ZOMBIE PREVENTION 101: 5 Keys to Keeping Your Practice Growth Initiatives Alive

It’s happened before… you go to a dental meeting and sign up for the latest and greatest, or have a game-changing insight about improving your practice.  It could be the latest patient communication strategy, software tool, or a shiny new product. You walk in the door Monday morning all fired up to launch “The Big Idea.”

Your team members all nod that it’s a good idea for the practice, and you are confident that you’ll be reaping the rewards of your new initiative in no time!

“It’s alive!”  …at least for a few days. 

But fast-forward four weeks…  “The Big Idea” has gone the way of so many other “big ideas”…  A tragic zombie idea, doomed to mindless moaning and shuffling until someone puts it out of its misery with a metaphorical “oh well, we tried” shotgun. 

R.I.P.  Big Idea

As we work with practices in 40 states, we’ve been privileged to watch some amazing practices who know how to launch and sustain new things successfully.  They successfully stave off the “zombie” apocalypse and successfully implement any new growth initiative they try.  

Here are the 5 keys they have in common when it comes to launching something new:

#1: Leadership Owns the Vision: The “Why”

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When we launch Dental Warranty in any new practice, we always recommend that the dentist and office manager take a minute or two at the beginning of the training and share with the rest of the team the reasons why they are doing it.  

This is because we have learned that 1) the reason “why” behind something new matters, and 2) the team learns how to treat the new idea by watching the practice leadership.  

The reason “why” usually consists of “why this is good for our patients” and “why this is good for our practice.”  

Input from the team is important, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the leadership to set the vision and get buy-in on the “why.”

#2: A Consistent System: The “What”

There’s a famous quote that says, “The road to zombie-land is paved with good intentions.”  Or something like that.  

The point is, after the practice establishes a strong “why,” the next step is creating a repeatable system that the team can follow showing them “what” to do.  

Because Dental Warranty affects each treatment plan, our most successful practices sit down and talk through how they are going to adjust their routine process to remember to add the warranty to treatment plans and talk to patients about it.  Then they put their process down on paper and use reminders until the system is a habit. 

With a repeatable process, the initiative won’t be at the mercy of the team remembering to make it happen… they will just follow the recipe. 

#3: A Proven Playbook: The “How”

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Just as important as “what” to routinely do is “how” to do it.  With Dental Warranty, we provide practices with a cue card of suggested verbal skills that we’ve compiled over time.  It gives phrases and outlines of what to say to patients based on other successful practices.

We also connect our new practices with other successful practices so they can learn directly from their peers.  Sometimes it’s better coming from a fellow office administrator rather than the Dental Warranty company. 

Mentors, other dentists, online forums, and study groups are all ways to emulate the  “how” playbooks of other practices. 

#4: Accountability

“People respect what you inspect” is the timeless management principle.  We’ve seen great practices use a target board to track progress or discuss progress in regular weekly meetings.  

Whatever the method, without follow up, zombie apocalypse is inevitable. 

#5: The Right People in the Right Seats


Every once in a while we’ll see a massive improvement in a practice’s patient acceptance rate.  For example, a practice that moves from 20% of their patients accepting 5-year coverage to 60% of their patients accepting the same. 

We’ll call the office and ask what changed, and they’ll tell us that they got a new person doing financial arrangements.  In this case, it was an assistant who was great with people, and she got moved to the front desk.  The office production was up $100k that year, all because they moved the right person to the right seat. 

On the other side of the coin, some practices are seemingly doing the right things, but just can’t make it happen.  Unfortunately, it may be an issue of the wrong people in the important seats. 


Staying up to date with new programs and initiatives is the only way to grow a practice, but you are more likely to have success if you lead with a strong why, create a repeatable system, use a “best practices” playbook, measure your progress, and get the right people in the right seats.  

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