Special Report on PPE and Your Practice

As practices reopen, many are grappling with the costs of operating in the age of Covid-19.   How will PPE costs affect your practice as you work to protect your team and patients from the novel coronavirus?  What are other practices doing to adapt to the disease?

Kate Willeford has conducted a survey of 300 US dental practices and has up-to-date information on how other practices are addressing concerns about Covid-19.   Check out her exclusive white paper here.

Cash Relief Coming: Passed House & Awaiting Senate

Cash flow relief, for paying employees, is on the way!  My team and I are closely following this Bill and will definitely send you the final facts once the bill has been signed by the Senate.

 

So that you may plan for the week ahead, while we await the Senate returning to session to vote on the bill that passed the House, here is the latest version:

 

  • As an employer, if you need to pay your employees for sick leave, you would receive a tax credit against the Quarterly payroll taxes you pay.  Meaning, you would not receive a check for the wages right away; rather, you would receive a reduction of the payroll taxes you were supposed to pay for the Quarter
  • This tax credit will only cover wages paid to the employees for required coronavirus related sick leave.  In other words, the credit covers a portion of wages only if you had to pay the employee for this particular virus
  • Note that it is not yet known whether the Bill will make a distinction between whether the employee stayed home by choice or if you required the employee to stay home
  • The maximum tax credit is currently $7,156 per employee for the year
  • Hardship exemption: the tax credit covers employers with fewer than 500 employees and there will be exceptions, that have not yet been clarified, for small businesses that claim paying the employees is not possible because it creates an undue hardship on the employer.  Meaning, the House has left open the possibility that you will not be required to pay the employees, even though the tax credit will exist
  • April 15th deadline may be extended: we still expect this to occur; however, it is not a part of this Bill.  The administration is trying to determine it the decision requires the vote of Congress and, if extended, I expect it will be for a minimum of 3 months and you will not owe penalties or interest on any unpaid taxes paid after April 15th

Do you know your legal requirements as it relates to paying your employees for sick leave?  The rules vary by State and whether or not an employee is classified as an Exempt or Non-exempt employee.  I highly recommend reaching out to your HR Attorney to make sure you know the specifics for your business, in addition to reviewing your employee manual.

 

Another excellent resource is Bent Ericksen (an HR company that specializes in HR for dental offices) and they have written answers to the most popular questions: https://bentericksen.com/coronavirus-faqs/

 

As you know, my team and I have been working from our homes for years, which has positioned us to be able to continue preparing your tax returns, accounting, tax & transition services with no interruption. We already had the technology in place to continue working seamlessly without a brick and mortar office and we’re stocked up on soap and hand sanitizer!

 

We’re here for you as we all weather this situation and hope you and your family stay healthy,

 

Kate Willeford, CPA and the Willeford Group Team

 

Is the Sky Falling? Not Really! Business in a Time of Disruptions

Listen to the Money In, Money Out Podcast
Your practice can stay financially strong during the Coronavirus Crisis

Will your practice be able to weather COVID-19 quarantines and lost work time?   This morning, Kate Willeford appeared on the inaugural episode of the”Money in, Money Out” podcast to discuss how practices can survive and thrive in these unsettled times.

Consultant and fraud examiner Susan Gunn invited Kate to discuss how to keep a calm head and a good cash flow while facing state Coronovirus lockdowns.

Listen now, and prepare your practice with advice on:

  • Cash flow
  • Financial savings
  • Line of credit
  • Paying employees
  • Federal tax filings
  • Employee travel
  • Stock market
  • Business interruption insurance
  • Remote access to your practice
  • For sanity’s sake

This promises to be a useful podcast for any practice owner or manager.  Take some time to listen, and remember, if you have questions about how Coronavirus will affect your taxes and business planning, our all-virtual firm is at work and staying up-to-date on developing news to help you thrive!

 

Are you Screening Your Dental Patients for Coronavirus? If not, it’s time to start.

Coronavirus as visualized by the CDC

 

As Coronavirus cases continue to mount, medical practitioners are at high risk for catching and passing on the disease.  Most of the news coverage has focused on primary care physicians, but your team is also in danger. Many patients don’t want to cancel or reschedule appointments or may miss early symptoms because they assume that they’re just seasonal allergies.

What can you do to protect yourself, your team, and your patients as the epidemic expands?

