Practice Management Principles: A Culture of Leadership, Part 1

Gael Hannan
May 30, 2016

Dentistry has experienced many of the same issues facing dispensing audiologists and other dispensers of hearing aids – namely, large competitive organizations and their encroachment into independent practices.

Hearing Health and Technology Matters approached Dr. Howard Ong, DDS, MAGD to find out how he and others have managed and flourished in the face of such competition, knowing that the issues faced in hearing aid practices were very similar.

Dr. Ong agreed to write a series of posts explaining the approach he has taken in his practice to remain competitive.  The first three posts cover general foundations that are often written about, but seldom taken seriously and/or utilized by a practice.  However, he found these to be the foundation to combat what audiologists and other health care professionals are facing, just as his practice faced. 

This post is the first of a three-part series on practice management principles.  Parts 2 and 3 to follow are “Engagement leads to Alignment” and “Building Value for Case Acceptance”.  He found these principles to be most useful in his practice. He has plans on following this up with posts on the business of healthcare as it relates to audiology, based on experiences in dentistry.


A Culture of Leadership

by Dr. Howard Ong, DDS, MAGD


What is overlooked by many clinicians in healthcare is a lack of team culture that drives a practice or business. The culture is what attracts top talent and patients alike. Too often clinicians, even Dentists, get caught in the minutiae of their craft that they lose sight of a bigger picture of patient centered care.

Available material on the culture of a practice is massive, so breaking it up into what I believe to be the most important aspects, and something that defines our practice, makes more sense to me.

There is a plethora of material on practice management principles.  It runs the gamut from books, gurus, courses, consultants, trends, generations, time, etc.  We gravitate to what is comfortable, reasonable, or what makes sense to us.  Whatever resonates with your style, it is important that you engage.


What Defines Your Practice Culture?


The culture of your practice is you!  In one word, it is your “brand”.  A culture is unique to you and those that surround you; it is the backbone of your business.  It is important to identify your culture because it is the invisible force that drives your practice.

We know how to treat patients but often we forget “why” we are treating them.  What is the impression you would like your patients to feel when they enter and leave your office?  The culture of the practice is why your team has joined and stayed with you, it is why your patients accept care, it is why your patients refer like-minded new patients.

The key is to keep your practice culture simple and clean at the same time, but it has to exude from every team member including yourself.  Do not attempt to adopt or copy another that you find popular or attractive.  It will not be genuine nor will it take root.  A great way to define your culture is to ask your team questions.  More than likely, your team members are working with you because they are your fans.  So ask them why they are there.  Your brand depends on it.  If you are unhappy with the culture of your business and want to change, it is never too late.




Leadership is such a broad concept beyond what this post will cover.  There are different methods that are executed in a variety of ways.  However, your first leadership step is to share your culture with your team.  As a leader it is vital to guide your team to identify with the practice culture by asking questions like: Why are we here? and How do you fit in?

Under your leadership it is important to not only define the culture but repeat it regularly and embrace it over time.  We surround ourselves with like-minded teammates and patients.  They are surely watching, so as a leader you cannot pretend or fake it.  Keep it simple and be consistent.  Your culture of leadership has to be genuine in order to be shared convincingly.

As health care practitioners we were taught a craft and how to treat patients.  Very little is spent on running a complex business, or leading people.  There is no shame in educating yourself with books or hiring a coach.  Our careers are finite so do not struggle or wait for things to turn around or get better.  Take charge of “your career”.

The next step of leadership, in a following post, is to align team members, engage them often, and celebrate the culture of your practice.


Dr. OngHoward Ong, DDS, MAGD is a practicing dentist in the city of Seal Beach, CA.   His office provides comprehensive dental care with an emphasis on the oral systemic connection.  Over his career he and his team have develop and practice key leadership skills resulting in effective patient centered management systems.  With thousands of continuing education hours he is a Master in the Academy of General Dentistry. Staying current and relevant to his patients and team is his “why”.  Check him out at, or contact him at [email protected].

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