Prime Practice has been supporting the growth of dental practices for the last 26 years, and we’ve seen practices go through a lot over those years. From the rise of the corporates to the influx of dentists from new dental schools and the introduction of the OHT; from a global recession (just at the time when we launched our business in North America!) and of course the unique covid-19 related challenges in the last few years. Not to mention the massive technological advances that have occurred and continue to change what’s possible.
Whether we’re heading for a recession or not, it’s clear that we’re in the midst of great financial uncertainty. Rising interest rates, the general increases in the cost of living and the craziness of international travel prices are all having an impact on our spending. No doubt many of your patients are feeling the pinch, and it’s clear that some patients will put off dental appointments and oral care treatments in 2023 and beyond.
Meanwhile, most practices are experiencing massive staffing challenges, to the point where being too busy is no longer a ‘good problem’ for many. In the latest Dental Insights Report*, 66% stated that attracting and retaining qualified staff is a challenge; and while 47% were predicting growth in the next 12 months, 75% reported that access to staff is limiting their ability to operate and grow.
So we’re very aware that the thought of ‘growth’ for some practice owners isn’t exactly landing as an opportunity. Indeed, for some, just the thought of it creates overwhelm. Not everyone needs growth, nor is everyone predicting growth. In fact, in the same Report*, 44% were predicting maintenance of revenue over the next 12 months.
But whether you’re looking to grow or just to stabilize in 2023, the strategies are similar. Just like an escalator going down (and just like your patients’ oral health), if you don’t stay active and keep moving, you risk the chance of going backwards. And most businesses don’t want or expect that to occur.
Before I share some key growth strategies with you, I want to dispel a common misconception about ‘growth’. And that’s the idea that you have to “go BIG or go home”. That may apply to some of you out there, but for others, taking on BIG changes can be daunting and overwhelming. So don’t underestimate the power and impact of making small changes. In fact, the right small changes can make a HUGE difference:
“If you get one percent better each day for a year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done”James Clear: Atomic Habits
There are 7 Growth Strategies that would make a big difference to most practices, and if you’re already working with a Prime Practice Coach, they’ll know which strategies will impact the specific areas you want to focus on. If you’re not working with a Prime Practice Coach, then determining which areas of your practice you want to grow is a key first step.
Ultimately, you’ll likely be looking for growth in these five areas:
- Patient base
- Your team
Where attention goes, energy flows…
Your growth strategy will depend on which areas of your practice you want to grow, and for most practices, will come down to one (or a combination of) the following seven options:
The last two Growth Strategies – developing Clinical Skills and growing the patient base through Marketing – are strategies that all practices should consider as crucial, and do require ongoing development with the assistance of experienced subject-matter experts. For the purpose of this article, I’ll focus on the first five growth strategies, as they are at the heart of what we do best at Prime Practice, and why dental practices work with us to sustain and grow their businesses.
- Business Intelligence is all about gaining a deeper understanding of your business based on current and historical data, and then uncovering ‘actionable insights’ that inform strategic business decisions and create change. In other words, just tracking the numbers of your business is no longer enough. The real key is turning data into wisdom by understanding the story behind the numbers and creating and working towards goals that inspire you to initiate appropriate changes in the way your business operates, in line with the vision you have for your practice.
- Do you have a quick and easy way to access the valuable data within your Practice Management Software in a visual and insightful format?
- What numbers do you track and how regularly do you analyse them?
- Have you created realistic production goals and a framework to predict revenue capabilities?
- Are you able to forecast expenses and track whether they fall within industry benchmarks?
- Team Engagement is clearly a key strategy for most practices, especially given the turnover of staff over the last few years and the current scarcity of applicants when recruiting. We all know the cost of losing team members, the burden that places on the remaining team, and the impact that has on the patient experience. Not to mention the time, effort and cost involved in recruiting and training new staff. So it just makes good business sense to put strategies in place to retain team members, and to constantly explore new ways to keep existing team members engaged and motivated.
- What structures and resources are in place to develop your practice and team culture?
- Do you conduct regular 1 on 1’s and performance reviews that empower the team and encourage their personal and professional development?
- Is there a commitment to social gatherings outside of practice hours for the team to develop their relationships with each other?
- Do you invest in external personal and professional development for your team?
- Leadership is a Personal Growth strategy that unfortunately often gets avoided or relegated by practice owners and practice managers. In many cases, it’s because leaders are already juggling so many balls that they put themselves and their own development last. But just like on a plane when we’re encouraged to put on our own oxygen mask before we put on our child’s mask, it’s challenging for practice leaders to truly support their teams if they’re not first (or at least also) resourcing themselves. Another reason many leaders aren’t working on growing themselves is because it requires a certain level of self-reflection that is paradoxically difficult to do alone.
- Have you got a trusted advisor that you can lean on and learn from? Someone who will concomitantly support you and hold you accountable?
- Are you confident that you’re getting the most from your team?
- Have you got a clear vision for your practice and communicated that clearly to your team?
- What tools do you rely on to tackle challenging conversations?
- Systems and Protocols are a core strategic approach for practice leaders who are burdened with the weight of ‘key-person dependency’ and frustrated with the perceived need to micro-manage their team. Providing clear direction to team members regarding what ‘good’ looks like in your practice enables them to confidently demonstrate what needs to be done and how. In this sense, they are an essential component to creating a consistently positive and predictable experience for both patients and team members.
- Are systems and protocols in place?
- Do all team members know where and how to access them?
- Are team members involved in the creation of those systems and protocols?
- How do you support your team in the effective implementation of practice systems and protocols?
- Enhancing the Patient Experience is a fundamental growth strategy that should probably always remain a high priority for every practice. Whilst some may think that dental treatment is your ‘product’, at Prime Practice we maintain that the real product is the patients’ experience. Providing a consistently positive experience for dental patients can be a significant challenge considering the mindset of most patients and how they feel about seeing a dentist, especially when they’re a new patient to your practice. But despite the challenges, the opportunity to lift case acceptance and improve patient retention are key to growing your patient base and revenue.
- Do the majority of your patients return to the practice every 6 months for their check-ups and clean?
- Are existing patients referring their friends, family and work colleagues?
- Are patients posting positive Google reviews about their experience at your practice?
- Are you and your team consistently working on your communication skills?
I trust this article has given you some food for thought with respect to Growth Strategies for the next three quarters of 2023. If we’ve learnt anything in the last few years, it’s how to be agile and adapt to ever-changing circumstances. As they say, “change is the only constant”, and this year will be no different.
If and when we meet in 2024 and we look back, the results will be a reflection of the ability of practice leaders to accept those things that we’re out of their control and to change those aspects of their practice that were within their control. Contact us at Prime Practice to explore the wisdom to know the difference.