There’s so much to focus on when running a business – including a dental practice. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day activities, news, events, surprises, challenges, and any other hundreds of things that can happen during the course of a year – or a month! Take a look at these elements of your practice, and make them focal points for practice growth.
Keeping the to-do and project lists of undone tasks to zero balances is essential. Some employees like maintaining a full to-do list, but this is not useful or productive. The real cost of “having a full desk or calendar” is subtle opportunities that either aren’t seen, aren’t heard, or are missed because there is simply no time to maximize them due to earlier commitments. It is a skill and habit of commitment, practice and discipline to keep a zero inventory of to-do’s.
Instead, practice having a clean slate of to-do’s. When you have that, you have more opportunities for strategizing, planning, training, learning, being more responsive to your patient’s needs, and so forth. It’s those things that normally get put on the back burner because the list is too long otherwise. Go ahead – create some room!
A daily goal must be established. Monthly goals just don’t work. A daily goal should be set for each producer and either visually displayed so all can see or reviewed at a daily meeting. This simple focus will usually maintain the cash flow, too. The effectiveness of goals should also be weighed and increased, so team members aren’t just doing busy work and going through the motions. The daily goal can’t just be what pays the bills – it’s got to be more if the practice is going to grow, develop, and stay competitive. A daily goal also builds momentum that attracts business from unexpected sources.
Reserve of cash, clients, and talent
Rather than managing the checkbook balance (working harder when it’s low), the focus needs to be on maintaining a high level of cash. Just as a business with a full schedule manages their waiting list of clients, so should any practice. Do whatever it takes to get the practice producing close to capacity, even if it means short-term losses. This fullness keeps the practice automatically motivated because critical mass has been reached. Having a low overhead will provide the cushion necessary to let the practice be very flexible in setting fees and emotionally free and empowered to invest in certain type clients who will make the practice successful in the long run. It’s also important for a practice to always have more staff/talent than needed, even if they haven’t been hired yet. If the practice has an eye on a talented person who’s interested in coming in if the need arises, the practice has a reserve of talent. This can be enormously useful because the practice is not totally dependent on current staff, is less likely to tolerate non-performance, and is less dependent.
An open, and increasingly widening, channel between clients and the practice
It’s no longer enough to respond to client concerns or complaints in a timely manner. The strong focus on a high performance standard has resulted in clients leaving immediately if mistakes are made. With high performance, the focus can now be on discerning what the client wants and needs but perhaps hasn’t yet become aware of. The art of listening is required to build this bond between the client and the practice. In fact, clients will choose their dentist based on how well they meet current needs, future needs and unanticipated needs. Anything less will hurt the practice. We sometimes call this process “having a reserve of listening”. The widening of this channel requires a shifting experience, a practice vision, advanced listening skills, and the commitment to being the best, not just doing good work.
The increasing of value to the client
Rather than getting better at advertising or marketing a service, many practices have decided to let the service sell itself better by adding value to it. The increasing of value can become a game of contribution by the staff. This focus prompts everyone to create new ways of delivering, relating and responding to each other and to the clients. It’s a game worth playing, once the practice has made the shift. Why should anyone want to rack their brains to figure out what the client wants or should want? With enough good listening and relationship, the client is more than happy to tell you.
Costs of every type
If you can make or create an excuse for a cost, perhaps you shouldn’t have it. When looking at the budget with an eye towards cutting costs significantly, ask these questions: If I were broke, how would I still get this thing accomplished, for free? If I didn’t have to impress anyone and my clients would still come to me 100% because of the value I deliver, what expense could I eliminate? What machine, technology or system can I install to reduce by 50% or even eliminate an expense? Is this expense making me money within 30 days? Or am I making a long-term investment by spending for it? Is this expense what’s expected of me? Can I live without it? Will I lose more than 5% of my clients if I cut it out? Is there a way to cut it and still keep those clients? Is it truly essential to profitability? There are a few times when spending money is necessary to save money or make more money. Spending can be a good thing as long as it’s carving out a more profitable present and a wildly successful future. Usually, cutting costs is the first step, to shake up the practice and create immediate profits.
Your practice’s culture
Is productivity and increasing productivity the first priority of all, consistently and naturally? Is relating easily with everyone a standard in your office? Is creation, innovation, service and invention the norm?
What you establish as standards and how you choose to lead your team will determine your practice’s culture … and your success!