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387: Ask Yourself: What’s Next?

It’s been a minute since Ashley Keith was on the podcast, but boy are we glad she’s back! Ashley wears many, many hats as chief operating officer for Keith + Associates Dentistry, and she shares pearls of wisdom today on the following topics:

  • Creating new efficiencies in your practice

  • Changing energy and how to do it

  • Juggling the ideas of a visionary dentist

This episode will have you fired up to prioritize projects that’ll move your practice forward in the best way possible.

Episode resources:

Listen to episode 265: How to Solve Problems FOREVER

Listen to episode 162: Dental Assistant Mix-Up

Reach out to Kiera

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Podcast Transcript:

Kiera Dent:

Hey, everyone. Welcome to The Dental A Team Podcast. I'm your host, Kiera Dent and I had this crazy idea that maybe I could combine a doctor and a team member's perspective because let's face it, dentistry can be a challenging profession with those two perspectives. I've been a dental assistant, treatment coordinator, [inaudible 00:00:22], office manager, regional manager, practice owner, and I have a team of traveling consultants where we have traveled to over 165 different offices coaching teams. Yep. We don't just understand you, we are you. Our mission is to positively impact the world of dental, and I believe that this podcast is the greatest way I can help elevate teams, grow VIP experiences, reduce stress, and create A teams. Welcome to The Dental A Team Podcast.

            Hello, Dental A Team listeners. This is Kiera and you guys, I oftentimes find inspiration in a lot of you actually, because I sit here and I coach a lot of office managers. I coach a lot of teams, and I am often very inspired by the people that I work with, by the associates that I know, and they often are able to give me the motivation to keep going. I know a lot of you listen to this podcast for motivation to keep going, for tips and tricks, which I love that. Today, I'm super excited. You guys have heard her on the podcast before.

            It's been quite a while. She became a mama in the process. She's changed and morphed her practice, and it hasn't been 100% smooth sailing, which I always love when people are honest through that process, but she's back on the podcast. We've got Ashley Keith. You guys have heard about her. Keith & Associates, we did the unraveling the ball of yarn. She walked us through the process of setting up a call center, having a huge practice. We set up team leads. I've been in their practice, and so I'm so excited to welcome her back. She's an inspiration. It's going to be an excellent episode. Ashley, how are you today?

Ashley Keith:

Hey, I'm good. How are you? It's been so long.

Kiera Dent:

It has been forever. I think the last time I actually saw you in person, I don't think your baby was actually even born because it was pre-COVID. We were at Tony Robbins together, and then I flew out to your guys' practice. It's been... You told me how old he is now. You said 14 months. That's how old your baby?

Ashley Keith:

He is 14 months old.

Kiera Dent:

Oh, my gosh.

Ashley Keith:

It's insane.

Kiera Dent:

It's insane.

Ashley Keith:

Time's flying.

Kiera Dent:

Lots to catch up with. You now are a mom. You have a 14-month-old baby. You guys have a growing practice. You're not outsourcing. It's like all referrals are in-house now, so we're not externally referring. You are juggling the mom life, plus... Gosh. Remind people, your practice is huge. How many operatories do you guys have? How many doctors? Let's just give a quick outline of your life. Then, we're going to dive into some fun topics.

Ashley Keith:

Sure. Our office has 20 operatories. We have six-

Kiera Dent:

20, she said guys. That's two, zero. That's a lot of your practices. It's like four of the normal-sized practices put into one location just for quick reference.

Ashley Keith:

Yeah. Yeah. We thought instead of multiples, we would just threw it all under one roof, which who knows?

Kiera Dent:

It's pro and con, pro and con, pro and cons.

Ashley Keith:

Exactly. No, it's great. It's actually been very positive. We have six doctors. We have 11 hygienists working with us. Then, the total team rounds at around 37, 38 people.

Kiera Dent:

Wow. So many. Okay. If people don't remember your story, because it has been a little bit of time. You left corporate America. You were out there doing your thing, decided to come in, help your husband who's the dentist, one of the doctors there and you then started managing it. Then, you put together your front office and then you ended up having one of the internal team members become the manager of the practice, and you're doing your own thing and I purposely leave that very vague and make it sound like, "Oh, she's just doing her own thing."

