Dr. Seth Monson of Main Street Dental Finds Life Balance and Peace of Mind in Addition to Higher Collections
Starting a dental practice from scratch can be stressful. As Dr. Seth Monson discovered, buying an existing practice also has a set of stressors, they’re just different. You have to hit the ground running from Day 1. In addition to treating patients, as the practice owner you have to learn the operations, get to know and begin managing and leading the staff, and take direct responsibility for all financial aspects, including collections and profitability.
Dr. Monson took the plunge just one year after graduating dental school. He bought a private practice that had been a fixture in the community for nearly 30 years. It had “the perfect family feel.” Over time, though, the feel became less than perfect within his own young family.
A year after having bought the practice, Dr. Monson admits to being burned out, and neglectful of his wife and little boy. While he was still in dental school, their first son was born four months premature, requiring a number of surgeries in his young life. Dr. Monson knew he wasn’t being there for his family the way he needed and wanted to be. Then he had a wake-up call. He realized, “I needed to learn to balance work, life, family, marriage, stress. I had to learn to delegate to people who were smarter about systems than me.”
He now has “an amazing front office manager who does the work of three… and then I have eAssist doing the rest. It’s perfect; just what I need.” Since adding eAssist Dental Solutions to his team 2½ years ago, Dr. Monson said, “My success story with eAssist is more about the mental health and peace of mind they gave me. They helped me balance that dynamic, and find more equilibrium and happiness in life. I can’t tell you how much that is worth to me.”
A younger Seth Monson aspired to become an elementary education teacher. But after taking a few science classes, he changed his thinking to perhaps pharmacy school. His mother and now-wife convinced him he shouldn’t waste his love of people and gift of gab on counting pills, and he was soon on his way to dental school instead.
While still in dental school and for much of the following year, Seth and his wife spent considerable time at the hospital with their newborn son. As fate would have it, the father of one of his nurses was a dentist planning to sell his practice. Dr. Monson jumped at the opportunity.
He bought the private practice that has been proudly serving three generations of patients. Its founder also started one of the local churches from which comes many of their patients, as well as from local businesses. The office is a charming and cozy 1920’s house with a fireplace. Within that first year, he even bought a second practice.
Reflecting back on his challenges, Dr. Monson said, “The biggest learning curve for me was trying to take things over and be that manager, that leader. As a people pleaser, I want everyone to be happy, not only with me but with their experience. Years later, I’m still on that learning curve with staff – finding that balance of trying to be a friend and a servant leader, but still making sure the work is getting done.”
I can spend eight hours doing dentistry and connecting with people, and I feel great! Whereas, spending ten minutes worrying about a collections balance sheet feels like it ages me. And, patients and staff can feel when, in the back of your mind, you’re worried about collections or overhead.
He went on to say, “I can spend eight hours doing dentistry and connecting with people, and I feel great! Whereas, spending ten minutes worrying about a collections balance sheet feels like it ages me. And, patients and staff can feel when, in the back of your mind, you’re worried about collections or overhead.”
And, arguably his most important challenge of all to overcome was to find ways to be fully present for his family more often.
MEET DR. SETH MONSON
- Oregon Health & Science
University / School of Dentistry
- Doctorate in Dental Medicine 2015
- Bought existing practice 2016
- Opened 2nd office August 2019
- Among other charitable endeavors, provides free dental care for guests of Echo Ranch — a horse ranch dedicated to restoring the hearts and souls (and smiles!) of individuals and their families; and My Father's House — dedicated to equipping homeless families with the life skills (and happier smiles!) necessary to become contributing members of their community.
After about a year, he got that much-needed wake-up call defined by burnout, stress and lack of life balance. He needed to find solutions that balanced a management style that made him happy, with one that also got the job done. In addition, he needed to find easier, simpler, less stressful ways of doing things, and learn to delegate.
Having successfully grown the second practice by now, he was able to sell it, eliminating that from his plate. He also set about putting better systems into place in his flagship practice, admitting, “I learned a lot through trial and error on my part. I also learned to delegate to people who were smarter than me when it came to systems.”
