Business Reources

Follow through; create your own luck

Sometimes business success is simply about predicting and creating strategy, and then following through on those well laid out growth plans. In my opinion this is the fundamental of creating your own luck. And I might add it has served me well so far as long as my processes were supplemented with action. But how can we do this satisfactorily without impinging too much on our limited resources? And how do we ensure success?

Creating your own luck.

In order to create your own luck you must first understand what luck is. I believe Luck is simply when the preparation you do on yourself or your business aligns with the right opportunities. This preparation can be gaining knowledge, skills, resources or strategy. Alternatively, it can be as simple as enhancing the systems within your practice so that you are functioning as well as can be expected. Without this preparation you will not be able to highlight the opportunities and thus will not be able to see them. It always amazes me whenever I am called upon to consult for dental practices how many opportunities have gone amiss.

Therefore preparing your practice with optimal strategies can help you to create the opportunities you need to become successful.

The 20:80 rule

Those of you who have run your business for some time will know that it is simply impossible to control and do everything, and make everything go right for you all the time. It’s just not possible, in good times or bad. This is especially true for dentists. We are not just selling a “product” manufactured by another company like retailers do. As dentists we are the manufacturer, the retailer and the customer relations people of all that we service. Therefore since our jobs are multifactorial in nature things can get on top of you and start to become overwhelming.

The bad news is that we can’t change this fact immediately without implementing customized strategies.

The good news is that it doesn’t matter. If you follow the Pareto Principal 20:80 rule you will understand why.

This rules states that 20% of everything you do in, on and for your business produces 80% of the results. What is also true is that 80% of all that you have to do also produces only 20% of the results.

You need to have a very careful look at everything you are doing in your business that is a revenue generator. Then prioritize these activities and then allow time in your day/week for the top 20% and you can delegate the rest.

Trying to undertake everything is business suicide.

Sometimes it feels as if no one can do certain tasks in your business as well as you can. However, an effective and profitable leader learns to do only the very essential and ultra-important – the top 20% and let everyone else do the rest. You might even be pleasantly surprised by the skills you have within your own team!

Therefore, if you can discover what the 20% actual consists of, that is bringing about 80% of the results, then you can make sure your manage your time and resources more efficiently. This means that you can make sure you get the 20% of critical activities done first. This technique helps to manage your business more efficiently.

Cash is king

Another aspect of your practice that can help to create a boom is cash flow. Maintaining your cash reserve is important at all times, but it is particularly so for small businesses. These reserves help to cushion you against unexpected overheads. Looking after your cash flow will allow you to operate from a position of strength and give you the confidence to take advantage of any opportunities that will be able to give you a multifold return.

Finally…

Your success is dependent on many things; but if you are able to prepare yourself well by gaining the adequate knowledge/skills, then draw up some simple but effective plans of action and follow through on the 20% essentials, you might surprise yourself and find that success is yours. Some might call that being “lucky”.

So, Good Luck!

 

 

 

 

Booms, Busts and Business Survival

The end of the year is a time for relaxation and reflection. Amongst the many topics of contemplation one major area should be how well our businesses have performed and if there is anything we should be doing to improve our situations. An event that now seems to be left happily behind in the far distant past is the economic recession of 2007-2011. Most businesses seem to have regenerated themselves with newfound leases of life. However, there has been much to learn from that economic downturn and to dismiss and forget those events entirely could spell disaster, especially if you were to fall back into complacent patterns.

Lessons from the past

So here are a few tips and strategies that could help you to re-focus on the important elements of your business for the coming year:

