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How Serious Are You?

How serious are you?

Like me you probably don’t like to see McDonald’s boxes and coffee cups littering our streets and hedgerows and perhaps wonder why people feel the need to discard their litter in this way? To try and answer that question is going to be long old haul though, in fact you might conclude that there is no answer. So is there a bigger question that we should be asking?

How about removing the cause of the problem in the first place and rather than trying to deal with the effect of giving customers disposable food packaging, just remove the cause. There must be some mileage in adopting a ‘bag for life’ type concept, it’s what some of the high street coffee shops are doing by asking their customers to opt in to a reusable coffee cup scheme and I am reasonably certain that the concept of a reusable plate is already a proven one!

However, I do wonder what the response to this idea might be if I was ever fortunate (or is that unfortunate enough?) to be sat around the boardroom table of McDonalds and pose this question;

“I can see how you  are trying to change your image, the CFC packaging has been replaced with cardboard, your lorries proudly display that they now run on recycled vegetable oil, your reassure us that your burgers aren’t made in a laboratory, you promote healthy snacks and you are keen to sponsor sporting events but what about all that litter?”

Perhaps at first there would be denial, that it’s “not our problem” or it is the behaviour of the customer that we should blame and that we are already doing what we can by providing litter bins. So I would then pitch the alternative, the reusable packaging concept and I can already hear the type of response I expect I would get;

“We can’t do that because it would cost millions, reduce our profits and we would have to change our already perfectly successful business model.”…. and assuming they haven’t already laughed in my face and called security, I would only have one thing to say;

“Well you are not that serious then are you? You claim to be thinking about the environment, the health of your customers and to be supporting communities, but when it comes to it, it’s profits first. These PR activities are just vanity, you don’t really mean what you say do you. You want us to trust you but what you want us to believe is inconsistent with your real business purpose!”

Trust me, I would love to have that conversation, even if it just stopped them for long enough to think about it. It’s just a hypothesis of course but it also highlights a less wholesome side of business. For example, until the Government forced retailers to stop giving plastic carrier bags away for free, that’s just what most retailers did. Of course there were those that were already ahead of the game and had only ever handed out paper bags. You know the type of place, small local businesses with green credentials that valued their ability to make a difference as part of their bigger business purpose.

In my experience and in any sector, there will always be those businesses that want to make a difference and they make a profit as an outcome of doing so. Their behaviours are consistent with their values and making a profit is a result of their activities but it’s not their actual business purpose.

There are other businesses that claim to be making a difference but really they are jumping on the bandwagon of those that lead the way or they only change when they have to, either by market forces (reduced demand or increased competition for example) or regulatory intervention. It’s the difference between those mobile companies that provided European roaming by default and those that only boasted about it when it became a regulatory requirement.

For some, market forces and regulatory intervention only serve to ratify the actions of those that have been thinking ahead already. Such businesses are innovative, they challenge convention, attract similarly motivated staff and tend to be pretty successful too.

It’s this type of thinking that has given us courier and  utility companies that text you when they are on their way (we’re serious about giving our customers what they want), it’s given us CEO’s that really do respond to emails from customers (we’re serious about listening to our customers) and even wonky carrots before they became a thing (we’re serious about reducing food waste at source) and it’s this type of thinking that will drive innovation in dentistry because we’re serious about encouraging more people to regularly attend the dentist.

So how serious are you? Are you going to wait until market forces or regulatory interventions force you to change, or are you ahead of the game? If you are serious about the claims you make about your dental business and if you are serious about delivering what you want to achieve, what are you actually doing about it?

Lets look at how the ‘how serious are you’ question can challenge some of the typical claims, albeit paraphrased, that many dental practices make and how this question can encourage new perspectives, new perspectives that can create huge changes.

  1. We put our patients first and listen to them… and yet at the first point of contact, the receptionist is expected to have a fairly in depth telephone conversation with a stranger whilst others are listening, the second phone line is ringing and the recall letters are stacking up.

If you are really serious about this, then you would take the phones off the front desk before a rival practice does so, is able to make a far more professional first impression and then scoops up all of your new patient enquiries

  1. We deliver amazing service…and yet we only offer parking for staff.

If you are really serious about this then you would put your patients first and offer them parking before the practice down the road beats you to it and gives your patients what they want.

  1. We make sure our patients truly understand their treatment plans before proceeding but the pressures we place upon ourselves and our associates make it difficult not to see the pound signs.

If you are really serious about this then you wouldn’t expect a patient to commit there and then or pressurise your associates to get the same commitment, and you would get into this habit before your regulator imposes formal cooling off periods.

  1. I spend time working on my business but often I am just too busy seeing patients.

If you are really serious about this then you would have protected time with your manager and a process that allows you to truly understand what is happening in your dental business and do so before your accountant sends you a set of accounts that are already 9 months in arrears and your regulator imposes ISO type operating standards.

  1. We welcome new patients, it says so on our website but in reality I have no idea how many people that we indirectly turn away.

If you are really serious then you would remove the Business Prevention Unit, have a team that want to ‘know the numbers’ and to understand how effective they are when they speak to new patients. This knowledge would shape their personal development and encourage them to develop and grow.

 

We can all probably think of many more and for each there will be a “yeah but…” initial response from many. We don’t have the room for answering the phones elsewhere, our staff won’t like having to pay to park their cars, we’ve been told to ‘close’ before they leave the surgery, I can’t turn patients away and our reception team can’t track new patient enquiries.

If these type of questions leave you running for excuses to make changes, then how serious are you in the first place?

For some, 2018 will be business as usual until their hands are forced. But for those that are serious  there will be innovation, old habits will be challenged, the best talent will be attracted and the “yeah but” attitude will be dissolved. The serious dental business will become a successful one.

We are currently interviewing dental practice owners and the dental practice owners of the future, to join us at our Club Connect workshops in 2018.

…only the serious need apply!
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