The challenge for dental practice owners therefore is not just to recognise the need to work on their businesses as well as in it, but also having the time and environment to make their ‘non clinical’ time as productive as possible. This is why we are growing our Club Connect groups because they are safe, constructive and facilitated workshops where nothing is off limits. They are less about ‘show and tell’ and more about learning and growing your leadership and business development skills.
So what are the big questions that we face in dentistry? I think that at a national level the funding of the NHS is no longer the elephant in the room but is now a herd of elephants thumping its way across the horizon, and yet series of politicians fail to ask the big question. They ask what they can do with the NHS for five years to appease voters enough to get re-elected, when they should be asking what is socially responsible and to have a long term plan that encourages sustainability, regardless of who wins the next election. This is joined up thinking and a real interpretation of the ‘big society’ we are meant to believe in.
At a local level I hear loads of dentists asking how they can get more patients and sell more treatment plans and to a point I understand this but the big question we should be asking is, how can you make the provision of dentistry socially useful and of benefit to the health of your local community? By failing to ask this question locally and nationally, dentistry has become the but end of jokes, prejudices and the first thing to have a pop at every time the tabloids need a quick fix headline. How come we hear the phrase “I have never met a poor dentist” and yet many of the dentists I meet are worried about how much white space is in their diaries? To me the cause is clear, but the popular solution of having a magic system to market and sell to patients, making special offers and closing the deal, is no more effective at making dentistry socially useful than trying to stop a herd of elephants with a feather duster.
One of our jobs is to work with our clients to ask bigger questions and through the filter of a broad perspective and a depth of experience, work with them to find the answers. These are some of the common questions and the necessary bigger questions that you need to think about first;
“How can I get more patients?”; Is your business beneficial to the health of your community?
“How can I avoid falling foul of compliance and regulation?”; Is what you are doing fair?
“How can I up sell bigger treatments like whitening?”; Do you have the right values and communication structures?
“How can I charge more for my services?”; Are your behaviours trustworthy?
“How can I get more out of my team?”; Do you manage by force?
I once sat in a boardroom listening to a Chief Executive, contemplating the advice of his board, faced with declining market share and an exodus of talent to their competition. The marketing team were pimping up another promotional campaign, the sales director wanted a training budget and the head of HR wanted to launch yet another employee engagement and benefits package. I was asked what I thought; “Well, how about having a service that your customers want and being nice to your employees?” but apparently that was not possible because it would take too long to happen!
There are few credible quick fixes in any business and the business of dentistry is no exception. Asking bigger questions will help you find the answers.
If you would like to know where to start then we are releasing an ongoing series of business thinking exercises. They can be downloaded here.