  • Reassess your goals and priorities on a regular basis. You may find that what was once important now no longer is. Using up your resources in trying to meeting redundant objectives can slow down progress and increase costs unnecessarily.
  • Regular Team meetings. Regrouping with your team on a regular basis can help to refocus and redirect your most expensive overhead in the correct way. This can help you to emerge in a better and stronger position than before.
  • Encourage Creativity. If you are ever faced with limited resources (including limited cash flow) then fostering creativity within your team can help to seek out new and better ways of achieving the same objectives. This is especially evident in marketing activities where occasionally unconventional methods can help to attract attention from potential customers.
  • Make sure you have all the business fundamentals in place. One thing I have learnt from working with so many dentists is that it often doesn’t matter how much you focus on any one area of the practice; if you don’t have the fundamentals systems and strategies in place in all the core elements of business then things almost inevitably will go wrong. There are 7 core fundamentals in total: Vision, Clinical Skills, Team, Marketing, Gaining Case Acceptances, Systems and your Financial Model.
  • Don’t fear making mistakes. As long as you have analysed your risks and weighed up your options after detailed due diligence, don’t fear taking the next step because you might make mistakes. You will only grow from whatever outcome you obtain.
  • However do learn from your mistakes. It is not making the mistake that actually hinders your progress as much as not learning from them. Having said this, take a moment to check all the activities you are doing and make sure that you are not repeating any past mistakes which could become very costly to you.
  • Get help. Sometimes it is better to gain momentum and speed of success by simply taking advantage of someone else’s experience. Get yourself a business mentor or coach to help achieve your success faster. They will often have experienced your situation to varying extents and will facilitate progress in a much easier and bearable fashion.
  • Develop clear focused Strategy for success. This helps you to manage your daily outcomes as well as keep one eye firmly on your future goals. It amazes me to see how many dental business owners keep their heads buried deep in the day-to-day problems with no thought for where they will be in six months time. Strategy helps you to re-invent your business. Positive change in this way keeps business fresh and up to date.

These are a few essentials to think about when planning for 2015. So this Christmas break you may want to consider how you would like to change your practice for the better unleashing new life into creating business success. Create your own luck in achieving your vision and a boom in your business. Meanwhile, let me wish you a very happy and successful New Year!

Don’t miss next month’s blog when I will be providing tips on how to make cash “king” and how to make your own luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thriving Amid Uncertainty

Globalisation, technology and innovations are rapidly changing the way dentistry is perceived, performed and understood. Of course this opens doorways to better and more enhanced ways of doing things but it also creates a more complex world with uncertainty and confusion.

We are generating and dealing with more information than ever before. There are now so many choices available for the principal dentist as to how business should be conducted that it often leads to stagnation or ineffective decision-making. This further fuels frustrations and inefficiency.

So, how do you survive and thrive amid this complexity? How do you sort signals from noise and focus on the opportunities that matter most?

In my experience as a business coach I have noticed how many dentists have stumbled and struggled. In response to a changing world they create an overabundance of processes, layers, key performance indicators and other internal mechanisms. This organizational mishmash fails to address the complexity they face or the fundamental elements of core business strategy.Just because the world is becoming more complex, organizational structures and processes do not need to follow suit.

Developing creative solutions to complex challenges

In my opinion, there is really only one possible answer that can address this problem and that is through Entrepreneurial Leadership (EL). This is where there is structure but no fixed priority. The Entrepreneurial Leader will always have his or her eye on the main objective at task but will also develop the flexibility to foster creative solutions to these complex challenges in everyday practice.

There are 3 key areas to re-focus on during uncertain times:

  1. Vision.

This is how you see your future for both entry and exit from your business. This is the “dream” that you want to achieve. The questions to ask are – Are you on track? Does the change facilitate or hinder your progress? How can you convert it creatively into an opportunity?

  1. Financial Model.

This is where you establish clear metrics that you can track, record and evaluate to achieve your goals and ultimately, your Vision. As long as your solutions are keeping you in line with your estimated financial goals you should be ok. If they are not then you need to re-evaluate where the holes in your business operations need to be plugged in.

  1. Leadership.

There are two aspects to consider when understanding Leadership:

  1. How to work “on” your Team – This is where you establish leadership skills to inspire and motivate your Team to follow you in achieving your Vision. It is the art of getting others to do the things you need them to do because they want to do it.
  1. How to work “in” your Team – This is where you establish protocols for improvements within your Team. This can include management systems, practice team agreements, increasing skills and training and meetings for proper business function. It helps to create true Teamwork – a committed group of individuals working cohesively towards a common set of goals. However, the key here is to establish the correct priorities to make the creative solutions occur. This means that decision-making from the EL needs to become more fluid than restrictive.

