“Why Dentistry Can’t Get Enough Of This High-Impact YES! Man”

“Just as there are natural laws in physics and nature, there are natural laws of human behavior. And you can build systems on those laws to help patients say YES! to needed treatment, repeat visits, and enthusiastically refer others.”

So Steve Anderson told a rapt audience at this year’s 25th Anni­versary edition of Excellence in Dentistry Annual Spring Break Seminar. On and offstage he seems a lot like his younger self, fresh out of college and still in his twenties, as he first appeared at the second Spring Break Seminar in 1992. Trim and fit, Steve moves with a youthful bounce and radiates positive energy. But there's unmistakable maturity, with a wealth of experience, research, and study behind it, in the comprehensive YES! Systems Steve teaches.

He recently took time with The Profitable Dentist to elaborate on his latest advances. With almost 30 years in the industry, Steve is founder of Dallas-based, Total Patient Service Institute (ToPS), which helps practices develop systems for higher production and profit. He’s also known as a prolific author, speaker, and all-around influencer and thought leader in the field.

Says Steve, “In the beginning we concentrated on the understand­ ing and communication skills it takes to help patients accept treatment which has lead to our focus today to helping dental teams get a YES! in every area of practice and in life.”

The Culture of Success

Your practice culture, Steve defines as the sum-total of all beliefs, values, attitudes, and resulting behaviors within the practice. As he ex­plains, “Culture embraces absolutely everything that affects what it's like to work on a given team. It’s absolutely key for productivity and success.”

Steve lays it all out in his book The Culture of Success: 10 Natural Laws for Creating the Place Where Everyone Wants to Work. Consider it a must-read for those who want to take control and create an environment where both team and patients love to be. Steve emphasizes the need for taking control of your culture, because a Culture of Success is never a culture by default.

“A healthy, happy, productive culture happens by design, that's the only way,” Steve says, “When patients feel good about it, they may not know why, but it changes the entire experience and their attitude toward dental care.” Failure to take charge exacts a price. “Left to themselves, people in the workplace turn left and embrace negativity about their jobs, the boss, each other, and the customer. Again, patients pick up on the feeling. We’ve seen practices with brilliant standards of care that were rippled by toxic cultures.”

Steve ties understanding and building a Culture of Success to 10 of the Natural Laws he has codified, which do for human interaction what Newton’s Laws do for motion and mechanics. As Steve says, “Once you understand the Natural Laws and get them on your side, things that used to be absolutely baffling are suddenly understandable. More important, they’re controllable. And you can use our systems to control the dentist's greatest challenge, which is managing patients.”

His Culture of Success book has caught on in the world of general business as well. Lately bulk orders have been coming in from busi­nesspeople and organizations around the world. The Natural Laws are universally applicable, as are the principles of culture in the workplace. All organizations develop cultures, one way or another, and there are always huge benefits to building a Culture of Success.

Steve’s Journey

Before Steve turned his focus to dental professionals, he said his own YES! to dentistry.

He said it twice, actually. The first time came after he graduated from college and joined a start-up training and consulting company in the Texas Hill Country originated by the late Walter Hailey. Hailey was a serial entrepreneur with a charismatic personality who had cashed out

of companies he built and was putting on small business seminars at his Texas ranch outside of San Antonio.

Considering Steve’s multiple job offers—including a dream six-fig­ure position with a major firm —joining Hailey in heck-and-gone Texas struck others as bizarre. “My parents thought I was absolutely insane to tum down the offers I received,” he says, “But I was following my pas­ sion, to find something I could build and really make a difference.”

Steve became company president in just a few years, even though he was less than half anybody else’s age. But nobody involved had any idea that destiny was about to come knocking. “Nobody in dentistry had heard of Hailey or me. And we had no clue we were about to make a major entrance onto the dental stage.”

By pure happenstance, two Texas dentists, Dr. Ron Presswood and Dr. Mac Lee, came to seminars at Hailey’s Ranch. Says Steve, “We taught principles for communicating and persuading in any kind of business, and it worked like magic for dentists. Patients who had been reluctant started saying YES!” Soon after, another dentist to come to the ranch was Dr. Peter Dawson. “Pete called the techniques and philoso­phies we taught ‘The Missing Link in Dentistry.’ It was the piece of the puzzle nobody gave dentists, who knew how to do give great clinical care but had no idea how to persuade patients to say YES! and accept that treatment.”

As more and more dentists came to seminars, a moment of decision arrived. Says Steve, “At the time we weren’t thinking about refocusing and specializing, but dentistry kept coming at us. I'd love to say I figured it all out and saw the opportunity coming, but in reality it just showed up.”

