Why are some dental practices able to make the transition from solid performance and satisfactory results to being top performers?
Software of Excellence has spent the past five years working with and analysing the performance of thousands of dental practices – work that has enabled us to clearly identify those processes that contribute to the move from being a good practice to a great business.
To transform a business in this way requires change, and with it we encounter a fundamental challenge: because in general, people do not like change. For change to happen, it requires several factors to simultaneously come together and create what some might call a ‘perfect storm’.
The key drivers for change come mainly from the desire of the practice owner or principal. Not because they have been told to do so, but because they recognise for themselves the tangible benefits of doing so and because they have an appreciation of the untapped opportunities within their business. Sometimes the vision is driven by a need to change due to unforeseen external circumstances and often by a recognition that the business needs to create inherent value, usually in preparation for sale or when a new owner takes the reigns for the first time. For the team, change needs to work in terms of security of employment and better working conditions and environment.
Many change programmes fail because they lack accountability, credibility and authenticity so it is important that change is initiated as a positive force for the betterment of the business. Importantly, to effect change, the management team needs to take their colleagues with them on the journey.
Taking the team with you is one of the single most important factors for success. Ensuring that each member of the team understands the aims and objectives of the business and appreciates the role that they personally play in helping achieve the overall goals is important, both for the individual’s sense of self-worth and also because it makes a huge difference to the ability to implement change. In the same way, giving feedback to the team as a whole as well as to individuals will enable them to learn where they can make a difference. A daily huddle before the working day ensures that everyone knows their targets and understands the needs and is a great way to start. Discussing challenges when things don’t go according to plan and then celebrating success as a team will engender a spirit of cooperation and result in a better teamwork ethos.
Getting the right people to be an integral part of the business works in several ways; good people tend to work well with other good people and the sum of all the parts is always greater than the individuals themselves. Also, the right type of people tend to be self-motivated, so although they need to be kept up to date and will want business transparency, they are also personally driven by the prospect of being part of a winning team. People are important, particularly in a relationship-driven business such as a dental practice, and you can only achieve your vision if you are surrounded by a willing, ambitious team.
In the Software of Excellence Whitepaper ‘Performance Monitoring – the Gateway to Sustained Practice Growth’, we explored the importance of dentists thinking not only about the aim to enhance patients’ experience by delivering high-quality dentistry, but also to see their practice as a business. One startling fact that was revealed during the research was that 80% of practice owners admitted to not knowing enough about their business performance. In the face of this lack of knowledge, the Whitepaper identified a number of areas in which practice owners could easily implement some tactics to encourage and effect change management. Setting overall business targets and breaking these down to motivate individual team members were the first two items recommended for action, followed by implementing a daily huddle to keep the team focussed.
The desire to change is a cornerstone of the drive for improved performance, but without knowledge of data and if you lack the support of a motivated and focussed team, a vision is all it will ever be. Turning the vision into reality takes more than simple desire. Knowledge, data analysis and a deep understanding of the potential of the business are crucial factors in the journey from good to great.