Focus, Fun, and Fans

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Just four months out of school, balance of life was what Dr. April Ziegele of Sumner, Wash. – wife and mother of two toddlers – was seeking as the new owner of a busy, 12-hour-a-day practice with a staff of 14.

Six weeks after joining as an associate, she had the opportunity to buy the practice. Making that $890,000 decision with payments of $14,000 a month was gut-wrenching. After many sleepless nights, she sought counsel from her professors. One said, “Run for the hills,” and the other said, “Go for it.” She went for it.

Accounts receivable was $220,000 with 489 statements sent out each month. Dr. Ziegele went through four associates in four years, each running the practice in his/her own way when she was not present. She was in over her head and everyone knew it. Her staff was working 69-hour weeks and taking one week of vacation. She was busy in the trenches trying to find her way out. Without a clearly stated vision, everyone tried to do it his/her own way. After four years, Dr. Ziegele sought Blatchford coaching for help.

In her transition from ragged to wonderful, Dr. Ziegele took time to clearly write and share her vision. Her picture was always there, but she was too busy to express it to her team. Vision created the need for simple, direct systems like block-booking, firm financial arrangements, morning and evening huddles, weekly team meetings, and monthly team training sessions.

In addition, Dr. Ziegele improved her leadership skills. She does not consider herself a natural leader but she possesses an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm, passion, and conviction as well as a killer sense of humor about the world and herself. Her excitement is contagious.

“Once I told my team exactly what I wanted, we talked about it every single day at first, then every week for a while. They caught the vision!”

Each team member carries Dr. Ziegele’s vision as her own. The doctor makes the final decision after asking her team’s input. The dental practice is not a democracy.

In the transition from staff of 14 to a team of three plus the doctor, Dr. Ziegele struggled because she liked everybody. “When I couldn’t figure out what my team members were doing, I knew I had to do something,” she said.

The push for a team of three came from the employees themselves, who said to Dr. Ziegele: “We think we can do the job with the three of us. What do you think?” This has allowed for extraordinary bonuses that exceed their monthly salaries.

Dr. Ziegele’s goal was to establish more quality family time, but she was apprehensive about reducing her work week from 69 to 28 hours. Would she be able to make it? In the welcome room, the practice displays family photos to tell everyone what is priority.

Dr. Ziegele says, “My team rocks!” She adores them and trusts them explicitly. All are totally cross-trained, and they “never interrupt a member who is with a guest.” They recognize the opportunity and do not need to be reminded.

Dr. Ziegele says, “I feel so blessed to have my team enjoy this journey with me, and I let them know that. I can’t wait to write a $6,000 or even $10,000 bonus check to them each month.”

You cannot help but catch the enthusiasm in the practice. “Treatment is accepted, we are having fun, and we are high on life. We seem to gain energy as we go,” says Dr. Ziegele.

“I am still challenged by home and work life. I refuse to mix the two. It really doesn’t matter to my team or guests if I was up all night with a sick kid. And my family doesn’t want to hear about a whining guest we had today. They all deserve my undivided attention. In the back of my mind is always my family and my practice – it’s what I decide to focus on that makes the difference.

“In a movie I once heard someone complain that something was too hard. The response was, ‘Of course, it’s hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it.’ That’s the way I look at it. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I want to be extraordinary and have an exceptional life. So yeah, it’s going to be hard. Bring it on!”

Visit for more information about Dr. Ziegele.

Dr. Ziegele is one of 23 doctors in Dr. Bill Blatchford’s book “Bringing Your ‘A’ Game,” which is available by calling (888) 977-4600. His Custom Coaching Program focuses on leadership, systems, sales skills, communication, and profitability, and is limited to 50 doctors a year.