What we want…

We want our practice to be operating at optimal strength. We want our Team to possess a deep and intuitive understanding of the strategy, common objectives, and vision of our practice. Thus enabling each individual to know what to do and where to focus. Managers spend their time doing and leading rather than sitting in meetings. The Team are excited about coming to work because their leaders encourage experimentation, initiative, innovation and completion.

In short, rather than commanding and controlling, a leader favours fluid-decision making. Rather than setting detailed strategies and goals, they impart a dynamic directional vision for their employees to follow. Rather than leading from the top through hierarchy, they institutionalise leadership throughout their practice thus thriving amidst uncertainty.

 

The Power of Observation

When it comes to establishing premium service and care in top practices how we behave in the business environment is as important as how we communicate to one another. In fact, our actions can either be productive or remain stagnant. If they contribute towards the success of the business then collectively the practice will do well. However, if our actions are never changing for the better or remain flatlined, then the business can suffer. I feel that much of success in business has to do with the power of observation as described by the Hawthorne Effect.

The term “Hawthorne Effect”, coined by psychologist Henry. A. Landsberger in 1950, refers to our social environment and our actions. He reviewed some experiments that were carried out at Hawthorne Works, a Western Electric Plant outside Chicago between 1924 and 1933. In efforts to increase productivity among the workers, the company spent years tweaking and altering factors such as lunch hours, pay schedules and level of lighting. Workers predictably became more productive when the lighting was brighter. Reviewing the data decades later, Landsberger concluded that workers increased productivity because they could tell there was an interest in them and how they worked. He defined the Hawthorne Effect as a short term improvement in performance caused by observing workers. In other words, people change their behavior when they think others are watching.

Today, the Hawthorne Effect phenomenon is as pertinent as ever, for example, as with social media. There are billions of us on Facebook, more than a quarter billion on Twitter, and hundreds of millions on Pinterest, Google+ and other networks. Smart phones allow us to continuously plug into our social media audience. Never before could we so quickly and easily share our behavior with others and get the opinion of scores of people who are “observing” us. Perhaps leading to modified behavior.

The Hawthorne Effect if used correctly can also be applied to the business of dentistry especially in leadership of our teams. Team members seem to take on more productive behaviours and work harder if they feel that there is some measure of authority observing their actions and daily work quality.

There are several strategies that can be used to improve and enhance teamwork by using the power of observation. This will contribute to improved team performance and better quality of care.

 

Tips on applying the Hawthorne Effect:

–      Regular individual team appraisals are important to make it known that managers are observing how well the team are working. Those team members that feel that there is really no one there to oversee how well they work may very easily slip into a comfort zone where they are not as productive as they could be.

–      Regular team meetings on improving the quality of care given by the team in their various roles becomes critical to maintaining productivity and staying ahead in business. Team members need to understand what is important to the practice principal. This helps them to understand what is expected of them.

–      Regular observation walks through the practice observing the team going about their business. Noting discrepancies or incorrect tendencies can have a huge impact on establishing positive employee behavior. The team needs to know that managers are not just confined to their offices but are observant in noting the efficiency of the operating systems of the practice. Here the manager will be observing things like correctly running processes, adherence of practice rules and that the team are following the practice systems as trained. This also allows managers to highlight what elements are working and which are not. Thus contributing to increasing practice productivity.

–      Accentuate the positive. As Ken Blanchard explains in his book “Whale Done”, catch your people doing the right things and applaud them for it. Appreciate your team when they do things correctly and/or redirect their behavior when they do things incorrectly. As such they will be able to make a shift in their actions, collaborate in a better way and be encouraged towards the required behavior. This fosters repetition of such behaviours thus leading to increase of productive behaviours.

Keeping in touch by careful observation with the realities of every day business in your practice can help to enhance systems and functions. It will help to also highlight the unmet needs of your practice and team. Thus facilitating better leadership and the results achieved.

Understanding Patient Perception To Gain Case Acceptances

Achieving a great practice has much to do with choices and decisions. This forms the foundation of gaining case acceptances from our patients. However, it is not only about giving choices but also making sure that those choices are understood and hence more favourable decisions can be made. Correct choices can only be made if the patient has comprehensive understanding of the choices that are available to them. People rarely buy into things they don’t understand.

