Continuing his new series of blog posts: Richard Charon passes on more of what he has learned on his GDP journey. From an NHS Associate in 1976 to an Expense-Sharing Partner in 1979 in a mixed practice. From buying his own NHS practice in 1989 and converting it to a fully private practice in 1991 and eventually selling it 23 years later. Richard continues to provide teaching and mentoring support to dental professionals engaged clinically in Inhalation Sedation and with Rose and Co to guide dental business owners with their leadership and business development.
In my last blog post I said how I used sedation to differentiate my practice and to attract patients from far and wide. Just to be clear though, I have always run a general practice offering a wide range of services, not a sedation clinic. More than that, I never actively sought inbound referrals but in time my reputation spread and they did come anyway. More of that in the next blog post.
I used a variety of marketing strategies for the practice but word of mouth, based on the level of service we provided, was the probably the most cost-effective way and was key to ensuring we kept up our turnover throughout the recession from 2008 to the final practice sale in 2012. Word of mouth marketing is as powerful now as it has always been and Social Media is becoming the virtual voice for dental businesses, hopefully yours too.
The View from the other side
- My secret weapon was my wife Chris, originally a Manchester Dental Hospital trained RDN, who ran my practice from the first day. This is not the place to extol all of her virtues, not least the considerable experience, and the learning journeys she has been on and not every practice will have a Chris, but you will all have opportunities to develop that key team member.
- I often heard, something along the lines of “I am only here because of the nice lady on the other end of the telephone or at the desk”. To which I often replied.. “That is no lady that is my wife! “. I can see clearly now that Chris had an in-depth knowledge of dentistry but also a caring and empathetic ear with a huge dose of good old common sense.
- Your practice may be set up differently from a personnel point of view, but I realise now that a retail or hotel trained receptionist (or a Chris) who is polite and with a fantastic telephone technique is great start. I also look back and see the importance of making sure that a new patient in particular needs to patched through quickly to your senior nurse, care coordinator, or whatever title you like; to that key person who can listen, empathise, be helpful and accommodating. Somebody that understands customer service, understands the in’s and outs of dental problems, treatment options and details and also knows how to say “of course we can help you. How soon would you like to be seen?”
- Elsewhere, I have seen the horrors caused by having what at Rose & Co we refer to as a ‘Business Prevention Unit’–“the dentist can’t see you for another 4-6 weeks” approach. There never was and never will be a place for this in a viable dental practice.
- As a dentist and as hard as it to swallow, remember that for your patients, the dentistry often comes second. Pain-free and fear-free dentistry on their own are unlikely to be a service differentiator. Giving people the service standards that they want, empathy, manners and time for example certainly gave my practice a winning edge and could so the same for you.
Now retired from practice, Richard is part of the expanded Rose & Co dental business coaching team for 2015. He shares his passion for developing the dental businesses of others through a combination of decades of experience, his own brand of modest wisdom and practical advice.
The results of the 2015 Rose & Co Dental Business Leadership Survey will be published soon and if you would like to see the results, what it means for dentistry and receive a workbook co-written by experienced dental practice owners, to guide you on your dental business leadership journey, you can register your interest by subscribing to The Coffee Break Series, Business Thinking Exercises.