            Because I want people to know that you went from being manager, brought in systems organization, and then what you moved into because so many people can't see that next level. They're like, "No. I've got to be the person who solves all the problems every single day." That's like in a nutshell, corporate America, office manager, huge location, cleaned it all up, put all the systems into place. Let's talk now. You have a baby. You have an office manager in the practice. Walk us through like what does your life look like now? Because I want to talk about how you're juggling all these different hats.

Ashley Keith:

Yeah. My role now, and what I tell people is I'm the chief operating officer. I always try to think about like, "What's next for the practice? What are we going to do?" If you're not growing, you're dying is sort of my mentality. I let our office manager and she's come so far and learned so much. I let her manage the database stuff and only get involved when it is a bigger issue or office wide or the key, I think we're off the rails here and manage that. I just try to help Bill bring like, "Okay. What's next?" "Okay. We're going to try to bring sedation in our office. What do we need to do? What does that look like? What training do we need? How do I make sure the team is prepared for that next step?"

            The other one we're doing, we're incorporating in wisdom teeth removal into a general dentistry office. One of the things I thought this was unique is how people will do Invisalign day where you just schedule tons and tons of patients. We're going to do wisdom tooth day. Take two of my doctors out of their normal production, double up on assistants, have the front desk really just hammering through these wisdom teeth cases. I was like, "Okay. If we go back to back, we can create so much efficiency with the room flips." We know our spiel as far as like, "Hey, when you check in, here's our four things," that we make sure the patient did all of these things. Are they ready for surgery? Yes or no? Then, when they come out, it's like, "Here's post-op instructions." We're working with their rides and all that jazz. That's how I differentiate between what I think most office managers are doing, and then what I'm doing.

Kiera Dent:

I love it so much because you're right. Most office managers are dealing with the day-to-day, and I think that that's the impression that we have. Ashley, as COO now, at what point did you feel you needed to become that? Because I think a lot of people don't realize when that position is even necessary to add into a practice versus just having your office manager trying to manage the day-to-day, plus also trying to manage this huge business that it's turned into. Where was that tipping point for you guys to know that that's where you needed to move into?

Ashley Keith:

Well, that's a great question. I would call it sometime during COVID, like we had just moved Genie into the OM role at the beginning of 2020, and then the world went off the rails. Then, once we got back in the swing of that, it was like, "Okay. What are we going to do differently to survive?" At this point, dental offices for the most part, in my opinion, took a hit in the media because everybody was like, "Oh, don't go back. Don't go back. COVID." We knew in the profession that is very safe and we have safety protocols and infection protocols that work, but I was like, "Okay. What are we going to do next because this will pass. Then, what are we going to do? How are we going to be and create success?" Not only for Bill and I, but for all of our team members. That's where we came up with this internal referral system within the doctor's teams.

Kiera Dent:

Got it.

Ashley Keith:

I think the hygiene really likes it too. Just a side note, I think the hygiene really likes it too because they can talk the patient through like, "Hey, look, here is Dr. Bill and he is going to do your implant and here is Dr. [Ecta 00:08:46]. She's going to restore your implant," and it's physical people bodies in the office or, "Dr. Bill is going to put you under and remove your wisdom teeth and you could talk to him and he's a real life person right here right now." They support that. Yeah, it was been great. I'd say sometime over coming back from COVID where I was like, "Okay. My team knows how to make recalls and they know how to set a room up consistently every time, so what's that next thing look like?"

Kiera Dent:

Hello, Dental A Team listeners. All right. One of my absolute favorite quotes is, "You are always one decision away from a totally different life." What life do you want to have? Do you want more accountability? Do you want a team that's trained? Do you want to have somebody who thinks outside the box and create just for you? Do you want to have a coach? Do you want to have team training? Do you just need somebody to kick you in the rear and get you going? Okay. Don't worry. I'm in every single one of those boxes and that's why we created Dental A Team silver, gold, and platinum. It's going to be customized team training for you on the terms you want. Silver? Silver is more for accountability. Gold? Gold includes all of our online training, plus the accountability and platinum includes all of that and in office. You guys, I would strongly suggest you go join Dental A Team gold today because you're always one decision away from a totally different life.