Screen before Patients Arrive in the Office

When you call to confirm appointments, conduct a screening.  Has the patient traveled to an affected country, city or state in the last 2 weeks?  Have they taken a cruise or flown on an airplane?  If so, ask them to please reschedule for a time and date outside the two-week window.  Make sure to update your list of affected areas that require a two-week wait daily, by checking the CDC website.  And read the list to your patients – don’t expect them to be up-to-date on the latest Coronavirus news.

Screen for symptoms as well.  If a patient has had a fever and cough in the last 4 days or is experiencing shortness of breath, reschedule the appointment.

 Encourage Your Team to Be Proactive about Calling in Sick

No one wants to look like a slacker. But you also don’t want your office to be ground zero for a local outbreak of COVID-19.   Let your team know that you expect them to use paid time off if they’re at high risk.  If they’ve traveled to an affected area or taken a cruise, have them stay home for two weeks.

Encourage them to be more vigilant about their own health. If they’re sick and might be contagious, they should stay home. Masks protect the patients, but in the breakroom, your team can infect each other.

Review Handwashing and Sanitation Procedures

Your team knows how to wash hands, sanitize patient bays, and protect patients. However, it can’t hurt to review these procedures now. According to Infection Control Today,  hand hygiene can be very effective in ensuring that patients don’t spread the disease to team members.

Retrain everyone, and remind them that everything in the bay should be disinfected after each patient to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread.  Set up a schedule for disinfecting doorknobs, bathrooms, and waiting rooms several times a day.  It may take a little more time, but it can keep your team, your patients, and your community healthier.

Postpone travel to conferences and CE seminars, as well as community clinics.

Travel makes it more likely someone in your office will catch COVID-19.  For now, postpone travel to conferences and seminars. If team members need CE, find online options so that you can minimize the spread of disease.  Also, considering canceling any scheduled community clinics. The large crowds waiting together can make it dangerous for the patients.

Whether the news media recognizes it or not, Dental Offices are on the front-lines for Coronavirus exposure.  Take steps now to protect your patients and your team, so that you can continue to function in the coming months.

 

Small Obstacles that Sabotage Your New Systems

Small road block
What little obstacles are derailing your big plans?

 

You’ve come up with a great new system for your office team. It’s simple, easy to understand, and will make everyone’s life easier.  So why are you having so much trouble getting your team to adopt it?  Sometimes, systems that seem great on paper fail in reality.  The problem isn’t training or planning, but small roadblocks to success that end up causing big issues.

The problem with small roadblocks is that they can make tasks seem almost impossible. And because they differ from person to person, it can be hard to understand why one team member just won’t adjust to a new piece of equipment or system.   Often, the team member themselves doesn’t really understand what the roadblock is.

For instance, in once office, the team had just gotten a new copier.  It was faster and easier to use than the old one, but Debbie loathed it.  Changing the paper was too hard, she said, and it always jammed.   No one else was having the problem, so why did Debbie have issues?  She could use her computer. There was no rational reason for her to hate the copier so much.

Then one day, the practice owner watched Debbie try to change the paper. Most of the team thought it was a snap, but Debbie was slow. She winced as she bent over to reach the paper drawer and pull it open.  As she tried to stand, she lost her balance and had to grab the wall for support.  The task that was mindless for most of the team was painful to Debbie, because she had a bad back.

The problem wasn’t the new copier. It wasn’t that Debbie was melodramatic or afraid of new technology. It’s that no one, including Debbie herself, understood how much her back issues affected her ability to deal with the new copier.  Instead, she just saw a task that was hard for her, and that took too long and left her angry.  There was a roadblock keeping her from embracing the new technology.

What small tasks in your office get put off or left undone because of invisible roadblocks? Are there cabinets that are hard for your shorter team members to reach? Counters that need to be decluttered before they can be used? Software programs that aggravate the team because they run slowly?   Ask your team members what tasks they hate, and what tasks make them procrastinate.  Then take the time to analyze the tasks and look for small obstacles that turn a simple task into an ordeal.  The problem may not be the process or the team members. It might be a small roadblock that’s causing big problems for your practice.

Do you have roadblocks related to issues like tax planning, profit prediction, or cash creation?  Contact us! We can help you remove roadblocks so that you can focus on helping your practice grow.

How often should you audit your automatic withdrawals?

Did you ever sign up for a service and forget to cancel?

Do you remember the Columbia House and BMG music clubs?   When CDs where king, they used to run ads promising 12 CDs for a penny, and after fulfilling a certain contract, members could cancel at any time.  For many teenagers, it seemed like a great way to build a music collection. They were practically giving music away for free!
Many of us got sucked in by the initial offer, and many of us discovered it was a lot harder to cancel than we expected.   These music clubs made their money off of all of the teens who couldn’t cancel, got sent “CDs of the Month” that they didn’t really want, and ended up owing more money than they’d planned for a service they no longer wanted.  It was a brilliant, if somewhat shady, business plan.  It’s a good thing we’ve all learned our lesson, right?