So it often helps to look at what aspects of your practice are inhibiting your delivery of those choices? Or more importantly which aspects of your practice provides a negative impact on the patient’s decision as to whether to go ahead with you or not? This is often about patient perception of your practice competence rather than the treatment choices available.

Perception Affecting Choices

Patients do not understand the very foreign medical language of dentistry. They cannot decipher between a highly skilled clinician and a basic one based upon this language. They do not understand what a great clinical preparation looks like or what a fantastic occlusion looks like. A full mouth rehabilitation sounds like a horrendous hospital operation where they are wired up for months!

The only things patients are able to comprehend with some certainty are the messages that they receive from their sensory systems. These include the things that they see, hear, touch, feel and smell. They often make assumptions about how good we are as clinicians based on these things, and things such as our communication skills and how we receive our patients prior to receiving the treatment. Also, the case acceptance often depends on their level of trust and value built by all these individual factors.

Your patient’s perception ultimately affects their choice of the options available including the option of doing nothing at all.

This means that it becomes vital to have a process in place that can make it easier for patients to understand the benefits of the dentistry we can provide them with. There also needs to be a well thought out process of assessment that takes all the things a patient assesses us by into consideration.

There are three essential aspects that comprise the communication process:

  1. The Pre-Clinical Experience. Here using good communication skills to build rapport and really understand the patient can help your team to connect with the patient. Also, the pre-clinical experience determines the initial perception the patient creates in their mind. And is hence influenced by the entire team including receptionists, treatment coordinator, nurses and dentists. This is a trust and value builder.

Note: Every stage in the assessment process is important. However, if I were to give an arbitrary percentage to the impact a particular stage has on gaining case acceptances, in my opinion this step will have 55% relevance from the entire assessment process.

  1. The Clinical Examination. Your evaluation must be a two-way communication. A thorough clinical examination in a way that involves the patient can be very useful. One method is called co-discovery. Essentially, discovering the problems together. It is also a trust-builder and exemplifies your take on dentistry.

This step has 35% relevance in the entire assessment process.

  1. Post-Clinical Presentation. If you have understood the patient and his or her needs really well and you have involved them in your diagnosis, then this step is a simple formality of putting things together. The patient by now should understand fully what is available to them and the consequences of their decisions.

This step has 10% relevance in the entire assessment process.

Guiding the patient through this 3-step journey of co-discovery will help them to discover the answers to their requirements for themselves. If you are able to meet their needs and wants in a way that is in tune with how they perceive you, then you are more likely to get the case acceptance.

The patient journey however can only be productive if the communication skills of your team are clear and effective. If the actual values of your treatment plans are matched or exceeded by the perceived value of the patient then they should be happy to accept your treatment recommendations.

Having a process established in your practice for patient assessments also makes it easier for the team to follow and care for their patients. It forms a system that can be structured in a stepwise fashion to help coordinate the entire team. This forms a well-organized and smooth flowing practice as far as the patient is concerned.

Case acceptances can only be achieved by taking patient perception into account; especially understanding the decision making process from both sides of the dental chair!

How to help your employees stay

Creating a highly productive business is more about effective leadership than it is about simply following operational systems alone. An important part of leadership is about understanding why your employees choose to stay with you or why they would choose to leave.

 

Staff retention is a fundamental factor in business growth, as it can become an expensive process of repetitive training and adaptation. Not only this but practice growth is often stagnated when new team members adapt to your practice culture and “the way you do things” in your practice. So how does one go about keeping their staff turnaround low?

 

A major consideration is that employees don’t usually leave the company; they tend to leave the managers that go along with that company. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average tenure of an employee in the UK is now only 2-4 years.

 

What does this mean? Are managers doing a bad job of engaging and retaining their people?

 

Wherever the governmental statistical trends are heading the ability to engage and retain talented employees remains a critical skill for most practice managers and practice owners.

 

Here are a few strategies to help develop staff retention skills:

 

  1. Vision.

Successful principals sell their employees on a vision of the future for their company. Most team members don’t usually come into the practice each day and crave to hit your financial targets. In fact, most of them don’t really understand the implications of them. Very often dentists tend to confuse financials with Vision. One thing to understand here is that the Vision drives the financials and not the other way round.