            So what are you waiting for? Hop on over to the dentalateam.com today. You guys, we only have so many spaces, so get over there today and sign up for Dental A Team silver, gold, or platinum. Which is fun that you asked that question. I think for everyone to ask themselves that question of like, "What is the next thing?" One of our core values is we just changed it because we needed a better acronym. We changed the word. We wanted like innovative.

Ashley Keith:

I love acronyms.

Kiera Dent:

I do too. I'm like, "Guys, we have to have an acronym." We came up with unconventional as one of our core values. It's really about being innovative and thinking outside the box and always asking like, "What is the next level?" But you have to make sure you're doing that. Once you have a good level, you can't just always be changing and innovating, but I love that you guys ask...

Ashley Keith:

I'm sure my team would see that like, "Oh, everything's always changing those off." I'm like, "Actually, it's not even though you think it is," to the fine line.

Kiera Dent:

Right. But it's that next level. It's maximizing and optimizing the next level. I think so many office is like, "Everything is changing." It's like, "Actually, no. We still do dentistry. We still see patients. We still do handoffs. We're just refining and optimizing." I think a lot of times, it's just changing that view, changing that perspective. I want to actually spin that into a conversation you and I were having about that because you guys... Okay. Truth be told, Ashley and I maybe had a little bit of a day-to-day, both of us. It's funny because it was like 12:58 my time and I'm like, "Oh, it's a podcast." I'm like, "I don't even want a podcast. I got to go be positive, and I'm so excited to podcast with Ashley," but I was not in a mental state. I'm like, "It feels like this is not working. This is frustrating me."

            Then, I don't even know how Ashley came up, but you're like, "Oh, my gosh. Me too. If you only knew what my day was like today..." Let's talk about that because I think so often, it ties back into what we were talking about before, like thinking of the next level, being innovative and watching how we're saying things because we're creating that, we're building that in. Ashley, you had a really good point on that of what you and Bill were talking about our teams. Let's dive into that a little bit because I think it's so helpful for offices to see you and me parallel worlds without even realizing it. I'm guessing there's many other parallel worlds out there.

Ashley Keith:

Oh, yeah. I think it's really easy. Even in corporate America, dental offices are just different. It's a different kind of grind every day. I think what we were talking about is sometimes you get stuck in a rut and you're like, "Oh, nobody knows how to do anything on my team. Nobody can solve a problem. Nobody's innovative. Nobody's following the process." Whatever it is, I think a lot of people get stuck in that. Then, when it happens to you, you're almost embarrassed to say anything. But what I was telling Bill is I said, "Hey, you know what? We just got back from a great conference. We got to change our energy. Whatever we put out into the world, particularly our team is what we're going to get back." Being frustrated and even if you don't say those specific words to... You'll never walk up to your team and be like, "You don't know how to solve problems."

Kiera Dent:

Right.

Ashley Keith:

They feel it and they know. You know what I mean? It's just like if somebody says that to you or talks to you in a way when they're frustrated, you're like, "Oh, God. Okay. Let's figure out this." What I was telling you or what I was telling Bill is, "Hey, we just have to change our energy. There's no other if, ands, or buts about it. You got to put more positive out into the world." In my experience, that usually breeds positivity back.

Kiera Dent:

Well, I love that you said that because I asked you. It's like, "Okay. I know this conceptionally. I have better thoughts. I'm going to lead to a better result." I'll just be completely transparent, guys. I had a call today with a potential client, shout out to her. But at the end of the day, she's like, "Kiera, I just love listening to your podcast. You're so chipper." I'm like, "I really am. This is not a fake version of me." Ashley, I know you and I, this is very much who we are.

Ashley Keith:

Sure. Yeah.

