By DR SIMON HOCKEN
We all have a list of things we know we should do, but don’t. Things like: get more exercise, drink less wine, read more books, go to bed earlier etc, etc. Our wish list flicks our ear from time to time and then life gets in the way of doing something about it. Often the reason we don’t do anything about our list is because the way we do things now kind of works. Most of the dental practices I visit kind of work, it’s just that they may not kind of work for much longer, now the competition has arrived.
Here are five things that, if you avoid them, will simply slow your practice down until you leave the profit on the table for your competition to pick up…
- Know how much you and your fellow clinicians gross every day.
I’m talking about how much dentistry you produce each day in £, not how much your front desk collects each day. The simple and effective way to do this is to use pen and paper and keep a day book. (No, your software can’t easily do this!) Write down the value in £ of the treatment you have just carried out as the patient leaves the surgery and subtotal the day as you go along, so that you have a running total of how your day is going in terms of gross fees earned. Have all the other clinicians do this in the same way, without fail, no excuses and no delegating to the nurse to do it. Then, have your practice manager collect the information at the end of every day from all your clinicians, load it onto a spread sheet and feed the information back to you daily and to all the clinicians at the beginning of every week. Then everybody will know, every week, how well they did last week and at the end of every month they will know how well they did last month, against a target.
What would happen if you did this? John Lewis and similar high street stores collect their sales numbers every hour. If you monitor yours throughout the day you will know exactly how the day is going and if it’s going badly you can change the running order or learn how to avoid a low grossing day in the future. When your key players have key information about their performance, they will use the information to improve. It’s as simple as that. Expect an increase in the practice gross of between 12 and 25 per cent within six months of implementing this. (Now have I got your attention?)
- Find out if your website is working and then make it work better.
If your website is going to serve you well it needs enough visitors (traffic). Once the visitors start to explore your site, the design and promises made need to persuade two to five per cent of them to contact your reception and make an enquiry. So, you need to track your visitor numbers and track how many of them make contact. Most dental websites look something like this: 500 unique visitors per month, one per cent contact the practice, that’s five leads. Your reception persuade 80 per cent of them to make an appointment, therefore you get four new patient appointments per month from your website. Once you know what your base line is, you can set about increasing your website traffic (by campaigns like SEO and PPC) and increasing those making contact with your practice (by improving the site design). For example, if you increase the traffic to 600 unique visitors per month and the conversion rate to 2.5 per cent, then instead of five leads per month, your site would generate, 15!
What would happen if you did this? Simple, you would have more new patients.
- Work with a manager who understands the numbers, who understands sales management and who understands marketing.
Ten years ago you needed a practice manager who would keep the diaries full, keep the staff happy, make sure all the kit worked, have the cupboards stocked with materials and get everybody paid by the end the month. In 2015, you need a manager who can help you run a business, someone who can cover all the bases. You need: monthly management data to allow you to have financial command and control, HR compliance, CQC compliance, sales management, marketing management as well as a process-driven operation. Some existing managers have been over-promoted and, good as they are at running the operational side, they simply don’t have the skill set to manage the rest. It goes without saying that unless you take on the rest of the tasks and give up your evenings and weekends to do them, lack of good management support will be holding your practice back.
What would happen if you did this? First up you would build a practice with a system for everything so you could relax about whether things were getting done and then, secondly, you would have the infrastructure in place to grow.
- Find out whether your practice is growing or shrinking.
I’m not talking about gross fees or profits, I’m talking about active patients. How many patients have visited your practice in the last 24 months? Measure this every month and graph the numbers to demonstrate the trends. This will truly tell you whether your practice is growing or shrinking.
What would happen if you did this? Well, if your practice is growing, great! But, is it growing fast enough? If it’s flat lining or shrinking then you know you have to build a plan to grow. A growing patient base needs more resource, and knowing your rate of growth will help you plan additional resource in terms of more clinical time/more clinicians. It might even tell you when you will need to move your practice to bigger premises!
- Have a practice development plan.
Nearly all the practice owners I meet are simply getting what they are getting because they have no plan to do anything different. They may have a wish list somewhere, but no hope of implementing it. Businesses simply can’t stand still and usually the effect of not having and implementing a growth plan is your practice shrinks a little. Having a plan for 2016 or for the next three, five or 10 years will let you sleep better. Instead of reacting to your competition, you get to lead the way and your competition gets to react to your practice. There’s no shortage of opportunity, but a real shortage of practice owners taking advantage of it.
What would happen if you did this? You will know what you are shooting for and why, your practice will grow and develop, your asset will become more valuable and your job satisfaction will increase!
If you need some help achieving any or all of these five critical tasks, I’d love to help. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and 07770 430576.