The top 12 consistent worries for UK dentists comprise of:
- A lack of confidence. This shows up across the board and like a virus, is infecting both the practice teams and the patients in their lack of willingness to say yes to treatment plans. This manifests in:
- Gappy books, and quiet practices, particularly evident in July and August with patients postponing treatment plans or just simply saying no.
- A lack of new patients since the election time in May.
- Patients leaving membership/capitation schemes in dribs and drabs. (One of the scheme providers has not participated in a practice conversion for a year now and has lost a fifth of its members).
- Practice costs continuing their drift upwards and Principals feel unable to raise their fees in the current cultural climate of ‘austerity’. Therefore, inevitably, practice profits are under pressure.
- More competition around, including new squat practices, re-invented practices and the threat of new retail dental practices (Sainsbury’s in the Manchester area and Tesco in Glasgow) heralding the possibility of a country-wide roll-out by large retailers.
- There is more competition and downward pressure on prices (from internet competition) for dental services that have become ‘commoditised’ such as Invisalign and Implants.
- Specialist Practices report that GDP’s are referring less and doing more of the specialist work themselves or offering home-spun alternatives to patients.
- A lab owner who services ‘high-end’ restorative practices around the UK reports that their work is down 25 % during these last 3 months and that his clients are looking for discounts or cheaper alternatives.
- The prospect of paying more direct and indirect tax rates in 2011 with the advent of the 50% tax band and the 20% VAT rates, more practice owners are seriously considering Incorporation as a way of saving tax.
- Staffing issues including high levels of staff churn despite the economic conditions and Associates and Hygienists still making unrealistic demands for their remuneration.
- CQC Registration with the attendant costs of implementation of their many and varied requirements.
It’s a while since I reflected in this ezine about the state of UK General Dental Practice. One of the many privileges of the work we do at Breathe is the opportunity to speak to many dentists about their practices and how it feels at the sharp end of general practice. We can then distil these many views for you; assess what’s actually happening in practices around the UK and even attempt to forecast the nature of the next challenges that are lining up in the wings!
During the last three months I have travelled the length and breadth of the UK, contributing to Breathe events for our members, meeting new clients, creating a new group of ten dental practices (who wish to raise their game) and speaking at various different events including:
- IAAFA’s Annual Conference in London
- Cambridgeshire LDC’s AGM
- Gloucestershire Independent Dentists Autumn Meeting at Cheltenham Race Course
- BDA’s Training Essentials in London
(In fact, last week was a first for Breathe when we had three events taking place on the same day: Hutch running a Business Retreat in Cornwall, Ernie running a team training event in London and me running a call in day for clients from Breathe HQ!)
On the whole, most practice owners still seem quite bullish, at least when they’re standing at the bar, but when their guard is down, some admit that they haven’t seen a time quite like this one…
Whenever I ask for a show of hands at an event, the majority of (non-Breathe) Principals say that their practices have got smaller in the last 12 months although remarkably few have got any data to back this up, other than their gappy books and increasing overdrafts! (Perhaps they are waiting for their accountants, late to the party again, to show up with the data…)
Most Breathe Practices are going forwards by any measure. That’s not me being smug, that’s me looking at the data that they compile for The Breathe Team every month. I believe that a fundamental key to their continuing success is that they:
Know and understand the important numbers, all of them
Understand both the internal and external marketing strategies that work for them and that they are always marketing. They simply don’t waste money on ‘reactive’, last minute marketing.
Have created a sales culture and sales systems such that the whole team understands their monthly sales targets, the whole team get rewarded if they surpass these targets and the whole team know what their role is in achieving them.
For the practices that are going backwards, the reverse is true.
- Don’t understand or know their important numbers.
- Don’t have a proven, tailored, successful set of marketing strategies.
- Don’t have a sales culture, sales targets or sales systems (and their practices are populated by dentists doing single unit dentistry and grossing less than £1000/day).
In my view, the world of dental practice has joined the world of retail and as in any decent retail business, understanding sales systems and selling is the key to making it work day by day. It is no longer enough to provide a professional service that folk show up for, however good it might be!
If you think your practice might be going backwards right now and you would like to stop this, please contact, Ernie on 0845 299 7209 firstname.lastname@example.org.