On the personnel side of things, he knows he’s lucky to have an outstanding front office manager – not only terrific with patients, but detail-oriented, tenacious about getting the work done, and capable of having the tough conversations.
To get out from under the tremendous stress he felt over managing the financial aspects of the practice, he wanted a better system for billing and collections. As a self-proclaimed “dreamer,” Dr. Monson is quick to say, “Let’s try this! Let’s see if it works!” For that reason, he also admitted, “I’m fast to fail; to find out if something doesn’t work. I literally failed my way to finding out about eAssist.”
He tried several of the other large outsourced billing companies, but had unsatisfactory experiences. He described their approach as “very hands-off. There was no human connection; nobody that you could reach out to directly. But ever since I found eAssist, it’s been great. We have a person; we can text her or call her and she’s right there.”
eAssist has given me peace of mind just knowing I have someone I can trust, and who gets the work done.
Having been with eAssist for 2½ years, Dr. Monson described these key benefits:
- “eAssist is an advocate for us and for the practice.” He also appreciates that he and his team can reach out to eAssist for things outside of billing questions – “We’ll go to her and she can help us find an answer; she’s there for support. It literally feels like having a coach with you at all times.”
- He said they now have “a healthy system of collections; we can be proactive and get ahead of the game, rather than having to tackle AR balances that have built up. We have an above average collections rate of 102%. eAssist has given me peace of mind just knowing I have someone I can trust, and who gets the work done.”
- As for the staff’s acceptance of the change, Dr. Monson reported, “By working with eAssist, the staff realized what a resource they are. And then seeing the collections numbers… the proof was in the pudding. When something works, you can’t argue with it.”
- He knows his patients are benefitting as well, due to the efficiencies gained in the office. Instead of being on hold with an insurance company, the office manager is able to focus on and connect with the patient as soon as they walk in. He is thankful that, “Through eAssist, we have all the benefits updated ahead of time. There’s no question about treatment plans or coverage, or if we can take certain x-rays or do fluoride. It’s just all done and in the system, which makes for such a smooth patient experience on the back end.” In turn, he can have better communication with his patients, without having to worry about how they’re going to pay, or the collections process. He enjoys the fact that “I can be with my patients in the moment, learning about whatever is important to them to share with me about their lives.”
Perhaps the two biggest benefits of all are that Dr. Monson can now “show up and put all my passion, my energy towards patients and team members, and not have to worry about those things.” And, when he’s not there, he knows “the business is running, and the work is getting done. I can be present with my wife and two young sons (BOTH of whom are now healthy, happy, active little boys!), and enjoy family vacations because of the peace of mind I now have.”
Dr. Monson is proud of the “perfect family” practice he has today, including two associates, 12 team members, and even the daughter and son of one of the original dentists still working there as assistants – “We have a very healthy practice with kids and teens and young parents; it’s a really fun dynamic. We treat the grandkids of many of our older patients, some of whom say they attended parties in that very house when in high school! We love getting to be part of their stories.”
Looking to the future, Dr. Monson says, “We’re able to grow because we’re able to focus on the things that matter. As practice owners, we can get paralyzed by all the stressors. Being able to turn things over… knowing they’re going to be done well and efficiently… this has allowed me to open myself up to be more present. Some of my defects as a practice owner are being taken care of.”
With all that Dr. Monson has done and continues to do, he is clearly on a roll. In addition to collections being up, so are treatment plan acceptance, new patients, referrals, positive patient reviews and SEO. Confident that he wouldn’t repeat past mistakes, he even opened a second office in August 2019 – “When you get your house in order, things will just snowball!”
When asked his best advice for colleagues, he was quick to offer this: “Find an area in the profession of dentistry in which you can live your values – what you believe, say and do are all in sync. When they are, it will show through; your patients will feel it. Whereas, when they are incongruent, there’s a train wreck coming sooner or later.”
He went on to say: “We have our DMD/DDS degrees to be able to serve patients. Find what brings you joy and energizes you, then find ways to delegate and outsource the stressors.” For Dr. Monson, eAssist Dental Solutions was a big part of his solution.