the dentist and the lada

When you look at the latest stats for UK and Irish dentistry you realise just how much change is happening in dentistry right now, not just on the surface but structurally.

The changes are having deep impacts on what was traditionally considered to be a safe way of guaranteeing an upper middle income existence, with autonomy and flexible hours in a very controlled and stable environment.  Shockingly, a recent survey revealed that 47.3% of practice owners that opened or acquired a practice within the last 5 years experienced difficulties, compared to just 19% for the period 5 years earlier. The business of dentistry, no doubt powered by the web and fuelled by customer promiscuity, is becoming increasingly competitive, which of course is healthy and ultimately results in a better experience for the consumer/patient.

In the Soviet Union prior to the perestroika there was little incentive to design better fridges or cars, the consumers were genuinely lucky if they were allowed to spend their hard earned Roubles on a nice new fridge or Lada.  Today in the Russian Federation Ladas are still sold, but despite their low price are only sold in tiny numbers, Russians much prefer VW’s and Toyota’s . The fact of the matter is, that consumers /patients have today a deep sense of empowerment, they know they have a choice whether it’s a private, specialist or a NHS practice – they have a choice and are ready to exercise that choice without too much provocation – which of course is a good and a bad thing for Dentists.

So where does your practice rank on the Lada to Audi Richter scale of patient perceived experience? Perhaps just as importantly, where do your competitors rank, are there too many BMW dealers in your town?

In reality, I guess there is a tiny number of Lada style practices out there today, but there is probably far too many ‘me too’ type practices delivering Vauxhall Corsa level service but not necessarily Vauxhall Corsa level pricing.  This type of practice is the most vulnerable to competition and don’t be kidded, competition is increasing and it’s increasing at a rapid rate! A town or a catchment bristling with ‘me too’ type practices, is a potential gold mine for a switched on 21st Century dental retailer.

I should make it clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with operating a Corsa style practice, provided your pricing and service delivery reflect that. In fairness, there are many more buyers of Corsas than there are of Bentleys – the difference is the patient expectation and your practices ability to meet it consistently.

So where does your practice sit using the automotive analogy? Do you aspire to be a VW but don’t always answer the phones at lunchtime? Come on be honest, it’s not just about the size of your car park or the painting in reception, it’s about the people stuff too, what is the atmosphere like? How do your clinical and non-clinical colleagues behave towards patients, consistently?

There are, in my view, major opportunities for dental practice owners in the UK to define a space they wish to trade in, whether it’s Bentley, BMW or Kia and then to play hard in their chosen brand position, ensuring that every single detail of the patient encounter is ‘on brand and on position’.

If you would like to know more about what brand position you should choose for your practice then please give me a call, make sure you have done your competitor research first though:
m. 07860 672727

Don’t forget that the new book, written by me and Simon Hocken on how to win big in dentistry has been released.  For your copy go to

Best Wishes


Jonathan Fine

Managing Partner


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