Kiera Dent:

I also have rough days sometimes. Today, when you said that of like, "We got to just change it." I was like, "But how?" I really need this but how, because I just feel like I'm still so mentally exhausted and I hate the word overwhelmed, because I feel like it's stupid. I just feel like, as I say it, I actually become overwhelmed. That's why I don't like that word, but I think it's more... To actually pull some science in on this, the book, The Happiness Project by Shawn Achor... Don't worry, guys. I'm definitely working on getting him on the podcast. That's a big bucket list for me because his book really impacted me.

            I shared this on another podcast where he talked about that. There were three kids in a class and they were told that they were brilliant, absolutely brilliant. They were smarter than all the rest of the class, but the teachers were like... They literally had this super scary punishment. If anything happened, they were not allowed to teach these kids any different. They couldn't treat them differently. All they knew is that these kids were more brilliant than all the rest of the students. They came in. They monitored them throughout the year. At the end of the year, as you guys would guess, these children actually performed substantially higher than the rest of the kids on their testing.

            What's crazy is if you go back to the beginning of the year, these three kids actually did not have any more brilliance. They weren't smarter. They were the exact same as the rest of the kids, but there was the belief that they were actually brilliant is what actually propelled them into this brilliance. Pulling that study into this, Ashley, you're right. It's not just this like whoopie hoodoo over here of like, "What are we doing? Let's just think that they're this way." But like you said, they feel that energy. If you're like, "No one can solve problems." Well, guess what? You're going to find a way to make that correct.

            People can't think on their own, "My team hates change. My team doesn't want to do this. We're not innovative." Well, guess what? When you put that out there, they really are. I'm guilty of this, which is why I'm making this podcast probably for a reminder for you and me, Ashley, we're just going to go hit play on this every day. Let's remind ourselves. I think I was asking you like, "But how? How do I do this?" I know conceptionally... I think what you and I send it all down to is there is no motivation bug that's going to come bite you to be like, "Okay. Today's the day that I'm going to change." It's literally like mind over matter. We're going to create how like... Or excuse me, a compelling why?

            My why is I want to have a team that's empowered. I want to have a team that figures out problems without me here. That's my why. That's what I want. By driving after that, the how is I'm going to start to treat them as if they can solve problems. I'm going to expect them to solve problems. I'm going to say like, "This team is a team of brilliant people," and just that belief system, believing that about them, changing that energy, it might take a couple of weeks. I truly do believe though that my team is brilliant, but it's like taking it to one step more of, "They can solve problems. I don't need to be..." And recognizing that me... Ashley, I don't know about you. I'll speak solely on my own, and then have you chime in on this. I think that the reason that I say, "Oh, Kiera's the only one who can solve the problem. I need to be a part of this. I need to be a part of that."

            I can justify it all day long, but if I truly boil it down to its pure essence, it's because I'm afraid of being replaced. It's because I don't think I'll have value. It's ego driving me all day long, and it's not that my team actually needs me. It's my own need to be a part of it to feel like I have value, which is a completely different world, like you said, of realizing like, "No. There's the next thing. What is my next thing? If all these people were solving their own problems, I wasn't a part of it. What's my next thing?" I think it just loops all the way back to exactly what we talked about at the beginning, me knowing that there's a next thing for me will then help me also to change that energy. Those are my thoughts on it, Ashley. What are your thoughts around all of everything that we just chatted about with changing the energy?

Ashley Keith:

Yeah. No, I think you hit it spot on. I feel like sometimes when you're at the top, you're like, "Okay." You need to delegate your basic to-do list and then you're sitting at your desk. You're like, "Okay. Now, what do I do?"

Kiera Dent:

Yep.

Ashley Keith:

"Okay. I delegate and now what? Now, what?" I think that's where being an entrepreneurial leader, that's a skill that is not particularly my forte. I'm a really good doer and Bill's more the entrepreneurial person. Definitely, that's a skill stretch for me to think, "Okay. Now, what's next? Now, what's next? What else can we do with this business?" It's just things that I'm learning, but the other thing I was going to say, I think particularly teams get in ruts and you're like, "Okay. What do I do? What do I need to do to get that team to go and make decisions and execute and do all these things?"

