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  • Denise Ciardello

What is your Legacy?

Updated: May 5, 2023

If you're not Growing, you're Dying

When you hear the word legacy, what comes to mind? A Gift? Something received from an ancestor? A candidate for membership in an organization who is given special status because of a family member?

These are the customary definitions of the word in its noun form.

I would like to turn your attention to the adjective definition:

  • Relating to, or carried over from an earlier time, technology or business.

We now hear this word used in relation to the ‘legacy media’. There is also the ‘legacy’ thought-process. Is that a better way of saying old-school? Out-dated? Old-fashioned? People that try desperately to hold habits?

Here’s a (non) shocker statement: Change is hard! New habits are not fun. I get so frustrated when I have to re-learn the process of working my iPhone because it updated the software overnight.

There is one term that I seem to run into often and that is a ‘legacy team’. I found this to mean those that stay with the office for an extended period of time. It’s a good thing because they ensure that the systems are being followed by everyone else that comes along. Your legacy team can guarantee that the rules are followed and the philosophy of your practice is upheld at every turn. It is a form of comfort and contentment to a practice owner because there is trust about the thoroughness and accuracy of the processes.

I find great delight in those offices that can ‘brag’ about having a team that has remained with their doctor for 6+, 10+, even 15+ years. It’s a remarkable and rare find. You watch the choreography as the office flows throughout the day in a seamless manner. There is an unexpected opening in the schedule - the team turns to an ‘all hands-on deck’ system to get that appointment filled. The hygienist pops into the front to suggest a few names that the admin team could call; or the assistant inquires about the patient scheduled that day with a different provider.

This is the office and the team that all practice owners strive for because it allows them to fulfill their dream of being a dentist. Purely magical.

However, what happens when the legacy team turns out to have a true legacy mindset; the one mentioned above - old-school, outdated, old-fashioned? Not willing to change? You’ve heard the saying ‘If you’re not growing, you’re dying’. Sometimes the legacy mindset can take the office into a downward turn; if they are not willing to change with new technology or systems. I would like to share 2 examples of how this has presented itself to us.

1. A doctor contacted us because her patient numbers were very low - she had been in practice 25+ years and yet had only 600 active patients in her database. Her team had been with her for 10+ years and her production numbers remained the exact same for the past few years. We found a few things that were happening with this team:

a. They knew all the patients very well. However, if a patient didn’t immediately accept recommended treatment or, in my opinion, looked at them cross-ways, they inactivated them as a patient. There were no future appointments made, nor did they ever contact that patient to come back to the office. If the patient called, they would put them out so far, the patients would just go elsewhere. Thus, the low patient numbers.

b. The team complained that they needed another team member, because they worked too hard. (insert YOUR sarcastic remark here) Potential candidates would interview well and had acceptable qualifications; we thought they would be a great fit. However, once they came in for a skills assessment, the candidate would turn down the job offer. Twice, we called the candidate directly to inquire why and found that the legacy team divulged every unpleasant incident that had occurred in the office in the past 10 years, making it appear as it had happened last week. They were literally, and hopefully unintendedly, sabotaging the process.

This doctor didn’t need additional marketing to attract new patients, she needed a team that would promote the philosophy that she had in place and take their own agendas off the table. We implemented a strong reactivation campaign along with some intentional internal and external marketing. The reason for such sabotage was never determined, although we tried with very frank conversations. Possibly because of having the spotlight on their actions and putting changes in the processes, this legacy team slowly found its way to other employment on their own. Within a few short years of concerted effort, the patient numbers doubled.

2. Another office contacted us to discuss addressing growth for the practice. Although this was a young office, less than 5 years, there were legacy members from the previous owner. The office was having ‘growing pains’ by doubling its numbers almost monthly. The legacy members were so used to the ‘old ways’ of the previous owner and they were not comfortable with this fast-paced method. The doctor began to hear from colleagues that the office was scheduling patients so far in the future that the patients would choose to go to other offices, even though this office had time on the schedule. Again, we put a spotlight on the actions and implemented better systems.

As you can see, having a legacy team can fall to either side of this double-edged sword. The dream team, as defined above, is a beautiful thing. As humans, we fall into routines and oftentimes, cut corners. Do those actions lead to a bend in the owner’s philosophy?

Every team requires oversight and accountability. Even your dream team.

The other definition of the word legacy is: what you are known for. How are you allowing your team to define your legacy?


Denise Ciardello, Consultant

Denise is co-founder of Global Team Solutions. A professional speaker and published author, her enthusiasm and knowledge about the dental profession has helped many dental teams. She brings experience, insight, and creativity into her management style, along with a sense of humor. In a profession that can cause anxiety in some dental employees.

Denise’s consulting approach is to partner with doctors and team members to help them realize the dream of creating a thriving, successful practice.

Denise can be reached at:

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