FOUR QUADRANTS CLIENT SPOTLIGHT
Like so many dentists, Sherry Jenicke bought her practice from a retiring dentist and had big plans to make it her own. She would modernize, add insurance plans to strengthen the lifeline of new customers, and offer new treatment plans.
Sure enough, her waiting room filled. Her practice in a quiet, northern Michigan town was hopping! Sherry was not only an outstanding dentist but had become a capable entrepreneur. But unlike the calm eddy of nearby Cadillac Lake, her practice soon faced strong undercurrents. She found herself paddling upstream in a tide of expensive write-offs that came from her participation in too many PPOs. She also faced expensive loans for necessary equipment purchases, as well as the monthly drumbeat of dental school student loan debt.
“There was money coming in . . . but I didn’t know where it was going,” Dr. Jenicke said. What seemed like a nice cash cushion in her practice accounts on Monday, was gone by Wednesday. Dr. Jenicke realized that she needed expert help to stabilize the practice.
Luckily, she knew fellow dentists who hired a firm that operated essentially as a dental practice CFO: Four Quadrants Advisory. They work with dentists and specialists nationwide to lower overhead dramatically, increase income and set them on course to become multi-millionaires in retirement. And this all without the need to increase production.
The swift currents of commerce now flow with Dr. Jenicke’s practice as her income has doubled and practice and personal bank accounts have swelled. She’s no longer terrified to check her account balances, and she has a plan to retire with an income that’s higher than she pays herself now.
How would you describe your practice?
It’s a small but thriving practice in rural Northern Michigan. It’s a pretty little town that overlooks the lake there. I purchased it from a retiring doctor, and I was looking for something I could grow; get in there; work a few more days; add a few procedures and make it “boom.” And it has. It’s thriving. It’s busy.
What kind of work do you do?
I’m a family practice dentist, so what I love about this is we’ll see kids a few weeks after their first teeth are up, and I have patients over 100. They’re my babies. You get to see them grow up. You get to know them, and you get the chance to take care of them. I offer pretty much a full scope of services, but my favorite is the cosmetic stuff. I don’t like root canals, but we do pretty much everything.
What was it that brought you to Four Quadrants initially?
It was a recommendation of both Jen and Ben Seymour, they are clients of Four Quadrants, and I was complaining to Jen about how overwhelming the practice was getting.
You get to be very good at something in dentistry. I’m good at taking care of my patients, but the rest of the stuff? No. Financially, I don’t know what I’m doing. I make poor choices. I’ve learned you hire the experts. You hire, and you delegate. If you don’t understand how to do it, you hire an advisor to do it. You find an expert. You have them take care of it for you.
It was the Seymours’ recommendation; they had had a lot of success with them. They were booming because of the advice Four Quadrants had given them. She’s like: “You need help. You need Four Quadrants.”
What has changed in your life since becoming a client here?
The stress! By far, the stress. When I first bought the practice, I closed out a 401K, I was taking money out of savings to try to make payroll, I would go a couple of months without paying myself, and then I could barely make my student loan payments. There was money coming in . . . I mean it was a thriving practice, but I didn’t know where it was going. Certainly not where it was supposed to be going, so my overhead was crazy.
It was like paycheck-to-paycheck. Not having the bank account flush was super-stressful. I don’t worry about that at all anymore. There’s such a formula that they’ve developed to take care of all that. It flows and I don’t worry about it. I used to check my bank account all the time to make sure I wasn’t going to overdraw and I don’t worry about it anymore. It’s all . . . It’s good.
And tax surprises lots of tax surprises. I was just using a local accountant, an EA (enrolled agent) that my predecessor had used, and I would get $25,000 tax surprises because I would do better than I was anticipating. That’s painful.
What was the best news you received in the meeting today?
That I can actually be on target to get out of my building. I’m pretty excited about it.
It’s tiny, the operatories are really small, I’m standing up to do dentistry a lot because I can’t sit down and fit in there. There’s no staff lounge, we’ve had some problems with heating and cooling and the parking lot. I just want something newer, something nicer, so we came up with a plan to lower my overhead a little bit more, cut an insurance plan and I think we’ll be able to do it pretty easily.
How has your income, as well as your retirement savings, improved since you’ve been a client here? Were you surprised?
I was saving hardly anything for retirement. You just don’t worry anything about it because it’s just scary and down-the-road. My income has definitely gone up tremendously, at least double, maybe a little more than that, because now I can actually pay myself and still cover payroll. And retirement? Yes, I’m actually saving for retirement. We have a plan to get me retired with a nice lifestyle too! More than what I’m living off now. So they have a nice plan for me.
You recently started cutting insurance plans in your practice. Can you explain how you got to that point, and how we helped in that process?
So when I bought the practice, I was scared. I signed up for every insurance plan out there without looking at the fee schedules. Some won’t even let you see the fee schedules. Without realizing it, I was writing off 40 or 50 cents on the dollar on some of these. And I got more patients than I can handle, it got crazy, so my practice ended up very insurance-biased, and I was writing off a ton.
They started me with a group called “Unlock the PPO” and they re-negotiated — who knew you could do that — and that brought a lot of the fee schedules up. We decided that those that weren’t going to negotiate; we were tired of the 40 cents on the dollar. So we cut them.
I was writing off 30-35 percent of my production; now I’m down to 20-25 percent. Ideally, they want me at six or seven percent, but I don’t know, (laughs) we’ll see.
It’s nice. I’m busy enough that I can make those decisions and decide I’m going participate with these people or not participate with them. And I get that it’s good for patients, and it’s helpful for them to have something, but the companies are for-profit and bullies. The overhead is still there, and it’s expensive to write that kind of money off.
What is their reaction when you tell them, ‘Hey I don’t need you anymore?’
The (insurance providers) are a little dishonest in my area, they had maybe seven fee schedules. When they first came into the area they gave everyone fee schedule “A” which was decent but I got fee schedule “G,” which was quite a bit less, but they won’t let me go to the other fee schedule. I had to stay at this one, so I got rid of them. When I cut them out, they called me right away and said, ‘Oh well we could participate with you, we can make this work,’ and I’m like ‘Oh! You don’t say?’
I didn’t know you could get leverage, or you could renegotiate, I just took them at their word. I didn’t realize that I was seeing people for free by the time you pay for your staff and overhead and your supplies — especially with dentures, crowns and bridges — I wasn’t making any money from those.
Are you starting to see some of the projections we made for you in that first year begin to materialize and what we promised beginning to come true?
Oh yeah it’s all come true!
What advice would you give prospects of ours currently considering Four Quadrants. And why?
Because you can trust them. They deliver what they say. You do have to be teachable and coachable. If they tell you to do this to cut this overhead, take this many CE trips, you have to listen if you’re going to put this toward retirement.
You just have to be coachable. I think they’re worth every penny. I know it’s not inexpensive, but it’s worth every penny. Hiring the experts . . . If you’re good at what you do, you do it. If you’re not good at that, you find someone else to advise you and do it for you. That’s certainly what I’ve found with my financial advising and my accounting. Hire the experts.
I’m very happy. It’s definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made for my practice. For. Sure.