Why private dentists fail

One of the characteristics that many of our clients share is a degree of humility. They have asked for help to grow or develop their dental practice and this in itself is a trait that successful people display. They are happy to learn from others and they are not wedded to sticking with behaviours that have kept them from having the practice they want. These winning characteristics make these folk attractive to be around and easy to help.

However, I also get to meet those who are not heading for success. Sure, they want it but they’re not able or willing to behave in the ways I have described. Recently, I spent a day in a private practice that displayed many of the clues which, in my experience, act as reliable indicators of imminent failure.

The practice appeared very unloved. From the holes in the vinyl floor to the scuffed paint, the strip lighting complete with dead flies, the worn upholstery, basic toilet, endless Blue-Tack, faded vertical blinds, lack of a computer system, appalling decontamination room and worn out surgeries. (How does anybody survive one day in such an environment?)

In truth, it’s not difficult to fix a tatty practice. After all, it just needs new decor and new stuff. The real challenge is to fix the owner. If they think such an environment will lead to a successful practice then I have a lot of work to do.

Hey, I’m not saying that the secret of success in private dentistry is to spend a fortune on equipping a nice practice. If only that were true. The real secret of success is for the principal to acquire or adopt the attitudes and the behaviours that lead to success.

Many dentists genuinely want to offer nice clinical dentistry outside of the NHS system. And many dentists are puzzled at why, despite their skill set, patients seem less than keen on buying private dentistry from them.

Here are the most common reasons why patients don’t buy from these dentists:

  • They think patients should come to them and pay their fees simply because of their skill set or their qualifications
  • They are reluctant to spend time with patients to offer them choices, explain the different options and make a recommendation
  • They are mean with money. The litmus test is whether they would pay the fees in their own practice if they needed dental treatment
  • Deep down they lack self-esteem and self-confidence. They might be very good at hiding this, but their patients can sense it
  • They go through life needing to be right (the rest of the world has simply got it wrong and they will defend their behaviours to their dying day)
  • They don’t see the need to build great relationships with their patients, preferring to keep what they see as a “professional distance”
  • They lack curiosity about people, they rarely display professional humility and they resist being mentored
  • They say yes and then don’t do it
  • They believe that what happens in their surgery has got nothing to do with anybody else
  • They resist any kind of targets or performance monitoring (even keeping a day book)
  • They always have a reason why they are right and you are wrong and they believe that “patients around here won’t buy that”…
  • In all aspects of life they are reluctant to step outside of their comfort zone. They are scared of life and resentful that the rewards they were promised in dentistry have yet to show up.

Of course, they are low producers and their diaries are full of gaps, check-ups and single unit dentistry. Another diagnostic is that they get very few word of mouth referrals. They expect their practice to supply them with patients who are ready to buy private dentistry.

If you’ve got one of these dentists on your team please don’t waste your blood pressure and heart muscle on trying to change them. It’s too hard and it won’t work. (Remember, they’re right, not you, and through their eyes they will always be right…)

So preferably trade them in for a new dentist or accept that they will always be the same and agree to supply them with patients who require simple dentistry and accept that you will have to build their book for them. (And keep building it because their attrition rates are high!)

If you would like some help with finding the right dentists for your private practice, contact me for a chat on:

m. 07770 430576

e. simon.hocken@breathebusiness.co.uk

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