How to take a month off from your dental practice and still have enough money in the bank

I want to talk about holidays. I know you’ve all just had one and you are hunkering down for the 14 week run up to Christmas. But, what kind of shape are you really in to deal with the 3 month + grind up to the turn of the year?

Do you feel rejuvenated, rested, bursting with energy? Do you have clarity about the direction you want your business to go and are you getting on with leading it in this direction? (If the answer is yes, you guys can stop reading now and go for a run!)

Or is it same old, same old, tired, weary, fed-up, distracted, lousy-diet, too many alcohol units and bingeing on social media and bad TV?

Owning a small business is exhausting. When you’re at work, everybody wants a piece of you. When you’re at home you’re very often still thinking about work. Evenings, you’re tired and irritable, weekends can disappear in a blur of kids, shopping and chores. Constant connectivity makes things worse. The tyranny of: Email, Facebook, Twitter, What’s App etc mean that you’re still receiving (and sending) work messages. Holidays feel less about relaxing and having fun and more about just recovering from work before returning to the fray.

So, it’s absolutely essential that we business owners have time away from work. Time that truly rests, relaxes and rejuvenates. For this to happen, it’s essential that you get yourself off the grid. Ideally, you will get back to that childhood state of losing track of time, laughing and simply loafing for awhile, until your energy and your creativity recover.

In my experience, a week off simply doesn’t cut-it. Two weeks holiday is better and towards the middle of the second week, you might start to feel relaxed and remember who you are. Three weeks feels good but still flies by. A month-long holiday really works.

Very few practice owners I meet have ever taken a three week break let alone a whole month. Many of them, especially single-handed practitioners, only ever go away for a week at a time, rushing back to put some more fees into the bank account.

So, here’s how you can take a month off every year. First, work out how many days you’re going to work (clinically) in 2018. Say you choose 4 days per week and you wish to have 6 weeks holiday and 2 weeks study leave. Then you will be available for clinical dentistry, in your practice for 4 days per week, 44 weeks per year = 208 days per year.

Secondly, calculate your average daily gross (historically). Say it’s £1,500 per day, your contribution to your total practice gross in 2018 will be 208 days X £1,500 = £312k. And that’s it. Your practice has to work with your contribution at this level. Any more than this and your health, your sanity, your enthusiasm for dentistry and your key relationships will pay the price.

As long as you manage your cash flow and find cover for when you are absent, it doesn’t matter when you work your 208 days. (You could work them all without stopping, then take August to December off!) Pragmatically, it’s easier to spread your clinical days through the year except for a wonderful month off at a time of year that suits you best.

The real secret to getting this right is to create a practice which still makes a profit (or at least pays its costs) whether you are there or not. This means having more fee earners in your practice. In broad-brush terms, this model works with a practice turnover of more than £800k and a patient base of circa 3,000 private patients or more.

I have two lovely clients, partners in a private practice for 25 years, who used to work a full week clinical in their practice, squeezing the practice management into the cracks and taking occasional short holidays. 20 months down the track, they have both just returned from having a month off, completely away from their practice. They look 15 years younger and are brimming with energy. Their two (new) associates held the fort and kept the bank account topped-up and from now on, the partners will be working 3 days clinical per week and taking 10 weeks holiday. Their profits have substantially increased, as has the value of their business and one of them is considering hiring a third associate to take over his remaining patients so that he becomes a dry-fingered partner(!) still able to take a very nice income from the practice…

You see, life is for living, not just for working.

If you would like to find a way to take a month off next year, contact me for a chat about your practice.

Best wishes,

m. 07770 430576

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