Watching the practice numbers

I read an article over Christmas by a dental business consultant describing in some detail the monthly data that dental practice principals (and their practice managers) should take notice of and take action on, in order to run their practice effectively. The article gave perfectly sensible advice and a long list of data that needed collecting. It also referred to the Six Key KPIs that Breathe Business developed some years ago.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve written many such articles like this, most recently in a Breathe Update (see In this last article I accepted defeat! I realised that very, very few dental practice principals were ever going to spend much time looking at their practice numbers and that regardless of what I (or any other coach or consultant) might advise, they had developed their own ways of knowing what shape their practice was in.

And here’s what I’ve noticed over many years of working in this sector: there is no direct link between success and the amount of time spent assiduously collecting and reviewing the numbers in a dental practice! I have met many successful practice owners who are earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year who have little idea of the their practice KPIs, and many dentists earning very little who are stuffed with practice data. I also worked with the board of James Hull many years ago and every month at the meetings I attended the participants printed the data onto lots of sheets of A3 paper and spread them across the boardroom. It didn’t help them either!

So, I have to accept that (just like in my time as a practice principal):

  • Most principals would rather spend their time doing dentistry than running their practice and have developed their own (more intuitive) way of taking the pulse of their practices.
  • Most principals are unwilling to free up enough time to look in detail at their business and review their numbers, weekly, monthly, quarterly etc.
  • Many practice managers simply don’t understand the significance of the numbers in a dental practice well enough to draw many conclusions about what they actually mean.

And here are the many intuitive/gut reaction ways that principals and practice managers use to measure how their practice is performing:

  • White/unbooked space in the books
  • Daily takings
  • New patient numbers
  • Plan registrations
  • Monthly gross
  • How busy the phones are

I’m not saying the consultant who wrote the article is wrong! My job would be a lot easier if all our Breathe clients were to have the numbers it suggests they should have at their fingers tips. What I am saying is that only a small number of practice principals will feel the need to do this or see the benefit of doing this, or make the time to do this and, actually, many of them do pretty well without doing it!

So, I’ve given up being critical of clients who use their own (sometimes seemingly random) ways of taking their practice pulse. I’ve learned that their success comes from a different focus. I guess there are some exceptions to this; if a principal wants to grow their practice rapidly, it really is important to know the relevant numbers in detail so as to understand which of their growth tactics are working well or not working.

However, as ever, technology might have the answer. Some of the new accountancy/book keeping software (and in particular one called Xero) is making a significant difference to a few of our practice principals, particularly its ability to create forecasts based on the current data is has loaded. These so called “crunch boards” allow principals and practice managers to view what will happen if the practice keeps performing at its current level. This does get their attention (and mine) and is certainly a simple and quick way to measure future practice success or decline!

If you would like some help seeing how your practice is really doing, contact me for a chat about our practice analysis service.


m. 07770 430576


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