Combat business meltdown in 11 steps


Business is easy and life is good when things are going well; your biggest concern is what time you will finish on Thursday. But when things go wrong it can turn your life into a nightmare and make you question whether it’s all really worth it.

The vast majority of practices work fine most of the time. Maybe they are not realising their true potential but day to day there are no major challenges. Then all of sudden, out of the blue, the NHS changes an element of its dental policy, or your long term serving and much respected practice manager meets a new partner, leaves you and her dull husband and relocates to Doncaster while at the same time your best associate, who is a major profit generator for adult ortho and facial aesthetics, announces that he intends opening his own squat six miles from your practice.

As everything has been running smoothly for the past three years you are frankly not used to dealing with big problems like these. You go into shock, feel vulnerable, isolated, frightened, angry and useless. The next phase typically is to look for people to blame and to wander about telling anybody who will listen how disloyal your associate is and what bastards the NHS are. The third phase is that normal everyday problems suddenly become magnified as the practice slides into an atmosphere of confusion and the rest of your colleagues pick up on the problem(s) and your insecurity.

All of these emotions are normal and pointless.

Sadly but realistically sooner or later you will find yourself in this situation as a practice owner, so what is the best way of dealing with it?

My recommendations on how to cope with this type of situation start with getting real and understanding that nobody is going to waft in with a magic wand and vaporise your problems:

11 steps to combat business meltdown

  1. You need to quickly get a grip, loose the self pity and bin all the pointless emotions.
  2. Realise it’s going to take time to resolve, principally your time. This time cannot be late night after a long clinical day – you have to be fresh and crisp.
  3. Get a clear head – best done by getting out of the practice – and prepare your mind and your diary to deal with the problem. Be realistic about your time – you are going to have to work weekends for a while.
  4. Remember Pareto’s law – the vital few and trivial many. Don’t spend any time on trivial problems, focus on the two really big ones.
  5. Fact find – list the worst case scenario for the business as a result of the problem(s).
  6. Look for the unforeseen consequences of the problem eg cash flow, recruitment costs, impact on team moral etc. List them all.
  7. List all the consequences of the problem – it’s going to be a long list, that’s OK, you will feel quite good about it and you will begin to feel you are taking charge of the problem, your confidence level will increase and you will also feel reconnected with your business.
  8. For each consequence list a tactic for dealing with it – don’t be worried if your tactics seem too simplistic, that’s normal. Each of the tactics, as they develop, will alter a bit and become more comprehensive.
  9. Present a simplified version of your plan to your team.
  10. Be cheerful and positive.
  11. Don’t expect it all to go according to plan – be prepared to adjust and change.

I hope this 11 step guide is helpful. Of course, a problem shared is a problem halved, and it really does make sense to review the situation with somebody outside your practice in order to get an objective appraisal – this is something we are more than happy to do at Breathe, just give me a ring on 07860 672727 or email

Best wishes,


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