You Snooze, You Lose!

 I know it’s a tad hackneyed as an expression but it’s resolutely true – ‘change is the only certainty’.

Dentistry, like all business, is ‘in change’ because of the digital revolution, because of technology, because of the recession, because of the free supply of labour, because of the NHS, because of the retail rental drops, because of the ageing population, because of the valuation formulas being applied to dental practices and perhaps more dramatically recently the OFT’s Report that alleged over half a million NHS patients were being incorrectly sold private treatment etc, etc –  all of these elements conspire together to accelerate the pace and degree of change in your dental practice whatever its size, location or general business condition.

4 changes I picked up in the last week

  1. Last Thursday I had a meeting with Nat West who told me that they were extremely keen to loan money again to Dentists, up to £300k unsecured to NHS or mixed individual Dentists or up to £200k to private individual Dentists. The difference between NHS and private is curious but clearly revolves around risk and exposure, that’s a change isn’t it?
  2. I had another meeting with Lombard who appraised me of the Regional Growth Fund [RGF]  which has £70m available to invest in job protection or creation by supporting the purchase of essential assets, the funding of which would have been declined under the usual underwriting criteria due to a lack of deposit or inability to meet repayments. Lombard have the authority to award up to 35% of the asset value in the form of a grant [the paperwork is very straight forward] and the individual manager has a considerable amount of discretion.  You can have a yes or no in principal in a day – now that’s a big change!  Let me know if you want to know more about this.
  3. A big change which I picked up in the last week from a survey Breathe carried out with our members and affiliates which highlighted the importance of business savvy Practice Managers.  There is a critical change in the role required, it may be subtle, but the imperative is for Practice Managers to become Business Managers.  Capable of reading a balance sheet and taking action to address an under performing KPI, in just the same way as the General Manager of a Citroen car dealership would do if his average margins began to slip.
  4. And finally I picked up a significant change in the dental retail landscape with IDH opening its first NHS dental practice in a giant supermarket last week.  The first NHS supermarket dental practice in the UK has been opened at the Tesco Extra store in Corstorphine near Edinburgh.  Owned and operated by Independent Dental Holdings (IDH), the practice is the first venture of its kind in Scotland following similar private partnerships in England.  Sainsbury’s stores in Manchester and London have opened private dental practices, Boots opened an NHS practice in Manchester in January this year.  IDH will rent the space from Tesco, who built the shell next to their in-house opticians for IDH to fit out and equip. With 1,200 patients signed up before the practice opened its doors, IDH and Tesco are hoping that the accessibility and convenience of its location will see the patient list grow rapidly.  The practice will open 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm on Saturdays and noon to 6pm on Sundays. It will be open every day apart from Christmas Day.  The dentists will be Glasgow graduate Fiona Marriott, Spaniard Jose Romero and Dundee graduate Maksad Al-Nakib. Imagine this happening 3 years ago?  Think of the impact this is having on NHS practices within the catchment of a Tesco in Scotland of which there are many.  How long will it be before somebody comes up with the idea of opening a dental practice along side a Tesco Metro convenience store?


Change brings with it opportunity and threat, it may not always be clear just how or when it will impact your business, the critical rule is to be constantly tuned into it,  only then can you start to either build your defense, plan your escape or leverage your position. 


7 tactics to avoid sleep walking into a dangerous situation or worse still – miss out on a life changing opportunity.

  1. Be aware, be very aware – assume change will happen – it’s happening right now and it’s impacting your business positively and negatively – or both positively and negatively simultaneously – do not relax.
  2. Every quarter check your competitive set;  carry out a full review of their exteriors, look at the age of the cars in their car park, look at their signage, visit their web site, check out their pricing structure, mystery shop via email and telephone as a new patient [set up a separate email account under an assumed name] record changes good and bad.
  3. Every quarter graph your business performance through robustly accurate KPI’s – analyze the gaps up and down in performance – identify trends so that you can either exploit them or correct them.
  4. Every quarter spend time walking your local high street/shopping centre/mall – tune in to the evolving retail world, what are the Opticians up to, how are Boots responding to the encroachment of supermarkets into their space?  I promise you will come back with at least 3 pieces of useful information that will impact your business.
  5. Understand your catchment, read the local paper, look at the jobs section, listen to the local radio station, check out all the commercial planning applications, understand the local political issues, stay close to the local NHS, help the local charities, sports clubs, listen to your patients and your team – this will help telegraph any major downstream change.
  6. Decide on your industry thought leaders, make a point of reading their blogs, publications regularly and do not be afraid to challenge them on their views – you will learn loads more by doing this.
  7. Keep an open and enquiring mind.

To quote that awful Americanism again  – ‘You Snooze, You Lose’ – don’t let it happen to you.

Jonathan Fine

0845 299 7209

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