            One of the things I've tried to do with my team is like, "Okay. Let's go get some quick wins for people." Is there something that I can just say, "Okay. I need my team like to make a decision or to go and make a process." I'm like, "Okay. Let's just have a process for the coffee machine. Is there one? Do we need to order stuff? Does it work?" If you can just get that like little bit of success, I feel like that changes your mentality and it changes their mentality. Then, that's just one quick thing. Even if it's something dumb, like organizing your break room. You know what I mean? Just give something to give yourself and them the opportunity to rise above and get out of this rut. That was my little two cents I wrote down while you were talking to us, is like we just have to find a way to create success to feel like we can change the energy.

Kiera Dent:

I love that. I love that a lot because otherwise, it does feel like you can build momentum downward or upward. Sometimes when it's in this rough time like, "Oh, nobody's doing anything." You actually live in that world and you're just building momentum that direction. But like you said, quickly shifting that, creating some small wins, some small successes will shift that moment and for you upward, and then it's much easier to then truly, the but, how, how do we do this? Shift that energy, you're starting to see these successes and wins. You can do that within a second.

Ashley Keith:

Oh, totally.

Kiera Dent:

I can even look in there, like crank out a few things. Like you said, build a couple of quick wins. It doesn't need to take a lot of time. Really, really, really just capitalize on that. Then, you're able to have those wins. I love, love, love that perspective. I'm like, "Okay. Great." Ashley, right now, you and I need to pop out the pot or even just doing the podcast, I already feel better. We dominated. We did something we said we're going to do.

Ashley Keith:

Definitely.

Kiera Dent:

That right there, it's like, "Okay. Great. My energy shifted. My team's going to fill the shift," but it was that quick little win that we were able to build up success. I think that's absolutely brilliant. I want to pivot to one more question with you of, I think there's something you do insanely well. You have Bill, visionary, constantly smattering out all these great ideas, wants to constantly be growing, evolving, pivoting, changing, innovating all day long. That's what visionaries do. How do you, Ashley, juggle all those ideas and make sure that you actually get something done and gain the traction on it? Because I think that's something you've done really, really well is given your team stability and traction, and you have this visionary of a husband and a boss and a dentist in this practice. How do you... It doesn't have to be perfect. I know this is completely off script. I'm just rifting with you right now. This is me genuinely asking for my team and for a lot of offices. How do you do it? What are some of your tips that you have on that?

Ashley Keith:

Yeah. Well, that's a big question.

Kiera Dent:

I should have prepped you before. Sorry, it just came to me.

Ashley Keith:

Hey, no. That's okay. No. This is probably the most old school thought, but you can't and they always say like you can't eat an elephant in one sitting. How do you eat an elephant? Will you break down a little pieces?That's what I always try to do. When Bill comes up with these great ideas, I'm like, "Oh, okay. Just bringing sedation in the office. Okay. What do we need to do? Well, where do you start? Okay. Well, you have to have your credentials to do it. Every state's different, so what does that look like in our state? Okay. Sweet. Sign up for the course. Okay. Now, how is this going to work with a patient? What is the patient experience going to be?

            You list out those things and that's like, "Okay. What does the dental assistant need? Okay. Yeah. We need these things and they need this training. Okay." You just keep breaking it down into manageable pieces, because I think that's where a lot of offices and a lot of my peers that I've talked to lose traction is they're just like, "Oh, my gosh. We're going to bring this new service to the office." There's a lot of just whirlwind instead of saying like, "Stop the spin. Let's break it down piece by piece. What do we need to do?" Then, you can delegate those out sort of thing.

Kiera Dent:

I like that a lot because you're right, break it down into those smaller pieces. I'm going to lead this one step higher of that, of how do you decide which of all the projects is the most important to execute on? Because I guarantee you, there's way more projects that he comes up with for you and the company and the team than really is feasibly manageable to execute. How do you juggle that piece of the business?

Ashley Keith:

Well, I think you have to go back. What we do is we look at our core values and it's like, "Does this fit with what we're trying to accomplish as our office, our mission, our personal mission?" One of ours is that we want to treat patients like family. You don't want your family driving all over town. When we started down that road of like, "Hey, let's bring in some of these specialty things into our office," that was super easy. That was candidly more important than like... Let's just say one of the things that we've looked at and we've pivoted away from is virtual visits. When I'm looking at how I can spend my time with whether it's bringing these two things or these services in office, or figuring out how to implement virtual visits or continue it, I should say post-COVID.