Fast forward to today. You’re busy. You’re working to increase your knowledge base, serve your patients, and run your practice.  You go to a trade show or a seminar, and someone has a great new service that seems tailor-made to your needs.  There’s a generous introductory offer, followed by fairly low monthly or annual fees. You’d be a fool not to give it a try!  You sign up, use it for a few months, and gradually use it less and less. Over time, you forget you ever subscribed.

It’s such a small amount, you may not realize the impact that the subscription, along with all the other long-forgotten services, is having on your bottom line.

So, consider this your annual reminder.   Audit your monthly and annual withdrawals. 

Right now, you’re getting ready for taxes and looking at where all that money went. Now is the time to find out how much you’re paying for each service, how often your account is billed, and if your team still considers the service a necessity.

We learned our lessons as teens. The BMG and Columbia House music clubs eventually went out of business as music switched to streaming and their core markets grew up and became savvier.   Don’t repeat the same mistakes with your practice!  Take a little extra time, and audit your automatic withdrawals every six months to a year.

How Does A Dental Office Put Services Out to Bid?

janitor cleaning an office
Are you getting the best value out of your service providers?

For many of my clients, one of the hardest parts about owning a practice is the day-to-day small business management.  Most dentists enjoy clinical challenges. They have big plans for the future of their practices. But the boring, day to day administrative aspects of owning a business leave them cold.   Most of the time, they can outsource these functions, but occasionally they need to step in and take a close look at their current expenses, to ensure they’re not leaving cash on the table.

Create Cash by Finding the Best Fit For Your Needs

One way to create cash is to take a hard look at your service contracts.  Do you contract out your cleaning, web services, maintenance, phone support, billing or scheduling?  Are you sure that you’re still getting your money’s worth? When was the last time you put your service contracts out to bid? Are you unsure of how to start the process?  Here are some tips:

Put contracts out to bid on a regular schedule.  Most small business advisors suggest putting your contracts out to bid every 3-5 years, but if you’re having a problem with a contractor, you should put the service contract out to bid sooner.

Stagger which contracts are out to bid. Instead of having to put every contract out to bid every three years, stagger when you bid them out. It’s easier to renegotiate one or two contracts a year than all of them at once.

Write a clear description of your needs.  With your team, write a clear description of your needs. Are there areas where the current contract isn’t working out as you hoped? Make sure your list of needs reflects that.

Research competitors to your current firm. Delegate team members to research competitors to the current contractor. Contact them and ask about their process for bidding on new contracts.

Open the call for bids, contacting your current contractor and the competitors. Give a deadline for bids and proposals.

After the deadline, examine the bids and proposals and choose the best fit.  Remember, the best fit for a job may not always be the lowest bidder.   When you make your decision, balance cost, experience, and services offered to find the best contractor for your needs.

Contact both the winning bidder and the losers. It’s important to maintain good relations with everyone who submitted a proposal and bid.  They may not have been the winners this time, but in three years they may be better suited to your needs.

If you’ve chosen a new contractor, prepare for the transition.  It can be hard to tell your existing contractor goodbye, but professionals are used to losing bids.  Make a list of information you need before the transition. For instance, a new web manager means you need the old passwords. A new copier servicing company might need to know when your toner was last changed.

Putting contracts out to bid is not a glamorous or fun part of owning a dental practice, but it is a necessary part. Get into the habit now, and ensure that the services you receive are the right mix at the right price.

 

Hiring for Dental Practice Vacancies: Do You Focus on the Right Traits?

A hygenist prepares a bay
What makes a good team member?

 

When a team member moves on to another position, what traits do you look for in their replacement? Two researchers writing in the Harvard Business Review found that most dental and medical offices currently select for the wrong traits in new hires.

In “Health Care Providers are Hiring the Wrong People,” Elena Butler and Shreya Kangovi found that too many practices focus on hiring for past experience, education and hard skills, and then attempt to train their employees in soft skills after hiring.   However, it’s easier to help an employee earn certifications and teach them hard skills than it is to teach them to be caring, compassionate communicators who can connect with patients.  In the current, complex dental environment, you need team members who can help your patients feel at home while explaining complex dental conditions and treatment options.

