, if you don’t create a culture, one is created for you. And if you don’t define it, then it’s very difficult for people to follow. So one thing I’ve been very good at over my career once I learned that I was an entrepreneur – I just happened to be in the dental business – was that I didn’t want to reinvent something. It’s better to copy genius than to reinvent– or to copy genius rather than create mediocrity. So a lot of my mentors, I would just keep some things that I really liked from them and then cull it all together and create something that I felt that was more for the Newman Springs Dental Care legacy that I want to create for my patients and the people who want to be part of it.

S2 02:35.417 So when you talk about kind of defining and documenting your culture, what are some of the ways that you document it and– you not only document it maybe in a written way, but you also document it in some of the activities that your practice does. So do you want to fill us in on some of those things?

S3 02:52.609 Well, everything is written. Some of the things, more like bullet points, we make into posters we keep around the room where we do our morning huddle. Every day is a morning huddle and it’s very structured, and we also have some of our motivational items around that room so that we can recite them and get excited about our day. If we find that– we also have a weekly meeting, team meeting, and if we find that there is a certain item on our culture list that people have been ignoring or abusing, try to highlight that and come up with some motivational things or things that we can talk about and not point people out, but talk about a situation that maybe we didn’t handle as well and how we would have handled that differently given our culture as a framework.

S2 03:49.191 So you use those values that are written down as definers of your culture and than you use that a little bit as your North Star. So if it were a compass, if you get off track a little bit, you reinvent everything back– you relate it back to those values.

S3 04:09.093 Yes. I mean, as I’m looking at you, I know you’re a pilot, and you’re trying to go from airport A to airport B and you’re never always on course. You’re always slightly correcting, And I think of that with our culture is that we always have to– as long as we’re on our way, we have to make slight adjustments. And as long as it’s not something critical where we’re losing altitude and have to go back to airport A, we’re good. We can make those adjustments along the route.

S2 04:41.248 So you wrote down your values as part of the writing down of your culture. What other things did you actually commit to words?

S3 04:49.766 One thing we do is each week each person in the office is responsible for a thought for the day. That keeps people engaged, and what’s interesting as I have one teammate who likes to have Bible quotes, someone else who likes to do family-friendly jokes. I like to do famous quotes by famous people that I think are appropriate for that time, also to keep us on our culture. And I find that keeps people engaged. Instead of being talked to all the time, they’re engaged and they know that their opportunity will come actually to add to that culture or keep us on our quest where we’re going.

S2 05:38.698 Sure. So I know that you defined also a mission statement. I know that you also defined some specific behaviors of what the expectation is in your practice to live out those values. What are some of the behaviors that you guys have identified that are really important to your practice?

S3 05:57.992 I think empathy is a very important one. We want to let the patient know that we’re listening to them. We’re active listeners in the practice. We want to hear what it is they want from us rather than us just telling them what we think they need. And that also goes along with our core values about guests’ needs first always, and that’s how we structure our day and how we look at everything when we go to decide if we need to add space and equipment or increase our capacity. We think about our guests’ needs always.

S2 06:44.697 Sure. Another thing that I know that you do that’s part of your culture is your charitable efforts. So do you want to walk through some of the things that you do?

S3 06:57.821 Sure. Our friend Dr. Vince Monticciolo started Dentistry From The Heart, and 12 years ago we had our first event– 11 years ago. This year will be our 11th year, and it’s been really terrific. And what I’m proud of is I was able to bring that to New Jersey – it was the first event in New Jersey – and since then, there are several other events in New Jersey and another one that I participate with with Dr. Allan Ruda and Beth DeAngelis. And it’s really a terrific thing.

S2 07:37.374 And you do it– it’s a big production at your office, isn’t it? You bring in other doctors and it’s a big production.

S3 07:45.247 Yeah it really is. But it was very difficult for me the first year. It’s gotten a lot easier over the years because the team– it’s part of our culture, so the team is really excited about it. And it’s really become almost easy to enlist other doctors. One challenge has been getting hygienists because what I’ve found is over the years, more and more people are looking for hygiene services at these events, not just extractions, emergencies. So we had to get additional hygienists. Actually, two other hygienists that I’ve volunteered with before are very committed to it with enthusiasm, which is what I love. And they’re terrific people. We love having them in the office. But they love to work part-time, so sometimes they work part-time for us. And they just love to give back. And it’s really a wonderful event. We also do and involve with Smiles for Life, which is the Crown Council event. I think we’ve been with them for about 18 years raising money for charity for St. Jude’s Hospital and also for a local charity that we love to work with that’s very appreciative off our efforts and our donations.

S2 09:09.234 So one of your claims to fame is you were the first person that I knew of that had really cracked the secret code of helping patients who have dental anxiety. And you found a way to draw them in. You found a way to help them get through the treatment, even though it was such a difficult experience for people with that condition. So tell me about some of the things that you’ve learned over the years about dealing with people that have high dental anxiety.

