“Pay them well and keep them forever”

(Disclaimer – we own and operate a dental practice. That’s loosely what the below article is about…)

 

This was the mantra one advisor kept coming back to when Monica and I would ask questions about staff development, turnover, and longevity. How do we find good people? What makes them stay? How can we find out if an employee may be bad, or worse – a cancer – to the team??

 

This advisor kept coming back to, “Pay them well and keep them forever.”

 

I narrowly thought he was only referring to the employee’s wage, but over time I started to see how this mantra and attitude permeates into much more than how much an employee earns.

 


 

We’ve been in the process of hiring our newest team member for the past couple of months and I’m starting to see the truth in the saying that ‘good people are hard to find.’ It’s not that candidates are unqualified or unmotivated. In fact, many have the qualifications and experience necessary to do the job. Our issue has been in trying to find that ‘something extra’ that may distinguish the good from the great.

 

The great come in many different packages and with many different resumes, and all the while they’re hidden amongst the good. Determining the difference could mean exponential results when you’re talking about a business that relies on good reviews, positive word-of-mouth advertising, and – let’s face it – trust. To let someone work in your mouth is an intimate and, at times, intimidating, experience. To have a staff member violate that trust or even make you feel uneasy for a moment could lead to a negative experience that may permeate the community we serve. Because we’re in the business of creating a positive, trusting, and welcoming environment – we need great. Not good.

 

After a couple of months, we had found that great employee that would be our #6, and the first true hire since we’ve acquired the business (I’m counting Dr. Monica, myself, and the 3 employees we retained when purchasing as our 5). Three rounds of interviews were completed, the entire staff had an opportunity to meet and interact with this individual, two-weeks notice had been given at their former job, and the new-hire paperwork had been sent out… But something felt off. I even made a comment to one of our team members, “There’s just this little part of me that worries something is off here.” I should’ve listened to that instinct, and as fate would have it I came to learn that I wasn’t the only one with that feeling…

 

Sunday evening before this employee was set to start the next morning (Monday), I received a text message informing me that after a tough decision between ours and another job, that this employee had decided to accept another position. We’ll let go, for a minute, the fact that she had already ‘accepted’ the position we had offered, and come back to the fact that although seemingly present – great had eluded us once more.

 

Let’s get these out of the way – “Who does that? That’s low-brow? Glad we found out now rather than later. Not the great #6 we were looking for…” Yes, I’m with you. But this article isn’t about that.

 

When we broke the news to our team that this individual had backed out on us at the last minute and ultimately left that share of work to be divided up amongst the others until a replacement could be found, they were hurt and taken aback but they kept moving forward. Move on, re-focus, and look forward. They didn’t sulk and complain about all of the negative ramifications of this action. They got to work. And I loved their response.

 

I’d like to think they responded that way for a few reasons – because they trust we’ll work hard to find a better replacement or that they know we won’t give them more work than they can handle without finding a temporary solution in the interim. Maybe they were stressed about the upcoming patient schedule and knew that complaining about something they couldn’t change wouldn’t help. It was time to get to work.

 

Maybe those had something to do with their response. But I hope, in an honest moment, they’d say that they are happy at their job and that this is just another hurdle we’ll overcome together.

 

As a brand new business, it is difficult for us to offer top-dollar to our deserving employees. What we can do, though, is create an atmosphere of respect, empowerment, and buy-in to the point that the business’ success is the individual’s success. We can provide snacks, lunches (it’s amazing how successful food bribery can be…), bonuses. And that as a rising tide lifts all ships, one day we’ll be able to add all of the ancillary benefits of a positive and productive work environment to an industry top wage for those who have earned it.

 

Thus far, we’ve been lucky to have inherited such a great group of people. And as we roll through the highs and lows of new business life, we think about the culture we want to create at our business with every decision we make. Although some businesses in our field experience a high degree of turnover, it is our goal to treat our people with respect. To empower them to make decisions and help to create an office that welcomes every patient and exudes an air of professionalism and confidence in the staff that the patients see. And by creating that culture, it is our way to “Pay them well and keep them forever.”

 

I am confident that some of that goodwill capital will keep our team focused and on track until our great #6 is discovered. Stay tuned, a multitude of updates to follow.

 


 

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I’m glad you’re here. Thanks again and talk soon!

 

– Mike
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2 Comments

  1. Good read here, Mike. We’re actually in the process of starting our own business- bistro/wine bar (hence the relative radio silence from my blog). We’ve been wrestling with this precise issue: as a startup, we anticipate that many will deserve more than our initial cash flow will likely allow. I’m taking away a few key points from your post: not to undervalue the intangible benefits we can offer, to communicate how much we value employees in ways other than strictly pay, and to hold out the promise of better pay as the business (hopefully) thrives.

    1. Dan,
      I hear ya. It’s a bit more difficult to churn out good posts when there are multiple jobs in the formula. Good luck to you in the new adventure! It sounds like there may be good opportunity to exchange ideas in the coming months! I’m interested to hear any updates!
      -Mike

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