The research team pointed out that hiring for social skills and cultural competency becomes especially important if your practice is seeking to reach out to underserved demographics.  How can your team help potential patients see your practice as a place where they belong?  Are they rooted in the communities you hope to serve?

Hiring Mistakes Dental Offices Make

While the article focused on medical practices, dental practices also hire for the wrong things.  In a quick Google survey of current dental openings, I found numerous practices hiring for front office, customer service, and scheduler positions.  Some of the most common requirements that I saw included:

  • Associates or Bachelor’s degree
  • 2-5 years in sales
  • 2+ years of previous dental or medical office experience
  • “Expert level” on specific software packages

One office even wanted candidates to have radiology certification – for a front desk job that consisted of greeting patients, answering the phone, and checking patients in!

Offices with these sorts of requirements are going to run into several problems.  In the first place, unemployment is low. It may be difficult to find candidates with such an extensive list of qualifications, and if you do find them, you’ll need to offer inflated pay and benefits to attract them.  The second issue is that these advertisements are asking for the wrong skills.  Your front desk team members don’t need college degrees.  They don’t really need previous dental experience – you can teach them what they need to know. They certainly don’t need radiology certification to greet patients and answer the phone.

What they actually need is the ability to be friendly, attentive, and warm.   When a patient comes into the office, the first thing they want to see is a sympathetic face, not a list of degrees and certifications.  Once you’ve found the right fit for your team and community, you can focus on training them in specific terminology, computer programs, or billing and scheduling procedures.

By being willing to hire for soft skills and community involvement, you widen your pool of potential team members and increase your appeal to new patients.

 

 

Are Virtual Services the Future of Dentistry? Here are some that could add cash to your practice.

Is your dental office taking full advantage of the virtual economy?  Could you save money or improve outcomes by working with virtual businesses?   Many technology and finance firms have realized that virtual employees can be a boon to their businesses. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, virtual employees tend to be outcome-focused, have a high EQ, and be highly skilled. The flexibility inherent in a virtual office makes it possible to attract high-quality employees who might not be willing or able to commute to the main office.
But what about the dental field? Are you leaving money on the table by ignoring the move towards virtual workers?  Since the bulk of your day is focused on the patient in the chair, you may be missing out on ways to improve your business functions with virtual assistants.  Here are a few areas where I’ve seen clients produce better outcomes by contracting with virtual service firms:

  • Scheduling Patients by Phone. In many offices, the front desk team has to simultaneously answer phones, deal with paperwork, and work with the patients coming through the front door. When we ask people to do too many disparate tasks, they end up doing all of them poorly.  Some offices have dealt with this by hiring virtual scheduling firms to schedule patients and to answer new patient questions. Often these firms can schedule more appointments and convert more new patient calls to new patient appointments than your existing staff.  Why? Because the virtual scheduling team is focused on only ONE thing – scheduling new patients.   They don’t get distracted by multiple incoming calls or the patient standing in front of them.  By making the switch to a virtual scheduling company, you can convert more patient calls to appointments and increase your cash flow, while freeing up your desk staff to provide an excellent patient experience to the people in front of them.
  • Social Media and Website Marketing and Maintenance. Many offices deal with their social media accounts by delegating an existing team member to stay on top of website and social media marketing. The problem is that good marketing requires constant research, professional development, and an awareness of current trends.  By working with a virtual social media marketer, you can get the benefits of an expert while only paying for the time spent working on your account.   Your online presence is too important to be an afterthought for an already busy team member.  Here at Willeford Group, we’ve had a good experience working with Rita Zamora and her team.
  • Billing insurance and patients is becoming increasingly more complicated for the dental industry. While an outside billing firm still needs support in your office, letting someone else argue with insurers frees up phone lines and office staff for your patients.
  • Accounting and Business Services. Your local accountant has the benefit of proximity. You can walk into his office and drop off documents or schedule a meeting. However, his hours are probably limited, and you’re one of a wide variety of clients. He doesn’t necessarily understand the unique needs of a dental practice. On the other hand, if you work with a virtual accounting service like the Willeford Group, you have a team of professionals focused on your industry and your needs, regardless of your location.   Like other virtual businesses, virtual accounting firms can build a highly skilled and focused team because they’re not limited to accountants in a small geographical radius. Also, a group spread across several time zones can give your office access to accountants at a wider variety of times, so that you can work around your own scheduling needs.

Delegating some of your office tasks to virtual services may seem strange at first. After all, you can’t just walk up to a virtual team member and talk to them. But with modern communication tools, a virtual team can give you convenient services from highly-skilled experts so that you can focus on clinical excellence and patient experience.