S3 09:40.455 You have to be very patient. They really test my patience sometimes. For the most part, they’re very appreciative. Most of them, it’s not just dental anxiety. They have anxiety in their life. They are just an anxiety-filled being, and it’s just that dental happens to be another one of those things. And it’s very rewarding. We really enjoy it. We enjoy being able to help them through it, provide the dental care that they need, get their mouths healthy. I have patients that have to have sedation even for hygiene even now. I have other patients that have gotten past their fear and have learned to trust us in the office to be able to have dentistry done in a caring environment where they know that people will take care of them. And if they’re told, “If you have any trouble at all, raise your hand and we’ll stop,” they know that we will stop. And we will.

S2 10:50.085 And so this sedation and how you deal with people, it’s really an expression of one of your core values and–

S3 10:55.416 Yes. Yes.

S2 10:55.507 –that’s empathy. So that’s fantastic. So I was just recently in your office for a vision day. Tell me about how that went.

S3 11:05.272 Better than expected. It’s surprising to me that after 15 years it was the first time [laughter] you had been in our office. But it was great because 12 years ago, I finally moved into my new office, and you knew all the heartache and aggravation and stress on my family that it caused. But we survived because we knew it was just going to be awesome. And it was the final result that was the most important thing. The vision day, what actually surprised me was I was prepared for and I invited the entire team to come, but I really didn’t know who was going to show up. And I think 14 out of 16 of the team members came, and the only two people who couldn’t come just had previous engagements that they couldn’t get out of. And some people came late. Some people had to leave early because of situations, but I was really surprised. And I guess I shouldn’t have been because I think they really came for you, not [laughter] just for me. Which was–

S2 12:10.669 I’m not sure about that [laughter].

S3 12:11.980 Or maybe they came for each other. But I was really– that was a great start to it, that so many people came and actually engaged. And some spoke that I hadn’t heard much of from before because they felt comfortable enough in the environment that we had created and with you – because they had met you before – that they really came out. And some things came out that I didn’t even know there was issue with. And we had some things that I remember you saying was, “Do you really think we need to deal–“, privately you said, “Do you really think we need to deal with this?” And I said, “No, I think she just wanted to vent.” And you smiled, and you said, “Yeah, really she just wanted to be heard.” And she was heard. And we said, “Thank you for that,” and we moved on. And she didn’t expect anyone to fix anything. And some people in the room looked at her like, “Where is this coming from?” But everyone was good and listened.

S2 13:15.972 Yeah. Yep. So if you think about the clarity that you got from the vision day experience, tell me about how that feels.

S3 13:29.042 It was very powerful. When you’re working in the business and not on it, it’s very enlightening. I find, besides the vision day when we didn’t have any patients, it was just we were focusing on the practice and the legacy and what we needed to do to give our patients even more. It was really powerful for the same reason that I enjoy these retreats. We’re out of the office. We don’t have any responsibilities with the practice. And we can really focus on it. And what do we need to change? What are some areas that just need attention? And to come up with our list. And you put a light on some things that I hadn’t really noticed. You put some clarity into some things I knew I needed to do but didn’t know how or just kept putting off that needed to rise up to the to-do list. And even after that, I brought to you yesterday some things that I wasn’t clear about and that I thought would be best when we’re face-to-face just for me to get some clarity and to understand. So it’s just really powerful.

S2 15:01.523 So tell me about the engagement of the team afterwards. What happened team-wise?

S3 15:07.194 I noticed them talking more, planning more. What was very interesting was they took your large-sized Post-it notes, and I think their first meeting was a few days after you were there. And it was a beautiful day and they just said, “We’re taking this outside.” So they took all the things they wanted to do and they went outside. And we have a little area with a little picnic table and chairs, and they did their meeting outside. And I wasn’t invited to the meeting. And I love those meetings, when I’m not invited. Big smile from me.

S2 15:50.017 Because you know they’re going to make magic things happen. And one of the things about you is that you’re a very smart guy and you’re a very fast thinker. So sometimes, you get ahead of your team. And when they have a meeting without you, what they’re doing is saying, “You’re getting ahead of us. We need to figure out how to actually implement the stuff that we’ve already got on our plate.” And so they’re not scheming. They’re scheming on how to implement what you’ve already come up with. So the reason that you like that is because you know how productive they can be after they have one of those meetings.

S3 16:17.205 Yes. Yes. So after the meetings, the nice thing about those large Post-it notes is then they posted them back up into the executive suite or into the conference area. And they had a lot of things on there that I really hadn’t thought about but clearly that were issues for them that they were working through. And a lot of them were just strategies for improving the patient experience, for making things easier, for getting things done, not leaving things undone, that if they utilize the systems that we have or technology that we have, they can get those things done and look even more awesome then they already are.

S2 16:59.778 So by providing greater clarity for your team all of a sudden, they’re taking on the initiative of getting this done, and this done, and this done. And they have a meeting to figure out how they’re going to do that. And so that is actually awesome. Because once they understand where you’re going, the answers to any questions they have are usually answered by that. So that’s fantastic. Well Mitch, I so appreciate you taking some time to be on our podcast today. Congratulations on the amazing practice that you have and all the magic things that you’re making happen. And I’m so excited to see what you’re going to do in the future. So thanks, Mitch.

S3 17:37.875 Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed having you along the ride.

S2 17:40.793 Yeah. It’s been fun.

S3 17:41.554 Thanks.

S2 17:41.881 Thanks.

S3 17:42.501 Good deal.


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