 

As an example, Walt Disney painted a compelling Vision of a future where he saw a place – Disneyland – where both adults and children could play together. However, its all very well having a dream but how do your team connect to this Vision. How to they become part of its construction and its realisation? How does the team make your Vision theirs?

 

It is important to realize that only if team members feel that they are a part of the big picture will they be able to generate enough drive to participate with the correct attitude, attributes and motivation.

 

  1. Mission.

The Mission is what allows the team to be able to connect to the bigger picture.

 

The best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose helping them to feel as if they belong and that they can make a difference to that organisation.

 

The Mission tells the employee that they are an important piece of the bigger jigsaw puzzle – that their role is vital. It also explains the practice ethos.

 

Successful companies and also successful mangers understand that business strategies may change often but a Mission changes very rarely.

  1. Empathy.

Take the time to listen to your people. They should leave a conversation believing that you will take whatever actions that may be helpful to that situation. If you can’t then at least you can explain why nothing can be done.

 

By having an “open door” policy whereby team members can come to you at any time leads to the team feeling that they have an important contribution to make to the practice. This should not only be encouraged but also rewarded with appreciation.

 

  1. Motivation.

I do advocate a bonus structure within a business. However, motivation should not be solely based on achieving targets. It should be more about internal gratification and audience applause rather than simply monetizing your relationship with your team.

 

There are essentially two types of motivation. The first is Extrinsic-based motivation which includes a bonus scheme, financial rewards, gifts or even disciplinary actions. The other is Intrinsic-based motivation where internal desires are created to do a good job for personal satisfaction. The latter is often created when people feel they are important to an organization and feel valued. This importance can be given by recognition of a team member’s efforts and initiatives. Then by entrusting them with more of the same kind of work to help build on their talent. This makes them feel “noticed”.

 

Experience will dictate that financial compensation is not sufficient incentive to engage and retain top talent and drive high performance.

  1. Future Opportunities.

 

Most people are looking for career advancements over anything else. Otherwise “inertia” tends to set in leading to boredom and frustration in a job. Especially when they see team members from other companies moving up to the next level.

 

Many practice managers and principals do not hold regular performance reviews. And even if they do, team members are often confused and don’t entirely understand how to move either horizontally or vertically in the company. Clarity of opportunities available to employees and how to attain them can do wonders for team morale and motivation.

  1. Fun.

In order to attract, engage and retain your top talent you need to try to blur the line between work and play by reinventing how your team perceives “work”.

 

One way is to give the team freedom to use their own initiative – to create what I call DRI’s or Directly Responsible Individuals for any particular department in your practice. This way they become committed leaders in their own right establishing mutual respect for one another. This also eradicates the “blame” culture.

 

Also, it goes without saying I should think that team bonding events and outings will also help to cement the fun in a practice. The key is to make work fun and flexible.

 

Summary

It is the team that drives successful practices. Therefore the correct leadership of your team is essential. This involves nurturing and encouragement as well as inspiring and motivation. People should want to follow you because they believe in what you all, as a team can transpire to achieve.

5 Serious Mistakes Leaders Make

It is true that mistakes provide the grounds for sound learning. However, it is still better if you can learn from the experience of others and not make critical mistakes to begin with – especially when their impact is detrimental to the success of your practice. Misunderstanding leadership is one of those big mistakes that can easily be avoided with a little guidance.

So what do we strive for when we talk about leadership? My favourite definition is: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he/she wants to do it.”

Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or an organization; and it should be dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.

However, there are some common mistakes that I see being repeatedly made. The following are in my experience 5 of the biggest leadership mistakes: Read More

The Real Job

At some point in your dental career you realized that you want to do more dentistry, better dentistry and more full complete dentistry. You realize that you want to make a difference to someone’s life? You want to make that positive impact in the way a person see’s life.

You know that you can achieve this significance with the comprehensive and complete dentistry that turns an ordinary unhealthy mouth into a functional healthy and aesthetically beautiful mouth. However, you also know that gaining an acceptance for simple single teeth dentistry is very different to gaining acceptances for a fuller comprehensive treatment plan. A fuller comprehensive treatment plan is often more complex and requires more consideration and time in planning and execution of the plan.

Read More

DWB working in close association with The Perfect Smile Advanced Training Institute