And so Steve and Hailey said YES! to dentistry and developed tailored training and consulting services. More than 1O years later Steve said it again. He was then on his own, after Hailey passed away. Steve recalls, “In truth, I was thinking about moving into something else, but once again dentistry intervened just like before. Dentists from all over told me they wanted me to stay in the game.”

Because dentistry wanted to keep its YES! man, Steve founded ToPS in Dallas. In 2005, less than two years after Hailey's passing, he was officially honored for his achievements and positive professional impact when Excellence in Dentistry named him Dental Businessman of the Year. At that point he had helped bring new success and career sat­isfaction to thousands of dentists and practice team members, but there were bigger things to come. Steve was just getting started.

Next-Generation YES!

With Steve running his own show, YES! has become a science: “What we did, when I created the new company and brand, was this: We brought case acceptance into the next generation. This is a dynamic, ongoing process. Dentistry continues to change, and patients change, and we are continually looking, testing, and analyzing what are the best ways to present today’s dentistry to today’s patients.”

Steve also brought a new systematic approach to communication and personal interaction in dentistry: “Just as there are systems for clin­ical procedures—like crown preps and veneers—there are systems that get consistent, predictable results in human interaction that we teach to dentists and their entire teams.”

Steve goes on, “There’s a system for maximizing case acceptance, with consistent and predictable results. It amazes teams that went at it haphazardly. Practices struggle to stop cancellations and manage a productive schedule—well, there’s a system for that, too. We know what works because we track results.”

Steve firmly believes in the efficacy of systems to control results. “With systems like ours in place, you build out guesswork in all your human interactions, with patients and within the practice team. There’s always an answer to the question, ‘How, in this particular situation, to get to YES!' But if you don’t follow the system on the front end, you'll have a much harder time on the back end, getting acceptance.’”

YES! Solutions

Says Steve, “Some things are the same as they were, and maybe always will be. Dentistry is a tough, tough sell. To get to YES! dentists need understanding and communication skills they don't get in formal education. Meanwhile they’re trying to hit so many moving targets. Clin­ical science makes huge advances. And the business side of practice management and competitive pressures are in rapid flux. My team works to stay ahead of the change.”

Here are some of the ways Steve and ToPS help dentistry meet its challenges, old and new. Undoubtedly more will come.

Total Immersion Experience

Dentists and their practice teams get a two-day intensive course in the Natural Laws and how to put them to work. As Steve says, “Every­ body takes a deep dive into the psychology of working with patients and sound patient acceptance. They also learn to implement a Culture of Success. They say YES! to each other so the patients are glad to say YES! to them.”

ToPS Hygiene - Secrets of Modular Periodontal Therapy

Learn to increase production while improving patients’ oral and overall health. Presented with cutting-edge clinician Dr. Tommy Nabors, this course lays out new scientific understanding of perio infection as a bacterial disease and the latest treatment protocols. Says Steve, “We call this program ‘No More Hygiene,’ because it makes routine cleaning a thing of the past. We know now that there is a link between bacterial infection in the mouth and overall health. Patients want to understand the correlation, and dentists and their teams need the communication skills to present it.”

Research & Tracking Change

A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Boston which Steve’s companies backed, reveals a yawning gap between the demand for health-centered dentistry and what’s actually delivered. “One of the findings was that 78 percent of patients expect dentists to address whole-health issues linked to oral health. But only 52 percent of dentists make the correlation—a 26 percent latent, unmet demand.” Steve adds that he and ToPS constantly track shifts in consumer expectations and behavior that affect the practice and business of dentistry; “People are much more sophisticated and exacting in the choices they make. Think about the way they buy music, compared to the past. And for most working people, time is now more valuable than money. We have to understand the market and adjust.” 

Saying YES! To The Future

Steve is quick to point that the business side of dentistry—his side—is tough and complicated. This is a period of rapid industry change. Dentists face both increasing competition, downward price pressure from insurers, advances in technology and costs, and a rapidly changing demographic in the patient population. For some, change outpaces the ability to adapt and succeed financially. As Steve says, “It makes some people crazy. On one hand, there’s an office succeeding at every turn, and on the other hand, a practice right down the street struggling to keep the doors open, and they don’t know why.”

At a recent dental convention where Steve was presenting to several large audiences, he sat down next to a dentist he’s known for years. “He was bemoaning one thing after another, saying that dentistry will never be the same. And I looked at him and said, ‘Yes! Isn’t it great?’ I don’t know a lot, but I know one thing, which is that when there’s change, there’s opportunity. And there is opportunity everywhere today in dentistry. It’s a great time to be a dentist. You just need to know where to find the “Yes!”