            I was like, "Does that help or hurt our mission?" I just think you have to prioritize where does that land in conjunction with what is your business really trying to accomplish? What are your core values? Et cetera. Just a point on that is what we decided is post-COVID, the services that we're offering is they're a little bit bigger and more in depth for most people like just patients talking about. I feel like even with all this COVID and stay at home and six feet away, people still want to understand and they want to meet and talk to the people that are going to do these bigger surgeries.

Kiera Dent:

Sure.

Ashley Keith:

I put that on the back. I'm not saying it's a bad strategy. There's tons of offices that should go implement that. But for us, that one went on the back burner, so that we could go focus on the other stuff.

Kiera Dent:

I like that. I really do think knowing you and knowing Bill, I feel like you guys actually do a great job of prioritizing the projects that will actually move you forward the most. I like that you pulled it back to your core values because I think so often we get all these great ideas and I think this also spin psych, "People can't get anything done," but did we actually give them a chance and an opportunity to thrive, to succeed, to win? Did we give enough time for this to execute in a proper way? I've known you guys almost, I think the whole time, Ashley, since you joined the practice. I met you right after that had started. That's what started us on our friendship, but you really have been able to execute like, "Okay. Let's get our front office organized. Let's get our hygiene department. Let's get our dental assistant."

            That's what we were doing on the podcast is unraveling this whole practice piece by piece, by piece, then you're able to say, "Hey, we actually need to bring in an office manager, so I can be freed up to go to my next level." Now, it's like, "How do we make the patient experience better? Let's bring this in. Let's roll out all services in the practice." Those are big, big, big projects, but they're moving forward. I love just all the pieces that we've tackled on of going from how did you become elevating somebody in your team to be the office manager and you moving into your next thing, then talking about how you change that perspective of changing the energy, focusing on how great our team is, really believing in them, making sure that we have those small wins, so they build the power of momentum upward? Then also, how do you execute on the projects that you do?

            I feel like you're just like this nice bundled up ball of tips and tricks. Guys, I hope you were able to pull so many pieces out of there. I believe that great content is only as good as execution. AWe can sit here all day long, but what are you going to execute from this podcast? What are you going to put into play? Somebody told me like if you literally took all the podcasts that Dental A Team has done, you would not need consulting. It's true. I put everything out there. We give you guys the best of the best. I just know human beings don't always execute, hashtag myself sometimes. I really do believe though, guys, there's so much in this podcast. With Ashley, like I said, I brought her on here. I needed to feel inspired and I definitely do, but what are you guys going to execute on today to make it, so you have a better tomorrow? Ashley, I appreciate you so much. Is there any last things that you want to wrap up with? Any last pearls that you've thought of as we close up today?

Ashley Keith:

I think bottom line is with your execution statement, you just got to go. Start doing something. You know what I mean? Just go do something.

Kiera Dent:

Go do it.

Ashley Keith:

Get the ball rolling.

Kiera Dent:

I love it. I love it so much. Well, it's so fun to talk to you. You guys, Ashley is incredible. I know you guys, a lot of you have reached out to her, ask questions. I think Ashley is really brilliant at how she manages, of how she's elevated this practice. Now, you have to juggle so many more hats. I know you had mentioned before, your priorities just change. Your perspective changes. You now are a mom of this cute 14-year-old baby that's adorable. You have other priorities in your life. I think it's important to recognize your perspective, your priorities have shifted and that's perfectly okay, and you've embraced that change. As always, appreciate you on the podcast, appreciate you in my life. It was truly a pleasure to have you on today.

Ashley Keith:

Thank you. So great to talk to you.

Kiera Dent:

Absolutely. All right, you guys. As always, thank you for listening and we'll catch you next time on The Dental A Team Podcast. That wraps it up for another episode of The Dental A Team Podcast. Thank you so much for listening and we'll talk to you next time.

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