All great performers have a wingman. This is the one trusted key person that a performer relies on to support them in their professional life. In dentistry the wingman or wingwoman is the one person an owner can rely on day in day out to keep the practice humming along. Having a great connection with your wingman, that is probably your Practice Manager can really drive the success of your practice. It can help you achieve more in less time, with less stress.  Before we explore how to nurture and maintain a powerful, results driven Practice Manager Relationship let’s look at a few basic rules you should follow!


Rule 1: Drop the Mask

Firstly it is important to drop the mask. This is the first key step for any Owner and Practice Manager. Clarity and commitment come from honesty and transparency.  Both parties need to be willing to say I am not perfect, I struggle with this and this. But I am great at that and that. A Practice Manager can support the Owner with the things they are not good at, and the Practice Manager can delegate or outsource the things they are not so good at. This helps build deep connections based on knowing where and when someone may be at their most vulnerable and accepting, they can be supported and still succeed. It also means both parties understand their own and each other’s strengths and weaknesses.


Rule 2: Own your Mistakes 

In any life situation we must own our mistakes. When we are building a leadership arrangement, which let’s face it, that is what we are doing here, this becomes particularly important. A Practice  Owner is building the Practice Manager to be the leader, when they themselves can’t be. We all must own our mistakes, communicate them and work to fix them.


Rule 3: Buy In: Commit

At the core of all our important life relationships is buy in – or commitment.

In love, marriage, parenthood we give a commitment to look after each other. It is no different in this key relationship. And this is the mind shift that will make the difference in building trust between Owner and Practice Manager.  Each person is required to be committed to the relationship and making it work for the benefit of the business. In short – you have to have each other’s back!

Now let’s delve into steps you can take to make this relationship flourish.


Step 1: Deliver Clarity

By delivering clarity I mean communicating clearly about a few key things. Firstly, the Owner needs to share their practice and personal values, vision, hopes and dreams. This will help the Practice Manager filter their own leadership communication and decision making through a lens which includes the ideals of the Owner.   Secondly be clear about the fundamentals of the role. An Owner must identify what success for a Practice Manager looks like to them? What is the purpose of the role? The Owner and Practice Manager can compare their thoughts on this and build a solid picture of what expectations the Owner has of the Manager, and vice versa. This is a two-way relationship. Clarity on expectations is important on both sides. Thirdly clarity is needed from the Owner about what permissions and limitations exist for the Practice Manager. What can be approved by the Practice Manager and what things may need the Owner’s personal tick of approval before implementation. The Owner doesn’t want to bog the Manager down with too many limitations – the idea is that the Practice Manager can free up the Owners time to work on higher value tasks or have more down time!


Step 2: Carve out time to really talk 

Communication is critical to the success of this relationship. The first important issue here is location. Try to have a meeting away from the practice environment. A meeting just between Owner and PM should be held at least weekly. It should be structured, with an agenda and quarantined in the calendar. The Practice Manager is the driver of this meeting – they formulate the agenda, present reports with the required analysis, talk to the agenda items and make recommendations to the Owner. The meeting is really aimed at providing updates to the Owner, tracking success metrics, identifying issues, discussing solutions and mapping what is to be achieved in the coming weeks. A Quarterly planning meeting should be held to identify bigger goals, objectives and re-define strategy.


Step 3: Speed of Execution and Implementation

The Practice Manager needs to be allocated enough time to get the job done well. If they are also the Receptionist then time away from Reception needs to be found. If the Practice Manager has clarity around the role, Owner expectations and the priorities for the week then they will be able to execute plans and implement actions to meet deadlines.  It is important also for the Practice Manager to be given enough scope without those limitations we discussed earlier. A PM does not want to wait for the Owner to look over everything. Speed of execution is a high priority for Manager’s. Owner’s can interrupt this flow and really slow things down. As an Owner sometimes you have to step aside and let your key person do the job you hired them for!


Essential Skills  – Listening, Asking, Executing

Lastly, let’s look at the key skills we want to nurture in a key person.  Listening is really important in a great Practice Manager. An Owner may only have time to say things once. A Practice Manager needs to be able to listen well and know what questions to ask to achieve clarity.  So being able to ask the right questions is also valuable. When things aren’t clear the PM needs to ask questions and dig deeper until clarity is accomplished. This asking – this seeking of clarity may be for themselves, or for others such as team members, suppliers, providers, etc.   Executing is really the third essential skill. If a Practice Manager can listen, ask, and then execute to get the work done on time then they will prove truly priceless.

If a Practice Owner can get this wingman – Practice Manager relationship really rocking along the benefits for all involved are terrific. The Owner will be able to reverse themselves out of some operational functions, the Practice Manager will find themselves with more clarity and capacity, and potentially be more involved, satisfied and valued.  But I know what you are all thinking.

So, my final word is about key person risk.  Practice Owner’s can mitigate key person risk by training others to do a good slice of the physical tasks of the PM. But you can’t replicate the thinking, peripheral vision and depth of understanding of your key person. You can’t have reward without some risk! The relationship an Owner builds with a key person can’t be duplicated easily. Its based on understanding, faith and trust.  Sometimes we have to accept we carry key person risk, because let’s face it, all of our most important relationships carry elements of key person risk. But the rewards will greatly outweigh the risk we feel!


P.S. Whenever you’re ready …. here are 4 ways I can help you grow your dental practice:

1. Grab a free chapter from my book “Retention – How to Plug the #1 Profit Leak in Your Dental Practice”

The book is the definitive guide to patient retention and how to use internal marketing to grow your practice – Click Here

2. Join the Savvy Dentist community and connect with dentists who are scaling their practice too

It’s our Facebook group where clever dentists learn to become commercially smart so that they have more patients, more profit and less stress. – Click Here

3. Attend a Practice Max Intensive live event

Our 2 day immersive events provide access to the latest entrepreneurial thinking and actionable strategies to drive your practice forward. You’ll leave with a game plan to take your results to the next level. If you’d like to join us, just send me a message with the word “Event and I’ll get you all the details!  – Click here

4. Work with me and my team privately

If you’d like to work directly with me and my team to take your profit from 6 figures to 7 figures …. just send me a message with the word “Private”… tell me a little about your practice and what you would like to work on together, and I’ll get you all the details! – Click here