Building and sustaining a successful, thriving dental practice doesn't require a lot of complicated steps. But it does require that you consistently focus on a few proven habits over a sustained period. No shiny new toys needed.
Step 1: Know your status quo
Before setting any goal, it is crucial to know where you are using analysis tools. Not knowing where you are is like telling a travel agent you want to go to Hawaii and not saying where you are leaving from. To get to your destination (the goal), we have to know where you are now (status quo).
If you set a goal to add 20 new patients a month in 2022 without knowing that you added 25 new patients a month in 2021, the new goal would lower your growth. That's why it's important to know the status quo. This is an easy step, but I am here to tell you that most people do not check their status quo.
My wife is a life coach who helps her clients achieve their goals and make progress in their professional and personal lives. She recently sat down to write out her goals for the new year and started by checking the status quo. She was surprised by how much success she'd had in the past year and realized that she was happy with her status quo in some areas. What a great discovery!
Instead of pushing herself in areas she was already succeeding in, my wife was able to set goals for the areas she wanted to improve. She mentioned to me the value of checking the status quo. She said, "I was really thinking that my focus needed to be on an area that is already doing really well. If I hadn't checked the status quo, I would not be focusing on the right actions this year." This is the power of the status quo!
In a recent article on DrBicuspid.com, I shared my experience with a doctor who told me he'd decided to sell his practice and leave dentistry because he was tired of all the stress and struggles. But then something happened to change his mind: He was introduced to tools that allowed him to see the number of patients accepting treatment compared to the percentage being presented. He was surprised by the gap -- but also motivated to do something about it.
Knowing where he was and learning how he could improve was exciting to the doctor and his team. They went to work and saw significant improvement. But the greater benefit was this doctor rediscovering his excitement for dentistry -- all because he was able to see his status quo. This can be your experience as well.
I sometimes see an issue in dental practices where they're too focused on scheduling dollars without being aware of their status quo. Profit seems like the easiest way to measure whether you are growing as a practice, right? No question. But if this becomes the default reflex of an owner or practice manager without first assessing where the business currently is, important opportunities can be overlooked.
In my experience, many top-performing practices have discovered that having a laser focus on improving the health of their patients naturally leads to a healthy increase in profitability. This isn't to say you shouldn't focus on profitability. That goes without saying. But if you are measuring the success of your practice by how profitable you are instead of making patient care your highest priority, some adjustments may be needed.
Even if 2021 was a tough year and the last thing you want to do is to relive the struggle, I urge you to ask yourself about your status quo and go through this process. Don't be too hard on yourself. You'll discover some highlights you may have missed, and you might find new opportunities to capitalize on in the new year.
Step 2: Decide where you want to go
Once you know your status quo, decide what you are going to change and create steps to get there. Your next step is to make some decisions about what you will do with what you know.
It's easy to want to make big changes and go for the end zone on every play. But that's not how games are won. In football as well as in a dental practice, the focus should be on first downs. That's right: Moving the ball down the field, a few yards at a time, is a better way to "win." Create actionable items that are easy to execute consistently.
Here's a way we talk about this at Dental Intelligence:
- Facts: What are the numbers or data? Starting here will help you see the information in a realistic way.
- Meaning: What do the data mean? Good? Bad? Neither? You need to decide what the facts mean to your practice.
- Feeling: How do you feel about this information? It's good to reflect a bit here. Take your time.
- Action: This is the heart of the second step. Once you've gone through this process, you're ready to act on the information. That's where all the fun happens.
Here's a quick example of how to go through this process. Think about your active patients. Do you know how many you have? By "active patients" we mean patients who have kept an appointment in the past 18 months.
Let's assume you've seen a total of 5,000 patients in the past five years. And of those 5,000 patients, you've seen a total of 1,500 in the past 18 months. What does that mean to you? How do you feel about that number?
Let's go one step further. Of those 1,500 active patients, what if only 700 of them currently have a scheduled future appointment? See what this process can do for you? How do we get more of our active patients back on the schedule? What can we do today? What will we do this week? Who will do it? How will we measure it? Powerful!
You don't always need new (and sometimes expensive) solutions to solve your practice problems. Start by figuring out what you have on hand -- including people, tools, experience, etc.
You're better at this than you might think. And there are only two steps to having a fantastic 2022:
- Know your status quo.
- Decide where you want to go.
I think you're going to have an amazing year. Count on it! Plan for it! And then go and make it happen. I'm rooting for you to win.
Curtis Marshall is the director of partner operations for Dental Intelligence. Dental Intelligence is committed to helping practices grow in ways that matter. Request a free demo and learn how better data = better dentistry.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.
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