Tired of the Ups and Downs of your Schedule?
Learn the Power of Future Booking! And Avoid the Dreaded SHARKS TOOTH
For many of the practices I have worked with, managing time and resources are at the top of the list of frustrations. “Some days I am busy, and some days we just stand around.” I have heard this many, many times, and for most of my clients, there IS a solution. It is called Future Booking.
The concept of Future Booking is something I teach all my clients in the first few months; basically, it means that when you hit your goal for the month, you CHANGE YOUR SCHEDULING BEHAVIOR. That is a loaded statement for sure:
First, …what was your behavior?
Second…how do we know when to change it?
And third…what behaviors do we change?
Scheduling is all about goals…goals goals goals. They must be realistic and discussed constantly. Goal setting is something I discussed in my blog last week. So, let’s assume you have a goal that you can actually achieve. It is discussed at your AM huddles (assuming you actually have a morning huddle!), the staff is on board regarding how they contribute to the goal, and off we go! The month begins. As I stated in my goal setting blog, you must be using the “month at a glance” view to determine where and where not to put your production as you schedule it. I’ll fast forward a bit here to the point: in the month where we HIT OUR GOAL, we have met or slightly exceeded what we wanted. Now, what???? We still have a week left in the month — what do most dentists do? — MORE MORE MORE…let really steps on the gas and have a GREAT MONTH!!!! After all, the goal was just an imaginary signpost along the way to success. RIGHT? We all have done it! We saw an opportunity to grab the golden ring.
We did our homework, counted our days, scheduled with purpose and discipline, and now at the moment of truth, we throw all that planning out the window and bust through the STOP sign to grab an extra $5 to $10k. Does it work? Sure it does, in the short run, you have a good or great month. But at what cost?….I’ll tell you, right now, go look at your Production and Collection chart, look at your BEST month. What follows it? A good month? Another GREAT month? — in the vast majority of cases that I have seen, what follows a standout month is a below-average or worst month EVER! Often more than one!
Was I correct, was the standout great month followed by a month or two of doldrums? Why is that do you think? I mean, let’s be honest—you thought the great month was the beginning of a trend, you had turned the corner and days of wine and roses were ahead!!!
The answer is as much emotional as it is practical; your staff (and you) worked really hard to generate the production! Also, you taught your staff that the goal isn’t really the goal; the REAL goal is AS MUCH AS WE CAN PRODUCE, and that is a bit disheartening to your team. They worked alongside you, achieved exactly what you set out to at the beginning of the month, only to be rewarded by perhaps longer days — to “fit one more crown in” — there is no sense of accomplishment or pause to breathe and recover…because the next month starts NOW!
So how do we resolve the ever-present tension between what we need to produce to meet our budget and pacing ourselves for the long haul? FUTURE BOOKING!
Think of your practice as a production facility, maybe manufacturing iPhones. The plant is set up to produce a certain number of units per hour/day/month. Yes, maybe they can stretch to run a bit faster, but beyond that something has got to give…usually quality. In the dental world, the quality is up to two things—skill and time. Given enough time, most providers can do a good job, but as you all know, you had better be faster than when you got out of school, or you are going to have a problem! 🙂
But I digress! What I am talking about is both the patient experience and you and your staff’s ability to maintain an acceptable pace, fast enough (read: productive enough) to meet the financial demands of the practice and slow enough to be both sustainable and enjoyable.
OK…bringing it home!
This is where the concept of FUTURE BOOKING comes in. Once you reach or slightly exceed your goal (to allow for cancellations), your scheduling behavior should change! You start scheduling your major production (read: crowns, non-emergency RCTs, ortho), and anything that can safely be scheduled into next month (without fear of losing it) should be FUTURE BOOKED into next month.
Insert emoji of head exploding (for our newer grads) and WTF for our older providers!
What we are doing is winning next month’s race in the current month. Don’t forget, we worked hard on establishing goals for our practice, we focused on those metrics, and WE HIT THEM!!! Great job, take a breath and celebrate that moment with your staff—high five, go to lunch. Now with the time remaining in the month, you are to mentally slow down, know you still have to create a sense of urgency, but you have the luxury of scheduling that three-unit bridge into next month, have the ortho case come back on a time frame that works for YOU.
“Ok great, I get that, but what are we to do in the meantime, I mean should I give my assistants the day off?” HA!! You know what? I have never met a practice that did not have “projects” or a recall coordinator that couldn’t use some help. Trust me, there is PLENTY to do, you and your team just doesn’t have the time to get it done…well, now you do! But the most impactful thing you could do is to focus on your patients, get in and do the BEST version of a new patient experience you can! Get into every HYG visit and get to know your patients, show you care and listen to your staff as they care for your patients; these are the luxuries that we always complain we don’t have…well now you do! So use the time wisely. Most of my clients switch into future bookings in the third week of the month. So basically, all the work that walks through our door in the last 10 or so working days of the month is pushed into next month…what a luxury!!!!! We know what we are going to produce this month (YEAH! we hit our goal), we can make accurate staffing decisions for next month, and we can (mostly) keep our sanity intact!
This concept is not easy, I get that; in fact, if you have a patient in the chair and he/she wants to do the work today and is reaching for their wallet, by all means, do it! But more likely the case is that we have no idea what our goals are (based on the break-even of the practice NOT some mythical number we once hit), we don’t know where we are in the month, and we just put our head down and charge!!!
So to recap:
● Control your ups and downs by knowing where you are in the month
● Make management decisions based on real goals
● Celebrate hitting the goal and pace yourself through the use of FUTURE BOOKING